Match Report


Nationwide North game,
played on Saturday, 22 January, 2005
at 3p.m.


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    In this very entertaining goalless game, Alty will be the more disappointed with a draw after three shots were cleared off the line and Colin Little hit the post as Alty ran Nuneaton ragged in the middle period of the second half, particularly on the right wing through Colin Potts. But Alty did not have it all their own way and Stuart Coburn had to produce two superb saves in the first half. His counterpart, Darren Acton, needed to be in top form, too, to keep Altrincham at bay in the second half. The Alty midfield duo of Owen and Hussin were especially impressive but the whole team played well. Jozzer Mitten made his debut as a sub but Mark Maddox picked up a fifth booking and, therefore, a suspension.


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    REFEREE: Mr A J Martin (Staffordshire)


    This was Alty's fourth successive away game but their first league game at Nuneaton in five seasons and was likely to be their last ever visit to the Manor Ground as Boro plan to move to a new ground, two miles away, next season. This will be shared with the local rugby club. Alty arrived unbeaten in their last six league games and in their last nine games in all competitions. Today's game was played on a soft but good surface on a cold, overcast afternoon.


    Alty were unchanged but Jozzer Mitten was at last free of suspension and named in the squad for the first time since joining from Ashton United. As a result, Alty's bench included four strikers and just George Melling for defensive duties. Boro were without the injured Gez Murphy and, on their bench, Gary Fitzpatrick replaced Steve Farmer, who had failed a late fitness test. Also on the Boro bench were new signing Scott Goodwin and Avun Jephcott, who had recently made his peace with the club after turning out in an unauthorised Sunday league game.


    NUNEATON BOROUGH (Blue & white striped shirts, blue shorts and socks): 1. Darren ACTON, 2. Robert ODDY, 3. Michael LOVE, 4. Brian McGORRY, 5. Neil MOORE (capt.), 6. Gavin COWAN, 7. Matty COLLINS, 8. Mark NOON, 9. Kevin WILKIN, 10. Michael FREW, 11. Stuart WHITTAKER. Subs: 12. Avun JEPHCOTT, 13. Ryan POOLE, 14. Stuart WILSON, 15. Gary FITZPATRICK, 16. Scott GOODWIN.

    ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks) 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Eddie HUSSIN (capt.), 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Gary SCOTT. Subs: 12 Marcus HALLOWS, 14. Jozzer MITTEN, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Peter WRIGHT, 17. George MELLING.


    Nuneaton started the game the better and Alty had to survive an early scare when Maddox's tackle saw a Boro player go down on the edge of the box but Mr Martin waved play on (1 min). Alty keeper Stuart Coburn had an uncharacteristically nervous start to the game as he first fumbled the ball over the line to concede an unecessary corner after a defender's slice had sent the ball in his direction. Then, following the corner, he again did not clear well and McGorry was able to fire in a good shot from 20 yards which was only narrowly wide. The floodlights were now coming on a resolutely dull and cold afternoon as Alty struggled to get into the game. Next, Hussin was lectured for petulance after bouncing the ball away unnecessarily when Alty had already been awarded a freekick (5 mins). But, at last, Alty got to the other end from this freekick and after several players had been involved the ball came out to Owen whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked. Things continued to improve for the visitors as Acton had to be alert to grab the ball just in front of Thornley, soon afterwards. Another Alty freekick soon followed but eventually the ball ended up with Acton from Potts's cross and Talbot's nod.

    Altrincham now got the upper hand for a few minutes, with Potts prominent on the right wing. Indeed, from a Potts cross, Moore had to be alert to clear as Little closed in. For some reason Hussin then had to throw his captain's armband off the pitch (12 mins). But Nuneaton almost grabbed the lead after Owen had lost possession in midfield. A pass found Frew in space to the left of goal and his well-judged lob over Coburn seemed destined for the far corner of the net till the Alty number one made a superb one-handed save and even followed this up to gather the ball and prevent a corner being awarded (13 mins). Alty responded in the best possible way by immediately going just as close at the other end. Adams, Scott, Little and Potts, with an astute through ball, were all involved in getting the ball to Thornley inside the Nuneaton box but from close range the keeper managed to block Thornley's effort and recover to gather the loose ball (14 mins). The game remained goalless but could have been 1-1 by now.

    Soon, another Alty move saw Owen going down with a facial injury but play continued until a well hit, goalbound volley from Potts was well blocked by a defender. Alty's pressure soon yielded a corner after great work by Little who made himself space for a shot. From the corner, Thornley arrived late, beyond the back post, but could only stretch to send a volley into the side netting (20 mins). The game may have been goalless but it was providing excellent entertainment as both sides tried to play creative football.

    Maddox then conceded a corner to Nuneaton on their left before the two sides continued to exchange attacks without creating clear openings. A fine ball from Aspinall almost found Thornley but was cleared. Next Little volleyed wide, but was offside anyway, before an unnecessary push by Hussin gave Nuneaton a freekick on the edge of the Alty box (32 mins). Whittaker drove this at Coburn, who fielded it comfortably. Owen and Hussin continued to work hard in the Alty central midfield but it was Nuneaton who were next to go close to scoring. After Aspinall had been dispossessed in the centre of the Alty defence, the ball came out to the Nuneaton right where Oddy sent in a cross to the back post where Whittaker's finely struck volley forced a magnificent save from Coburn, at the cost of a corner on the Nuneaton right (36 mins).

    Soon Alty were at the other end where, following a throw in by Adams on the left, Thornley got in a shot which went wide (37 mins). At the back, Maddox and Talbot were having solid games in central defence but after a Maddox tackle on Noon, the ball became lodged between players on the ground and Mr Martin gave a bounce up on the very edge of the Alty box. This was cleared but Nuneaton now enjoyed a few minutes of pressure in the Alty half of the pitch. With the game into added time, Collins got into the Alty box and held off a challenge from Adams before clipping the ball across goal from the right and just over the bar as Coburn watched it carefully. But the interval arrived with the spectators having been well entertained.


    The first half took a few minutes to come up to the level of the first period as the sides traded inconsequential play mostly on the far side of the pitch from the main stand. Adams got in a good tackle to see one Borough probe off before Potts ran past McGorry and got in a cross but a defender cleared (50 mins). But ten minutes into the half Alty began to get on top and almost scored. Following two successive throws on the right by Aspinall, Potts got the ball in from the right by-line into the goalmouth where Scott headed goalwards and Little hooked the ball further towards the line from near the back post but, amidst Alty appeals for a goal, Cowan's clearance was judged to have been made before the ball had crossed the line. However, Alty continued to press with Adams feeding Little whose low drive across the box unfortunately failed to find a team-mate. At the other end, Whittaker got past Aspinall as Maddox lost his footing but the Boro number eleven shot well over as he cut in from the left wing (57 mins).

    An Alty freekick restored pressure at the other end and soon after this Hussin fired in a shot which only just cleared the bar (58 mins). More good Alty work led to a shot from Potts which forced a fine parry from Acton who recovered just in time to grab the loose ball ahead of Little before he could tap it over the line. Just after Nuneaton had won a corner off Adams, Alty brought on Jozzer Mitten for his debut, the tall ex-Ashton striker replacing Rod Thornley up front (63 mins). Alty continued to press and from an excellent Little cross, from the left, Potts's header from close range struck Acton on the line. The Nuneaton goal was seeming to lead a charmed life in the second half. Alty were now totally on top and soon Potts set up Mitten but his shot from 19 yards went straight at Acton (64 mins). But then, at the Alty end, Collins fired in a speculative effort from nearly 30 yards which hit a defender and looped only just over the bar for a corner (68 mins). But Altrincham soon won two more corners themselves and, from the second, came the fourth goal-line crisis of the game for Nuneaton as Little's shot, from an Owen feed, was tipped onto the post and crept out for a corner.

    Mark Maddox then picked up his fifth booking of the season when the referee booked him for a trip, deep in the Nuneaton half, as he attempted to stop an attempted Nuneaton breakaway (74 mins). Potts continued to threaten for Alty on the right but the Nuneaton defence held firm, with Little's slice wide the best effort in the next few minutes (76 mins). Nuneaton went close after 79 minutes when Frew and Wilkin fed Love for a shot which went narrowly wide. The Borough bench had had Wilson and Fitzpatrick ready to come on for some time and eventually they made the change of personnel after 82 minutes. At the last minute manager Roger Ashby made it a triple swap as he added Jephcott to the fray after the first two subs had gone onto the pitch. This confused the assistant referee who had already run away from the centre-line after the first two subs had been installed and he had to be told by Graham Heathcote to return to clock-in the third sub! The three players replaced were Collins, Noon and Frew.

    Alty now began to reapply some pressure as Hussin surged into the box and only a hacked clearance, which cannoned off Hussin's shins for a goalkick saved Nuneaton's day. But following a Nuneaton freekick, Aspinall got in a good tackle to give Nuneaton a corner on their left (87 mins). This was cleared but when Adams brought down Wilson, Nuneaton had a freekick on their right but again this was cleared. With Nuneaton then surviving a last Alty incursion into their box, the game ended goalless but nevertheless a great credit to both sides. In the end it was the goalkeepers' fine saves which had kept the score sheet blank despite plenty of goalmouth action.