ALTRINCHAM (1) 2
RUNCORN FC HALTON (0) 1
FA Trophy, 3rd Round Match,
played on Saturday, 10 January, 2004
MATCH SPONSORS UNITED UTILITIES FACILITIES & PROPERTY SERVICES
MATCH-BALL SPONSOR BRIAN FLYNN
After a bright start from Runcorn during which Leadbetter should have put them ahead, Peter Band scored the opening goal for Alty after 6 minutes. The ball came back to him off Marcus Hallows following a Chris Adams free-kick on the right and the Alty centre-back lashed the ball into the top of the net from 12 yards. Alty improved in the second half and Hallows made it 2-0 when he shot home from the edge of the box after McMillan had failed to hold an Adams cross (72 mins). Runcorn pulled one back when Courtney volleyed home a Ness cross from the left (82 mins).
REFEREE: Mr A.P. Morbin
Altrincham had won all four previous FA Trophy encounters betwen these sides, including one victory in a Wembley Final. However, Runcorn were dangerous opponents away from home, having won seven league matches on their travels to date. Altricnham were looking to reach the 4th Round for the second successive season, having overcome Kettering Town, after a replay, at this stage last season.
After the midweek UniBond Cup game in which Richard Acton had returned for his first game in goal for more than four months, Stuart Coburn returned between the sticks today. New signing Chris Downey was ineligible whilst conversely Marcus Hallows, ineligible for Tuesday's UniBond Cup match, was able to play today. Chris Adams had recovered from his shoulder problem and Steve Lunt had got over his illness and both started this afternoon. But captain Mark Maddox was still sidelined by his ear infection so Peter Band played alongside Gary Talbot, at the back. With five subs allowed today, the Lugsden twins were both selected whilst Stuart Wright, displaced by Lunt's and Adams's return joined them on the bench with Richard Acton and Niell Hardy, who is still carrying an undisclosed injury. Barry Shuttleworth, with four stitches in his leg from his injury on Saturday, was missing, but Rod Thornley (recovering from an operation) once again warmed up with the squad today. After his surprise appearance on Tuesday, Dave Gardner was again unavailable thrugh business commitments and Sean Smith, who has on the bench on Tuesday, was also omitted today.
Runcorn included Michael Garrity, who played four times for Altrincham in 2000-01. In the interim he has been at various clubs including Kendal Town and Salford City. Former Stalybridge and Leigh striker Ged Courtney was in the Runcorn starting line-up as was the club's player-manager Chris Lightfoot, despite a persistent ankle problem. Dom Morley was back in action after recovering from a nasty industrial accident which saw him undergo a nine-hour operation earlier in the season, after falling from scaffolding.
Referee, Mr Morbin, coincidentally, also refereed Altrincham's win over Southport in the previous round of the FA Trophy.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. David HOLT, 11. Stephen LUNT. Subs: 12. Niell HARDY, 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 14. Stuart WRIGHT, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Kelvin LUGSDEN.
RUNCORN FC HALTON (colours): 1. Tony McMILLAN, 2. Stve CARRAGHER, 3. Matty McGINN, 4. Ged NOLAN, 5. Peter ELLIS, 6. Tom SPEARITT, 7. Michael GARRITY, 8. Dominic MORLEY, 9. Chris LIGHTFOOT, 10. Ged COURTNEY, 11. Kevin LEADBETTER. Subs: 12. David NESS, 13. Andy MURPHY (gk), 14. Scott PARKINSON, 15. Adam CARDEN.
Paradoxically, whilst the two clubs' supporters were initially segregated inside the ground, the two teams came out of the same tunnel, whereas in league games they always emerge from separate entrances. In front of a good crowd of 707, swelled by a good turnout of away supporters, Altrincham kicked off towards the Golf Road end on a dull but dry afternoon. From the kick off an overhit cross from Aspinall gave Runcorn a goal-kick but it was the visitors who should have taken the lead as the game entered its third minute. Courtney fed Leadbetter up the centre of the pitch and he surged past the Alty central defence into the box but, as Coburn advanced to meet him, the Runcorn no.11 steered a left-foot, low, curling shot wide of Coburn's right upright. He should have hit the target and Runcorn were soon to rue his miss. A foul on Hallows as he gathered a Craney pass gave Altrincham a free-kick right of goal, just beyond the front corner of the Runcorn penalty area. Adams's left-footed and curling free-kick was met by a combination of Hallows and his marker and the ball seemed to spin off the Alty striker to Peter Band. From somewhere near the penalty spot, Band lashed the ball expertly into the top of the net to McMillan's right (6 mins).
From the re-start Runcorn made progress on the left and a shot from Courtney from the edge of the box seemed, uncharacteristically, to go through Coburn's grasp and across his goal. However, Coburn soon did better to stop another threat. After 10 minutes, Courtney nutmegged Peter Band to the left of the Alty goal but his shot went across the face of goal, apparently having taken a deflection, which gave the visitors a corner on the right. Coburn caught McGinn's corner. His goalkeeping counterpart, McMillan, then made a hash of trying to clear with his feet from just outside his penalty area and only managed to find Hallows, some 25 yards out left of goal. Hallows's instant shot back, towards goal, was not fully powered and McMillan recovered his ground to save relatively comfortably (11 mins). Next, following a firm clearing header from Talbot, Leadbetter's lob from 25 yards cleared the Alty bar as the visitors continued to look the more menacing side (13 mins). Leadbetter threatened again soon afterwards after good work from Carragher but he shot just over the bar (17 mins). Altrincham responded with their best move of the game so far which was started and ended by Lunt who got on the end of a good cross from the right by Aspinall but his header just cleared the bar and landed in the top netting of the goal (18 mins). Lunt was soon thwarted again, this time by McMillan, from another Aspinall cross.
At the other end, Nolan shot over the bar from 20 yards before the hardworking Lunt was on hand to clear from his own by-line from Courtney, as the visitors continued to have the upper hand. Altrincham were often playing long balls from defence which were giving Runcorn plenty of possession. In midfield, Ian Craney was being kept quiet as Alty faced sustained attacking from the visitors. Next, Coburn tipped clear a Carragher cross but Runcorn were soon back and a fine shot from Leadbetter produced a magnificent tip over his bar from Coburn, to give Runcorn a corner on the right (28 mins). From this, Courtney's header found McGinn and his cross back into the box was somehow cleared by the Alty defence. On the break, Hallows did well and fed Craney for an advance which was blocked by a fine tackle from Carragher inside his side's penalty area (30 mins). Then Craney fed Scott and, from his cross from the right, Hallows got a header in on goal but as he was facing away from the target, the ball fell wide of the keeper's left upright (31 mins). Holt then did well to advance past McGinn and come across the edge of the box from the right. However, as he shot, he got under the ball and it went very high and wide (32 mins). Almost immediately at the other end, Courtney was equally off target after an advance up the left (32 mins).
From a Holt feed Craney was apparently knocked over by Garrity inside the box but no penalty resulted. Band then won a free-kick and lost another for pushing, against Lightfoot. As the half wore on Alty manager Graham Heathcote shouted to his side that they were "sitting on the edge of the box watching the opposition play" (39 mins) as his side remained on the back foot. Following a foul on Craney, Adams's free-kick from 45 yards out on the left went to McMillan's arms. There was a slight alarm for Runcorn as McMillan fell as he kicked clear but half-time arrived with Altrincham one up despite being on the back-foot for much of the half.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 RUNCORN FC HALTON 0|
The half started with Talbot clearing well as Runcorn continued to be the more attacking side in the early stages of the second period. A mis-kick by Band on the edge of his box was dealt with by his colleagues before an attempted cross by Lunt at the other end was cut out by Nolan (49 mins). From Rose's prompting, Holt almost got into a scoring position but McMillan just beat him to the ball (51 mins). After treatment for an injury to Rose, a nonchalant backheader from Spearitt saw the Runcorn man lucky that his advancing keeper reacted quickly to gather the ball (53 mins). But soon Coburn had to be alert at the other end to smother the ball. A stoppage for treatment to McGinn after he and Aspinall went for a 50-50 ball allowed Altrincham to make a change. Wright came on for Lunt on the left of midfield (54 mins). At last Altrincham were now beginning to get a bit more of a grip on midfield as Craney came to life and Rose played to good effect. Scott then did well on the right, retaining possession despite falling over and winning a free-kick on the right. From this, taken by Adams, Talbot did well to head the ball back from the deadball line, to the left of goal, for Band who shot wide of the keeper's left post from the edge of the box (58 mins).
The next threat to Alty came when the burly Morley did well and was tripped by Craney as he approached the penalty area. The freekick came to nothing, as the game passed the hour mark. A mix-up between Adams and Coburn then led to Alty conceding a needless corner on the Runcorn right. From McGinn's corner Lightfoot got in a good, low shot from the right which Coburn beat out well with his legs (62 mins). Craney then tried to make headway but ran into a blind alley inside the Runcorn box before a cross by Scott, from Aspinall's feed, saw Hallows rise and head the ball just wide as McMillan arrived, too late to catch the ball, behind him (63 mins). Scott was getting forward more on the Alty right and soon he and Holt combined to allow Aspinall to make a fine, low cross from the right which McMillan scrambled clear (64 mins). Altrincham were now enjoying their best spell of the match and, indeed, Hallows soon had the ball in the net but offside had been given. Alty now brought on Hardy for Holt up front (65 mins).
After Leadbetter had shot well over the bar (69 mins), Altrincham doubled their lead. The second goal came when Adams's high cross from the left saw McMillan, under a challenge, palm the ball away but only as far as Hallows who smashed it home from just inside the box in a central position (72 mins). Hallows, who mixes his footballing with work as an Elvis Presley impersonator, has now scored 3 times in 8 starts during his loan from Chorley and his combination of physical presence and mobility have been a big asset to the Robins.
Runcorn immediately won a corner, which Coburn missed completely but as everyone else did as well, only a goalkick resulted. Runcorn now brought on Ness, on the left, in place of the player-manager Chris Lightfoot (74 mins). Soon, Hardy set up a shot for Scott which McMillan fielded. Craney then got the better of Morley but his shot was underhit - yet McMillan failed to gather it cleanly. Alty then had a scare when Leadbetter got behind Band on the left and cut in to the right before firing a shot from just outside the box which dipped onto the top of Coburn's crossbar (76 mins). Altrincham belatedly won a corner after 77 minutes but this was not well-taken. Runcorn now made a change with Carden replacing McGinn (79 mins).
Alty had the next goal chance when Hardy aimed just too high after Craney's skill had set up a cross from Adams on the Alty left (80 mins). Runcorn made the late stages tense for Altrincham when they pulled back a goal, eight minutes from the end. Ness got in a cross from the left which Courtney volleyed impressively past Coburn from the back post. After the re-start, the visitors soon won a corner and, though Band cleared this, Morley responded with a shot which was deflected and looped up to Coburn's left but the Alty keeper made another great save (85 mins). At the other end, Band did well to find Hardy and from his pass, Aspinall crossed from the right. The ball was cleared out to Rose whose goalbound rocket was deflected out for an Alty corner on their right (86 mins). Following the corner, Craney was brought down from behind by Leadbetter but Mr Morbin continued his tolerant policy of not booking anybody in a game which was played in a good spirit throughout. From the free-kick Aspinall fed Hardy, whose cross was just cleared. Runcorn continued to press but the Alty defence saw them off and it was centre-back Gary Talbot who got the adjudicator's vote as Man of the Match, with keeper Stuart Coburn and goalscorer Peter Band strong rivals for the award, whilst Marcus Hallows had a good game up front.
Alty have now emulated last season's team in reaching Round Four of the Trophy where the draw is made on a national rather than regional basis. After being under Runcorn pressure for much of the first half today, Altrincham's performance improved in the second half and though Runcorn had chances to gain at least a draw it was the Robins who maintained their unbeaten record in Trophy matches against their Cheshire rivals after five encounters in the competition.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 RUNCORN FC HALTON 1|