ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
ALFRETON TOWN (1) 2
Nationwide Conference North Match,
played on Saturday, 20 November, 2004
Altrincham lost their unbeaten home record to a deflected shot by Duffield in the third minute of added time at the end of the game. It was missed chances by Altrincham, especially in the first half, which cost them the points in a game in which they more than held their own against the solid rather than spectacular league leaders. Alfreton took the lead with virtually their first chance, two minutes before the interval when the Alty defence opened up to allow Duffield to net. Strong pressure from Altrincham brought a bizarre equaliser when Talbot's shot went wide but came back into play off the advertising hoarding behind the goal and Hussin put the ball into the net. Referee Knee gave a goal and was then mobbed for more than three minutes by virtually the entire Alfreton team in scenes of complete chaos (80 mins). Sadly, once play resumed Alty surrendered the initiative which they had held for most of the second half. As the final whistle approached, Goddard broke away but he was halted by Band. However, he laid the ball off to Duffield whose shot left the underemployed Coburn flat-footed as it deflected off a defender into the net (90+3 mins).
REFEREE: Mr I D Knee
Altrincham had yet to score against Alfreton Town since their return to level six of the football pyramid, having drawn 0-0 and lost 0-1 to them last season. In both matches, Alty's Mark Maddox had been dismissed whilst Town's Chris Bettney had joined him for an early bath in the bad tempered affair at Moss Lane which Town won with a very controversial penalty for alleged handball against Peter Band.
Before today's game, Alty were unbeaten at home whilst Alferton led the league. After the recent downpours, the Moss Lane pitch was sanded in places and generally the going was soft.
Altrincham relegated Mark Maddox to a substitute as Marcus Hallows returned to lead the front-line after his own reduction to the bench at Vauxhall in midweek. Alfreton's Chapman had recovered from an arm injury to play but Goddard and Knapper were only fit to start on the bench. In the Reds' side were a number of vastly experienced ex-league players including Butler, Bradshaw, Blount, Brown, Ward and Duffield.
LINE-UPS ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Stephen ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Peter BAND (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Val OWEN, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Eddie HUSSIN, 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Colin LITTLE, 11. Gary SCOTT. Subs: 12. Rod THORNLEY, 14. Mark MADDOX, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Steve TORPEY, 17. Sean SMITH.
ALFRETON TOWN (Blue shirts with white trim, white shorts and blue socks): 1. Lee BUTLER, 2. Carl BRADSHAW, 3. Mark BLOUNT, 4. Ben CHAPMAN, 5. Grant BROWN (capt.), 6. Mitch WARD, 7. Ian ROBINSON, 8. Mark FISHER, 9. Mick GODBER, 10. Peter DUFFIELD, 11. Emeka NWADIKE. Subs: 12. John KNAPPER, 14. Chris BETTNEY, 15. Mark SALE, 16. David HOLMES, 17. Mick GODDARD.
Alfreton kicked off towards the 20/20 End and the Golf Road supporters were soon in excellent voice. Altrincham won the first corner but wasted it when Potts's kick went into the near post side netting (4 mins). A good tackle by Aspinall then saw off Robinson as the two sides traded attacks. Little's early passing for Alty was going astray but soon a fine cross from Potts almost reached Little but Butler got the ball first. Next, another teasing cross from Potts was only just reached by Butler as Little arrived in the goalmouth, after a good build up involving Adams, Hallows and Hussin (10 mins). Then Butler was again called into action to take the ball off Hallows's head from an Aspinall cross as Alty started to set the agenda. After a challenge on Hussin had seen the Alfreton player in question go down injured, play continued and Hallows seemed quite clearly to be brought down in the box, but the referee stopped the game for treatment to the Alfreton player and not to award a penalty (16 mins).
Next a Scott cross was headed clear, as indeed were virtually all of Altrincham's aerial balls into the Alfreton box, by a resolute back four for the visitors. Duffield did get in a shot for Town at the other end but it went wide (19 mins) before a diving header by Hussin inside his own box gave Alfreton a corner on their right. From this, danger threatened till Potts robbed Duffield inside the goalmouth at the cost of a second corner. Alty then constructed a good passing move involving Owen, Potts, Hussin, Aspinall and Hallows which ended in Potts's cross hitting a defender (23 mins). After Godber had got past Talbot, Nwadike shot well wide. Following a foul on Owen by Fisher, Aspinall's freekick induced chaos in the Alfreton box. First Talbot rose well to meet Aspinall's kick and head across goal where Little miskicked a clear shot at goal from 6 yards which led to a melee (27 mins). Alty continued to have the better of the play as Little got round keeper Butler but was driven to the left of goal and from Owen's resulting shot the ball rebounded off a defender. An Adams cross maintained the pressure but Alfreton survived. In fact, they soon won a corner (31 mins) before Potts created further danger with another cross from the right which was headed clear (32 mins).
There was then a nasty incident when Ward caught Adams high up his leg, late, near the halfway line. A melee ensued but as Adams received treatment Mr Knee had a word with the offender but took no formal action against him and did not even award a freekick (33 mins). This incident drew manager Graham Heathcote briefly to the touchline from his directors' box vantage point. Altrincham soon won a corner, which Little played short to Potts before Little was felled by a late challenge from Nwadike. But Potts's freekick curled to Butler (35 mins). Altrincham were doing well and looked more than a match for the league leaders. The home pressure continued with Scott having a shot blocked (37 mins).
Band headed well clear from an Alfreton freekick from 25 yards out on their right before Little wasted a good chance at the other end by rising well but heading wide after Hallows had got the better of Brown to the right of goal (40 mins). Little made some amends by winning a corner soon after this, following which Scott shot over the bar as Alty goalkeeper Coburn remained a virtual spectator (41 mins). Alty's dominance continued with another corner which again was poorly taken by Potts, falling short of the near post for Nwadike to clear. But soon a firm cross from Potts saw Hallows head wide as the league leaders looked far from the best side to have played Altrincham this season (43 mins). But as so often happens in football, the quieter side scored. The goal came after a questionable freekick award against Hussin on the Alfreton right near half way. No real challenge was offered as Alfreton played a couple of passes to take the ball diagonally left to the unmarked Duffield who beat Coburn with a low shot into the keeper's right corner that Coburn got nowhere near (44 mins). A foul on Owen just inside the Alfreton half saw Talbot held, without action by the ref., but the ball came out to Owen whose cross from the left found Little who drove his shot badly wide. Little was having an off day by his normally high standards (45+2 mins). So half time came with Altrincham trailing and rueing at least three good missed chances in the first half.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 ALFRETON TOWN 1|
Alfreton started the second half with a bit more impetus than they had shown in the first period and won an early corner which Coburn caught well (47 mins). Soon Duffield shot badly wide, finding the side-netting (48 mins). Alty now began to get back into their stride and went on to dominate the second half until ten minutes from the end but the Alfreton back line was still winning virtually every ball pumped into the air towards them. Alty's most worrying moment came when Coburn came well out of his area and executed an audacious backheel to wrong foot an opponent and then passed to Band who put his keeper back under pressure, 35 yards out from his own goal on the touchline, by passing back to him. Godber looked Alfreton's greatest danger and his good turn saw him run towards Coburn who smothered the ball well in a rare bit of action for the Alty number one. Soon, however, Alty won another corner on the right which was cleared. As Alty continued to have the upper hand, Alfreton brought on Holmes for Nwadike (61 mins).
Referee Knee continued to miss fouls as Hallows was barged over. Alfreton's defence continued to see off all of Alty's attacks before they made another change as Bettney came on for the impressive Bradshaw (64 mins). This prompted an attack by Alfreton which Band did well to see off and from which he also won a free kick (65 mins). A Scott cross then won Alty another corner. Potts's kick produced a goalmouth scramble but no goal. Alty continued to go forward but their best effort at this stage was a looping header from Hallows which Butler held easily. Another Alty corner followed before Alfreton gained some relief with a freekick awarded against Aspinall (73 mins). But Alty were soon back, winning another corner. Next Potts played in Hallows in the goalmouth to the right of goal but Marcus delayed his shot and the chance was gone. Alty's fifth corner of the half soon followed as Alfreton hung on to their slender lead.
Alty now brought on Thornley for Hallows up front (78 mins). Following an Aspinall freekick from halfway on the right a goalmouth melee arose in which Talbot shot wide of goal but the ball bounced back into play from the advertising hoarding to the left of goal and when Hussin put it into the net, Mr Knee awarded a goal. The incensed Alfreton team, almost to a man mobbed the referee as they forced him to consult his assistant. Utter chaos ensued for the next three minutes or more as the referee was surrounded by Alfreton players before he finally re-awarded the goal (80 mins). Amidst the melee he did apparently book at least one Alfreton player.
The manner of the equaliser seemed to lift Alfreton and they now put Alty on the back foot. They made their final change with Knapper coming on for Ward who left to a chorus of boos for his foul on Adams earlier in the game (86 mins). Alty had a warning sign when Godber got free but shot wide, and was also given offside. Then Coburn had to make a good save from Duffield, but again the whistle had gone for an Alty freekick. Next, Duffield sliced badly wide as the visitors took up the initiative. Four minutes of added time were announced and in the third of them a long ball set Godber running towards goal. Band did well to check his advance inside the Alty box but the Alfreton no.9 managed to lay the ball off to Duffield whose shot from just outside the box struck an Alty defender and entered the corner of the net to the stranded Coburn's left. There was no time for Alty to recover and they had lost a game which they had dominated for long periods by failing to take the chances when they arose, especially in the first half.
Alfreton's win was built on a solid and experienced back line but in Godber they have a stirring and skilful front man whilst Duffield's goals this season underline his ability to put away chances. Though it would have been unfair had Alty's "non-goal" given them a point, their performance deserved at least that reward if not all three points. For the fifth time Alty lost 2-1 this season and in all of those games they could have taken points. Whilst they have currently won only one of their last seven league games they have been generally playing well (Vauxhall excepted). The tightness of the league was underlined by the fact that had Harrogate conceded one more goal today, Altrincham would actually have gone up a place despite losing; instead they remain fifth, still a very satisfactory position with the halfway point of the season fast approaching. Alfreton will no doubt be amongst the title contenders at the end of the season but on today's showing they are a strong and efficient side rather than one bursting with flair.
Eddie Hussin picked up the Man of the Match award but this was a good team performance.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 ALFRETON TOWN 2|