ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
ASHTON UNITED (2) 2
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Tuesday, 24 February, 2004
Another disappointing showing from Altrincham saw them lose their second successive league game but manager Graham Heathcote was left fuming, as on Saturday, at a referee and linesman's decision which cost his side dear. After Allison had been stretchered off (7 mins), there was a 50/50 aerial clash between Chris Adams and Phil Denney, from which both players needed lengthy treatment. Mr Coward consulted linesman Mr Parsons and not only awarded Ashton a free-kick but also booked Adams (15 mins). It was Chris's fifth card of the season and therefore a suspension follows. Carty's free-kick deflected off the wall, leaving Coburn flat-footed as the ball entered the net. To add injury to insult, Adams then had to be subbed with the arm injury sustained in the earlier free-kick incident (25 mins). Johnson made it 2-0 when he was left unattended from a free-kick and beat Coburn with a header at the back post (22 mins). After signalling 4 additional minutes, the first half actually lasted 55 minutes. Despite territorial dominance and a lot of corners (14 to Ashton's 3) Alty could only muster a goal four minutes into second-half injury time, superbly struck by Craney from 19 yards. Alty drop to 11th.
REFEREE: Mr B. Coward
After Saturday's disappointing display at Spennymoor, Altrincham were looking to consolidate their top-nine placing against a side on equal points in the league table. Though tonight's was a disappointing gate (447) for a local derby, it was neverthless the highest attendance of the night in the UniBond Premier.
Mark Maddox and Stuart Wright moved to the bench, where Kieran Lugsden replaced Steve Lunt. Into the starting line-up came Rod Thornley, for his first league start since 6 December, and Barry Shuttleworth. Alty were again without Gary Scott. Ian Craney resumed the captaincy as Peter Band slotted in alongside Gary Talbot at the back. Kielty played in right midfield, with Shuttleworth on the left.
Ashton, and former Alty, manager Gerry Quinn had also been having injury problems, and there were several changes from his side which had lost to Alty at Hurst Cross on 7 February. Back into the side came ex-Alty man Darren Royle and Andy Johnston was in goal instead of Trueman. Dormer, Dyson, Fleury, Miller and Smith were all missing from the team which played Alty earlier this season whilst the three subs that day, Denney, Allison and Fleetwood, all started tonight.
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. Ged KIELTY, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH. Subs: 12. Mark MADDOX, 14. Stuart WRIGHT, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN.
ASHTON UNITED (Yellow shirts and socks, blue shorts): 1. Andy JOHNSTON, 2. Andy THACKERAY, 3. Danny WHITE, 4. Martin ALLISON, 5. Lincoln ADAMS, 6. Darren ROYLE (capt), 7. Nathan FLEETWOOD, 8. Paul GARVEY, 9. Phil DENNEY, 10. Dean JOHNSON, 11. Peter CARTY. Subs: 12. Phil COONEY, 14. Brendan ASPINALL, 15. Paul QUINN.
On a cold, dry night Altrincham kicked off towards the Golf Road end and started promisingly before the game's flow was disrupted by a series of long injury stoppages. Alty's first corner, on a night when they were to win 14 flag-kicks, came after 5 minutes through Craney but Shuttleworth's flag-kick was cleared. It was Ashton who had the first shot of note when the unmarked Denney hooked an effort at Coburn from Carty's feed. Coburn could only knock the ball upwards before catching it safely (6 mins). Rose's late challenge on Allison 10 yards inside the Ashton half saw the Ashton man injure his right ankle and have to be stretchered off after prolonged treatment (7 mins). Cooney came on as his substitute.
After a foul on Hallows, Adams's free-kick from 40 yards on the right saw Hallows get in a header under pressure but it ran to Johnston (8 mins). There was then another lengthy stoppage when an aerial ball up the middle saw Adams and Paul Garvey clash heads in the air and both went down injured. Again there was a long stoppage for treatment during which Mr Coward consulted his linesman, Mr Parsons. What had looked a fair 50-50 challenge in the air was interpreted by the two officials as a foul by Adams which not only led to an Ashton free-kick but also a booking for the Alty left-back. Both players resumed as Carty lined up the free-kick 25 yards out. His kick struck the Alty wall at shoulder height and looped into the corner of the net. Coburn had been wrong footed and although much of the pace had been taken off the ball he was unable to make a move towards the ball (15 mins).
As on Saturday at Spennymoor, where a harsh penalty decision and the officials' failure to see an awful foul on Adams had angered Graham Heathcote, the Alty manager was now once again annoyed at the ref and his linesman. Soon, however, Alty won a corner from which Band headed wide Aspinall's kick (17 mins). A third Ashton injury stoppage soon followed when Aspinall was judged to have fouled a visiting player on their left flank. The free-kick found Johnson unmarked at the back post where he beat Coburn with a header between the keeper and the post (22 mins).
Altrincham then had to replace Chris Adams, whose right arm appeared to have been injured in the incident leading to the first goal, and Stuart Wright came on (25 mins). Wright went into left midfield as Shuttleworth covered Adams's left-back berth. For Chris it has been an eventful hour or so of action since he was clattered by a Spennymoor defender on Saturday, then booked soon afterwards in that game and now injured and booked for the fifth time this season in this game.
As the injured Allison hobbled back from the dressing room towards the Ashton bench, Thornley's cross from the right was cleared for an Alty corner on the left. Alty continued to press but a very wide 25 yard shot from Hallows was the nearest they came to a goal. For their part, Ashton made some neat counter-attacking moves which, at times, were more incisive than Altrincham's slow build-up. The officials continued to irritate the Altrincham faction and when Rose was penalised after winning the ball off Carty, even the normally composed Altrincham midfielder displayed his anger to the referee (33 mins). Then, when Altrincham won a free-kick soon afterwards there was a large round of ironic applause from the home fans at a decision in their side's favour.
Following a neat lay-off from Hallows, Alty finally got a decent shot on target when Craney fired in an effort which Johnston took two attempts to gather (36 mins). Two minutes later a Thornley feed set up a well-driven, low shot from the left by Wright which the Ashton keeper saved well as Alty continued to enjoy the majority of possession. An Alty free-kick and then another corner came to nothing. Then, another corner arrived just as four minutes of added time were displayed. From Aspinall's corner Talbot found Band but he lashed his shot over the target. Two minutes into additional time there was a stoppage of no more than two minutes for treatment to Craney. However, play was to continue for an amazing total of ten minutes of additional time! As Craney was treated, Graham Heathcote asked the linesman why he had awarded the free-kick against Chris Adams but Mr Parsons seemed not to answer. After Craney had limped back on, Shuttleworth had to see off an Ashton attack when Coburn had failed to gather the ball. After eight and a half minutes of added time Fleetwood was booked for a foul on Shuttleworth and from the free-kick by Aspinall, Alty's seventh corner of the half resulted. Half-time finally came at 8.40pm, with the statistics showing that Ashton had lost two players injured to Altrincham's one; won no corners to Altrincham's seven, but they had scored two goals to Alty's none.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 ASHTON UNITED 2|
Altrincham emerged early for the second half in which Ashton kicked off and immediately conceded a free kick on Aspinall from the forceful Johnson. Alty's eighth corner soon followed, which Band headed well over the bar (47 mins). Shuttleworth and Rose broke up two visitors' counter-attacks before another Alty corner came and went. Ashton finally won their first corner (55 mins), just before Alty went into double figures for flag-kicks.
Despite the Alty possession, Ashton still looked lively on the break and when Coburn miskicked an underhit back pass from Talbot, the Alty keeper was lucky to get the ball away (58 mins). Alty's long balls continued to go astray or to be picked off by the tall Ashton defenders. At the other end, Talbot did well to cover for Band but conceded a corner which Coburn caught.
Alty then wasted a good chance when, from Aspinall's pass, Thornley on the right found Wright but the ball bounced off his shins and was cleared from six yards out. Soon afterwards Mark Maddox came on for Shuttleworth (63 mins). This meant that Band went forward to accommodate Maddox. After a foul on Craney, Aspinall's freekick prompted a melee in the Ashton box from which Band hooked the ball over the bar from 10 yards (65 mins).
A couple of misplaced forward balls from Aspinall followed before Craney got in a diagonal shot from the left which went a full 20 feet wide of the keeper's left post (68 mins).Thornley then got past White but knocked the ball too far ahead to Johnston. Yet another Alty corner followed but yet again this did not prompt any serious danger to the Ashton goal. As Thornley received treatment, after being fouled to the right of goal, Kieran Lugsden prepared to come on. Ashton intermittently threatened on the break but most of the play was in their half. However, Coburn had to rush from goal but then dribbled past an opponent and ran to within 5 yards of the half way line in one of the game's more unusual moments (76 mins).
At the second attempt, Mr Coward finally heard the banging of the substitute boards to allow Kieran Lugsden to come on for Marcus Hallows (77 mins). Alty continued to labour but without producing any clear openings. When Denney jumped at Maddox, he was penalised but not spoken to. Then a neat lay off to his right by Lugsden set Thornley free up the right and from his return pass, Lugsden, under pressure of a tackle, shot narrowly wide of the keeper's right post (81 mins). Ashton won their third corner, which Coburn failed to gather, and the ball seemed to come back off his near upright. Craney then shot wide (84 mins) from 25 yards before another unproductive Alty corner arrived, ending with Maddox's scissors-kick which sailed well over the bar.
Coburn then came out and kicked a clearance against an opponent which fortunately rebounded out for a goalkick. Ashton continued to defend well as Lincoln Adams conceded corner no.13, just before four minutes of added time were announced. Alty soon had another good chance when from Lugsden's pass to Thornley, Rod centred from the right and found Wright arriving in the back if the box. But his shot was blasted over the bar, two minutes into added time. Ashton now brought on Quinn for Fleetwood. With the game in its fourth minute of added time, Craney collected the ball just outside the box, sold a defender a dummy, and lashed the ball left-footed into the top corner to the keeper's right. It was a great goal but too late. Even then there was more added time for Altrincham to win a final corner which saw Thornley lash a shot at a defender. The final whistle came with Peter Band awarded the Man of the Match champagne.
From their best league run of the season (four straight wins), Altrincham have now entered their worst run (two straight league defeats for the first time this campaign). As on Saturday this performance did not match those in January in both league and Trophy but with Altrincham still lying within the top thirteen, there remains a good basis to achieve qualification for the Alliance North next season. Not for the first time in recent weeks, Altrincham dominated play territorially and had countless corners and several good chances but failed to convert their dominance into goals.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 ASHTON UNITED 2|