ASHTON UNITED (0) 0
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
Nationwide Conference North Match,
played on Monday, 16 August, 2004
A last-minute goal from Colin Little put Alty three points clear at the top of Nationwide North after it had seemed that all their good work in the opening period had come to nothing. For the first twenty minutes Altrincham attacked very well with Hardy's overhead kick hitting the post, Wright prompting a good save and Little driving a shot narrowly wide as Ashton were kept on the back foot. But Alty lost their way a little and despite five corners in the first 20 minutes of the second half found themselves defending in the closing minutes as substitute Smith caused problems on the right wing. However, following a freekick, a cross from Potts from the right was helped on in front of goal by either Aspinall or Hallows or both, to the incoming Colin Little who had a simple tap-in to score at the back post. Four minutes of added time did not alter the outcome.
REFEREE: Mr M Bell (Rotherham)
Ashton United had gained a place in Conference North due to the demise of Telford United, whilst Altrincham had needed a last-day win over Runcorn to confirm their place in the new set-up. Last Saturday Ashton lost narrowly at Nuneaton whilst Altrincham finished strongly to run out 4-1 winners over Gainsborough.
Torrential rain at about 6pm had virtually cleared before the match started and a bright, generally dry evening followed.
Mark Maddox (4 games), Gary Talbot (2) were again out of action through suspension but Barry Shuttleworth was eligible once again after his ban last Saturday and was on the bench tonight. The starting line-up was the same as last Saturday's with Shuttleworth's replacement of Holt the only alteration to the squad. Altrincham sported their new all yellow change-kit for the first time.
Ashton included former Ossett Albion man Nick Clee on the left, whilst another new signing, Alan Bailey (from Mossley) was on their bench. In goal was Ashley Connor, the former Harrogate keeper as Ashton's Yorkshire-based manager Gerry Quinn continues his policy of finding talent from across the Pennines. Another new face was tall striker, Josh Mitten whose former clubs include our neighbours Flixton. He partnered Dean Johnson up front. Johnson had seemed bound for Barrow in close season but finally decided to stay at Hurst Cross.
ASHTON UNITED (Red & white halved shirts, black shorts & red socks): 1. Ashley CONNOR, 2. Andy THACKERAY, 3. Peter CARTY, 4. Martin ALLISON, 5. Lincoln ADAMS, 6. Danny WHITE (capt.), 7. Craig FLEURY, 8. Paul GARVEY, 9. Josh MITTEN, 10. Dean JOHNSON, 11. Nick CLEE. Subs: 12. Steve SMITH, 14. Alan BAILEY, 15. Lee CONNOR, 16. Phil COONEY, 17. Danny TRUEMAN (gk).
ALTRINCHAM (All yellow): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Stephen ROSE, 5. Peter BAND (capt.), 6. Steve 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. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 17. Stuart WRIGHT.
Altrincham brought a good number of supporters and, as usual, they were in good voice. Also in the crowd was Lancaster City boss Phil Wilson running his eye over Ashton, who are his Bank Holiday opponents. Alty kicked off and enjoyed a bright start. Inside the first minute Potts got in a good cross from the right and then, from a Little feed from the left, Wright lashed a shot across the face of goal from the right. Alty were once again captained by Peter Band and he was soon in action, heading clear an Ashton probe (7 mins) before play stopped for treatment to Stephen Rose's right shoulder. Stephen has had an intermittent shoulder problem over the last couple of seasons but after treatment he continued (10 mins).
A blocked effort by Eddie Hussin then came to Niell Hardy and his well executed overhead kick from near the penalty spot beat Connor but came out off the upright to the keeper's left and Wright was unable to turn it back into the net from a very acute angle (12 mins). Soon Wright, who was covering every blade of grass at the Alty front-end and chasing down keeper Connor at every opportunity, had a shot blocked but it was not long before Alty won the game's first corner on the left. Aspinall took this short to Little but the ball came out to Rose whose shot from the edge of the box was too high (15 mins).
Altrincham were now clearly on top, with Potts and Little both threatening on the wings. Next, from a Hardy pass, Wright fired in a low shot which Connor did well to push out as he dived to his right. Little's resulting shot went narrowly wide across the face of goal (18 mins). Ashton's best effort at this stage was a curler from outside the box by Mitten which did not trouble Coburn (20 mins). After some neat play by Alty, their Manager Graham Heathcote proved a hard taskmaster, telling his players "That was very nice but let's be more direct"!
Indeed, Ashton now began to get a bit more into the game as Alty eased off slightly and the game went through a period when neither side created any goal chances. Ashton did eventually nearly sneak a goal just before the half-hour mark when one of Clee's prodigious throw-ins bounced against Rose and Coburn had to dive smartly to his right to prevent an own goal, as Ashton appealed for handball against the Alty defender. Aspinall then won a corner for Alty which he played to Rose, who had made a late run to the right corner of the box. Rose's cross was cleared and it was Ashton who threatened next with Garvey being fortunate to win a corner off Scott after mishitting a cross. Ashton continued to press but the Alty back four held firm. Graham Heathcote told his players that they were "not doing what we did in the first twenty minutes" as it began to look as if they might regret not having taken one of their earlier goal chances.
Ashton won three corners in two minutes (42-43 mins). From the second of these a Band header went narrowly wide of his own goal but Coburn caught the third corner well to end any danger. Alty now put together a good move, with Little finding Scott at the back post but Scott's effort was hit at the keeper (44 mins). Altrincham had started very well but had slightly lost their way before the break.
|Half-Time: ASHTON UNITED 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Ashton started the second half the stronger of the two sides with their tall front men causing some problems with flicked headers from goalkicks and other long balls. But it was Altrincham who went closer to a goal when Aspinall did well and, via Potts and Hussin, the ball came back for Potts to send a fierce drive into the side netting from the right of goal (49 mins). Wright then needed treatment after being pulled over before Potts won possession and got the ball to Hussin. His probing ball for Wright was just smothered by Connor before the Alty man could get it (52 mins). Hussin was soon feeling Mr Bell's wrath after a foul but he escaped without a booking. Alty then won two successive corners. All the corners so far had been taken by Aspinall and, as against Gainsborough, he had obviously been told to play half of them short to the front corner of the box for an incoming player to arrive and cross the ball. As against Trinity, most of the attempts at this latter ploy did not come off and by the end of the game the Alty fans were baying for a change of technique.
A foul on Potts just outside the box allowed Little a crack at goal but his freekick was blocked by Lincoln Adams for a corner. Two more corners soon followed with the second one being taken by Chris Adams. This curled into the goalmouth from the Alty right and forced a punch from Connor. The ball came out to Aspinall whose shot produced corner number five of the second half for Altrincham. Aspinall was soon very alert at the other end getting in a fine covering tackle as Garvey got past Scott into the Alty box. A ball forward then saw Wright lay the ball off for Potts, whose sidefooted shot hit a defender for yet another corner. This was again played short by Aspinall and led to Alty's seventh corner in the 20 minutes since the interval. This corner ended with Connor failing to hold Aspinall's low shot but Wright was penalised.
Both sides made their first change at this point with Garvey giving way to Bailey, the former Mossley striker whilst Ged Kielty came on in midfield for Eddie Hussin (65 mins). Wright was soon caught offside as Alty pressed forward and keeper Stuart Coburn saw little of the action. When the referee gave Ashton a throw, from a ball which appeared to come off one of their players, Peter Wright passed a comment which saw him get Alty’s first yellow card of the season (68 mins).
Stephen Rose went down again with his shoulder problem but after treatment he once again continued (72 mins). The Alty defence then saw off some moves by Ashton before the home side brought on two substitutes. One was Smith, the former Emley wide man and the other was no.17 who according to the tannoy was supposed to be the sub-goalkeeper but was, in fact, either Cooney or Connor (74 mins). After good covering by Rose, Alty made a change, too, with Hardy going off and Shuttleworth coming on. Little moved up front with Wright as Barry settled into left midfield (75 mins).
Ashton now won two corners in succession, followed by a third two minutes later as Smith, in particular, prompted a late rise in the tempo by Ashton. However, Kielty made a good interception soon afterwards and threaded a fine ball to Little who was superbly tackled by White inside the box at the cost of a corner to Alty. Play now went to the other end and Ashton won another corner of their own after Shuttleworth had covered well for Adams.
Late in the day Alty brought on Hallows for Wright up front (83 mins). Another Ashton corner soon followed, the 13th in total of the second half. Bailey got in a shot which Coburn saved comfortably before Chris Adams found Hallows and it took a good challenge from Lincoln Adams to tip the ball back to his keeper (86 mins). Ashton went close following a free-kick 30 yards out for a foul by Rose. Carty's ball into the box saw both Mitten and a teammate get behind the defence but somehow the ball bisected them and forced Stuart Coburn to a smart reaction save to his right to tip the ball round the post for a corner (89 mins). Just when it looked as if all of Alty’s good play would get no more than a point, they won a free kick ten yards inside their own half. This was quickly taken by Rose to Potts on the right. His ball into the goal mouth was helped on, either by Aspinall or Hallows or both, and arrived at the back post where the incoming Colin Little had the simple task of putting it into the unguarded net (90 mins). Immediately the referee indicated that a surprisingly long four minutes of added time were to be played. Hallows almost added a second goal when his good run ended with a chip over the keeper which Connor just managed to tip out for a corner (93 mins). Ashton pressed forward for the final moments and almost got a reward when Carty's up and under was nodded to Bailey who drove a low shot across goal and only narrowly wide, from the right (94 mins). Though they left it late, Alty deserved the win but Ashton contributed plenty to an entertaining game which saw no fewer than 21 corners (11 to Alty, 10 to Ashton).
This win puts Alty three points clear at the top of the table - but they are one of only two teams to have played twice so far this season! With Talbot and Maddox, Alty's first-choice centre-backs, both suspended for both games to date, Rose and Band have been magnificent in defence, whilst their defensive partners, Chris Adams and Gary Scott, have been as fully committed as ever. Talbot is available for Saturday's game to give manager Graham Heathcote further selection options. Graham's new signings have begun the season well, though Eddie Hussin is perhaps still a little short of match fitness after his summer operation. With players as good as Marcus Hallows only sparingly used to date and Kieran Lugsden, Stuart Wright and David Holt yet to see action at all this season, things are looking promising at this very early stage of the campaign.
|Full-Time: ASHTON UNITED 0 ALTRINCHAM 1|