ALTRINCHAM (0) 2
CREWE ALEXANDRA (0) 0
Unibond Cheshire Senior Cup Final,
played on Wednesday, 16 March, 2005
at Wincham Park, Witton, at 7.45p.m.
A superb team performance by Alty saw them deservedly lift the Cheshire Senior Cup for the first time since 1999, thanks to a penalty from Steve Aspinall (75 mins) and a well-taken goal by Kieran Lugsden (80 mins) against Crewe Alexandra at Witton Albion's Wincham Park ground. In a fairly even first half, Alty survived a harshly awarded penalty, awarded by Northwich referee, Mr Smallwood. Stuart Coburn made a magnificent save from White's spot-kick (8 mins).
Alty totally dominated the second half and their win was all the more creditable for being achieved without suspended top-scorer, Colin Little, and the injured Eddie Hussin and Val Owen. During the game, Alty also lost Chris Adams to a recurrence of his hamstring problem.
After captain Gary Talbot had lifted the trophy, chairman Geoff Goodwin presented the cup to the strong contingent of travelling supporters who celebrated Alty's first trophy since the Unibond Challenge Shield in August, 1999.
REFEREE: Mr Billy Smallwood (Northwich)
Alty had last won the Cheshire Senior Cup with a 1-0 win in April 1999 over Northwich also at Witton, when Phil Power scored. Alty also contested the Final in 2000 but they lost 1-2 to Macclesfield after Phil Power had been sent off. Alty had met tonight's opponents, Crewe, twice in the CSC since 2002: in the CSC Final at Northwich on 19th March, 2002 Alty lost 3-0 a.e.t., when Carl Furlong was sent off near the end of normal time, after which Colin Little scored twice. Then, in a 1st Round match, played on 18 September, 2002, Alty lost 3-2 to Crewe, after leading 2-0 through goals by Thornley.
George Melling, Kirk Hilton and Jonathan Mitten came into the side which lost to Moor Green on Saturday, with the injured Eddie Hussin and Val Owen omitted, whilst Marcus Hallows dropped to the bench, where only three subs were allowed. The suspended Colin Little and the cup-tied Richard Norris joined the warm-up in front of a crowd in which Altrincham's supporters were certainly the more vocal.
Crewe fielded a young team but included winger Steve Jones, recently called up to the Northern Ireland squad and the scorer the previous night of Crewe's equaliser at West Ham United.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT (capt.), 6. George MELLING, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Kirk HILTON, 9. Jonathan MITTEN, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Gary SCOTT. Subs: 12. Kieran LUGSDEN, 14. Marcus HALLOWS, 15. Paul TILLEY.
CREWE ALEXANDRA (Grey & black shirts, white shorts & grey socks): 1. MILLS, 2. COOS, 3. HOGG, 4. BOND, 5. SUTTON, 6. COCHRANE, 7. JONES, 8. O'CONNOR, 9. WHITE, 10. HIGDON, 11. PLATT. Subs: 12. WILSON, 14. MAYNARD, 15. CARRINGTON.
Altrincham kicked off on a good but occasionally bobbly surface. Without both their regular central midfielders, Hussin and Potts, it was Gary Scott and Steve Aspinall who filled those positions, with George Melling at right-back and Kirk Hilton in left midfield. After an early foul by Adams on Jones, Platt's freekick was headed wide by a Crewe player (2 mins). Alex then won a corner from which a shot went high, into the carpark behind the goal.
After Potts had shot wide for Altrincham, Thornley then won a corner. Soon after this, referee Mr Smallwood awarded a harsh penalty against Aspinall for a challenge on White in the box. But Coburn dived, low to his right, to make an excellent save, gathering the ball at the second attempt (8 mins). It was Stuart's second fine penalty stop in a fortnight, having saved one against Alfreton.
Alty now went close with Mitten heading just wide from Potts's cross (10 mins). There was then an untidy challenge in the box by Maddox on the tall White but, this time, Mr Smallwood waved play on. Next, Crewe's Hogg had to leave the field with what looked like a pretty certain forearm fracture and he was soon replaced by Carrington (15 mins). Hilton was playing impressively on the Alty left whilst the new midfield pairing of Scott and Aspinall was also performing well. Indeed, a neat move of a dozen Alty passes underlined the whole team's transformation from that which lost so disappointingly last Saturday to Moor Green.
Crewe's White then hit a freekick well over the bar from 23 yards after Talbot had been penalised but generally Alty were more than holding their own and, after a foul on Adams, Thornley fed Potts for a low shot which went just wide (30 mins). Next, a foul on Scott saw Aspinall's freekick allow Thornley a shot, which also went wide (31 mins). Adams, who had been hobbling for some time with what was presumably a recurrence of his hamstring problem, had to go off and Lugsden came on (33 mins). So, Hilton, who had impressed greatly in left midfield moved to left back and Thornley moved to the left flank as Lugsden went to partner Mitten up front. Soon after this, from a Potts freekick, Alty won a corner from which Mitten headed to keeper Mills. Crewe were lucky when a clearance hit one of their own players but it rebounded safely to the keeper. At the other end, Platt shot well wide from the edge of the box (38 mins).
Melling was having another good game at right-back as were the dependable Maddox and Talbot, the latter wearing the captain's armband in Hussin's absence. As added time started, Coburn held a good shot from Platt but Alty replied with a fine passing move which ended in an excellent swerving shot by Hilton, which just cleared the bar - but the flag was up. In added time, Mitten's lay-off gave Scott a well-struck shot from outside the box which went just wide. Despite the lack of goals, it had been an open and entertaining first half.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 CREWE ALEXANDRA 0|
After Crewe had taken the field to a ripple of applause, Alty followed them onto the pitch to a much more boisterous greeting from their fans. Kirk Hilton was impressing again and soon prompted an Alty attack as he advanced up the left but Mitten was unable to convert his cross. Soon after this Thornley found Potts at the back post but his shot was blocked as Alty took a firm grip on proceedings. Alex's problems were compounded when a sliced clearance by Bond was only just saved from a corner by Mills. With Coburn a spectator in the other goal, Aspinall fired in a 25-yarder which Mills held (57 mins).
Mitten was holding the ball up well but was sometimes losing possession as he waited too long on the ball. Lugsden and Thornley then combined well but Rod's cross went to keeper Mills. Alty were well in control of the game as a goalbound effort from Potts had the sting taken out of it by a defender's deflection on its way to the keeper. Melling was now off the field having treatment for a neck injury but he soon resumed, though still not 100% recovered. Another good Alty move ended when Mitten nodded Thornley's cross to Mills (65 mins). Then, from Mitten's nod, Lugsden won a corner which Mills punched clear. There were ironic cheers when Coburn fielded a long ball; his first touch of the ball in ages. With Alty well on top, Carrington was booked for a late foul on Aspinall (72 mins). From Aspinall's freekick, the ball came off a defender to Talbot, who could only lift it over the bar from 10 yards or so.
But, at last, Alty got a goal. It came when Lugsden had a shot blocked and Scott was felled as he got the loose ball in the left of the box. It was a clear penalty and Aspinall took it superbly, sending Mills the wrong way as he drove it low into the net (75 mins). Alty continued to dominate, with Hilton's dink coming to Lugsden, who shot over the bar (77 mins). A great cross from the left gave Mitten a header from close range at the back post but he headed over the bar (79 mins). From a Melling clearance, Mitten returned the ball to Lugsden who advanced 30 yards up the middle, holding off a closely pursuing player before steering a low shot into Mills's bottom right corner from the edge of the box as the keeper came out. It was a very well-taken goal (80 mins).
Crewe immediately made a double swap- Maynard and Wilson replacing White and Platt. The ref soon annoyed Alty when he blew to give them a freekick when Lugsden was set for a breakaway. At last, Crewe, whose second-half performance was poor, got into the Alty box but were easily seen off (88 mins). After Paul Tilley had come on as a late sub for Thornley (89 mins), it was the fourth minute of added time before Coburn had to make a proper save in the second half, punching a ball clear.
This was a thoroughly deserved victory for Altrincham, achieved without three regular starters. After stand-in captain Gary Talbot had received the trophy, chairman Geoff Goodwin hared up the pitch to hand the cup to the Alty supporters behind the goal before Gary Scott performed a series of forward-rolls on the pitch as a team photo was taken by Gavin Rathbone. All in all, it was a great night and a fine team performance!
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 CREWE ALEXANDRA 0|