ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
NUNEATON BOROUGH (0) 0
Nationwide North Match,
played on Saturday, 25 September, 2004
An assured performance from Altrincham gave them a well-deserved win over 3rd-place Nuneaton Borough, the winner being a 20 yarder from Marcus Hallows which cleared the stranded keeper and came down off the underside of the bar (20 mins). There was little sustained pressure from Nuneaton apart from five minutes, late in the game, when Hallows again distinguished himself by clearing off the line in a second-half during which Alty keeper Coburn was rarely troubled. The Alty defence gave another solid performance and the margin of victory could have been greater as Altrincham forced fifteen corners in the game.
REFEREE: Mr D.W. Stewart
Nuneaton arrived at Moss Lane unbeaten on their league travels this season whilst Altrincham were unbeaten at home. The sides had last met in October 2001 when Alty won 3-0 in the FA Cup at Moss Lane.
Alty, without a physio since Gary Thompson left for Halifax Town, unexpectedly welcomed Gary back in this role for today's game.
The only change from last Tuesday's game was the replacement of the injured Stephen Rose by Barry Shuttleworth. So, Chris Adams reverted to his left-back spot as Shuttleworth played on the left-flank of midfield. Striker Niell Hardy was fit enough to be on the bench but the injured Gary Scott and Peter Wright were still missing.
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. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH. Subs: 12. Niell HARDY, 14. Stuart WRIGHT, 15. Ged KIELTY, 16. Kieran LUGSDEN, 17. Joey ROBERTS.
NUNEATON BOROUGH (All yellow, with blue trim on shirts & shorts): 1. Darren ACTON, 2. Mark CLIFFORD, 3. Michael LOVE, 4. Mark NOON, 5. Neil MOORE (capt.), 6. Steve FARMER, 7. Stuart WILSON, 8. Gary FITZPATRICK, 9. Gez MURPHY, 10. Michael FREW, 11. Stuart WHITTAKER. Subs: 12. Chris TULLIN, 14. Brian McGORRY, 15. Carl ADAMS, 16. Avun JEPHCOTT, 17. Ryan POOLE (gk).
After a minute's silence in memory of Brian Clough, Altrincham kicked off towards the Golf Road end on a dry afternoon which had followed a damp morning. Following a freekick by Love, Nuneaton won the game's first corner (3 mins) and from this, Talbot had to concede a second flag-kick. Alty came to life moments later when a clearance by Talbot to Potts saw the Alty no.7 play a fine ball towards Hallows which was just cut out, at the cost of a corner, by the visitors' captain, Moore. Visiting goalkeeper Darren Acton, not for the last time in this game, did not inspire confidence as he got nowhere near the corner but a defender cleared. However, Nuneaton almost took the lead when Murphy was allowed to latch onto a through ball behind the Alty defence as the linesman declined to raise a flag for offside. But Coburn was out smartly and Murphy could only direct his shot at the Alty keeper, who made an important save (8 mins). It was to be Borough's best chance for the next 75 minutes.
Right: Hussin, Band, Shuttleworth and Potts in action against Nuneaton.
Alty replied to this scare by winning another corner which, again, Acton failed to gather and Farmer had to execute an acrobatic clearance. Adams soon pumped the ball back forward to Talbot whose fine, looping header troubled the back-pedalling Acton but landed on the roof of the net (9 mins). Maddox and Talbot successively saw off probes from Nuneaton. Indeed one clearing header from Talbot from a central position in the Alty defence actually cleared the highest part of the Popular Side roof, such was its power. Alty boss Graham Heathcote was once again watching from the director's box, leaving Dalton Steele to run the show from pitch-side. An Aspinall cross was then taken off Hussin's head by Clifford's interception to give Alty their third corner, which Potts took. From this, Maddox's header landed on the roof of the net. Two more Alty corners followed, the second arriving after a Little shot had been deflected over the bar. Potts's corner found Talbot who headed uncharacteristically wide at the back post (18 mins). Altrincham were now on top and they underlined this by scoring, albeit in slightly unusual circumstances. Shuttleworth's ball forward came to Hallows, who appeared second favourite for the ball but he got in a perfectly executed first-time lob from just outside the box which sailed over the stranded keeper and into the net off the underside of the crossbar (20 mins). It was Alty's earliest goal in any league game, so far, this season.
After the restart, a foul by Farmer on Little elicited a lecture from the tolerant Mr Stewart. Altrincham almost scored again when Hallows found Little, whose lob just cleared Acton's bar (23 mins) as the Golf Road End supporters continued to sing loudly in support of their team. Nuneaton then won a corner, from the left, which Coburn did not get near and the Alty defence was glad to see the ball float out of play behind the back post. The Alty keeper soon did better when he had to rush out to head clear as Nuneaton tried to get back in the game but Acton, in the Nuneaton goal, soon had to make an even better save, diving to his right to catch Little's well-hit shot from 20 yards from Aspinall's feed (26 mins).
Altrincham enjoyed the better of the next few minutes and won a freekick when Shuttleworth was caught late by Cartwright, who was lectured by the referee. Band then also earned a rebuke from the referee when he said something out of order after being penalised for a foot-up offence in midfield. Following Boro's freekick for this offence, a throw followed from which Fitzpatrick sidefooted a shot over the bar from the edge of the box (36 mins). Altrincham then won another corner before a shot from Murphy hit Chris Adams to earn Nuneaton their third corner. Wilson wasted this by striking the corner behind the net (40 mins). A teasing cross from Potts then saw Clifford and Moore in a bit of a tangle from which they almost contrived to score an own goal but only a corner resulted.
In the last seconds of first-half added time, Nuneaton won another corner but the interval arrived with Alty good value for their lead, having passed the ball about well and found their team-mates more accurately than a slightly disappointing Borough.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 NUNEATON BOROUGH 0|
The sun had come out as the second half started. The first chance of the half came when Aspinall's cross was headed wide by Potts (47 mins). Hussin then fed Little whose excellent lay off for Shuttleworth saw the Alty no.11 impeded but no free-kick awarded (49 mins). Fouls on Hussin and Potts followed, which did earn freekicks, and from the second of these Little's cross just evaded Shuttleworth who had again ghosted into the back of the box (51 mins). Borough needlessly conceded a corner, Alty's eighth, which was taken by Potts but caught by Acton. Another foul by Clifford, from behind, on Potts produced a further freekick. Then, from Band's pass, Shuttleworth unleashed a screaming drive from 35 yards which Acton did well to beat out, diving to his right and from the rebound, Little's acrobatic shot ended on the roof of the Nuneaton net - the third Alty shot in this game to meet this fate. Yet another trip on Potts, this time by Whittaker, which still did not prompt a booking, led Alty assistant manager Dalton Steele to shrug his shoulders and ask the referee, quizzically, "Referee, what's happening?".
A skilful lay-off by Little, to Shuttleworth, who was about 12 yards out left-centre of goal, saw the Alty no.11 completely miss his kick with only the keepr to beat (56 mins). Following this Nuneaton mounted their first serious attack of the half which ended with Wilson heading over the bar (57 mins). But soon a good passing-move ended with a well struck, low shot from 20 yards by Band which was well saved by Acton, to his right (59 mins). At the other end a timely intervention by Maddox gave Nuneaton a corner before Alty won two more corners in quick succession. Next, after an Adams throw, a snap shot from Little almost lobbed Acton (63 mins). Maddox was then harshly penalised on the edge of his own box but the free-kick came to nothing.
Home manager Graham Heathcote had now come down to the touchline to direct operations (65 mins). Soon afterwards, Graham's counterpart Roger Ashby brought on Jephcott in place of Wilson (67 mins). Hussin continued to impress in midfield as Alty continued to have the upper hand. Corner no.9 soon arrived for Altrincham but they could not capitalise on it. Carl Adams then became the second Nuneaton substitute, replacing Fitzpatrick (75 mins). Next, Aspinall got Little running to the right of goal but his shot was blocked at the near post (76 mins). The game's first injury stoppage came when Farmer went down and he had to be replaced by Tullin (77 mins). Alty made their first change when Stuart Wright came on for his first league appearance of the season after being on the bench for six previous league matches this season. He slotted in on the left, replacing Shuttleworth (79 mins).
More good work from Hussin led to Potts shooting into the side netting to the right of goal soon after the substitution. Coburn had had little to do for some time as the Alty back four kept Nuneaton away from the Alty goal but then Love, Jephcott, Frew and Murphy combined well but could only find send a shot onto the roof of the Alty net (82 mins). But this signalled a few minutes of pressure from Nuneaton as they sought to save their unbeaten away record this season. They almost got an equaliser when, following a freekick, a header by Love left Coburn stranded on his line but Hallows, the Alty striker, arrived from nowhere to clear the ball off his own goal line, and a Nuneaton corner resulted (84 mins). Then Nuneaton advanced smartly up the left but manager Ashby showed his disappointment as Jephcott fired over the bar from the left of goal (86 mins).
But Nuneaton's late rally was short-lived and when Adams and Little won Alty a corner it was to be the first of four won by the home side in the last three minutes of normal time and in added time. The third of these four came when the ball passed through the hands of Acton but Nuneaton managed to see off all of the resulting threats. Potts and Little now combined well to wind down time by keeping possession in the right corner before Kieran Lugsden came on, in the second of the three added minutes announced to the crowd. Hallows was the player replaced and he left to enthusiastic applause. After seven league games on the bench, Marcus has now had three successive league starts. Indeed, it has been an especially good week for the Alty striker, who has now scored on successive Saturdays and received accolades last week for his excellent Elvis Presley tribute act in the Noel White Suite at Moss Lane.
Though Alty only ran out winners by a one-goal margin, their play had deserved more and the corner count, 15-7 in their favour, backed this viewpoint. Colin Potts was named as Man of the Match but there were numerous candidates in the Altrincham side today with Maddox, Talbot, Little, Hallows and Hussin all particularly impressing.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 NUNEATON BOROUGH 0|