ASHTON UNITED (0) 0
ALTRINCHAM (1) 2
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Saturday, 7 February, 2004
Another excellent performance, in bad conditions, particularly in the first half, saw Altrincham move into 9th place. Gary Scott drove home the opening goal after half an hour before substitute Rod Thornley headed home a shot-cum-cross from the right by Niell Hardy (79 mins). This was Alty's third successive league win and their fifth win in six games in all competitions. Less happily, Alty lost Peter Band after a collision with team-mate Gary Scott.
REFEREE: Mr M.A.P. Hughes
It was back to the league routine after last Saturday's trophy win at Weymouth. Alty were attempting to make it five successive wins in all competitions. Ashton, too, had been in good form, losing only once in their previous seven games.
Weather conditions were poor; a bitterly cold and gusty wind and periodic downpours of rain or hail, interspersed with occasional sunny intervals.
Not surprisingly, Graham Heathcote named the same Alty side which had started at Weymouth. Injured captain Mark Maddox took up a place alongside Graham Heathcote in the Alty technical area, but Rod Thornley was again fit enough to be on the bench.
Gerry Quinn's Ashton side had his trademark strong contingent of players of Yorkshire origin including two ex-Emley men in defender Lincoln Adams and left winger Steve Smith. Former Alty man, Darren Royle, was not in the Ashton squad today.
ASHTON UNITED (Red & white halved shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Danny TRUEMAN, 2. Andy THACKERAY, 3. Danny WHITE, 4. Jason DORMER, 5. Lincoln ADAMS, 6. Jon DYSON, 7. Craig FLEURY, 8. Paul GARVEY, 9. Jamie MILLER, 10. Dean JOHNSON, 11. Steve SMITH. Subs: 12. Phil DENNEY, 14. Martin ALLISON, 15. Nathan FLEETWOOD.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts and socks, white shorts): 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. Rod THORNLEY, 14. David HOLT, 15. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH.
Alty played against the strong, gusty wind in the first half as lashing rain came down on the early stages of the game. However, the rain did not discourage the Alty fans in the open behind the Ashton goal from strongly singing their support for their side. Alty had a good early chance when, from Talbot's clearance, Hallows got the better of Adams and found Craney. He set Hallows free to the left of goal but as Trueman came out to meet him, Marcus attempted to sidefoot the ball into the far corner only for the wind to carry the ball almost 90 degrees to his right. Though the ball found Gary Scott, his effort was blocked by White (5 mins).
On the Ashton left, Smith was looking lively but Aspinall was holding his own for Alty, against him. In fact it was Alty who again went close, after 12 minutes, when Scott won the ball well and via Rose found Hardy. Hardy controlled the ball well before finding Craney whose shot from 25 yards went wide of Trueman's right post. Scott was looking very lively on the Alty right and from a breakaway he found Hallows on the right. His returned cross for Scott saw the Alty no.7 unsettle the keeper, who dropped the ball, which was then cleared for an Alty corner on their right.
Ashton's best chance in the game to date came when Fleury got in a cross as Adams challenged him and though Talbot headed clear, the ball came to Thackeray who curled a left foot shot just wide of Coburn's right stick, aided by the strong wind (18 mins). After treatment for Lincoln Adams, the next goal effort of note was a sliced shot over the bar from Garvey, the former Flixton player (24 mins). Coburn soon distinguished himself with a great catch from a Fleury cross from the right (25 mins) before Band excelled in clearing from Smith. Play was now end to end until there was a brief lull as Coburn retied his boots. When Stuart eventually took the waiting goalkick the ball came back towards him on the strong wind. But a minute later, from Hallows's knock-down, Hardy found himself advancing. Via Craney, the ball came to Scott on the right and the Alty no.7 buried the ball firmly into the bottom corner with a shot across the goalkeeper (30 mins). It was Gary Scott's first goal of the season and he became the 16th player to score an Alty league goal this season (30 mins).
Soon after this Craney turned well but mishit his shot to Trueman (31 mins). Alty were now on top and after Craney had advanced again and found Scott, the Alty man's cross caused Thackeray to head past his own advancing keeper, to the right of goal, but Dyson cleared off the line despite appeals for handball. Craney then swept forward again after good work from Hallows and Aspinall, but the Alty captain's shot as he was knocked off balance, went wide (35 mins). Hardy and Hallows were combining well up front for Alty and it was the visitors who continued to have the better of the game. A good move involving Scott, Adams, Hallows and Wright ended with another Craney shot from the edge of the box, which was deflected to Trueman (37 mins).
The Alty back four was looking as solid as at Weymouth as Adams made a timely tackle and then midfielder Rose also won possession well. Scott again found space on a breakaway up the right and from his pass Craney shot over the bar (41 mins). Half-time arrived with Altrincham very good value for their single-goal lead and their supporters pleased to see a continuation of the fine team performance seen last week at Weymouth.
|Half-Time: ASHTON UNITED 0 ALTRINCHAM 1|
Alty kicked off but the wind had briefly died down so they enjoyed little advantage from it in the early stages of the half. The visitors nearly extended their lead when Scott found Craney but his fine left-foot effort from 20 yards cannoned back off the lower part of Trueman's right upright, though the keeper may just have got a hand to it (48 mins). Ashton, however, responded well and it took a fine save from Coburn to keep out Garvey's deflected shot. Band completed the clearance (55 mins). However, it was Alty who won the next corner, through Hardy, on the right (59 mins). As Stephen Rose received treatment a sudden hail storm rattled on the stand roof. Craney soon got to the by-line but his cross from the right was knocked over the bar as Hallows and Hardy arrived almost simultaneously at the scene (60 mins). Craney then prompted a fine save from Trueman with a 22 yarder which gave Alty a corner as the keeper tipped the ball past his right post. A minute later his counterpart Coburn produced an impressive double save to foil Miller who had got free on the Ashton left (63 mins). After this, Alty replaced Wright by Shuttleworth on the left of midfield, just as they had done at Weymouth (64 mins).
Shuttleworth was soon involved and after winning possession found Rose, whose feed set Craney forward but his fine pass found Hardy given offside (65 mins). Ashton now stepped up their game and they soon won a corner. Though Coburn uncharacteristically dropped this, the ball was cleared. Hardy was again caught offside before more Ashton pressure required a good clearance from Band. Alty then made their second player-swap with the substitution of Marcus Hallows by Rod Thornley (72 mins). Immediately, a feed from Scott saw Rod win a corner for Alty on the right. Trueman tipped Chris Adams's inswinging corner over the bar for a second corner which, this time, the keeper caught. After Hardy had been caught offside yet again, at the other end Coburn had to be smart to grab a downward header from Garvey before another Ashton player could get to it (76 mins). Coburn had to do even better soon afterwards when he got down well to save Garvey's strike from the edge of the box (78 mins). Next, Coburn was caught late by Thackeray as he cleared and went down injured but the referee allowed play to continue. With his keeper still down, Craney set Hardy free on the right. Hardy's shot-cum-cross seemed to be drifting wide of the far post when Rod Thornley arrived at the back post and headed cleanly home, to make it 2-0. Rod celebrated with his customary cartwheel, to mark his first goal since 30 September, due to his absence with injury (79 mins).
Alty's joy turned to concern following the restart when Gary Scott got underneath Peter Band as the Alty centre-back went up to head clear. After treatment Band continued with what appeared to be a rib or collar-bone injury. A skied clearance by Lincoln Adams gave Alty a corner on the left but this was cleared and Ashton then made a double change, bringing on Allison and Fleetwood for Fleury and Johnson, whilst at the same time Alty brought on Holt for Band who was clearly still in agony from his earlier injury (83 mins).
Ashton pressed forward and after a scissor kick by Denney, Chris Adams's diving header across the goalmouth almost threatened an own goal but, in the end, all Ashton got from it was a corner on their left. Soon, Fleetwood won a second corner for Ashton. A surprisingly long four minutes of added time were announced after which Craney intercepted the ball and found Shuttleworth whose fine pass to Holt on the left saw the Stockport County youngster, on loan at Alty, locate Thornley on the right, but Thornley's shot was comfortably fielded by Trueman (87 mins). Thornley then induced Lincoln Adams to knock the ball back to his keeper who picked it up but was not penalised for handling a back-pass. Craney then won Alty a late corner on the left from which he and Shuttleworth proceeded to play down the clock. However, there was still time for Craney to find Holt who got hold of his shot but it flashed high across the face of goal from the left (89 mins). The whistle came soon after Garvey had been caught offside for Ashton and Altrincham celebrated their fifth win in six games. This took them up to 9th, their highest place in the league this season.
Once again this was an excellent team performance from Altrincham. It is to be hoped that Peter Band's injury is not as bad as it looked, as he has played very well alongside Talbot since Maddox was sidelined. Alty fans will also hope that their club is able to reach agreement with Chorley over an extension to Marcus Hallows's loan spell from Chorley, which is to due to end shortly. Stuart Coburn and his fellow defenders kept their third successive league clean sheet and have let in just one goal in the last five matches of any kind. Another good sign was that Niell Hardy looked to be regaining his sharpness, alongside the mobile Hallows, after his injury-affected month over Christmas. Aspinall and Adams formed a solid back line with Talbot and Band whilst, in central midfield, Rose and Craney have developed a good understanding, flanked by Wright and Scott, with the latter having a particularly good attacking game today
Shrewsbury boss Jimmy Quinn was reportedly watching today's game in advance of next Saturday's Trophy game at Moss Lane. His counterpart Graham Heathcote will have been pleased that his side did not allow their Trophy progress to distract them from the important matter of progressing up the UniBond Premier division today.
|Full-Time: ASHTON UNITED 0 ALTRINCHAM 2|