ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
ASHTON UNITED (1) 2
Nationwide North Match
played on Saturday, 19 March, 2005 at 3p.m.
A headed goal in the 10th minute of 12 minutes of second-half added time by Phil Eastwood gave Ashton the points in a match overshadowed by a compound double fracture of the leg for substitute Marcus Hallows who had only been on the pitch for three minutes. He was caught by a challenge by White which came in just after he had shot at goal (71 mins). Alty started the game with a much weakened side - captain Eddie Hussin was out, injured, whilst Chris Adams and Val Owen were only fit to be on the bench and Melling and Mitten were unable to play with flu, whilst Coburn and Potts did play but were also suffering from flu. So, Kirk Hilton made his first league start, Kieran Lugsden and Richard Norris made their second, whilst Paul Tilley and Adam Brindle on the bench had yet to start a league game. In the circumstances it was not surprising that Alty were under par in the first half. After Clee had fired Ashton ahead from an acute angle on the left (32 mins), Kirk Hilton was fouled to win a penalty which Aspinall converted (34 mins). Alty had used all their subs before Hallows's injury, so they played more than 20 minutes with ten men. Nevertheless, they looked the more likely winners in the closing stages till Clee got free on the left and Eastwood converted his cross.
REFEREE: Mr B. COWARD
Alty had won the Cheshire Senior Cup in style last Wednesday but came into this game decimated by injuries and illness. At kick-off Ashton were lying bottom of the table after eight straight defeats but they had trounced Alty earlier in the season in the Carthium Cup, 6-2, and had only lost the corresponding league game at Hurst Cross to a last minute goal.
Already without Stephen Rose, whose broken leg sidelined him before Christmas, Eddie Hussin was also again ruled out today by injury whilst Chris Adams and Val Owen were only fit to sit on the bench. Both George Melling and Jonathan Mittem were ruled out by flu. Amongst the starters both Stuart Coburn and Colin Potts also had flu symptoms, whilst Gary Scott and Mark Maddox were carrying knocks. So, Kirk Hilton came in for his first league start, whilst Kieran Lugsden and Richard Norris were making only their second starts of the season. On the bench with Adams and Owen were Marcus Hallows, as well as Paul Tilley and Adam Brindle, both of whom had played 45 minutes for the Reserves this lunchtime and had yet to start a first-team match.
So, Scott reverted to right-back and Hilton replaced Adams at left-back. Aspinall continued in centre-midfield, with Norris his new partner. and Lugsden partnered Colin Little, returning after a three-game ban, up front. Thornley operated on the left, whilst Gary Talbot continued as captain in Hussin's absence.
Ashton's new manager Paul Futcher was seeking his first win and had brought in some new faces, including Phil Eastwood, loaned from Stalybridge, the manager's son Steve Futcher and, on the bench a pair for Stockport County, Danny Campbell and James Wonfor.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Kirk HILTON, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT (capt.), 6. Steve ASPINALL, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Richard NORRIS, 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Kieran LUGSDEN, 11. Rod THORNLEY. Subs: 12. Chris ADAMS, 14. Marcus HALLOWS, 15. Val OWEN, 16. Adam BRINDLE, 17. Paul TILLEY.
ASHTON UNITED (Pale blue shirts and socks, white shorts): 1. Ashley CONNOR, 2. Luke WILLIAMS, 3. George DAWSON, 4. Martin ALLISON, 5. Danny WHITE, 6. Dean JOHNSON (capt.), 7. Phil COONEY, 8. Steve FUTCHER, 9. Paul GARVEY, 10. Phil EASTWOOD, 11. Nick CLEE. Subs: 12. Danny CAMPBELL, 14. James WONFOR, 15. Lee CALVERT, 16. Martyn LANCASTER.
On the warmest day of the year so far, Altrincham kicked off in bright sunshine towards the Golf Road. Though they soon lost possession, they regained it in time for Little to feed Potts for a sliced shot from 20 yards just after the one minute mark. Alty started promisingly with Thornley lively on the left and when Scott fired in a 35 yarder from the right which landed on the roof of the net it looked to be only a matter of time before Alty took the lead (2 mins). But Ashton then got in a shot, after a Talbot header had fallen to Clee, who got past Scott on the Ashton left and forced Coburn to save (5 mins). But Alty won the first corner after Potts had fed Lugsden, whose first effort was blocked and whose follow-up took a deflection out of play (8 mins). However, manager Graham Heathcote was not happy, telling his players to "pass it sharper". The game then went thorugh several minutes of undistinguished action as Alty failed to build on the promise of the opening few minutes. Little received a fine ball forward from Aspinall and found Lugsden, but the young Alty striker could only stab the ball wide under pressure from a defender (16 mins). Then another excellent ball forward up the middle by Aspinall set Little free, behind the defence and most Alty fans would have bet money on their 29-goal top-scorer netting again. But Ashton keeper Connor came out to make a great stop, at the expense of a corner on the Alty right (19 mins).
Next, Aspinall shot wide from 25 yards but it was five minutes before the next effort of note, a header from Norris which went wide from a Potts cross. Futcher then needed treatment after making a challenge on Aspinall as the sides again went through a fairly mundane few minutes of action. The next goal attempt was a shot, wide, by Eastwood from the right outer edge of the box and in the aftermath of that Gary Talbot shouted to his team, "We're just going through the motions". His warning was not heeded for two minutes later Ashton took the lead. A Maddox clearing header went back to Ashton and from Cooney the ball went via Futcher and Allison to Clee, who outpaced Scott into the left of the box and planted a firm shot past Coburn from an acute angle (32 mins).
But it took Alty just two more minutes to win a penalty when Hilton, Little and Thornley combined before Little fed Hilton from the left and the Alty no.3 was taken down as he advanced inside the box. Aspinall scored his eleventh successive successful spot-kick for Alty, sending Connor the wrong way (34 mins). Alty appeared to have got out of jail and their fans were now hopeful that the equaliser would lift their flat performance. But the team is both weakened by absences and utilising players who are less than fit at the moment and so they proved unable to lift their game markedly. There was hope after a foul on Lugsden when Aspinall's freekick from half way came out to Potts and then back to Aspinall, whose cross was met well by Norris, but the ball was held by the keeper. However, it was Ashton who went closer when Garvey fed Eastwood, who got past Talbot, but his shot was blocked from right of goal (38 mins). It looked to have got worse for Alty when Clee advanced on the left and, via Eastwood, the ball came to Cooney whose shot was deflected by Thornley to Garvey, who netted well. However, the referee gave offside and the goal was ruled out (39 mins).
For Alty, Colin Little had his moments but looked a little short of match fitness after his enforced layoff whilst the Ashton defence also kept him and Lugsden under close control. Half time arrived with Alty having laboured, as they had in their last home game, against Moor Green.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 ASHTON UNITED 1|
Both sides made a change at the interval. Val Owen, himself not fully fit, replaced Potts for Alty whilst, for Ashton, a new signing from Stockport, Danny Campbell, came on for Futcher. A Little effort from 25 yards was the best shot of the opening stages of the half (48 mins), but Connor easily held this. A slice by White gave Alty a fortuitous corner soon afterwards as Alty now adapted a 4-3-3 formation with Thornley joining Little and Lugsden up front. Soon Little charged into the box but the defence saw him off but Owen and Hilton did later win Alty a corner. From Aspinall's corner, Maddox nodded over the bar (55 mins). Maddox was soon limping badly but Altrincham almost took the lead when Thornley and Little got the ball through to him, behind Williams, at the back post but from close range Aspinall missed his kick from 6 yards (57 mins). Alty had the better chances in this game but failed to take them.
Maddox soon needed treatment to his calf but hobbled on (59 mins). Ashton then won four corners in two minutes but Alty's goal remained intact (63 mins). Ashton's Clee was also in the wars and needed treatment as Paul Tilley prepared to come on for Kirk Hilton, who had become the latest injured Alty player. Tilley's arrival was delayed as Graham Heathcote ensured that Maddox was fit to continue. Tilley eventually came on (65 mins). Alty again went close when a cross by Scott from the right, from a Little feed, was met by Norris whose fine header from the outer part of the box forced Connor to an excellent tip over the bar for a corner (66 mins). Alty next replaced Thornley by Hallows (68 mins), as Maddox limped on. Soon Hallows showed his knack of getting into a scoring position when Norris fed Little and his pass into the left of the box saw Hallows's shot blocked but he was caught late by defender White and it was immediately clear to nearby keeper Connor that Marcus was badly injured (71 mins). A stretcher was soon produced but further treatment from Sean Riley took place before Marcus was carried off the pitch to generous applause. It emerged that he had suffered a compound fracture to both the tibia and fibia bones in his leg. When play restarted with a bounce-up the stoppage had lasted six minutes and Alty were now down to ten men. As well as losing their striker they had not received the consolation of a penalty for White's late challenge either (77 mins).
Maddox continued to play well at the back despite his injury. Two freekicks from Aspinall were hit too long in as many minutes as Alty belied their one-man shortage. Tilley was soon getting involved and from his pass Talbot fed Little but his short was weak and wide (81 mins). Alty had a scare when Eastwood was not given offside but his control let him down in any case. Alty continued to press and keep Ashton on the back foot as the minutes ticked away and Campbell marked his debut for Ashton by getting booked for kicking the ball away after a freekick had been awarded against him (87 mins). But Aspinall's freekick was again overhit. Tilley continued to impress on the right of midfield but Ashton finally got to the other end and Cooney's shot was deflected off Maddox for a corner, from which an Ashton player headed high and wide (90 mins).
Alty resumed their pressure at the other end and after a foul on Little won a freekick on the very edge of the box in a central position. Aspinall's kick evaded the wall but went over the bar. In the fifth added minute Aspinall fed Little, who was clearly held as he advanced inside the box but no penalty was forthcoming. Aspinall was now announced as man of the match but play continued into the 55th minute of the second half. After Cooney had shot well over the bar, Clee soon advanced on the left and out in a good cross which Eastwood expertly headed to his right and just inside Coburn's left post. It was a well executed goal but a sickener for Altrincham (90+10 mins). It almost got worse when Norris lost possession and Garvey got free but he lifted his shot over both the advancing Coburn and the crossbar (90+12 mins). Soon after the final whistle sounded and Alty had lost their second successive home match to a team in the bottom reaches of the division.
After the magnificent win in the Cheshire Senior Cup Final on Wednesday and a long unbeaten run before last Saturday in the league, defeats by Moor Green and Ashton United on successive Saturdays are deeply disappointing. But there are good reasons for the flat performances on the last two Saturdays. Today, for example, there was the absence of Hussin, Rose, Melling, Owen, Adams and Mitten from the starting line-up; the fact that Coburn and Potts who did play were both ill (and Potts only lasted 45 minutes) whilst Maddox, Scott (and possibly others) are playing on through injuries. Then, to lose Marcus Hallows with such a bad injury, to bring to eleven the number of injured or ill players in an already small squad, underlines the difficulty facing manager Graham Heathcote.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 ASHTON UNITED 2|