ALFRETON TOWN (0) 0
ALTRINCHAM (2) 2
Nationwide North Match,
played on Saturday, 5 March, 2005
Altrincham recorded a well-deserved win over an Alfreton side who were a shadow of the team which became the only league opponents to win this season at Moss Lane, earlier in the campaign. Indeed, Alfreton were lucky to finish with eleven men when the combative Sale, already booked and having commited a string of offences, appeared to lay his hands on both Mark Maddox and Eddie Hussin in separate incidents.
Alty were deprived of a goal after only one minute when Butler saved superbly from Thornley. But Little soon hooked home Aspinall's cross to put Alty ahead (11 mins). Gary Talbot headed home Alty's second from Aspinall's free-kick from half-way (17 mins). Coburn made a fine save from Sale from one of their few direct shots at goal but Alty also failed to convert several good chances in the first half.
Alfreton improved at the start of the second half but had lost the impetus when Coburn conceded a penalty as he came for a ball, which he failed to reach. However, the Alty keeper redeemed himself with a superb save from Bradshaw's spot-kick (69 mins). Injuries to Maddox and Hussin took some gloss off the result but overall this was a happy afternoon based on an excellent team performance. The Alty fans in the uncovered end endured a heavy sleet storm in the second half but kept singing throughout. With all four teams immediately behind Alty losing today, the win consolidated our 6th position, with Alty having games in hand on everyone above them. Alty have now gone 11 league games without defeat.
REFEREE: Mr A H Greenwood (York)
Altrincham were looking to put last week's Trophy defeat behind them but came into the game unbeaten in their last ten league matches. Alfreton had been having a poor run after having topped the table earlier this season; they had lost 8 of their previous 10 league games before today's, scoring only 5 times in the process.
The pitch was very soft and the game was played in a biting, strong wind which, in the first half, blew into Altrincham's faces after the sides had changed ends and Alfreton had kicked off. For those unfamiliar with North Street, the stadium is one of the neatest in the league with freshly applied red paint everywhere but the pitch itself has a marked slope running generally down towards the main stand.
Discounted travel meant that Altrincham brought two coachloads of supporters and out of a crowd of 371 a high proportion were visitors, including representatives of the "London Alty".
Chris Adams was fit to play despite a hamstring problem and Eddie Hussin and Val Owen had both overcome knee problems to start. Colin Little was playing his last game before suspension but Jozzer Mitten was back in the squad having completed the long ban he had picked up at his former club, Ashton United. Marcus Hallows was not in the sixteen but was involved in the warm-up as were Paul Tilley and Lewis Chalmers, who likewise did not make the bench. It was good to see Stephen Rose taking part in the warm-up as he recovers from the broken leg suffered at Worcester.
Alfreton included two new signings on the left; full-back Nicky Heinemann (ex-Scarborough, BPA and Halifax) and left-midfielder Lee Featherstone, recently released by Scunthorpe United. BAck in the Reds' side was Chris Bettney, who had been sidelined for several weeks by manager David Lloyd following an unauthorised appearance in a Sunday league game.
ALFRETON TOWN (All red): 1. Lee BUTLER, 2. Carl BRADSHAW, 3. Nicky HEINEMANN, 4. Luke FOSTER, 5. Grant BROWN, 6. Emeka NWADIKE, 7. Chris BETTNEY, 8. Ian ROBINSON, 9. Mark SALE, 10. Peter DUFFIELD, 11. Lee FEATHERSTONE. Subs: 12. David HOLMES, 14. Steven WOOLLEY, 15. Mick GODBER, 16. Paul TEATHER, 17. Ben CHAPMAN.
ALTRINCHAM (All yellow): 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. Richard NORRIS, 14. Jonathon MITTEN, 15. Kirk HILTON, 16. George MELLING, 17. Kieran LUGSDEN.
The game started in cold, but bright and dry, conditions and within 60 seconds Altrincham had almost taken the lead. A cross from Potts on the right found Rod Thornley whose close-range, downward header was brilliantly turned round his right post by Lee Butler for an Alty corner. Potts's corner, from the right, caused some trouble but Alfreton hacked it clear and the game then went through a series of throw-ins. Referee Greenwood missed two off-the-ball fouls by Alfreton inside a minute; the first seeing Robinson taking away Hussin's legs. But the referee did spot Adams's arm wrestling just inside the Alfreton half and he awarded a freekick (6 mins). This was soon followed by Nwadike's foul on Owen. Following an Alty freekick for offside, Alty exposed the frailty of the Alfreton central defence as Thornley nodded the ball to Little, but the Alty leading scorer skied his shot well over the bar (9 mins). Then, debutant Heinemann fouled Thornley. Aspinall's freekick found Potts on the right but his advance was halted towards the corner flag to the right of goal. He managed to relay the ball back along the touchline to the advancing Aspinall whose long cross from the right was expertly hooked past Butler by Little, from the right of goal, to put Altrincham one up (11 mins).
Altrincham continued to have the better of the opening stages as Thornley shot wide from a Little feed (13 mins) but, at last, Alfreton got in a decent shot when Sale fired in a well-struck effort which Coburn, diving to his right, saved well, though the ball was probably going wide of his post (15 mins). The game then threatened to boil over when Owen was fouled near the centre line and a melee developed from which Gary Talbot and Mark Sale were booked (16 mins). The freekick for this incident went to Alty and Talbot exacted poetic justice when, from Aspinall's flighted dead-ball, struck straight up the middle of the pitch, he headed smartly home over the home keeper from about 12 yards for his first league goal of the campaign (17 mins). Alfreton's defending of free-kicks up the middle was to be poor on several occasions during the match.
Sale continued to put himself about with a strong, but fair, challenge on Adams who came off worse when the ball cannoned against him. Then Featherstone collided with Coburn as the game simmered on the borders of unruliness (20 mins). Sale then got behind Talbot but struck a poor shot which ran to Coburn (24 mins). A very poor challenge by Nwadike on Owen earned him a booking to keep the match simmering. From the freekick Potts's misdirected shot from a central position earned a corner when Butler unnecessarily touched it. Another corner immediately followed, after which Nwadike obstructed Potts but conceded only a freekick and not any further punishment from the referee who showed a tolerance of further offences by yellow carded players on more than one occasion in this match.
Potts's freekick, from right of goal, found Little unmarked at the back post but, stretching, Alty's leading scorer was only able to shoot wide of the back post (26 mins). Alty were creating chances almost at will against a disappointing Alfreton. Only Bettney looked to be capable of turning the tide and the right winger did well to get past Hussin and Aspinall but delivered a poor cross behind the goal. But the home side did then come close to a goal when Duffield advanced on the right and from his pass Sale fired in a low shot from the edge of the box which Coburn parried magnificently, as he dived to this left, and Gary Scott completed the clearance (29 mins). Sale injured himself in shooting and needed treatment before resuming. Alfreton's improvement continued as Coburn caught the ball ahead of Bettney, but the Alfreton man was offside in any case (31 mins).
After a good Mark Maddox clearance, his centre-back partner Gary Talbot showed what he was made of when a full-blooded shot hit him in the face and he did not even flinch! Following this, Thornley and Little advanced in a move which ended with Scott having a shot blocked for a corner, Alty's fourth (35 mins). Potts took this poorly but, minutes later, Chris Adams sparked a good advance up the left. Sale continued to exert himself and caused Coburn to need treatment for a foul challenge on the Alty keeper (40 mins). Soon, a foul by Duffield on Hussin gave Alty yet another freekick and again Aspinall's kick up the centre caused problems as Talbot once more won the ball only for Bradshaw to intervene with a header which only just cleared his own crossbar for another Alty corner (42 mins). Thornley took a poor corner but was fortunate to gain a second flag-kick from it. This time Owen and Potts got the ball in the box where it was scrambled away after an appeal for hands against Sale (43 mins). Brown's foul on Thornley on half-way gave Aspinall yet another attempt to prompt a goal but this time he overhit the dead-ball. With the game four minutes into added time Maddox and Sale became entangled in centre-field and the 6ft 5 inch Alfreton man appeared to push, if not punch Maddox's head. Referee Greenwood chose to book neither player. A minute later an eventful half came to an end, with Alty two-up and good value for their lead, having also won the corner count 6-0.
|Half-Time: ALFRETON TOWN 0 ALTRINCHAM 2|
After a cold and windy, but generally sunny first half, a hail shower started in the interval during which Alfreton had replaced the debutant, Featherstone, by Holmes on the left flank. Sale continued where he had left off with an early foul on Maddox, off the ball, which was not spotted, to which Maddox responded by aiming a kick at the offender. Yet again referee Heywood chose to take no meaningful action. Following this, Thornley's shot was routinely saved by Butler (49 mins). Maddox was now hobbling, a sight reminiscent of his visit to North Street last season when a kick on the heel caused a fracture for the then Alty captain, who was later sent off in that match.
Alfreton were now looking as if they had benefited from a half-time rollicking as they kept Alty penned back for a few minutes without creating any good chances, though Robinson did get in a low shot which Coburn held (55 mins). But Altrincham replied when Potts put Little clear but Butler advanced well to block his shot. Scott relayed the loose ball to Little who took a touch more than necessary and saw his shooting chance disappear. Play was now end to end as Adams put in a good tackle to stop Bettney and then Thornley almost got on the end of a Maddox pass before Butler kicked the ball clear (57 mins). Next Little fired in a curler which Butler held at his right hand post (58 mins). Following an Alfreton freekick conceded by Maddox's foul on Duffield, Aspinall broke away up the middle from his own half. He fed Potts who took the ball too far to the right of goal and ran into trouble at the by-line where he lost possession before he could cross to either Aspinall or Thornley who had continued forward (62 mins).
Alty now removed Thornley, who had had a good game, in favour of Mitten up front (63 mins). Alty had now withstood Alfreton's best efforts and once more they themselves threatened at the other end before an incident involving Hussin and Sale saw the Alfreton man, for the second time in the game, raise his arms without punishment as he cuffed Hussin's face. Alfreton were given a freekick for the original challenge but no further action resulted. From the freekick Coburn came off his line but failed to get to the ball and, instead, brought down Holmes, some five yards to the right of his own goal. A penalty was rightly awarded but Coburn redeemed himself by making a great save, low to his right, from Bradshaw's spot-kick (69 mins). The eventful match continued as Little sent in a testing lob from 30 yards out, far left of goal, which Butler ignored only to see the ball come back off his crossbar with the keeper nowhere (70 mins). Alty's next attack saw Scott and/or Mitten given offside, at which point George Melling came on for the limping Maddox at centre-back (72 mins).
Play went through a fairly quiet spell as dark clouds gathered overhead. After a stoppage for treatment to Heinemann, the debutant left back made a superb block to stop Mitten's shot from the edge of the box. Heinemann hurt himself again in the process and as the Alty fans chanted "Lights, lights", very heavy sleet started to fall on them at the uncovered end of the ground. Chapman came on for the unfortunate Heinemann (79 mins) and a great cheer went up from the visiting fans when the lights finally came on to brighten a very gloomy scene. With conditions terrible for a few minutes, Alty held on without too much trouble until they made another swap. with Norris replacing Potts (85 mins). Alfreton were offering little threat in the closing stages but, with a minute of normal time left, both Hussin and Adams went down injured. With Sean Riley treating Hussin, Gary Scott gave Adams the benefit of his amateur physio skills which, on a family website, could most politely be described as "unconventional" (89 mins).
Two minutes of added time were played during which Coburn punched well clear from a Chapman cross and Adams took a late freekick for a foul by Nwadike on Scott. The game came to an end with the sodden Alty fans still singing as their team saluted them on leaving the pitch. Yet again this was an admirable team performance from Altrincham who bounced back from last Saturday's Trophy defeat by Grays to record their eleventh successive unbeaten league game. With games in hand and having played three more away games than home matches, the Robins have a good chance of making the play-offs provided their fixture backlog or any injuries or suspensions do not intervene.
|Full-Time: ALFRETON TOWN 0 ALTRINCHAM 2|