BURSCOUGH (1) 3
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Saturday, 10 April, 2004
Burscough were deserved winners against an Alty side lacking seven first-team regulars (Adams, Aspinall, Scott, Rose, Thornley, Wright and Hardy) at kick-off and losing a eighth (Talbot) before the interval. The Linnets took the lead after 33 minutes through Bell but they also squandered three other good chances in the first half. Any hope of recovery disappeared for Alty when Connell made it 2-0, a minute after the break. The same player added a third, though Shuttleworth appeared to be bundled over in the build-up (68 mins). Hallows got a consolation for Alty two minutes later after good work by substitute and debutant Jamie Almond. Ged Kielty was one of few players to emerge with credit in a disappointing overall performance by Altrincham, which saw them concede three goals away from home for the first time this season.
REFEREE: Mr P. Kettlewell
The corresponding fixture last season had been Graham Heathcote's first as manager of Altrincham and had witnessed a fine performance and 3-0 win for the visitors. Today, Altrincham arrived having stalled in the league and taken only one point from their last three games, following a run of three successive wins.
Burscough, managed by ex-Alty player Derek Goulding, had just climbed out of the bottom three.
Injuries had played a major role in the reverse in Alty's fortunes in recent games. Indeed, the Robins arrived at Burscough with seven regulars missing - Adams, Aspinall, Scott, Rose, Thornley, Wright and Hardy, not to mention Murphy and Smith who had not kicked a ball this season through injury. Wright had been the latest victim, having succumbed to tonsilitis during last week. Replacing the injured Stephen Rose, Ryan Hutchinson came in for his third start since arriving from Stoke City but it was only his first start in six Alty games. A newcomer, on the bench, was Jamie Almond, a former Manchester City youngster, who arrived at Moss Lane via Woodley Sports and Mossley. Though wearing no.2, Peter Band paired up with Gary Talbot in central defence, whilst Mark Maddox moved across to right-back, to replace the injured Aspinall who had failed a fitness test before the game.
Burscough were without Marvin Molyneux but included the former Accrington player Darren Connell and, on the bench, David Eaton, formerly at Macclesfield. In goal, was Matthew Boswell, the former Bradford PA keeper.
BURSCOUGH (Green shirts and socks, white shorts): 1. Matthew BOSWELL, 2. Jeff UNDERWOOD, 3. Martin CROWDER, 4. Karl BELL, 5. Michael WHITE, 6. John BLUCK, 7. Matthew PARRY, 8. Liam BLAKEMAN, 9. Gary MARTINDALE, 10. Darren CONNELL, 11. Ryan BOWEN (capt.). Subs: 12. Steve McNULTY, 14. David EATON, 15. Mark BYRNE.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Peter BAND, 3. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Ged KIELTY, 7. Ryan HUTCHINSON, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Matt BAILEY, 11. Jamie BAGULEY. Subs: 12. Stephen LUNT, 14. Kieran LUGSDEN, 15. Jamie ALMOND.
Burscough kicked off, defending the clubhouse end, but the first few minutes of play were fairly undistinguished fare. However, the Linnets should have taken an early lead when Parry put Martindale clear, in front of the Alty goal, but the striker's shot only touched the outside of Coburn's right post when it should have been planted firmly past the Alty keeper (3 mins). Alty's first effort was worse; an effort from Hallows which went nearer to the corner flag than the Burscough net (7 mins). However, it was the home side who began to gain the ascendancy as Alty found themselves penned back into their own half. Nevertheless, Baguley did get in an ambitious volley, but this went very wide (13 mins). Altrincham began to get back into things when Hutchinson did well against Bowen and, via Craney, found Bailey but the tall striker was offside. Alty's best chance of the game, so far, arose when Craney, who had a quiet game, combined with Shuttleworth to get Hallows to the by-line left of goal, but Hallows was unable to cross the ball to a team-mate (17 mins). Altrincham then won two corners in quick succession, the first from Craney's battling and the second from his right foot shot, which was deflected wide (24 mins).
Baguley and Hutchinson now switched wings before the latter fed Hollows, whose 25 yarder went narrowly wide (27 mins). Alty's next effort was a cross-cum-shot from the left by Bailey which had the back-pedalling Boswell in trouble but dropped comfortably wide of the back post. Boswell did much better soon afterwards when he smartly kept out a deflected shot from Bailey. From a freekick, Burscough then won a corner as Talbot cleared the ball amidst cries for handball from the Burscough fans behind the goal. From the corner, on the Burscough right, Bell arrived unmarked at the near post and glanced a header across goal and into the net to put his side deservedly ahead (33 mins). The goal was similar to that scored against Alty by Lancaster last Saturday- a near post effort from a corner which had caught the defence cold.
Soon Burscough won another corner but this was cleared. The Linnets then wasted another good opening when Blakeman found Bowen but the blond Burscough captain shot weakly from 15 yards. Gary Talbot then limped off with what looked like a knee injury, to be replaced by Steve Lunt (36 mins). This meant a reorganisation, with Kielty moving to right-back as Maddox moved into the centre of the defence. Burscough continued to look the more determined side but they had their third bad miss of the game when Connell set Bluck free but the Burscough man shot wide of goal (40 mins). As the home side continued to have more of the ball, Shuttleworth was booked for the fifth time this season for a trip on Parry just outside the penalty area, in a central position. A short free-kick was taken but it came to nothing (43 mins).
The half ended, after two minutes of added time, with Altrincham thankful that Burscough had scored just once and had not converted the three other clear chances that they had created in the first 45 minutes.
|Half-Time: BURSCOUGH 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Altrincham came out for the second period and formed an uncharacteristic players' "huddle" before play resumed, which suggested they were going to make a collective fight of it in the second half. But any plans that they may have had were rapidly undone when Burscough doubled their lead soon after the re-start. Parry got round Shuttleworth on the Burscough right flank and fed Connell, who had not been picked up by the defence. He shot firmly past the exposed Coburn from about 12 yards to make it 2-0 (46 mins).
For Alty, Baguley was looking as much a threat as anyone but he was generally driven inside from the flank by the Burscough defence, where his progress was halted. However, Alty did have a good effort when Kielty fed Craney, who got past Bluck, and his shot forced Boswell to a fine one-handed save, low to his left (49 mins). A Hutchinson cross from the right then saw Boswell do well again, taking the ball off the head of his own centre-back, White. After Lunt had slipped, Burscough won a corner when Band cleared Parry's cross from the right (52 mins). A foul by Bowen on Maddox ended any threat following this corner.
A Hutchinson cross then just evaded both Bailey and Hallows (55 mins) before Kielty was booked for a firm tackle on Blakeman on half-way (57 mins). Neither side was creating any openings at this stage but when Shuttleworth fed Lunt, the youngster's lob went well wide of the target (62 mins). Alty then made a change with Jamie Almond coming on for his debut, in place of Matt Bailey, up front (65 mins). Soon, however, Alty went three behind for the first time this season. Parry advanced again on the right but Shuttleworth appeared to have the situation under control inside his own box towards the by-line, left of his own net. However, he went down under a challenge, which looked like a foul, but play continued and the ball came to Connell. His shot from 15 yard was half-blocked by Coburn but looped up off the keeper and into the far corner of the net (68 mins). It was the first time Altrincham had conceded three away goals in a league match this season. More worryingly, after being so tight defensively all season, it was the sixth goal shipped by Altrincham in their last two games.
Almond then did well to turn and feed Hallows, from right of goal, and the Alty striker slid the ball, low, across the advancing Boswell and just inside the far post to make it 3-1 (70 mins). But Burscough won a corner soon after the re-start. From this, Connell had a free header but put it wide of Coburn's right upright (71 mins). Burscough now brought on McNulty for Blakeman (72 mins). As the physio was treating a Burscough injury, Altrincham manager Graham Heathcote remonstrated loudly with one of his players for "laughing and joking when the side is trailing 3-1". Burscough continued to attack and Coburn had to punch a cross clear, but ended up both injuring himself and Connell, with whom he collided. Both men needed treatment and Connell eventually limped off, to be replaced by Eaton (79 mins).
Craney did win his side a corner (82 mins) and, soon after this, the ball came across goal to Band who made a creditable hooked shot at it but the ball cleared the bar (83 mins). Altrincham's late attempts to retrieve the game were seen off reasonably comfortably by the Burscough defence and the Robins' afternoon got worse when the referee stopped play to book Hallows, who was holding his arm, but was judged to have committed some misdemeanour against an opponent (85 mins). Despite four minutes of added time, Altrincham could find no way back into the game, a corner in the dying seconds being the nearest they got to some kind of reward for their efforts.
Altrincham were a seriously depleted side today but their difficulties were compounded by too many players failing to match their opponents' hunger for a win. Had there been an Alty Man of the Match award it would probably have gone to Ged Kielty, whose determination deserved a better reward. But it was Burscough who thoroughly deserved their win, which helps them to qualify for the end of season play-offs. Until a fortnight ago, the play-offs had looked unlikely to concern Altrincham as they racked up three wins on the trot but, now, with three successive defeats and only one point from the last twelve, they are in urgent need of an upturn in results if they are not to be sucked into that tense end-of-season contest. With Alfreton the next opponents, Altrincham fans may be partly consoled by the realisation that their side's best performances this season have been against teams at the top end of the table. Hopefully, too, one or two of the injured players may recover fitness before the season ends.
|Full-Time: BURSCOUGH 3 ALTRINCHAM 1|