Match Report


UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Saturday, 21 February, 2004
at 3p.m.


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    Though Altrincham's disappointing performance meant they could not complain too much about the result, the manner of its arrival owed a lot to dubious decisions. After a poor first half from both sides, Altrincham changed their formation at half-time with Craney moving back to midfield as Band went forward and they improved sufficiently to take the lead from a fine shot from Craney (51 mins). But the Moors went on to dominate territorially for much of the second half and they equalised when Cullen drove home from 20 yards (63 mins). Referee Curry then awarded a penalty against Maddox for deliberate hands when the ball was driven unavoidably against his arm from the left; Cullen converted the spot-kick (76 mins). (Maddox was not booked). An always robust game spilled over into a brawl following a dreadful tackle on Adams by Brown. After consulting his linesman, Mr Curry sent off Gary Talbot, did not even talk to Brown and restarted play with a dropped ball (83 mins).


  • 51 mins: Ian CRANEY (Spennymoor United 0 Altrincham 1)
  • 63 mins: Jon CULLEN (Spennymoor United 1 Altrincham 1)
  • 76 mins: Jon CULLEN (penalty) (Spennymoor United 2 Altrincham 1)

    REFEREE: Mr Curry (Morpeth, Northumberland)


    Alty had won their last four league games and, as well, had put in some excellent performances in the last month in the FA Trophy. In contrast, the Moors were beaten 6-0 at Lancaster last week and lay 16th in the table, seven places below Alty at kick-off. It was Alty's first visit to the Brewery Field since they had won there 4-0 in 2000-01.

    The Moors' social club had burnt down over Christmas and its charred shell remained, next to the turnstiles. However, the bar in the sponsors' lounge was open to supporters. Entry prices at Spennymoor are the lowest in the League at just £5, with concessionaries paying only £2.50 and the matchday programme costs just £1 (though it strangely contained nothing about Altrincham other than a brief welcome). Despite these incentives, only 220 fans turned up for the game on a dry but cloudy afternoon. For the first time this winter, an Alty game on a Saturday was completed without the aid of floodlights - but only just.


    Altrincham had to make changes due to the continuing absence of Gary Scott and because Rod Thornley was not fully fit. Into the side came Ged Kielty, making his first start since rejoining Alty from Leigh last week whilst Mark Maddox returned to the starting line-up after his illness. Graham Heathcote pushed Ian Craney forward from midfield to support Marcus Hallows up front, whilst Peter Band started in right midfield, with Ged Kielty partnering Stephen Rose in the centre.

    Tony Lee brought in Gough, I'Anson and Brightwell to replace Hanson, Colligan and Brunskill from the team which lost so heavily at the Giant Axe.


    SPENNYMOOR UNITED (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts, white socks): 1. Gareth DOWNEY, 2. Philip BRUMWELL (capt.), 3. Paul TALBOT, 4. Jon CULLEN, 5. Stephen HUTT, 6. Michael GOUGH, 7. Andrew BROWN, 8. Neal BISHOP, 9. Steven PREEN, 10. Chris I'ANSON, 11. Stuart BRIGHTWELL. Subs: 12. Danny BRUNSKILL, 14. Chris HANSON, 15. Simon COLLIGAN.

    ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Stephen ROSE, 7. Ged KIELTY, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Peter BAND, 11. Stuart WRIGHT. Subs: 12. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 14. Stephen LUNT, 15. Rod THORNLEY.


    Altrincham kicked off down the marked slope on a bumpy pitch at the Brewery Field but the game failed to settle into any pattern in the opening stages. Brightwell and Preen looked lively for the Moors who were a physically taller side than Altrincham. Brightwell got in a 25 yard shot but it caused Coburn no problems (9 mins). As the scrappy played continued, Alty manager Graham Heathcote told his troops to "get hold of the ball and pass the damn thing", a sentiment probably echoed by most of the spectators. The game was littered with aimless balls, misplaced passes, throw-ins and occasional free-kicks.

    After Craney had been tripped 35 yards out, in a central position, Aspinall's freekick found Band on the right and he in turn found Talbot and Maddox, with the last-named knocking the ball over the bar from the back-post area (13 mins). Referee Curry was allowing a fair bit of pushing and holding to go unpunished before Alty won the game's first corner, on their right, through Peter Band (16 mins). Before this could be taken Spennymoor had to replace the injured Paul Talbot by Hanson. He was not to be the only Talbot to fail to see out the 90 minutes but his namesake Gary was looking as solid as ever at the heart of Alty's defence at this stage. When Wright took the corner, Aspinall found Kielty who headed wide, across goal (17 mins). There was then a bizarre minute in which Hallows was penalised twice for separate instances of handball as Altrincham began to look a bit more cohesive. After being treated for an injury, I'Anson resumed but a Moors colleague was then injured off the pitch. I'Anson walked off the pitch a minute later, holding his face, and was not seen again, leaving his side momentarily with nine men. Then, still without I'Anson, a foul by Aspinall saw yet another Moors' player, Brightwell, needing treatment. Aspinall was booked for his challenge (28mins) whilst Brunskill came on to replace I'Anson.

    The poor spectacle continued as Brown got free on the right and won a corner from which Hanson's header was half cleared. On the follow-up, Coburn stopped Brunskill's well-struck shot, going to his left (30 mins). Manager Heathcote continued to express his displeasure at his team's performance as the Moors began to improve. After Kielty's ball for Hallows had been taken by Downey (32 mins), Talbot headed to Downey after Adams's free-kick had been relayed to him by Band. Band had looked one of the livelier Alty players at this stage as he adapted once again to a change of position, having played most of the last month or more in central defence.

    However, the Moors almost went ahead when Band's headed clearance of a cross went to Bishop, outside the box. His first-time shot crashed back off the junction of crossbar and Stuart Coburn's right upright from 20 yards (36 mins). The game stuttered towards half-time with little if any flowing football to keep the spectators warm. However, Alty had a good chance after 40 minutes when Craney was fouled by Hutt. Adams took the free-kick from the left and found an unmarked Hallows but he headed badly wide of the keeper's left post from a central position. Just as three minutes of added time were announced, Brightwell and Brunskill combined well on the left but the no.11 finished with a poor cross. Half-time finally arrived with the supporters hoping for a better spectacle in the second period. During the interval a collection was organised amongst Altrincham fans by Gary Warrington and this was donated to Spennymoor to boost their social club rebuilding fund. The coffers were to be further swelled when an Alty fan won the golden goal competition and donated his winnings to the same cause.


    Altrincham switched formation at the interval with Peter Band moving up front as Ian Craney reverted to his more customary central midfield role. Ged Kielty moved to the right to replace Band. In the opening minutes Brumwell kicked Wright, off the ball, near half-way but the officials, not for the first or last time, failed to see this. The poor play continued as a Spennymoor cross from the left found the front edge of the terrace roofing rather than another player. Things improved when Coburn's goalkick went via Band to Hallows whose shot from the right, 20 yards out, went just wide (49 mins). Then another good Alty move saw Kielty, Hallows and Wright combine but Wright elected to cross when Adams had overlapped well on the left. The cross fell behind the goal (50 mins). But then came a moment of class after the mediocrity of much which had gone before it. From an Adams throw-in the ball came to Rose via Hallows. Rose found Craney in the left of the Moors' box and the Alty no.8 lashed the ball, left-footed, into the far corner of the net to put Alty ahead (51 mins).

    The game now improved and a nice Alty move, started by Aspinall and Band, ended with a 30 yard shot from Craney's right foot which went wide (56 mins). Play stopped for treatment to Gary Talbot but he resumed after attention from Gary Thompson to his left leg/ankle. Craney was then caught offside on the break. Talbot then saw off a home attack before Chris Adams became the next player in the litany of those requiring treatment today. It was Spennymoor who were now beginning to get the upper hand as they hemmed Alty back in their own half. Their pressure gained its reward when, following a Spennymoor throw on the left, Maddox half cleared to Cullen. The ball was then played up into the air and came out to Cullen near the "D" of the Alty penalty area. His well hit shot was half stopped by Coburn in the centre of his goal but he was only able to push the ball behind him, to his right, and into the net for the Moors' equaliser (63 mins). Immediately Alty brought on Shuttleworth for Wright (63 mins).

    Cullen beats Coburn from the spot.

    Referee Curry than stopped play to go and change both his boots (65 mins)! Soon after it resumed, Spennymoor won a corner on their right but this was cleared. After Bishop and Brunskill had combined well and the former had shot wide, Alty brought on Thornley for Kielty (70 mins). Then a fine run from Brown led to an excellent clearance by Aspinall at the cost of a corner on the Moors' right. This was scrambled clear before yet another injury, this time to Shuttleworth, who was treated off the pitch (71 mins). Play continued mostly in the Alty half till the deciding moment of the afternoon. After Aspinall had made a half clearance, the Moors fired in a cross from the left which hit the nearby Maddox, who was just inside the right edge of the Alty box. After looking to his yellow-flagged linesman, Mr Curry pointed to the spot, though how Maddox could have avoided the fast-moving ball was difficult to fathom. Despite apparently judging Maddox guilty of deliberate handball, Mr Curry chose not to book the Alty captain. Cullen hit the penalty, low and hard, and though Coburn guessed correctly it just evaded his dive to the right and found the corner of the net (76 mins).

    Chris Adams is treated (left) whilst the offender, Brown, also lies on the ground. Gary Talbot is behind Stuart Coburn but the Alty centre-back was about to be sent off.

    There was soon another scare when Coburn failed to hold the ball under a strong challenge but the keeper was eventually able to kick clear himself (78 mins). Coburn then had to make a fine save to stop Preen, who had got behind Talbot, and whose shot was well struck. A corner resulted (79 mins). Coburn caught the corner but Alty remained penned in their own half. Indeed, Brunskill should have done better when he got free moments later but he fired wide (81 mins). Then Craney was very late with a challenge in the centre of the pitch and could not argue about being booked (82 mins). But Craney's foul was as nothing compared to a dreadful foul by Brown on Adams, just inside the Alty half on the left (83 mins). The Moors' man took out Adams somewhere near the knees but play continued till a brawl resulting from the tackle on Adams forced Mr Curry to hold proceedings up. As Alty physio Gary Thompson fought to get at the crocked Adams, Brown then went to ground in the middle of the crowd of brawling players. When calm had been restored, Mr Curry had a lengthy talk with the red-flagged linesman and went across to Gary Talbot and showed him a straight red card. Talbot, who had previously received just one yellow card in 37 games at centre-back this season, exchanged pleasantries with the linesman whose evidence had dismissed him as he headed for the tunnel.

    Quite amazingly, Mr Curry took no further action, he said nothing to Brown who had both fouled Adams and had gone to ground after the alleged head butt which saw Talbot dismissed. Even more surprisingly, he did not even give a free-kick for the foul on Adams but re-started play with a bounce-up some ten yards away! Spennymoor almost immediately won a corner on the right, which led to a second corner. To add insult to injury, Adams himself was then booked for a foul on Bishop (83 mins). As play entered the five minutes of added time, Coburn parried away Cullen's effort. Having booked three Altrincham men and sent a fourth one off, Mr Curry finally produced his first yellow card for the robust home side when he booked Brumwell for one of the game's lesser offences, three minutes into added time.

    Altrincham did not play well today, apart from for about ten minutes after the interval, whilst Spennymoor showed great determination and in normal circumstances would not be begrudged their win. However, the manner in which the victory came left the Altrincham fans far from happy with the outcome and with the officials.