ALTRINCHAM (0) 4
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY (1) 1
Nationwide Conference North Match,
played on Saturday, 14 August, 2004
Even 65 minutes into this game, you would have got very long odds against this result as Alty trailed to a well-taken Lee Ellington first-half goal. At that point Marcus Hallows had been stripped off for several minutes ready to come on as a sub before the management duo decided not to make a change. This, in hindsight, inspired non-substitution led to four goals in the final 25 minutes which transformed the game as Alty came to life.
Despite Alty's winning the corner count 8-0 in the first half, Trinity had soaked up the pressure well and Ellington and Caudwell looked lively on the break. But, after a farcical corner which saw Aspinall underhit the ball to Rose, who missed it altogether, the ball ran loose to Potts whose low drive into the corner of the net from the edge of the box made it 1-1 (66 mins). After a quiet first half Potts came to life in the second period and it was his pass that set up Peter Wright for the second Alty goal after a defensive error (69 mins). The Gainsborough defence fell apart in the closing stages and a fine pass from Potts saw Wright beat the keeper to the ball and net goal number three (84 mins). In the third minute of added time Colin Little became Alty's third debutant to score when good work by Hallows and Wright set him up.
REFEREE: Mr B J Tattan
Altrincham's first match in the new Nationwide Conference North was only the second game the team had played on the newly relaid and levelled Moss Lane pitch. The surface had taken last week's often heavy rain in its stride as groundsman Peter Barry's hard work came to fruition.
Since our first relegation from the Conference, Alty had played six home league games against Gainsborough before today and never won!
Mark Maddox (4 games), Gary Talbot (2) and Barry Shuttleworth (1) all sat out this game so Alty paired Band and Rose at centre-back. There were Alty debuts for Colin Little, Colin Potts, Peter Wright and Eddie Hussin but another new signing, David Holt was on the bench. Up front, Graham Heathcote selected Wright and Hardy, leaving Hallows and Lugsden as substitutes. Aspinall was preferred in central midfield to Ged Kielty, who was also one of the five subs who are allowed in the new division compared with the three permitted in the UniBond.
Trinity included Lee Ellington, briefly at Alty in 1999-2000, but his strike partner Gareth Grant (broken hand) was only named as a sub, though there appeared to be no sign of him actually on the bench today.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Stephen ROSE, 5. Peter BAND (capt.), 6. Stephen ASPINALL, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Eddie HUSSIN, 9. Niell HARDY, 10. Peter WRIGHT, 11. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 12. Marcus HALLOWS, 14. Ged KIELTY, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. David HOLT, 17. Stuart WRIGHT.
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY (Blue shirts & socks, white shorts): 1. Jamie HOLMSHAW, 2. Ben PURKISS, 3. Adam BURLEY, 4. Neil ALLISON, 5. Ben DIXON, 6. Jamie SHERLOCK, 7. Danny WOOD, 8. Chris HURST, 9. Lee ELLINGTON, 10. Jason MAXWELL, 11. Matty CAUDWELL. Subs: 12. Carl SMITH, 14. Ryan FORD, 15. Gareth GRANT, 16. Simon BIRD, 17. Luke STATON.
After just seconds of the new season, the ball was already out of the ground having come off an Alty player and rebounded over the roof of the Popular Side. However, the game soon settled down and Altrincham won two successive corners after 5 minutes. Peter Wright was looking energetic up front for Alty but the Gainsborough defence was not allowing Alty any clear sight of goal. For his part, Stuart Coburn at the other end, had little to do at this stage, despite some promising touches from Caudwell and Ellington, in particular, for Gainsborough. After 12 minutes, Wright and Potts interchanged passes before the latter sliced his shot well wide.
Altrincham continued to have slightly more of the territorial advantage but were caught offside on several occasions. However, against the overall run of play, Gainsborough took the lead. After winning an aerial ball outside the box, Gainsborough got the ball to Wood at the by-line to the right of goal. Though his cross was not the most accurate possible, the unmarked Lee Ellington executed a perfect bicycle kick to plant the ball past Coburn from a central position inside the goalmouth (23 mins). Alty had a chance to level soon afterwards when Adams and Little fed a ball into the box to Wright, who advanced on the keeper but, as the two collided, the Alty man lifted the ball too firmly over the keeper and also well over the bar (25 mins). Keeper Holmshaw then needed lengthy treatment to his leg and for the rest of the half he left goalkicks for his team-mates to take. For Alty, injured striker Rod Thornley was acting as the Alty physio, treating Wright who was also injured in the above collision.
Alty were now labouring after their reasonably bright start with Hardy and Wright getting little change out of the Gainsborough defence and passes going astray further back in the team. However, Potts then won a corner which was played fairly short to Potts himself and then came back to Aspinall, whose cross was met by a diving, bullet-header from Band at the back post which unfortunately went wide of Holmshaw's left post (34 mins). A Rose freekick then prompted Wright to harry an opponent and win another flag-kick. Again Band got on the end of the corner and Holmshaw fumbled it under the Alty captain's challenge but a freekick was awarded to Trinity (37 mins).
Gainsborough continued to have their moments too and when Wood got past two defenders, it took a timely tackle from Adams, who had a fine game, to clear the danger. Alty continued to make errors but, from an Aspinall cross, their fifth corner resulted . Aspinall wasted this by playing it too short for Little. Corners six, seven and eight arrived for Alty between the 44th minute and the first of two announced minutes of added time. When the first corner was half cleared out to Adams, the left-back got in a great shot, which was deflected, but which Holmshaw put round the post with a magnificent save, diving to his left. In fact, five minutes of added time were played before the interval. Although Little got in a shot wide of the target after three of those added minutes, Alty remained behind. Just before the half-time whistle, Allison was booked after a late challenge on Band which left the Alty skipper needing treatment to his leg.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1|
Right: Colin Little with today's Man of the Match champagne award.
With the game already five minutes late due to the added time in the first half, the interval lasted 18 minutes, so the second half did not start till almost ten-past four. Gainsborough won a corner within the first minute, their first of the game. Trinity then went close when Alty allowed Maxwell time and space and the former BPA striker laid off his header to Caudwell who lashed a shot across goal but just wide (47 mins). Play continued in a fairly undistinguished manner for the next few minutes. Altrincham slowly began to improve but Hurst became the second player cautioned, for reasons that were none too clear, when play was stopped by the referee after 54 minutes.
Time continued to tick away for Alty, with Little's 22 yard rising shot over the bar the nearest to a goal before the hour mark (59 mins). Soon after this Alty won corner number nine which for the third time in the game was an underhit low corner by Aspinall to a player lurking outside the front corner of the box. Marcus Hallows had now been called from his warm-up and had put on his shirt ready to enter the game. However, Graham Heathcote and his assistant Dalton Steele now held a long discussion, pointing to various parts of the pitch, and after three or four minutes of waiting, Hallows returned to his seat on the bench and took off his playing shirt.
Hardy and Potts, after quiet first halves, were now beginning to show a bit more sparkle - whether the appearance of Hallows on the sidelines had any influence on this is difficult to say. Wright soon got in a firm shot which rose over the bar (63 mins) before there was another lengthy injury stoppage for Trinity. Hussin and Aspinall then combined and from Adams's resulting cross, Alty's tenth corner resulted. Every corner in this game was taken by Aspinall and this one appeared to have gone wrong when it was played again to the edge of the box where Rose played an air kick, under pressure from an arriving opponent. However, the ball came back towards the Trinity penalty area where Potts seized on it and from the edge of the box drove a firm, low shot into the bottom corner, to the keeper's right to make it 1-1 (66 mins).
The goal seemed to break Trinity's defensive resolve and three minutes later a defensive error saw the ball arrive from Adams on the left to Potts's feet. He threaded it through to Wright who drove it firmly home from 6 yards or so in a central position (69 mins). Soon after this, Aspinall played a great ball for Hardy but he was just offside.
Coburn had remained a spectator for most of the second half and now as Alty enjoyed their best spell of the game, he remained so. Potts in particular was showing improved form, whilst Hardy too had stepped up a gear or two from the first half. Trinity's best effort was a 30 yarder, well wide, from Wood (77 mins). But Coburn was called into action to cut out a cross from the left after Wood had advanced on the right and got the ball across to Caudwell on the other flank (79 mins).
Alty and Gainsborough each made a change after 82 minutes. Kielty replaced Hussin in midfield for Alty and Staton came on for Sherlock for the visitors. Scott then made a good interception and found Potts whose excellent pass allowed Wright to run onto the ball in the box and reach it before the advancing keeper, to put Alty 3-1 up (84 mins). Alty were now looking a different side from that which had stuttered through the fifteen minutes either side of the break whilst Trinity's defence had lost its discipline. Alty finally brought on Hallows, for Hardy, after 86 minutes. Adams was then caught late by Staton, who became the third Trinity player to be cautioned (87 mins). Alty continued to press but after a foot-up offence by Little, a freekick was cleared to Dixon who shot over the bar. At this stage the Man of the Match was announced as Colin Little, though Potts and Wright must also have been in contention. Hallows then made a fine run up the left before his final pass let him down but Alty were not finished. After an Alty freekick in their own box, the ball came via Hallows to Wright, on the right. Wright found Little, towards the back post. He finished well to make the score 4-1 and send Alty to the top of the new Conference North table after the first game of the season.
Though Alty ultimately deserved to win, the margin could not have been foreseen even as late as midway through the second half. The Robins will probably play better than this and lose this season but Graham Heathcote could not have asked for a better result to start the season.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 4 GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY 1|