ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
SHREWSBURY TOWN (0) 1
FA Trophy 5th Round Match,
played on Saturday, 14 February, 2004
In front of 1,758 spectators, Altrincham were more than a match for Conference high-flyers Shrewsbury throughout the 90 minutes of this Trophy tie but lost to a late goal from substitute Ryan Lowe who drove home at the far post after good work on the left by Cramb and Aiston (84 mins). Goalkeeper Stuart Coburn was made Alty Man of the Match but apart from a stunning double save in the first half he was rarely troubled and was certainly less busy than his Shrewsbury counterpart Howie, whose high points were fine saves from two thunderous shots from Aspinall.
REFEREE: Mr G B Turner
The biggest crowd at Moss Lane this season gathered on a dull afternoon to see this first competitive match between Altrincham and Shrewsbury Town, who this time last year were still basking in their FA Cup win over Everton and their longstanding Nationwide League status. Now relegated to the Conference, the Shrews came to Moss Lane as favourites to win the Trophy.
For their part, Altrincham had been playing well in recent weeks and, though the Trophy remained an important priority, their main concern this season was to secure a top-13 position and, with it, a place in the newly formed Confernce feeder division for next season.
Not surprisingly, Altrincham named an unchanged side from that which started at Weymouth and Ashton United. Shrewsbury were without the cup-tied Jody Banim (ex-Radcliffe Borough), whilst Jamie Tolley, returning from injury, was only fit to start on the bench. The Shrews are managed today by Jimmy Quinn, the former Northwich Vics' boss, who will have been well acquainted with Alty centre-back Gary Talbot, a former team-mate at the Drill Field.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red 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, 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 14. Mark MADDOX, 15. David HOLT, 16. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH.
SHREWSBURY TOWN (All blue): 25. Scott HOWIE, 2. Darren MOSS, 5. Darren TINSON (capt.), 6. David RIDLER, 8. Jake SEDGEMORE, 29. Kevin STREET, 12. Martin O'CONNOR, 21. David EDWARDS, 11. Sam AISTON, 9. Luke RODGERS, 18. Duane DARBY. Subs: 10. Colin CRAMB, 23. Ross STEPHENS, 4. Jamie TOLLEY, 17. Ryan LOWE, 30. Joe HART (gk).
After a presentation to Altrincham Director Grahame Rowley by the UniBond League's Duncan Bayley, to mark the centenary of Altrincham Football Club, Shrewsbury kicked off towards the 20/20 End, where their sizeable contingent of supporters was located. The afternoon was so dull that the floodlights came on after just four minutes, just as Talbot was forced to concede the game's first corner, on the Shrewsbury left. A foul on Coburn led to the ball ending up in the net but there was no question of a goal being awarded (5 mins). Play then settled into a lively end to end pattern, punctuated by free-kicks from a referee who was soon to annoy the home bench with some of his decisions. Talbot and Band made important interceptions for the home side as Shrewsbury's travelling supporters began to realize that they were in for a difficult afternoon. The visitors' main early danger was the speedy Aiston on the right wing. However, Alty won the game's next corner when Craney, despite being held, by O'Connor, saw his shot blocked. From the corner Rose saw his header tipped over but the Shrews were given a free-kick. Then, Darby prompted a magnificent save from Stuart Coburn as the well travelled Conference striker got free in the left of the box. The Alty keeper parried out Darby's first effort and then held on to a point blank follow-up from Rodgers (16 mins). But it was the guile of Ian Craney which won Altrincham the game's next corner. This kick was cleared and, then, from a Shrewsbury attack, Adams made a superb tackle. Soon after this, manager Graham Heathcote switched Aspinall and Scott on the Alty right, with the latter assuming the former's right back position and Aspinall going forward into right midfield.
After Hardy had been judged offside, Graham Heathcote vented his anger at the officials (24 mins) but Alty continued to do well and, when Hallows found Aspinall, his cross found the rising Hardy whose header, under pressure, went over the bar (25 mins). At the other end, Aiston shot well wide from 20 yards (26 mins), before Adams and Rose made good clearances for Alty from subsequent attacks. Rain was now falling on the visiting fans in the open 20/20 End as Altrincham won two corners in quick succession, the second coming from a superb shot from 25 yards by Steve Aspinall which Howie tipped over the bar.
Above: Ian Craney (second Alty player from right) forces a full-length save from Howie, as Graham Heathcote (foreground) looks on (34 mins).
Ian Craney continued to lead his side by example in midfield. Hardy too was playing well and a flick into the box saw Howie just get to the ball before Hallows (30 mins). After a foul on Craney by Moss, the Alty freekick was half cleared and eventually came to Aspinall who launched his second fine long-range shot of the game, which Howie tipped round the post at full stretch, to his right, for Alty's fifth corner of the game. Then, Craney again forced Howie to a full-length save as Altrincham dominated at this stage (34 mins). The visitors' response was an effort from Rodgers which went well wide of Coburn's left post (35 mins). But another fine Altrincham move soon followed when an advance involving Scott, Hardy and Craney ended with the Alty captain's shot being blocked. Alty went even further ahead in the corner-kick count (6-1) soon afterwards when Aspinall found Hallows and he fed Craney, who jinked past the keeper, only to see his effort cleared at the foot of the post by Moss on the line. Altrincham continued to look the better side as half-time approached until the last couple of minutes when Talbot and Band had to clear Shrewsbury attacks.
Half-time arrived with Altrincham more than worthy of parity and the Shrewsbury fans in the stand voicing their disappointment with their team's performance to the adjacent visitors' bench.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 SHREWSBURY TOWN 0|
After the re-start, the impressive Tinson soon had to intercept a good Craney cross, aimed for Hardy, to concede a corner (47 mins). However, the visitors enjoyed their best period of the game in the first quarter of an hour of the second half but they created no clear opening as the Alty defence continued to perform excellently. In fact, Alty won their eighth corner of the game soon afterwards but then Coburn was called into action, but only of a routine nature, when he gathered Darby's downward header (53 mins). As Shrewsbury made the first substitution of the game, Lowe replacing Street, Graham Heathcote and referee Turner exchanged heated words (56 mins). There was then a "crowd scene" after Shrewsbury were awarded a free-kick and Chris Adams received a lecture in the aftermath. Next, Shrewsbury won only their second corner of the game when Aiston's freekick was deflected out of play. Rose cleared the corner as Alty strived to recover their first-half rhythm.
Band was then penalised for holding Rodgers on the front edge of the Alty box and got booked for passing a comment on the free-kick award (60 mins). This was his fifth caution of the season so will cost him a suspension. It also yielded Shrewsbury's third free-kick from the 20-25 yard range in the second half. Before this was taken, Shrewsbury replaced Ridler by Stephens (61 mins). Alty soon won corner no.9, which Howie punched clear from Aspinall's flag-kick. An Alty attack then ended with Hallows turning well but under hitting his shot to Howie (65 mins). Alty now made a double change with Hardy and Wright being replaced by Thornley and Shuttleworth respectively (68 mins). Altrincham were getting back on top and Howie had to tip away a Craney cross soon after the substitutions (69 mins). After Shuttleworth had fed Hallows, who was penalised in the box, the Altrincham threat to the Conference high flyers was sufficient for a visiting fan in the stand to shout to the Shrews' manager, "Sort it out Jimmy, we're bloody awful".
The visitors did soon win a corner when Scott had to head out into the Golf Road end. The visitors then made their final substitution with Cramb replacing Rodgers, to a chorus of boos from the visiting fans, who presumably disagreed with their manager's removal of their star semi-pro international striker (76 mins). The visitors next effort was a shot from 20 yards by Cramb, which went a full 20 feet wide of the target. Alty now brought on Holt for Hallows (78 mins) who has surprisingly been substituted in all of Altrincham's last three matches. After Holt had won a freekick, Craney took it too quickly to gain any advantage. Holt was soon fouled again, 25 yards out but Aspinall's delivery was poor and the ball, aimed for Talbot, went harmlessly out of play (82 mins). Tinson again did well to see off Thornley as he threatened to get onto a through ball and then Thornley headed narrowly wide after a cross came in from the left from Craney (83 mins). But, against the run of play, Cramb and Aiston advanced up the left and from the resulting cross, Lowe, unmarked at the back post thumped the ball past Coburn to give the visitors a lead they scarcely deserved (84 mins).
Immediately, Altrincham sent Band forward to join Holt and Thornley, with Rose going in the back four in his place. As they pushed forward, Altrincham almost paid a high price when Lowe got clear on the right and his shot came back off Coburn's left post to Darby. His goalbound shot evaded Coburn but struck the covering Scott on the line and the Alty man cleared well. As play switched to the other end there was a very strong shout for hand-ball in the Shrewsbury box which referee Turner ignored. In the three minutes of added time Tinson had to make another excellent covering tackle as Band advanced into the box from Thornley's feed. Then Alty keeper Coburn went upfield as Alty won a freekick on the left. However, it was too late and Altrincham went out of the Trophy to a solitary goal. Nevertheless, the home side had given an excellent account of themselves, as is reflected in the 9-3 corner count in their favour, and the fact that, apart from a superb double-save, Coburn was untroubled whereas his counterpart Howie was the busier keeper. On the positive side, exit from the Trophy allows Altrincham to concentrate on the season's priority; qualification for the Alliance North next season. And, on a selfish note it spares the Alty fans a lengthy trek on a Tuesday-night to Blyth Spartans, a fixture which would have resulted had we been in the 6th Round of the Trophy on 28 February instead of playing our Northumberland friends in the UniBond League!
Manager Graham Heathcote and his team can take pride in their performance today. Against a team in the top places in the Conference and tipped to win the Trophy, they were arguably the better side. A continuation of the form shown over the last month should see Altrincham continue their climb up the league table.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 SHREWSBURY TOWN 1|