SOUTHPORT (2) 2
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
Nationwide Conference North Match,
played on Saturday, 11 September, 2004
Yet again, Altrincham saved their best play for after the interval after going two goals adrift inside 24 minutes. Employing Stephen Rose on the left of midfield, they fell behind to a well-taken Fearns goal after the referee had allowed play to continue where others might have penalised the combative Lynch for foot-up against Hussin as he won possession (16 mins). A close-range bullet header from the unmarked Fearns doubled the lead as Alty failed to deal with a cross from the right (24 mins). As the wet and windy conditions descended into monsoon-like periods of torrential rain Alty had the better of the second half and deservedly got a goal back when Kilbane glanced a cross from the right by Potts into the top corner of his own net (72 mins). The nearest Alty came to an equaliser was when Maddox's shot from a Band knock-down was blocked by he keeper, two minutes into added time. But the real heroes today were those Altrincham supporters who, due to Southport's inflexible and inappropriate segregation policy, were forced to stand in the wind-swept heavy rain to cheer their team on, which they did impressively. Those fans are seen above before the deluge really started. After seven games, they still await a first-half goal from Altrincham.
REFEREE: Mr B. Roberts
Altrincham arrived with the best defence in the division and had been beaten only once this campaign. Southport had been impressive away from home but slightly less so at Haig Avenue. Manager Liam Watson (ex-Runcorn) had brought in several new players this summer, notably marksman Terry Fearns from Vauxhall Motors.
Altrincham brought in centre-back Mark Maddox for his first start of the season, former Port striker Peter Wright being the player dropped to the bench. Despite Maddox's return, Band continued as captain but today started in central midfield, alongside Hussin. Gary Scott remained unfit after picking up a knee injury over the Bank Holiday weekend so Steve Aspinall continued at right-back. The tactical surprise was the naming of Stephen Rose on the left of midfield, as Colin Little was moved forward alongside Niell Hardy, who had overcome his problem of tight hamstrings.
Southport included on their bench four of the players who had been involved in Port's win over Alty Reserves in midweek; these were Lowe, Davis, Daly and Mulvaney. Manager Liam Watson was without the injured Morley, who was on the bench, and the suspended Kevin Leadbetter. In the starting line-up was former Lancaster stopper Farrell Kilbane and ex-Vauxhall midfielder Kevin Lynch, whose fellow ex-Motorman, Terry Fearns, started up front alongside former Macclesfield man, Neil Robinson.
SOUTHPORT (Old gold shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Steve DICKINSON, 2. Jimmy WILLIAMS< 3. Steve PICKFORD, 4. Farrell KILBANE, 5. Neil FITZHENRY, 6. Kevin LYNCH, 7. Carl BAKER, 8. Chris PRICE (capt.), 9. Terry FEARNS, 10. Neil ROBINSON, 11. Jerome FITZGERALD. Subs: 12. Ian LOWE (gk), 14. Earl DAVIS, 15. Dominic MORLEY, 16. Steve DALY, 17. Lee MULVANEY.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, white shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Stephen ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Peter BAND (capt.), 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Eddie HUSSIN, 9. Niell HARDY, 10. Colin LITTLE, 11. Stephen ROSE. Subs: 12. Peter WRIGHT, 14. Marcus HALLOWS, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Ged KIELTY, 17. Stuart WRIGHT.
Alty kicked off with a strong breeze making play difficult for both sides. The Altrincham fans were in particularly good voice as the game got off to a fairly undistinguished start. Lynch and Hussin were soon scrapping with each other in midfield and this was to be a feature of the game. Mr Roberts, who was to prove a lenient referee, took no strong action against either, even when Lynch retaliated to a tackle by raising his arms against the Alty man. Then, as Adams was felled by Baker, the rain started to pour heavily. Alty's best early moment was a quickly taken free-kick by Little after Pickford's elbow had caught Potts. However, Dickinson was alert and held the shot from the right. Alty soon won a corner as the game now livened up. At the other end Coburn made a good save, going to his left to save from Baker (11 mins). Mr Roberts continued to allow holding and pushing to go unchecked before Hussin's lob across goal just evaded Potts at the back post.
With rain still coming down strongly Lynch won a 50/50 ball with Hussin on the Alty left, near halfway, and many referees would have penalised him for foot up in doing so. However, this time, play continued and Lynch threaded a good ball through to the unmarked Fearns, ahead of him, left-centre of goal. The former Vauxhall man curled a good, low shot round the advancing Coburn and into the net near the bottom of Coburn's left-hand post (16 mins). Soon afterwards Fearns had another effort blocked (18 mins). Southport were now on top but Robinson's wide volley was their best effort in the next few minutes (21 mins). Soon, Baker won a corner when his shot was deflected and Coburn only caught this at the second attempt. After Maddox had headed clear a Southport cross, Williams fed Baker whose cross found Fearns unattended at the back post and he bulleted a header past Coburn to make it 2-0, but got injured in the process (24 mins).
At last Altrincham got in a threatening shot when Hussin fed Little and he advanced up the middle before unleashing a goalbound shot from 25 yards, which Dickinson did well to save (30 mins). Lynch and Hussin continued to battle with each other and from a freekick by Aspinall, conceded by the Port midfielder, the ball fell to Little who sliced badly wide from 10 yards (31 mins). So, despite being outplayed, Altrincham could (undeservedly) have been level had Little's two efforts been converted. Hardy was the recipient of one of Kilbane's arms-first challenges but the freekick came to nothing (32 mins). A trip by Pickford on Little then gave Potts a freekick which Talbot headed comfortably over the bar (33 mins). A foul by Robinson on Maddox produced another freekick but Potts lost possession after this and Price's defence-splitting pass put Fearns in again, one on one, on Coburn. This time, the keeper made a fine one-handed save as the Port striker tried again to find the bottom corner to the keeper's left (34 mins).
Baker then found Fitzgerald, whose header from distance again prompted a good save from Coburn, low towards his back post (39 mins). The referee finally lost patience with Pickford and booked him for another foul on Potts much to the fiery Port man's annoyance (40 mins). Though Aspinall's freekick was half-cleared, the Alty number two put the ball back into the goalmouth where Hardy's header went well wide (41 mins). Maddox then had to make a last ditch clearance at the Alty end as the rain eased for a while. Next, after a foul by Kilbane, the referee blew too quickly and deprived Little of an advantageous position (45 mins). In the two minutes of added time, Adams was penalised for handball when a cross from the left was driven against him as he covered Aspinall's position as the right back tried to get back after taking a freekick.
Half-time came with Altrincham having conceded two goals in a half for the first time this season. Alty had not played particularly badly but Southport had been the better side and had taken their chances well.
|Half-Time: SOUTHPORT 2 ALTRINCHAM 0|
It was still raining as the second half started with an early foul by Kilbane, 35 yards out. Dickinson dealt with this well before play was delayed as the referee lectured Kilbane again. When Baker made a theatrical dive soon afterwards he failed to win any freekick but Mr Roberts must have classed his fall as evasion of an expected tackle rather than "simulation". The rain got heavier as another Kilbane foul, on Hardy, led to an Adams freekick which was half cleared but came to Hardy whose shot, as he stretched, was smartly held by Dickinson (51 mins). Altrincham were now looking a bit better than in their first half showing and were keeping Southport in their own half more than previously.
A quick freekick taken by Hardy then set Potts in on goal but Dickinson was out quickly to block his shot (52 mins). A foul by Rose on Baker relieved the pressure and Rose was lucky to avoid censure when another foul by him went unpunished as advantage was played (55 mins).
Southport responded with a downward header by Fearns which Coburn held (57 mins). Then Alty won four corners in five minutes, all of which were cleared. The rain was now tanking down as Alty made a switch, bringing on Peter Wright for Rose, to strengthen the attack in a 4-3-3 formation (63 mins). Chris Adams was then booked for a foul on Baker (66 mins). Southport had a pot at goal when Robinson curled the ball over the bar from 22 yards (69 mins) but as the rain reached biblical proportions a cross from the right by Aspinall skimmed off Kilbane's head and looped into the top corner of his own net to make it 2-1 (72 mins).
Southport won the game's next corner after which Marcus Hallows replaced Hardy up front for Alty (75 mins). Talbot saw off another Port attack before they replaced Robinson by Daly, who had scored against Alty reserves in midweek (79 mins). Alty looked capable of getting an equaliser and when Potts' cross just evaded the stretching Wright at the back post, the leveller almost arrived (81 mins). Mulvaney then replaced Fearns for the home side (84 mins); he, too, had scored against Alty Reserves in midweek. Mulvaney soon won his side a corner and, following this, Coburn did well when Daly got round Maddox (86 mins). Southport now seemed to have weathered the Alty comeback.
In the four minutes of added time Lynch was finally booked for another transgression (91 mins). Alty then had a golden chance to grab a point. From an Aspinall freekick Band nodded the ball down to Maddox inside the right of the penalty box. Maddox took a touch and then shot low for goal but Dickinson had rushed out quickly and blocked the effort with his legs. At the other end Aspinall had to make a fine tackle as Southport broke away. In the last minute of added time, Talbot was adjudged to have taken a foul throw and, in response, the Alty centre-back said something to the linesman. The assistant referee, in turn, flagged the referee and Talbot was booked.
Using Rose, out of his customary position, on the left did not pay off in the first half but Altrincham almost pulled the irons out of the fire with their second half performance. However, too much damage had been done in the first period by Fearns's two well-taken goals for Altrincham to snatch a point. Altrincham have now lost twice this season but the two victors are currently the top and second team in the Nationwide North which suggests that we are not too far away from the standard being set in this new league.
|Full-Time: SOUTHPORT 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|