ALTRINCHAM (1) 2
WORKSOP TOWN (1) 1
UniBond League Premier Division Match,
played on Tuesday, 20 April, 2004
A magnificent second-half performance, led by man of the match Ian Craney, saw ten-man Alty overcome sixth-placed Worksop. After Gary Scott had given Alty a great start with a goal after 70 seconds, Worksop's Townsend equalised (11 mins) and Coburn was forced to produce a couple of excellent saves to keep the scores level. After Gary Talbot was sent off for a last-man challenge after 56 minutes, the ten men dug in and rocked Worksop with a finely struck goal from Craney (60 mins). Magnificent effort from the whole team saw Alty home without too many alarms in the final half hour. Alty move up to 12th.
REFEREE: Mr A J Scregg
It was a tense home crowd which gathered at Moss Lane for this game, with a win being vital if Altrincham were to stand a realistic chance of progressing automatically to the new Conference feeder division. Worksop, lying sixth, had already qualified but had been enjoying an indifferent run recently.
On top of the litany of Altrincham injuries came news that Barry Shuttleworth had a chest infection so was unfit to play tonight. This meant that Stephen Rose, himself out injured for the last two games, was recalled in an uncustomary role at left-back. The loss of Kieran Lugsden on Saturday meant a change up front where Marcus Hallows returned after being on the bench at Whitby. He was joined by Craney at the front end of the team with Band settling alongside Kielty in central midfield, with Scott and Wright on the right and left flanks respectively. Kielty had recovered from a two-footed challenge at Whitby which had led to his substitution in that game.
For Worksop, former Alty captain Steve Hawes failed a fitness test. He watched the match with Rod Thornley, Alty's injured striker, from the main stand. Simeon Bambrook was only fit to be a sub, whilst was out injured. Into the side came Darren Bradshaw, Alex Callery and Matty Caudwell.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Stephen ROSE, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Ged KIELTY, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ian CRANEY (capt.), 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Peter BAND, 11. Stuart WRIGHT. Subs: 12. Stephen LUNT, 14. Matt BAILEY, 15. Jamie BAGULEY.
WORKSOP TOWN (All blue): 1. Ian BOWLING, 2. Darren BRADSHAW, 3. Kevin DAVIES, 4. Alex CALLERY, 5. Mark HARAN (capt.), 6. Paul SYKES, 7. Neil GLASSER, 8. Joe TAYLOR, 9. Adam MULLER, 10. Gary TOWNSEND, 11. Matty CAUDWELL. Subs: 12. Simeon BAMBROOK, 14. Ben WALKER, 15. Andy JONES.
Identification of specific Worksop players was not easy as they wore blue shirts with black numbers, which were far from clear at a distance, so apologies for any vagueness below.
After changing ends, Worksop kicked off, attacking the Golf Road end. After an early throw in to the visitors, Alty gained possession and took the lead with their quickest goal of the season. Band played an excellent ball along the right touchline to Craney who did well to control it as he advanced to the by-line. His firm cross was almost met near the penalty spot by the incoming Stuart Wright but a defender did enough to prevent Stuart from making contact. However, the ball came back from left of goal to Gary Scott, who was in space some 15 yards out, slightly right of centre. Gary picked his spot and sent a rising shot into the net to the keeper's right (70 secs).
Following the re-start, Coburn punched clear at the other end before Alty almost doubled their lead. Hallows found Craney who advanced on the left past a defender and his cross found Scott, again in space, by the back post. Unfortunately Scott's header was misdirected across goal and was cleared (4 mins). Alty were now playing some good football which was loudly welcomed by Alty's injured striker Rod Thornley. Rod, now sadly back on crutches after his abortive return from a knee operation, banged his crutch on the stand's wooden floor every time Alty made a good move! Accompanying him in the stand were Richard Acton, currently playing with TNS in Wales and the injured Niell Hardy.
After an error by Maddox, Talbot was drawn into committing a foul on half-way and then when Rose brought down a Worksop man in the right corner, he earned a lecture from the referee. However, on the right, Scott continued to make an early impression for Alty; his performance was all the more creditable for coming so soon after his return from a serious facial injury. Craney then won a freekick from a Scott feed. The freekick came to Craney, who beat Glasser, but shot wide of the keeper's right upright from outside the box (7 mins). The Golf Road choir, who had moved at kick off to a vantage point at the 20/20 end of the Popular Side were in good voice as their side played some impressive football in these early stages. However, a push by Aspinall conceded another freekick to the visitors, this time on their left 25 yards out. Wright's header cleared the initial danger but Worksop got the ball back to Caudwell on the left. The speedy wide man did well and got in a fast and low cross to the near post where Townsend and Rose arrived simultaneously but the Worksop man did excellently to turn the ball, low and at speed, past Coburn at the near post for an equaliser (11 mins).
Worksop's performance improved with the encouragement of their goal and after a header from Talbot had fallen to a Worksop man, the resulting cross from the right just evaded the unmarked Sykes in the box but somehow Alty managed to scramble the ball clear (16 mins). Alty then won the game's first corner. This and a follow-up cross from Aspinall were both cleared (18 mins). A prodigious punt by Bowling then almost let Caudwell in but Coburn was alert and gathered the ball first. Alty boss Graham Heathcote was busy cajoling more from his side and it almost had immediate effect when good work by Kielty led to Band and Scott finding Craney, whose left foot shot just cleared the bar from the edge of the Worksop box (20 mins).
The game now went through a quiet few minutes but Alty's captain Craney was proving a handful to Worksop, who constantly had two or more men on him whenever he got possession. For their part Worksop's attacks were predominantly up the left, using the pace of Caudwell, the former Doncaster Rovers wide man. After a trip by Maddox had conceded another freekick, Graham Heathcote told his team to stop giving away "silly free-kicks" as they were putting his side under pressure. "Stay on your feet", he exhorted his defenders. This freekick was a left-footed curler from right of goal which was half cleared to Sykes, who shot over the bar from outside the box (29 mins).
At the other end another surge by Craney, past Glasser, led to a low shot which Bowling held (30 mins). After another Worksop freekick, 35 yards out, the ball was cleared but soon came back into the box from Bradshaw and with Sykes and Townsend both menacing in the penalty area, Alty did well to get the ball clear (32 mins). Coburn then had to punch clear. Another freekick, from 45 yards out, led to Haran shooting narrowly wide from the edge of the box. Alty were under some pressure at this stage until Craney got forward, only to be seen off by Sykes. Next, a fine run forward by Callery, up the middle, where he interchanged passes with Muller, led to Coburn smartly smothering the ball and holding it at the second attempt as danger threatened.
Worksop now replaced their captain, Mark Haran, with Simeon Bambrook, the former Emley front man. Bambrook went into midfield, however (39 mins). Coburn soon had to make a fine stop from Muller but Alty's Hallows then won a corner at the other end. Aspinall's corner cleared Band but dropped for Talbot, who steered his shot wide of Bowling's right upright (41 mins). Band and Hallows were then caught offside before Coburn had to produce another excellent save, from Caudwell, from a Townsend feed (43 mins). Though Worksop were looking the more incisive going forward, it was Alty who won their third corner, soon afterwards, through Hallows. Aspinall's corner found Hallows, whose first attempt was blocked, but his snap shot from the rebound, from the outer fringes of the box, beat Bowling but was cleared off the line by Muller (44 mins). After a minute of added time, the interval came. Altrincham had started well but, after levelling, Worksop had looked to be more than capable of frustrating Altrincham's need for three points.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 WORKSOP TOWN 1|
After Hallows had been given offside, Talbot was caught out at the back and Maddox's resultant trip on Townsend earned the Alty centre-back his eighth yellow card of the campaign (47 mins). After treatment, Townsend continued, though not looking fully comfortable. After this Altrincham began to play well and a great ball from Craney found Hallows but the move broke down. Next, the menacing Craney got into the box from a Kielty pass but his low shot did not have enough power to beat Bowling, to his left (52 mins).
Each side now made a change with Jamie Baguley replacing Stuart Wright on the Alty left and Townsend limping off to be replaced by Jones for Worksop (52 mins). Baguley soon got in a shot but this came via Band to Kielty on the left and his cross into the box generated an appeal for hands but was cleared. Disaster almost struck when Stuart Coburn rashly dashed from his line almost to the right touchline but was beaten to the ball by a Worksop player. Fortunately, as Stuart attempted to recover his ground, Mark Maddox headed clear for Worksop's first corner of the match. This ended up in Coburn's arms. Craney than found Band clear in front of goal with a fine ball forward but the ball was marginally behind Band and his header went very wide (55 mins).
Worksop then sent a routine ball through the middle but its bounce allowed Muller to get the wrong side of Band and he advanced towards the box with Talbot in pursuit. Talbot jostled the Worksop man off the ball just outside the box, to concede a free-kick. Judged to be the last man by the referee, Talbot was then shown a red card, to become the third Alty man dismissed in the last four games - after only two reds had been picked up all season before then and after winning the Fair Play Award for March! This left Alty with ten men with 34 minutes left (56 mins). Band went to cover Talbot’s role.
The freekick following the dismissal came to Coburn. A foul on Baguley then earned his Worksop tackler a yellow card. Rain was now falling as Ian Craney launched an ambitious 30 yard shot which struck someone early on its path. But the ball soon came back to the Alty captain, just outside the front of the box, left of centre. Craney gathered the ball, made space, and lashed an unstoppable drive into the far corner to put Altrincham ahead (60 mins). The home fans erupted as Craney ran back, celebrating, 50 yards down the pitch with his colleagues in his wake.
A couple of attempts to get Baguley free came to nothing before Hallows was replaced, the new player being Steve Lunt who, once again, was given a left-flank role (72 mins). Baguley was now left as the lone striker. Further back, Maddox led by example and Craney, too, was now taking defensive duties as seriously as his attacking intentions. Worksop continued to press but could not get at Coburn’s goal. Indeed, they were caught on the break when Lunt picked up a loose ball inside his own half, got past Taylor, and was then cynically tripped as he advanced into the Worksop half. Taylor was booked as Alty were given a freekick 40 yards out (73 mins). Rose's freekick was just too long for Band at the back post.
A couple of huge punts from Coburn were too long for Baguley to have a chance of exploiting but generally the pattern now was of Worksop pressure being expertly resisted by the tenacious ranks of Altrincham. Worksop's willingness to commit the professional foul was shown for the third time in the second half when Callery tripped Craney after he had ghosted past him. Callery joined the earlier offenders in the referee's notebook as Craney did some stretching exercises to recover from this foul (80 mins).
Worksop's Bradshaw then sliced a shot badly wide from outside the box but otherwise the Altrincham team's efforts were keeping the visitors well away from their goal. Scott almost sprang the offside trap on the break for Alty before Worksop brought on Walker for Muller (83 mins). Baguley then played a bizarre backpass to Coburn from 25 yards out but the Alty keeper was equal to the awkwardly bouncing ball. This was to be Baguley's last meaningful act in the game as he was substituted soon afterwards in favour of Matt Bailey, having been on the pitch for just 33 minutes (85 mins). Bailey now assumed the tiring task of loan striker. There then followed a moment which Steve Lunt will savour as the youngster received the ball from Craney on the left flank, inside his own half. Lunt progressed up the touchline some thirty yards, holding off challenges on the way to win a throw-in which was greeted by a standing ovation matched only by Craney's earlier goal. In the circumstances, Lunt's effort was just what was needed to relieve pressure and gain ground. From this, Alty went on to win a corner, from which Craney and Lunt attempted to keep possession by the corner flag on the left and they succeeded in winning a throw and then a freekick for a foul on the Alty captain (88 mins).
After this, yet more excellent work by Craney took him past Bambrook before the move foundered. However, Rose soon won possession well but his curling shot from 20 yards was comfortably saved by Bowling (89 mins). Three minutes of added time were played. In the first of these Coburn did well to gather a Caudwell cross at the second attempt, just before Ian Craney was deservedly named as Man of the Match. There was time for Taylor to shoot wide and for Coburn to make a good catch before the final whistle brought relief to the Altrincham fans. The players celebrated on the pitch in front of the Golf Road supporters almost as if they had won a cup final and they richly deserved their moment of acclaim for an outstandingly spirited performance, with ten men, for most of the second half.
Results elsewhere did not go Alty's way tonight, with both Runcorn and Stalybridge winning their games. However, a repeat of this display on Saturday at home to Runcorn FC Halton will give Altrincham every chance of qualifying automatically for the new Conference feeder division.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 WORKSOP TOWN 1|