ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
VAUXHALL MOTORS (1) 2
UniBond League Challenge Cup, 3rd Round Match,
played on Tuesday, 6 January, 2004
Altrincham bowed out of the UniBond Challenge Cup after a hesitant performance from a team showing three changes from the one which started against Whitby last Saturday. After Hardy had missed an early chance, Cumiskey fired Vauxhall ahead from 20 yards (12 mins). Vauxhall won most of the game's corners as Alty rarely threatened, even with three up front. Cumiskey added a second after 58 minutes but then Hardy outjumped keeper Kinsella to nod home an Aspinall cross after 64 minutes. Alty, belatedly, showed a bit more spark in the closing stages but they could not find an equaliser.
REFEREE: Mr J. Crouch
This match had been postponed from Saturday, 20 December and the new Tuesday-night date helped to account for the small crowd of 245. Vauxhall arrived without a win in their last eleven league games, whilst Altrincham had won 4-0 on Saturday at home to Whitby. Indeed, the Whitby manager Harry Dunn, was back at Moss Lane tonight watching the game from the directors' box, as was former Vauxhall manager Alvin McDonald. Whitby play at Vauxhall this Saturday, so Dunn was presumably assessing the opposition, whilst McDonald is currently unemployed in football after leaving Northwich Victoria recently.
Richard Acton made a welcome return in goal, his first appearance for Altrincham since being injured on 30 August 2003 at Harrogate Town. Barry Shuttleworth, with four stitches in his leg from his injury on Saturday, was missing, as were five other regulars - Chris Adams (shoulder injury), Mark Maddox (ear infection), Rod Thornley (recovering from operation), Steve Lunt (tonsillitis) and Marcus Hallows (cup tied). However, Niell Hardy started after his recent injury problems and there was a surprise return for Dave Gardner. It was believed that Dave had played his last game for the club, due to work commitments, but he was available tonight. There was also a welcome return to the bench for midfielder Sean Smith, who has been out of action since his car accident in February 2003. Youth team striker Kieran Lugsden was again in the squad tonight as was new signing Chris Downey. So, it was a below-strength Altrincham side which took to the field against a more or less full-strength Vauxhall Motors, now managed by Owen Brown.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Stuart WRIGHT, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Dave GARDNER, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Niell HARDY, 10. David HOLT, 11. Gary SCOTT. Subs: 12. Chris DOWNEY, 14. Kieran LUGSDEN, 15. Sean SMITH.
VAUXHALL MOTORS (All yellow): 1. Mike KINSELLA, 2. Carl SPELLMAN, 3. Wayne McDERMOTT, 4. Craig ROBINSON, 5. Alan GRIFFITHS, 6. Kevin LYNCH, 7. Carl NESBITT, 8. Robbie LAWTON, 9. Terry FEARNS, 10. Neal McCANN, 11. Peter CUMISKEY. Subs: 12. Derek WARD, 14. Ian DAWES, 15. Mike TOMLINSON.
Vauxhall kicked off towards the Golf Road End in front of a sparse crowd. There was a scare for Altrincham after just 60 seconds when Rose's misplaced pass across the pitch went to Cumiskey but he drove his shot over the bar from just outside the box. Band then cleared from Fearns, Acton caught a cross from McDermott and a McCann header ran to the Alty keeper as the visitors started much the brighter of the two sides (3 mins). Alty's first attack of note saw Gardner win a throw on the right (7 mins). Following this, Aspinall found Hardy with a cross but the Alty striker mis-kicked. After Cumiskey had won possession from Gardner, Aspinall's covering tackle gave Vauxhall the game's first corner, on their right (9 mins). Rose cleared Griffiths's corner-kick before Hardy was caught offside. Soon, however, Vauxhall took the lead when Fearns, 25 yards out and left of goal, played the ball inside to Cumiskey who had time and space to compose a well-place curling shot from 20 yards, or so, which left Acton only able to watch the ball sail into the left-hand corner of his net (12 mins).
From the restart Alty were in a mix-up, with Scott and Band going for the same aerial ball and inducing Aspinall to give away a free-kick as he covered the resulting danger. Griffiths's free-kick from 22 yards hit the wall but soon Cumiskey's cross won the Motormen another corner. Despite being fouled, Acton caught the ball. Vauxhall soon threatened again when a long ball saw Acton have to save with his legs and the follow-up was cleared by an Alty defender (15 mins). Next, Cumiskey shot high into Golf Road before a foul on Hardy gave Alty a free-kick 22 yards out but Craney curled this free-kick into the keeper's arms (17 mins).
Soon, Fearns and Griffiths combined well and advanced through the middle, prompting Acton to an excellent block as Griffiths got in his shot. Even with three men forward (Hardy, Gardner and Holt), Alty had not been threatening at the other end though until a good cross from the right by Scott was only just taken off the toes of Hardy by a defender. Then, Wright prompted a move which saw Hardy get past Lynch and send Gardner, free, up the right from where his cross went beyond the back post where Holt managed to knock it back from near the by-line for Hardy. However, the Alty striker mis-kicked from 5 yards out and the ball ran comfortably to Kinsella's arms (20 mins).
Griffiths, McCann and Cumiskey then linked well for Vauxhall but Acton caught the last-named's cross. Holt then fed Hardy whose nimble footwork took him free of two defenders. He fed Craney, to his left, whose shot flashed over the bar (21 mins). Alty's improvement continued as Holt had a shot well saved but offside had been given in any case (25 mins). The end to end play continued when a long ball to McCann led to a pass to Fearns who got the ball tangled under his feet as Aspinall rushed in to cover, only 5 yards or so from goal.
There was little threat to either goal over the next ten minutes before Kinsella just beat Holt to gather a Craney pass (36 mins). Altrincham were giving away possession with regularity and both sides were being caught offside repeatedly, to the annoyance of both benches. As play stuttered towards half-time Acton had to come out of his box to head firmly clear. In the one minute of added time decreed by Mr Crouch Vauxhall won their third corner of the game, which Wright headed clear. Half-time duly arrived with Vauxhall leading by the only goal of the game.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 VAUXHALL MOTORS 1|
Alty had the first effort of the half when Craney got almost to the by-line, left of goal, but he saw his ambitious shot from an acute angle just clear the bar and nestle in the top of the goal-net (47 mins). Vauxhall then won a corner on the left, off Band, which Craney almost sliced into his own net. From Craney's position at the near post the ball came back off the Alty crossbar and was cleared. Then, from Cumiskey's feed, Fearns got behind Band but shot over the bar. Alty now moved Rose back and Band forward but the next incident of note was a rather harsh booking for Aspinall for a push over on the right touchline (52 mins). McCann then set up Fearns for a shot which was well saved by Acton at the expense of a corner on the left, which Acton punched clear. However, the Motormen were soon back and, after Craney had lost possession, Cumiskey's effort from the edge of the box came back off the base of Acton's right upright and was cleared (54 mins).
Vauxhall were now dominating play and it came as no real surprise when they scored again. After a good Rose tackle had conceded a throw on the left, Cumiskey was initially seen off by Talbot but the ball came back to the tall left-midfielder and he cut in to knock the ball across Acton into the far corner from just outside the box (58 mins). The one-way traffic continued as Fearns and then Griffiths won successive corners for Vauxhall.
There was then a substitution mix-up as Downey was introduced for his debut and the number 4 of Peter Band was held up to indicate the player to be withdrawn. As Band, who as usual had been one of Alty's most committed players tonight, disappointedly trotted towards touch it was realised that it was Rose who was intended to be withdrawn and the Alty no.6 duly left the pitch. Graham Heathcote observed wryly to the officials that it was not just his team on the pitch who were in a muddle tonight (60 mins). Downey slotted into left-midfield leaving Gardner, Holt and Hardy further forward. Vauxhall won their eighth corner of the game off Wright before Alty finally put together a good move. Acton cleared to Holt, who beat his marker and fed Hardy, overlapping to his right. Hardy had a clear and firm shot at goal but put the ball past the keeper's left post into the advertising boards (62 mins).
After Aspinall had dispossessed Fearns, the Alty defender won a free-kick. Following this, 20 yards out, Downey nicked possession from Vauxhall and found the nearby Aspinall whose cross from the right saw Hardy rise and beat Kinsella in the air, the ball dropping into the net to make it 2-1 (64 mins). Downey then found Holt on the right of the box but he shot wide. At this stage Kieran Lugsden came on for Gardner (69 mins). The next Alty chance came when Lugsden fed Craney and he surged forward to find Holt who scooped his shot way over the bar from inside the box to the right of goal (76 mins). Craney and Lugsden then combined to win Altrincham's first corner of the game (76 mins). Aspinall's corner came to Talbot who headed over the bar (77 mins).
After Talbot was penalised 25 yards out, the ball was cleared. Craney then crossed from the left and found Hardy whose header was well saved (80 mins). Soon, Dawes replaced Griffiths (81 mins) before Craney drifted in from the left and fired in a good, low shot which went narrowly wide of the Vauxhall keeper's right upright (82 mins). However, it was Vauxhall who won the next corner when Acton made a fine save to tip over Nesbitt's shot for a corner (83 mins). Following this, Nesbitt shot just wide from 20 yards. Lugsden and Aspinall then combined to win Alty's second corner of the night on the right but this kick came off Band for a goalkick. After a stoppage for McCann to be treated he was substituted by former Alty and Stalybridge man Derek Ward (87 mins). Band was now pushed well forward but as the three minutes of added time elapsed Altrincham were unable to send the tie to extra time.
With the Altrincham squad including nine players who had either not played much, if at all, recently (Acton, Gardner, Hardy, Lugsden, Smith) or had only recently joined the club (Holt, Wright, Downey), it was not surprising that the team's performance was less than fluid as players got used to their team-mates. The proximity of Saturday's Trophy tie may also have contributed to a below par performance. Vauxhall deserved their win and will now be hoping to translate their cup form into league wins. It was a pity that Sean Smith did not get to make his return to first-team action but Richard Acton came through his return unscathed, whilst debutant Chris Downey showed some promising touches.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 VAUXHALL MOTORS 2|