LANCASTER CITY (0) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
Nationwide North Match,
played on Tuesday, 21 September, 2004
On a filthy night of lashing rain, Altrincham almost broke their jinx at the Giant Axe, where they have not won a league match since 1978. After a goalless first half in which Hallows missed Alty's best chance and Stuart Coburn made a stupendous double save, Alty took the lead three minutes into the second period. Marcus Hallows, fresh from his Elvis act at Moss Lane last Saturday night, was on song again as he headed home a long diagonal ball into the box from Rose on the left wing. Alty looked to be in control until Bauress stooped to head home a soft equaliser after 74 minutes. Altrincham finished strongly and almost snatched a winner when Potts's excellent strike was just tipped onto the post by Speare, at full stretch, in the last minute of normal time.
REFEREE: Mr C. Buxton
The Giant Axe had not been a happy hunting ground for Alty in the League since their first relegation from the Conference. Indeed, combined with Phil Wilson's good managerial record against us when he was at Stalybridge, Alty were up against the statistical odds tonight. Previous Alty league results at the Giant Axe were:
However, Alty fans preferred to remember the memorable 4-1 FA Cup replay win here on 27 November 2001 in front of 1,934 spectators, when Lee Poland hit a hat-trick. Tonight, however, a disappointingly small crowd gathered on an initially dry evening. After kick off, however, the weather developed into almost non-stop, squally rain.
As has been his custom in recent games, manager Graham Heathcote watched the first half from the stand before moving to the technical area.
City had lost their last home game 0-3 to Harrogate - whom Alty had recently beaten by the same margin at Moss Lane.
Altrincham were unchanged from the squad which beat Worksop Town 4-1 on Saturday. Again, Adams started in left midfield, with Rose at left-back.
Tony Sullivan, whose uninspired spell at Moss Lane was made worse by his goal against us last season, was not fit enough to make the squad tonight. Also out injured was the former Morecambe player, Neil Uberschar. In goal for the Dolly Blues was Jamie Speare, the former Accrington goalkeeper. Other new faces at City included the newly signed, but experienced, Chris Beech and Ryan Zico Black, the former Morecambe striker. Also starting was another new signing, Danny Stone, formerly with Notts County.
LANCASTER CITY (All pale blue): 1. Jamie SPEARE, 2. Martin CLARK, 3. Andy SCOTT, 4. Paul SPARROW, 5. Jamie MURPHY, 6. Danny STONE, 7. Gary BAURESS (capt.), 8. Chris BEECH, 9. Steve JONES, 10. Ryan Zico BLACK, 11. Neil PRINCE. Subs: 12. Ian DAWES, 14. Ryan ELDERTON, 15. Joe McMAHON, 16. Jon Paul STANHOPE, 17. Ryan YEOMANS.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black 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. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Colin LITTLE, 11. Stephen ROSE. Subs: 12. Ged KIELTY, 14. Kieran LUGSDEN, 15. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 16. Stuart WRIGHT, 17. Joey ROBERTS.
First a plea to tannoy announcers; can you please give the paying customers, (a) at least one run-through of the teams without a burst of blaring music between each name, and (b) actually give us the names of the substitutes?
Lancaster kicked off and soon the players were engaged in a game of head-tennis before play settled down, with most of the early action taking place on the railway line side of the pitch. Alty created the first chance when former Lancaster man Colin Potts got to the by-line, right of goal, after an error by Prince but Band could only direct the resulting shot wide of goal to the keeper's left (2 mins). But, immediately, Alty had a scare of their own when a defence-splitting pass forward from Clark set Black in on goal, Coburn got to the ball first but his kicked clearance was poor and left Black with the ball and the net unguarded. Fortunately the City player was unable to direct his lob into the net from a wide angle to the left of goal, the ball coming down on the roof of the net (3 mins). Potts continued his lively start by combining well with Little but the latter's cross was cleared.
Rain now started to lash down on the players as Jones headed well wide of the Alty goal (9 mins). Alty now won the game's first corner from an Adams cross. Potts's corner tested Speare but he caught the ball well, just under the crossbar. Potts did less well soon after when he overhit a cross from the right which bounced on the terrace roof and went out of the ground. Alty continued to favour attacks up the right whilst Lancaster preferred to use their left wing, meaning there was little action near the main stand. The next opening came after 14 minutes when a foul on Little gave Adams a freekick which he curled over from the right for Hallows to head narrowly wide, under pressure. Hussin was confirming his increasing influence in the Alty midfield as he regains full fitness after a long lay-off and summer operation. Little and Aspinall then combined well to set Hallows running into the box but his advance was stopped. Soon Hallows was attacking again, from Rose's pass, but his shot from the wide left went just behind the goal (17 mins).
With rain still lashing down, Altrincham continued to play some good football in the atrocious conditions and won two corners in succession. From the latter, taken by Potts, Band shot wide (21 mins). The loudest cheer of the evening went up when, yards from anyone, Sparrow somersaulted to the floor on the now greasy surface. Indeed, the next few minutes were fairly scrappy before a punt from Coburn found Hallows, whose firmly hit shot from just right of centre was well saved by Speare (26 mins). After a foul by Maddox on Prince, a Lancaster freekick from just outside the left corner of the box came out to Jones, who hit a good shot which Coburn saved impressively (27 mins). Coburn did even better soon after this when he beat out a shot from Prince who had found space to the left of goal and then Stuart made a quite outstanding second stop, as he recovered his ground, from Beech's well-struck follow up (31 mins). Cue Alty fans' chorus of "England's number one"!
The already steady rain now became monsoon like as Lancaster enjoyed some superiority for a few minutes. However, Altrincham again went close when a foul on Hallows yielded a freekick, 25 yards out. Adams's freekick found Talbot, whose header went just over the bar (38 mins). At the other end, Jones headed well over from a freekick soon after this. Stone was then lucky to escape without a booking when he upended Adams spectacularly in midfield.
Altrincham now put together their best move of the half. From Coburn, the ball passed through Hallows and Little to Hussin. He, in turn, found Adams, whose excellent pass set Band free on the left. Band's low cross found Hallows but, according to spectators behind the goal, the ball bobbled and Marcus's shot was scooped off his shin over the bar from close range (41 mins). Altrincham had the better of the remaining minutes of the half but for the eighth time in nine league games, they had failed to find the net in the first 45 minutes.
|Half-Time: LANCASTER CITY 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
There was a humorous start to the second half when Alty striker and stand-in physio Rod Thornley emerged last from the changing rooms with a hot cup of tea and his medical bag only to find his direct route to the dugouts on the far side of the pitch impeded as play got under way - so, after scratching his head, he had to trudge 100 yards or more round the perimeter with his cuppa to get to his seat on the bench.
Alty may have a neurosis about scoring in the first half of games but they wasted no time in netting in the second half when a great 40-yard diagonal ball from the left wing by Rose found Hallows in the box and he rose, surprisingly unchallenged, to head the ball past Speare (48 mins). Marcus has a very respectable strike rate for Alty, having now scored 13 goals in 30+7 games for the Robins. After his fine performance in his Elvis Presley impersonator guise at the Altrincham FC karaoke night last Saturday, it was inevitable that Marcus's goal was greeted with the chant of "Elvis plays for Alty" from the travelling fans!
Alty almost doubled their lead when Hussin and Hallows combined to find Little, who made space superbly before crashing a low shot just wide of the upright from 22 yards (51 mins). Altrincham were looking in control now and Hussin was again impressing in midfield. But Alty had to make a change after 54 minutes when Rose limped off to be replaced by Barry Shuttleworth. "Baz" slotted into left midfield with Chris Adams reverting to left-back. The rain continued to pour down as Maddox got in a fine tackle on Black. After a foul by Black in the centre circle, Aspinall's freekick found Talbot whose header just dropped under the bar where it was caught by the retreating Speare (59 mins).
Andy Scott had a good game for City and after a cross by him had been cleared out to Black, the striker should have done better with his shot than to find the arms of Coburn (60 mins). In response, Adams won the ball well and via Little and Hussin's cross from the left, Hallows's first-time volley went just wide as he and Little queued up for the ball (61 mins). Altrincham were still playing good football in the dire conditions and, next, an Aspinall cross saw a Band header saved by Speare (63 mins). A freekick by Scott was then lashed 20 feet wide before Alty won another corner, taken by Little. After a foul by Hussin, the Alty midfielder was booked for the second time this season (69 mins). Obstruction by Aspinall gave Lancaster a freekick on the edge of the Alty box but Prince's effort curled into the arms of Coburn. But just as Altrincham were looking fairly comfortable with their lead, Lancaster equalised. The goal came from a routine cross form the right which Bauress was allowed to head home, unchallenged, from lower chest level past Coburn from close range (74 mins). The Alty keeper was not amused with his defence!
Predictably the goal sparked Lancaster into greater endeavours and they applied some pressure for the next few minutes. With eight minutes remaining, Alty brought on Lugsden for Hallows up front but, just after this, a 35 yard effort from Beech was judged to have got a deflection to give Lancaster a rare corner as Ryan Zico Black was announced as their Man of the Match. Having ridden the Lancaster storm after their equaliser, it was Altrincham who finished the more strongly. A neat move involving Lugsden, Hussin and Shuttleworth ran out of space on the left and soon afterwards a ball from Hussin found Lugsden very narrowly offside, as Alty pressed for a late winner (88 mins). Alty almost got the winner when a freekick by Adams came out of the Lancaster goalmouth to Potts who lashed a low shot from 20 yards towards Speare's bottom corner. But the City keeper, diving to his left just tipped the ball onto the post for a corner (89 mins). In added time, Aspinall's excellent tackle saw off Lancaster's last threat but the whistle went to leave the sides locked at 1-1 and Alty still without a league win at the Giant Axe since their Northern Premier League days when they won 4-0 in August 1978.
Both sets of players served up an entertaining game in dreadful conditions. The draw took Alty up two places to eight with two games in hand on virtually everyone else in the division. Indeed, Alty's maximum achievable points total is only bettered by Alfreton at the moment. But the Robins face a stern test on Saturday when the visitors to Moss Lane are second-placed Nuneaton Borough, who are unbeaten away from home this season.
|Full-Time: LANCASTER CITY 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|