ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
BLACKBURN ROVERS XI (0) 3
Pre-Season Friendly Match,
played on Friday, 6 August, 2004
Altrincham inaugurated their excellent new playing surface against a strong Blackburn side which included Paul Dickov, Tugay, Brett Emerton, David Thompson and several others with Premiership experience. After a good but goalless first half in which Niell Hardy excelled, Alty made a triple change after 55 minutes. They then fell behind to two goals in two minutes from Paul Dickov before Gary Talbot headed home a fine cross from Colin Potts. Potts, the former Lancaster, Stalybridge and Northwich winger was a surprise sub for Alty, after being reported on Thursday to have re-joined the Vics. Stuart Coburn returned in goal for Alty and made four or five excellent saves but Altrincham gave a good account of themselves and it was only Thompson's superbly hit 30-yard goal in the last minute which finally finished off the Robins. There were also a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, including Graeme Souness, Dean Saunders, Steve Bruce (whose son played for Rovers) and former Alty favourites Ian Craney and Danny Adams.
This was the first game to be played on Moss Lane's new surface and for those fans who had not been to any of the previous friendlies away from home, it was their first chance to see Graham Heathcote's new recruits. Even for those who had seen the previous games, there was a surprise in the arrival at Moss Lane of Colin Potts, the former Lancaster City, Stalybridge and Northwich wide man, who had been reported this morning to have re-joined Northwich Victoria.
The Alty starting line-up for this game is likely to be the same or very similar to the one which will kick-off the league season next Saturday. Mark Maddox, Gary Talbot and Barry Shuttleworth are all suspended for the match against Gainsborough Trinity so all started on the bench tonight. So, the expected replacement centre-back pairing of Peter Band and Stephen Rose was deployed, whilst Eddie Hussin came in for his first start after his knee operation, alongside Ged Kielty in central midfield. Colin Little played on the left, with Gary Scott on the right, and Peter Wright with Niell Hardy formed the strike partnership with Hardy lying behind the former Burscough man. Stuart Coburn returned in goal after his hernia operation and recent honeymoon, leaving Richard Acton, who has played well in pre-season, on the bench.
Blackburn brought a strong side with midfielder Tugay and striker Paul Dickov the biggest names but other well-known names in their side included the former Liverpool player David Thompson, Paul Gallagher, Brett Emerton and Alan Morgan.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Stephen ROSE, 5. Peter BAND (capt.), 6. Eddie HUSSIN, 7. Gary SCOTT, 8. Ged KIELTY, 9. Niell HARDY, 10. Peter WRIGHT, 11. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 3* Kieran LUGSDEN, 12. Marcus HALLOWS, 12* Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 14. Gary TALBOT, 15. Mark MADDOX, 16. Colin POTTS, 18. David HOLT.
BLACKBURN ROVERS XI (Blue & white halved shirts, white shorts & socks): 1. David YELLDELL, 2. Gavin PEERS, 3. Alan MORGAN, 4. Jay McEVELEY, 5. Alex BRUCE, 6. Kerimoglu TUGAY, 7. Brett EMERTON, 8. David THOMPSON, 9. Paul DICKOV, 10. Neill DANNS, 11. Paul GALLAGHER. Subs: 12. Cairan DONNELLY, 13. Steven DRENCH (gk), 14. Jamal JOHNSON, 15. John FITZGERALD, 16. Gary HARKINS.
After Altrincham had kicked off, it was Blackburn who gained the upper hand in the opening minutes, winning two corners in as many minutes. But Alty had a good chance themselves after six minutes when Aspinall found Little, whose cross from the left was met by Scott whose downward strike bounced up and over the bar. Band and Rose were kept busy but it was Alty who won the next corner when Scott's shot was deflected. Yelldell caught Aspinall's corner and soon Tugay was playing a superb 60-yard pass to Emerton, one of many impressive passes by the Turk. A Blackburn free-kick resulted and the ball came out to Gallagher from Emerton. Gallagher's excellent strike prompted an even better parry from Stuart Coburn, diving to his left (10 mins). Tugay continued to orchestrate play for Rovers before Rose well to stop Dickov. Band then headed clear after a Rovers' free-kick. Hardy was showing great determination for Alty and, from his pass, Aspinall won a freekick. Adams took the kick but Hussin headed the ball over the bar (17 mins).
Both sides were playing some neat passing football on Peter Barry's beautifully manicured pitch whilst manager Graham Heathcote, just back from his holidays, provided a non-stop sequence of tactical instructions to his players. After Hussin had gone forward, Wright won Alty a corner on the left. From Aspinall's corner, Adams played the ball high into the box and as it dropped under the bar, Yelldell knocked it over the bar for another corner. Indeed, after Blackburn's Danns had headed an offside "goal", Hardy won his team their third corner in two minutes as Alty were now more than holding their own, with Hardy in particular impressing. But after the impressive Thompson had surged forward, the ball came, via Dickov, to Gallagher who drew another magnificent save from Coburn, the keeper diving full length to his left to concede a corner (26 mins). Following this Coburn saved from McEveley's header from Bruce's cross from the right. After a fairly quite start Colin Little now came into the game and, after winning the ball, his cross led to Scott's header which Yelldell saved comfortably (33 mins). More good work from Little then set up Wright but he lofted the ball way over the Golf Road End roof from right of goal (33 mins).
Yet another first-class save from Coburn came from Thompson's 25 yarder, the keeper pushing the ball away from the bottom of his right hand upright (34 mins). Then came the only unsavoury incident of the game as Adams advanced on the left and was caught very late by a wild lunge from Bruce, near the Alty dugout. Adams leapt up and to his great credit shook the offender's hand to try and minimize the punishment from the referee, before collapsing to the ground for treatment to his leg. As the referee showed Bruce a yellow card, Dean Saunders leaned back in the Blackburn directors' box and jokingly asked Bruce's father, Steve, if that was the type of tackle his father had taught him (38 mins). Alty continued to enjoy plenty of possession and passed the ball about well on the lush surface. Danns did get in a header for Rovers but this dropped gently to Coburn before a Little feed set up Hardy for a 25-yarder to Yelldell. More skill from Hardy allowed Aspinall to cross the ball into the box, from the right, to the back post where Wright's first-time effort went wide (44 mins). Blackburn finished the half with a sustained passing move which ended with Thompson shooting over the bar. Half-time arrived with Altrincham having given a performance to be proud of.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 BLACKBURN ROVERS XI 0|
At the interval there was, surprisingly, just the one change, Johnson coming on for Rovers' Gallagher. Blackburn started strongly and won three corners in four minutes as Band and Rose stemmed the tide at the heart of the Alty defence. Hussin soon showed his mettle in midfield, but Rovers were still pressing as Rose conceded a freekick 22 yards out for holding. From this Coburn made another fine save, tipping the ball out for a corner (53 mins). From this Coburn caught the ball but was bundled, with the ball, into the net for a rightly disallowed 'goal'. Alty continued to defend well and then made a triple change. On came Colin Potts on the right, Gary Talbot to central defence and Barry Shuttleworth at left-back, replacing Hussin, Kielty and Adams. Band moved into midfield as a result, with Scott moving into the centre (55 mins).
Blackburn continued to press before Johnson's well-struck 25 yarder was well beaten out by Coburn (58 mins). Potts's close control was soon evident on the right flank before a Blackburn freekick awarded against Rose for holding Dickov led to a freekick from 40 yards. Following this Thompson headed home but was offside as Rovers had their third 'goal' of the night ruled out. Dickov then won another freekick against Talbot, for holding. Following this a cross coming from the right was helped on by Thompson's head and Dickov, unmarked, sidefooted the ball home; this time the goal counted (63 mins). After breaking Alty's resistance a second goal followed. Rovers advanced up the right and Thompson was on the end of Emerton's cross before helping the ball back inside for Dickov to score again (65 mins).
Alty then made a double change with Hardy, quieter after the interval, and Wright giving way to Lugsden and Hallows up front (70 mins). At the same time Donnelly and Fitzgerald replaced McEveley and Danns for Rovers. A 25 yarder from Thompson then went wide as Alty tried to get back into the game (71 mins). With Scott now at right back and Aspinall in midfield alongside Band, Lugsden got on the end of a Shuttleworth cross before a Little cross found Yelldell's arms (75 mins). Hallows's ambitious 30 yarder ran easily to Yelldell as Alty now had plenty of the ball. Band next set up a shot for Potts who failed to connect but then Alty won a corner from Scott's feed for Lugsden. Potts's corner found Talbot but his header went wide. Rovers now brought on Harkins for Peers (82 mins).
Band now pushed forward and won a freekick on the edge of the box. From Aspinall's freekick Yelldell did well to take the ball quite literally off Talbot's head. Alty then brought on Maddox at the back in place of Rose (84 mins). Great skill by Potts on the far right saw him get in an accurate cross which, aided by a possible touch from Lugsden, Talbot headed home at the back post to set up a potentially exciting finish (85 mins). Rovers responded with a corner before Blackburn almost put through their own goal as a retreating defender, pressed by Lugsden, headed past the advancing Yelldell, only for the referee to award a goalkick. A Little cross to Lugsden did produce an Alty corner soon afterwards, following which Band lost possession and Blackburn broke speedily upfield. Scott got in a good block from a shot from outside the box but the ball broke into the centre where Thompson kept the ball down brilliantly and drove a rocket of a shot past Coburn from 25 yards or more (90 mins).
Though brilliant keeping by Coburn, who must be the best goalkeeper in Conference North, kept the score down, Altrincham did not deserve to lose by a heavy margin and will have been justifiably pleased with the final close scoreline. Altrincham will be looking to emulate this good performance on Tuesday against a Stockport County team.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 BLACKBURN ROVERS XI 3|