STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (0) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
Nationwide Conference North Match,
played on Saturday, 21 August, 2004
In an entertaining game, Altrincham will have been happy to have taken their first point at the Bower Fold in a decade. Celtic squandered three good chances, two of which were superbly saved by Stuart Coburn, before Niell Hardy almost put Alty ahead on the stroke of half-time. Indeed, Alty did take the lead after 64 minutes when Wright found Little, whose close range shot was pushed out to Potts who drove the ball into the net. Just four minutes later Celtic's Smith was allowed to advance and drive a low shot into the corner of the Altrincham net from just outside the box to level the scores. Kieran Lugsden almost snatched a late winner but a draw was probably the fairest outcome
REFEREE: Mr M.D. Smallwood (Northwich)
The Bower Fold is not a lucky ground for the Robins. Between 1979 and 1992 Altrincham and Stalybridge did not meet, as Altrincham were in the Alliance/Conference and Celtic were not. Since then, before today, there had been nine league meetings at the Bower Fold in either the Conference or NPL - and Altrincham had lost eight of them! Alty's 3-1 win on 15 March 1994 was the most recent joy for the Robins. Since then Alty have scored just two goals against Celtic there, the last being in 1999. They lost 1-0 at the Bower Fold last season.
Altrincham brought in Gary Talbot, who had been suspended, to partner Peter Band at centre-back. The player to lose out was Stephen Rose who would have made his 100th start. Instead, Stephen was named as a sub after suffering a knock at Ashton. Dropping out of the squad altogether was Stuart Wright, who watched the game from the stand along with the suspended Mark Maddox and injured Danny Murphy. The injured Rod Thornley acted as physio today.
Celtic's injury and suspension problems (they were without Denham, Caldecott, Pearce and Calcutt) meant that they named only three subs today. In midfield was the long-haired Paul Sykes, formerly at Ossett Town and Worksop, whilst up front another new face from Yorkshire was Andy Hayward, formerly at Bradford PA. Celtic have dispensed with their traditional blue and white halved shirts this season in favour of a less distinctive all-blue outfit.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (All blue): 1. Craig DOOTSON, 2. Dave GERMAN, 3. Tony WHEALING, 4. Ben SMITH, 5. Barrie KEELING, 6. Nathan WHARTON, 7. Paul SYKES, 8. Kevin PARR (capt.), 9. Andy HAYWARD, 10. Phil EASTWOOD, 11. Ian MONK. Subs: 12. Lee CONNELL, 14. Scott BONSALL, 15. Darren BOWMAN.
ALTRINCHAM (All yellow): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Peter BAND (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Steve ASPINALL, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Eddie HUSSIN, 9. Niell HARDY, 10. Peter WRIGHT, 11. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 12. Stephen ROSE, 14. Marcus HALLOWS, 15. Ged KIELTY, 16. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 17. Kieran LUGSDEN.
Following torrential rain during the preceding week and heavy showers on matchday morning, the Bower Fold pitch looked in excellent condition and the stadium as a whole was credit to the Tameside club.
Celtic almost seized the lead after just 30 seconds when a clearing header from Band went to Eastwood whose feed set Hayward running in on Stuart Coburn. The former BPA striker got in a decent shot but Coburn made a superb save to keep the ball out. Soon afterwards, Potts was penalised for handball and from Whealing's freekick Parr headed over the bar (3 mins). After a foul on Wright, Aspinall's freekick found Band but a goalkick resulted (4 mins). In a disappointing crowd of just 585, the Altrincham support seemed to outnumber the home contingent; it was certainly far more vocal than Celtic's. Alty won the game's first corner, through Adams's ball for Wright. Dootson tipped Potts's curling corner away but soon Wright got in a fine cross from which Talbot headed firmly but wide of goal (10 mins). Then Little got behind the defence but could not get in a shot on target (11 mins).
Left: Chris Adams (3) and Gary Talbot keep Celtic at bay.
Celtic then won a corner which Coburn caught before an Adams, Little, Hussin move led to Hardy lashing in a firm cross from the right which was cleared. After their shaky start Alty were now improving but it took a brilliant headed interception by Talbot, nodding the ball back to Coburn to stop a through ball from putting a Celtic man in behind the defence. Mid way through the half, Smith's cross from the right saw Eastwood beat Talbot but he headed just wide (22 mins). Celtic were passing the ball well and enjoying more of the territorial advantage at this stage but Talbot and Band were keeping them at bay. German then had to cover well to see off Wright before Celtic reapplied their attacking pressure. Band, then Aspinall, did well to see them off (30 mins) before a fine header from Talbot relieved further pressure. From this header Little advanced and fed Wright but a freekick was awarded against Alty. Coburn was then grateful to gather the ball after Wharton and Smith had interchanged passes, and the latter only just failed to get onto the end of the return pass in space inside the box (34 mins). But Little responded with a left-footed shot just over the bar from Hardy's pass (35 mins).
Whealing's long throws from the left were causing Alty some problems but the next goal effort was a shot from Wharton which Coburn stopped comfortably (37 mins). With chants of "Yellows" ringing out from the Alty fans, Little did well on the left and, from his cross, Hardy, under tight marking, headed just wide at the back post (39 mins). Stalybridge then applied further pressure despite the best efforts of Scott who was adjudged to have taken a ride on Eastwood's back. Coburn gathered the resulting freekick but then a long ball just evaded Chris Adams and fell to Hayward who drove a firm shot over the bar from 15 yards - Alty's second let-off of the half (43 mins). After Hayward had caught Aspinall, late, he was lectured by the ref, but soon Eastwood and Monk combined, with the latter being put through one on one against Coburn. Stuart was quickly off his line and made another fine save with his legs (44 mins). But Alty had the last chance of the half when a ball got over the Celtic defence with keeper Dootson in no man's land but Hardy's attempted lob went wide of the near post (45 mins).
Half-time arrived with the game goalless but Alty were grateful to Stuart Coburn for a couple of magnificent saves.
|Half-Time: STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Hussin's encroachment forced the kick-off of the second half to be retaken but Celtic soon won a corner, which Coburn caught. Then an error by Band saw Hayward get free but Coburn pulled off his third magnificent stop of the afternoon, pushing the ball to his left, with a throw-in resulting. The sides then exchanged plenty of midfield action without either goal being threatened but with Celtic enjoying the territorial advantage. Alty did get the ball, via Hardy, to Little on the byline, left of goal, but his shot from a very acute angle was high and off target (60 mins). Wright almost seized on some hesitation between Keeling and Dootson as Alty now improved. Indeed, the visitors took the lead after 64 minutes following two throws on the right. Wright got the ball across the box from the right to Little whose close-range shot was kept out by the advancing Dootson. However, the ball ran loose into the goalmouth where Potts cracked it back into the unguarded net to give Alty the lead. Immediately Rose replaced Hussin in midfield.
It took Celtic just four minutes to get level. After a double block by Band, a Celtic corner was not fully cleared and came out to Smith, some 25 yards out in a seemingly unthreatening position. However, as Alty stood off, the Celtic man advanced and drove a low shot into Coburn's bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the box (68 mins).
Soon afterwards there was a lengthy stoppage for treatment to Hayward's left ankle/leg after he had hurt himself in fouling Little. Alty then saw Hardy head wide from Rose's cross (76 mins). Following a foul by Little on Eastwood the resulting freekick was laid off to Whealing who shot narrowly wide (80 mins).
Left: Kieran Lugsden (in yellow) is tightly marked by Ben Smith, whilst in the background Colin Little is also being closely watched by his opponent.
Alty now made a double swap with Kieran Lugsden and Barry Shuttleworth replacing Hardy and Wright. Little now went up front with Lugsden whilst Shuttleworth took Little's place on the left. Almost immediately Lugsden did well on the right and his well struck cross was only just tipped out of the path of the incoming Little by Dootson (81 mins). But then Parr and Whealing combined to feed Hayward who sidefooted well wide. Alty then enjoyed some pressure and fine skill from Potts saw him make space for a goalbound shot which hit a defender in the box (85 mins). Coburn then had to rush well out of his box to chest clear before Celtic brought on Bonsall for Eastwood (87 mins). Keeling was now named as Man of the Match and had there been an award for Alty, Stuart Coburn would have been the winner. From a late corner Coburn caught Sykes's header (89 mins). Three minutes of added time were given during which Alty won a corner, through Shuttleworth's pass for Lugsden to chase. But it took a superb interception from Rose to cut out a threatening through ball from Celtic in the last minute of added time. However, there was still time for Little to feed Lugsden, whose snap shot rose narrowly over the bar from the outer fringes of the penalty box.
The draw cost Alty their place at the top of the table but today's was their first point at Stalybridge since their win there in March 1994! Both sides remain unbeaten this season - Celtic with three draws to date and Alty with two victories and a draw. Coburn produced three top-drawer saves in the game and was the busier of the keepers but Alty also had their moments in front of goal.
|Full-Time: STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|