LANCASTER CITY (0) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Saturday, 3 April, 2004
Altrincham failed to score for the first time in 13 league games but for the third time against Lancaster this season in a game from which they deserved at least a draw. Alty keeper Stuart Coburn did not have a save to make apart from when the unmarked Jones headed past him from a corner after 74 minutes. Altrincham's best chance came when, from Kielty's superb pass, Baguley forced Welsby to beat his fierce shot over the bar. Craney also had a strong case for a penalty and a "goal" was ruled out for a push on the keeper by Maddox, but it was not to be Alty's day.
REFEREE: Mr B.A. Law
Alty had lost 2-0 at the Giant Axe already this season, in the FA Cup, and had drawn 0-0 in the league at Moss Lane. But of the Alty starters in the Cup game, only Maddox, Talbot, Rose, Aspinall and Band also started today. Lancaster had not conceded a goal in their previous three games whilst Alty had scored in all of their previous twelve league outings.
Since our last visit to the Giant Axe, the dugouts have been re-sited from in front of the stand to the opposite side of the pitch - restoring a clear view for spectators in the stand. Also, the cabins which used to be sited behind the clubhouse end have ben relocated to an elevated position on the railway side of the pitch, by the half-way line. The backdrop to the Giant Axe of historic Lancaster Castle, frequent West Coast Main Line trains passing by and a picturesque church tower were a marked contrast to the setting of Alty's last away game, in the former mining landscape of Frickley.
It was good to see Gary Scott involved in the warm-up even though he is still not fit to play. Stephen Rose returned to the starting line-up, but again on the right of midfield, whilst Matt Bailey reverted to the bench, where Ryan Hutchinson returned after injury. Kieran Lugsden and Steve Lunt are both involved in the Altrincham Youth team's cup final tomorrow so were not involved today.
For City, Kevin Welsby returned in goal after illness. Former Alty man Tony Sullivan was also in the Lancaster eleven.
LANCASTER CITY (Pale blue and white stripes, dark blue shorts and socks): 1. Kevin WELSBY, 2. Martin CLARK, 3. Andy SCOTT, 4. Farrell KILBANE, 5. Ricky MERCER, 6. Paul SPARROW, 7. Gary BAURESS (capt.), 8. Steve JONES, 9. Peter THOMPSON, 10. Tony SULLIVAN, 11. Neil UBERSCHAR. Subs: 12. John ROBERTSON, 14. Paul HADDOW, 15. Ryan ELDERTON.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, white shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Ged KIELTY, 7. Stephen ROSE, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Peter BAND, 11. Jamie BAGULEY. Subs: 12. Matthew BAILEY, 14. Ryan HUTCHINSON, 15. Stuart WRIGHT.
After changing ends, Lancaster kicked off with a fairly strong breeze behind them. There was an early scare when a long ball skidded across the box from the right, on the wind, and Thompson only just failed to make contact from a good shooting position inside the penalty area. Alty responded with a couple of good early balls up the right from Aspinall, who was to have an excellent game at right-back. From one of these, Alty won the game's first corner, on the Alty right. This was cleared but Alty continued to enjoy a good start, playing some constructive football, passing well to feet. Lancaster's next shot was from Mercer but it was as close to hitting the corner flag as the goal frame (11 mins). Hallows then almost got Craney in on goal, but Welsby smothered the ball just in time. At the back, a fine Maddox tackle saw off another Lancaster probe but the hosts soon won their first corner, on their right (16 mins). Band headed this clear and then, from a foul on Hallows by Scott, Aspinall's freekick from 45 yards found Talbot but he could only nod the ball to Welsby (16 mins).
City then made an unexpected substitution with the seemingly fit captain, Bauress, replaced by Ryan Elderton, who was returning on the left flank after injury. Sparrow assumed the captain's arm band (17 mins). Alty were playing with Hallows up front and Craney in support but it was the unlikely figure of Stephen Rose, who has only scored once for Altrincham, who next went close. Receiving a pass from Aspinall, he drove a low shot from 25 yards only narrowly wide of Welsby's right upright at the clubhouse end (20 mins). Then, an Aspinall freekick from half way saw Welsby drop the ball in the air but Band's resulting shot was blocked by a defender (21 mins).
Alty were now getting the upper hand and an excellent dummy by Baguley let in Craney to win Alty's second corner, on the left. Again Welsby dropped the ball, from Baguley's corner, but this time re-caught it properly. Referee Law was helping the game to flow with good use of the advantage rule but when Baguley was caught late by Sullivan he rightly stopped play and spoke to the City man (26 mins). Alty soon won another corner after Rose had overlapped well to chase Hallows's pass (27 mins). Lancaster's best effort at this stage came from a twice-taken freekick by Sullivan from outside the box which he drove very comfortably wide of Coburn's right post (29 mins). From Alty's next attack, Rose fed Craney who, in turn found Hallows but his shot from six yards was blocked (31 mins). Lancaster were conceding freekicks with regularity and another came when Mercer jumped all over Kielty on the halfway line. Alty soon won their fourth corner of the half after Kielty had found Baguley on the left. A feature of this season that Altrincham have not taken advantage of the numerous corners that they have won and the same applied here this afternoon, when eight Alty corners produced little threat of a goal.
Maddox then expertly shielded the ball out over the by-line as Lancaster tried to get a sight of Coburn's goal (40 mins). They did better soon afterwards when Elderton found himself one on one with Coburn but the Alty keeper made a magnificent save and, in any case, Elderton was given offside (42 mins). In the one minute of added time in the first half, Lancaster won a corner but the interval arrived with Altrincham having enjoyed the better of the game so far.
|Half-Time: LANCASTER CITY 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Altrincham started the second half with the wind behind them but now blowing less strongly. An early diagonal shot-cum-pass from 25 yards by Hallows almost located Rose as he arrived beyond the back post but a goalkick resulted (47 mins). Then Craney fed Hallows, who turned well, but shot wide from 20 yards (49 mins). The Lancaster defence then got in a muddle before clearing its lines.
The game now went through a quiet spell with neither side creating goalmouth openings. But Aspinall continued to impress, with a fine tackle on Elderton inside the box (55 mins), just before Craney seized on a loose ball at the other end but his shot from 25 yards was saved, low down by Welsby. Then Kielty produced a fine 40 yard pass to the left which set Baguley free. The youngster controlled the ball before letting fly with a rasping left-foot drive which Welsby did superbly to palm over the bar for a corner (57 mins). From Baguley's corner, Talbot made contact but headed wide. However, another excellent raking pass from Kielty then set Rose on the attack and he won another Alty corner, on the right as Alty continued to look the more likely to score. Baguley's corner was too low and short, however.
Then Craney did well to turn and advance into the box where he appeared to be clearly sandwiched by two Lancaster defenders but referee Law showed no interest in awarding a spot-kick (63 mins). When Lancaster did threaten soon afterwards, Barry Shuttleworth saw them off. Following another Alty freekick Talbot half-won the ball from Aspinall's deadball kick allowing Band to poke in a shot which Welsby, for the third time in the game, dropped. Alty then won another corner on the right to maintain the pressure (67 mins). This time Baguley's inswinger was excellent and Welsby did well to catch it cleanly. Next Hallows was caught narrowly offside from Rose's pass before each side made a change. Bailey came on for Hallows, up front for Alty and Haddon replaced Mercer for Lancaster (69 mins).
Five minutes late Elderton made some progress on the left and Kielty had to step in to concede a corner on the Lancaster left. From Sullivan's corner to the near post, Jones found himself unmarked and headed the ball past Coburn, who had been unemployed in the game until then (74 mins). The goal was distinctly against the run of play but now Lancaster stepped up their game but Elderton was soon caught offside. After Clark had been tripped by Shuttleworth, comments by Craney earned him a booking from Mr Law (77 mins). From the freekick on the right, Maddox missed the ball and Thompson really should have done better from 12 yards than shoot well wide of Coburn's left upright (77 mins).
Alty then won another corner, their eighth of the game, which City scrambled clear before Clark got in a long cross at the other end which Coburn caught comfortably (79 mins). Peter Band was now pushed forward for Alty but it was from a feed by Kielty and Rose that Ian Craney got in the next good shot, from right of goal, which beat the keeper but was cleared by a defender (82 mins). After Coburn had headed clear at the other end, just outside his box, Alty won yet another free-kick. Yet again Welsby failed to hold the ball, under a challenge from Maddox, and the ball ended up in the net. After a moment's hesitation the referee ruled out the effort for a foul on Welsby (85 mins).
With Alty pushing everyone forward, a ball down the middle set Thompson running towards the box, only for him to be pulled back by Aspinall as Coburn came out to the edge of the box. After consulting his linesman, Mr Law showed Aspinall a yellow card (86 mins). Ironically, the day after Alty had won the UniBond Fair Play Award for March, Aspinall's ninth yellow card means that he now joins Craney, Rose, Shuttleworth and Band, who all have four, just one caution away from suspension (86 mins). Thompson blasted the resulting freekick at the wall from where it deflected for a corner on the right. Sullivan blatantly wasted time as he dawdled across to the corner flag, so endearing himself further to the Altrincham fans who saw plenty of effort from him in this game but much less when he played at Moss Lane last season. Mr Law responded by adding three minutes of time but Altrincham were unable to find the equaliser that their play had deserved. They dropped to twelfth, with automatic qualification for the Alliance North still a cliff-hanger.
|Full-Time: LANCASTER CITY 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|