< Altrincham FC Match Report

Match Report


FA Trophy 4th Round Match,
played on Saturday, 31 January, 2004
at 3p.m.


Altrincham inflicted the heaviest defeat of the season on Dr Martens League leaders Weymouth, who were led by Steve Claridge, to reach Round 5 of the FA Trophy. In difficult, windy conditions Altrincham got an early lead when Stuart Wright headed home a deflected cross from the right by Gary Scott (8 mins). Weymouth were camped in Alty's half for long periods in the second half but a superb performance from the defence gave them few openings. Niell Hardy wrapped it up when he coolly scored the second following good work from Ian Craney (72 mins).


  • 8 mins: Stuart WRIGHT (Weymouth 0 Altrincham 1)
  • 72 mins: Niell HARDY (Weymouth 0 Altrincham 2)

    REFEREE: Mr J Farries (Oxon.)

    ATTENDANCE: 1722

    Dreadful weather put the game in doubt until a final pitch inspection at lunchtime by referee Farries allowed the game to go ahead. Many thanks were due to the army of helpers, including Alty's Brian Flynn, who helped to fork and prepare the pitch.

    There was a strong turnout of Alty fans with the 'London Alty' and other far-flung Altrincham supporters braving the elements to get to the Wessex Stadium. The rain had stopped before the game but it was to be played in a strong, gusty wind throughout the 90 minutes.


    There were welcome returns to the Alty bench for the recently injured trio of Mark Maddox, Rod Thornley and Barry Shuttleworth. However, the starting eleven was unchanged from Alty's last game, at Marine, a fortnight ago.

    After his suspension, Weymouth player-manager Steve Claridge reintroduced himself at the expense of Stewart Yetton to the Terras's starting line-up but otherwise his side, too, was unchanged.


    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. Niell HARDY, 11. Stuart WRIGHT. Subs: 12. David HOLT, 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 14. Rod THORNLEY, 15. Mark MADDOX, 16. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH.

    WEYMOUTH (Terracotta & light blue shirts, white shorts, light blue socks): 1. Jason MATTHEWS, 2. Steve TULLY, 3. Simon BROWNE, 4. Martin BARLOW, 5. John WALDOCK, 6. Robbie PETHICK, 7. Paul BUCKLE (capt.), 8. Ian HUTCHINSON, 9. Steve CLARIDGE, 10. Lewis COOK, 11. Lee PHILLIPS. Subs: 12. Stewart YETTON, 14. Luke NIGHTINGALE, 15. Lee PHILPOTT, 16. Mark ROBINSON, 17. Kevin GILL.


    AFter the sides had changed ends and Weymouth had kicked off on a pitch which was sanded in places but in remarkably good condition after the downpours, Altrincham had an early scare. With barely 30 seconds gone, Gary Talbot played a back-pass to goalkeeper Stuart Coburn who mis-kicked and went down injured. As the referee allowed play to continue, Stuart hobbled to his feet before the game was stopped to allow him treatment. Fortunately, he was able to continue. After the re-start Pethick slipped over to underline how greasy the surface was today.

    Weymouth won an early corner when Phillips got behind Band but Craney covered well to concede the flag-kick. A goalkick resulted as the players tried to come to terms with the wind. After Matthews had cleared up potential danger for Weymouth from Hallows, Ian Craney did well in centre-field, finding Scott on the right. Scott then got the better of Cook before putting in a cross which seemed to take a slight deflection and loop up invitingly to the unmarked Wright, towards the back post. Wright headed firmly home from 6 yards to record his first Altrincham goal in his 6th start for the club (8 mins). The early goal was ideal for the visitors whose strong defence would now relish the opportunity of keeping a clean sheet. Indeed, both Aspinall and Adams soon put in excellent tackles on their respective flanks to signal their intent.

    Steve Claridge, characteristically with one sock rolled down and no shinpads, was showing one or two nice touches but Peter Band was coping well with him, as was centre-back partner Gary Talbot. Up front Marcus Hallows and Niell Hardy were battling to get the better of the impressive Pethick at the heart of the Terras' defence. Overall Altrincham were playing well and the Terras were not getting a clear sight of Coburn's goal. For a top of the table side the home side's passing was also not all it might have been. Following an Adams throw, Hardy fed Aspinall for an ambitious 35 yard shot which went fairly comfortably past the post (21 mins). At the other end a fine tackle by Band saw off another home attack. The Terras next won a corner off Gary Scott on the home side's left flank, where the young Cook was looking lively (23 mins).

    Following a foul by Aspinall, 45 yards out, Talbot cleared twice in quick succession and Adams did very well soon afterwards to stop Claridge from getting in a shot after a feed from Phillips. Craney was impressing in central midfield but his 50 yard advance up the left was stifled before Weymouth attacked again. A cross from Cook troubled Coburn but Rose did well to head clear for a corner to Weymouth on their left (27 mins). Weymouth continued to enjoy most of the possession without being over threatening to the Alty goal. Indeed, it was Alty who almost doubled their lead when Aspinall set Craney off on one of his characteristic surges forward and his nicely played ball, for Hardy to chase, was only just reached by keeper Matthews before the Alty striker, on the edge of the box (28 mins).

    Cook continued to threaten on the Weymouth left but his crosses were not finding his colleagues. After Hardy had made a good interception but then lost the ball, Phillips got behind Talbot for once on the edge of the box but instead of shooting he tried to find Claridge, to his right, only for Adams to make another fine clearance (31 mins). Adams then had to have treatment to a head injury but as soon as he returned to the action, the Alty left-back cleared another attack with a boot into the air which cleared the terrace roof by a huge margin (32 mins).

    Craney and Hallows combined well on the Alty left before losing possession. Band was the next Alty defender to excel with a fine sliding tackle (35 mins), then Talbot and Adams saw off more probes from Weymouth. However, it was Alty who won the next corner, their first of the game when Hallows did well to beat Browne. Soon Weymouth were back in possession but not looking likely to convert it into a goal. At the other end, Hallows was penalised as he got the better of a defender as Alty came back into the game before the interval. As the game entered its two additional minutes of first-half play Talbot cleared well again, before Altrincham won their second corner of the day. This came when Adams's freekick from the right, following a foul by Browne on Hallows, was cleared by Browne. Aspinall's corner was cleared as the half ended with Altrincham one-up and playing well.


    At the interval, Weymouth replaced Waldock by Nightingale. Alty won an early freekick, but Nightingale soon got into the box to win Weymouth a corner, off Adams, on their right (47 mins). Weymouth continued to enjoy more of the ball but still the Altrincham defence and midfield kept them from any serious chance of a goal. The best Weymouth effort came when Pethick took a quick freekick, as Alty were still manoeuvring their wall, but Coburn was alert and got down quickly to save (50 mins). Weymouth's next free-kick, 25 yards out, produced some farce as the home side twice took it before the referee was ready and the vocal Buckle talked himself into the referee's notebook for his protests, which continued even after his caution (52 mins). Eventually Buckle got in a shot which was deflected in a loop over the bar. Weymouth then missed the best chance of the game. Claridge got to a pass from Buckle just before the advancing Coburn and from left of goal rolled the ball to Phillips in front of goal. Somehow, the Weymouth no.11 failed to hit the gaping target as his shot went wide of Coburn's right upright (54 mins).

    Alty now replaced Wright by Shuttleworth on the left (54 mins), but almost immediately Aspinall was booked for a foul on Cook near half-way (56 mins), his seventh yellow-card of the season. Play continued in the Altrincham half for the most part but Claridge was rightly penalised when he wrestled Band off the ball inside the Alty box. However, the Terras' player-manager pleaded injured innocence to the referee (58 mins). Soon Coburn caught well from a Claridge cross but offside had been given anyway (60 mins). A rare Alty break saw Craney stopped well by Tully and then Aspinall was fouled by Buckle in the centre-circle. Talbot got on the end of Adams's free-kick and via Band and Craney Hallows got in a goalbound shot which was blocked as was a follow-up effort.

    Phillips then hooked an effort well over the bar at the other end (63 mins), once again after Claridge had found some space on the Terras' left flank. Weymouth now introduced Philpott for Cook, who is on loan from Wycombe Wanderers (65 mins). They soon won two corners in succession as the whole Alty team were penned into the last 40 yards of the pitch. The unfortunate Phillips then put in another poor shot from a Claridge pass, his effort clearing the bar by about 30 feet. On the break Aspinall found Hallows and his cross was just cut out by Matthews ahead of the incoming Hardy. Not long afterwards there was a bout of silliness between Hardy and Pethick who briefly rested their foreheads against each other, but Mr Farries chose only to lecture them (70 mins). Alty then had a good chance when Craney went past Barlow and played a great ball to Hallows who lifted his shot over the bar from 12 yards out (70 mins).

    Weymouth won their seventh corner of the game soon after this, which Scott cleared but Alty remained penned back by successive Weymouth attacks. However, after Coburn had caught Barlow's cross, Craney adavnced up the centre and played a well-judged pass to Hardy to his left. Hardy, with plenty of time, kept his head and calmly curled the ball round Matthews's left hand to find the corner of the net and double Altrincham's lead (72 mins). It was Hardy's 6th goal in 9 starts since returning to Moss Lane and he ran to the ecstatic Alty fans behind the goal to celebrate.

    Alty now replaced Hallows by Holt up front (73 mins). There was then a scare when Craney went down after being caught after passing the ball but the Alty captain resumed after treatment (77 mins). Weymouth continued to go forward but Talbot, Band, Adams and Aspinall were equal to everything whilst Rose and the midfield also dug in. There was a big cheer from the vocal Altrincham support when Rod Thornley made his first appearance since 6 December, after his knee operation, replacing Niell Hardy who left the field to further applause (80 mins). The Weymouth crowd began to drift home but their side still did not give up, with Adams having to make an important clearance deep inside his own goalmouth (82 mins). Then Philpott fired in a fine left-footed volley from 25 yards which Coburn tipped magnificently over the bar for a corner. Two more corners followed in quick time for Weymouth before Stewart Yetton replaced Browne for the Terras (85 mins). As the tannoy rightly announced Pethick as the home Man of the Match, the Dorchester Town supporter next to me said that for Altrincham "the number 5 [Gary Talbot] has not put a foot wrong" and he was right, but his defensive partners were all impressive today. There were late potential breakaways for Holt and Thornley as the game went through an excessive four minutes of added time. A total air-shot from Buckle in the last minute epitomised Weymouth's form in front of goal this afternoon but Pethick did drive in a 30 yarder just before the whistle which flew just over the bar.

    As the final whistle went the Alty players went over to the travelling fans and eventually left the pitch in scenes of great jubilation. As the spectators made their way into the car park, Rod Thornley could be heard orchestrating the players' celebrations in the dressing room.