BARROW (1) 2
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
Nationwide North Match
played on Saturday, 26 March, 2005 at 1p.m.
Following their run of twelve unbeaten league games, Altrincham today went down to their fourth successive league defeat and in those games they have not scored from open play. But the Robins were without Aspinall, Hilton, Hussin and Thornley from the starting line-up, as well as the broken-leg victims, Hallows and Rose. In addition, both Scott and Adams were limping from early in the first half so, once again, Alty were well under strength.
They lost today to goals scored at the start of each half. The game was barely five minutes old when Campbell headed home Knight's cross from the right. Alty had several good chances to level in the first half. Just a minute after going behind, a point-blank poke from Talbot hit keeper Bishop, who knew little about it, then Little had an effort well saved and Alty's top scorer also missed the target after getting behind the defence. The game was settled two minutes after the interval when Maxwell's cross from the left was glanced into the far corner by a combination of Armstrong, Barrow's loan player from Oldham Athletic, and Alty's Val Owen, with the Alty man being officially debited with an own goal. Alty had much the better of the second half but could not score despite winning seven second-half corners.
REFEREE: Mr G Johnson (Ormskirk)
This match was played on a good surface on a dry but cloudy afternoon, with a lunchtime kick-off prompted by the TV coverage of the England v Northern Ireland international at Old Trafford at 3pm. Alty had been lying in sixth place for a month whilst Barrow were sixteenth at kick-off today, though only nine points separated the sides. In recent games Alty's progress had been halted due to a string of injuries compounded by an outbreak of a viral illness which had struck many of the players. For their part, Barrow had recovered from a very poor early season to a position of relative safety but they had won only one of their last four games.
Stuart Coburn was back after the viral illness which forced him to miss Monday's game at Droylsden. Steve Aspinall was not fit to start after being injured in the Droylsden game and, though named on the bench today, he took no part in the warm-up which suggested that his use would only have been as a last resort. George Melling replaced Aspinall at right-back. Today's shirt numbering was confusing. Despite his unaccustomed shirt number, Colin Potts (no.10) operated as usual on the right, whilst Kieran Lugsden (no.7) was again up front with Colin Little, and Richard Norris (no.2) was in midfield not right-back as his shirt suggested. Seven of today's 16-man squad had started three or fewer league games for Alty this season, underlining the problems that have faced manager Graham Heathcote recently, and several of those who did start were clearly far from fully fit due to injury. Alty captain Eddie Hussin failed a late fitness test after being laid low by the flu virus in midweek, so Gary Talbot retained the armband.
Barrow were without striker Neil Tarrant but included loan players Paul Armstrong (Oldham Athletic) and Stuart Ludlam (Rotherham United).
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Richard NORRIS, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. George MELLING, 7. Kieran LUGSDEN, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Marcus HALLOWS, 10. Colin POTTS, 11. Gary SCOTT. Subs: 12. Steve ASPINALL, 14. Jonathan MITTEN, 15. Paul TILLEY, 16. Lewis CHALMERS, 17. Adam BRINDLE.
BARROW (Blue shirts with white sleeves, white shorts, blue socks) 1. Simon BISHOP, 2. Paul ARMSTRONG, 3. Scott MAXFIELD, 4. James COTTERILL, 5. Karl COLLEY. 6. Stuart LUDLAM, 7. Gareth SIMPSON, 8. Lee WARREN, 9. Neil CAMPBELL, 10. Gavin KNIGHT, 11. Steve RIDLEY (capt). Subs: 12. Danny FORDE, 14. Andy HILL, 15. Guy HEFFERNAN, 16. Dave SWARBRICK, 17. Ben MORSBY (gk).
This lunchtime match was played on a good surface on a dry but cloudy afternoon. After an error- strewn opening few minutes from both sides, Norris's pass for Owen barely reached his team-mate and possession was lost with Knight getting in a cross from the right, for which Coburn half came before retreating to his line. The burly Campbell swatted aside a defender's aerial challenge to rise and head the game's opening goal from 6 yards or so (5 mins).
Soon Lugsden was felled by Cotterill, already his second significant foul of the match. Adams's free-kick, from the left ,came low to the unmarked Talbot whose poke at goal from about 5 yards out struck Bishop, though the Barrow keeper had little say in the matter (8 mins). Barrow then won three corners in two minutes, the last coming when Coburn was wrongly credited with pushing Warren's shot round his left post (12 mins). When Alty responded with a move up the middle, Owen delayed his pass to Little till the recipient was just offside. But Barrow were on top at this stage and when Norris misplaced a pass, Knight shot over the bar. To make things worse, Adams was now hobbling. Melling was penalised for an aerial challenge and, following Maxwell's free-kick, Armstrong fired in an excellent shot from right of goal which Coburn saved well at the near post (18 mins).
After another Barrow corner and a free-kick, Alty gained a free-kick for themselves, following which Little had a shot deflected to Bishop (21 mins). Graham Heathcote had to ask Chris Adams if he was fit to continue but the Alty left-back, as ever, was reluctant to come off. Altrincham won their first corner after a Lugsden shot struck Colley. Following this, Owen threaded a pass forward through the defence leaving Little running at the exposed Bishop but the keeper made a fine save. From the evidence of this and Talbot's earlier chance, it already looked at this early stage as if it might not be going to be Alty's afternoon. Knight then volleyed high and wide for Barrow but was also offside. For Alty, Talbot next fed Little who set up Lugsden for a shot from just inside the box but, under pressure, the young striker could not get in a clean shot and the ball ran to Bishop (27 mins). Freekicks were then traded as Knight was fouled and then, from an Alty freekick, Potts set Lugsden free only for play to be hauled back because the kick had been taken too quickly (30 mins). Campbell then won a freekick for Barrow on the front corner of the box, left of goal, and from this Knight's shot was deflected for a corner, Barrow's fifth of the half. The corner came via Ludlam to Campbell, beyond the back post, but he shot wide. Alty then had their third excellent chance of the half so far when Owen and Lugsden got Little in the clear, running towards Bishop, but the Alty marksman uncharacteristically failed even to hit the target, firing just wide of Bishop's left upright from 12 yards or so (36 mins). Alty had created more clear chances than the Bluebirds but currently seem to be goal-shy, with 29-goal Little not having recovered his sharpness after his suspension.
Little was then felled as he got through on goal again, only to be given offside before the foul. Talbot had to concede another corner at the Cross Bar end following which Simpson wrestled Lugsden to the ground for an Alty freekick. Scott, like Adams, was now hobbling badly but he, too, played on bravely. Two more Barrow corners brought their tally to eight against Altrincham's two. Half time arrived with Barrow ahead but Altrincham, though far from their best, having had the chances to be at least level.
|Half-Time: BARROW 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
In the second minute of the second half Barrow doubled their lead when Maxwell's cross from the left was met by a stooping header from Armstrong, under the challenge of Val Owen and the ball skimmed off the Alty man's head tantalisingly out of reach of Coburn and just inside his left hand post for what was deemed to be an own goal (47 mins). After this setback, Alty won a freekick from 22 yards when Lugsden was brought down by Cotterill, once more. Little drove the freekick into the wall and Norris lost possession. Potts was then brought down by Warren, having got past Ridley. From Adams's freekick Talbot was very blatantly pushed as he went to head the ball near the by-line but the referee somehow failed to see this as the penalty that it clearly was (51 mins). Coburn had to be alert at the other end to get the ball ahead of Armstrong to the left of his goal before Alty went to the other end and, from a Little pass, Potts's curling shot just cleared the top corner of Bishop's net, to his left (51 mins). Coburn then got away with a half-punch clear but he caught the resulting cross back into his box. Next Little forced a save from Bishop but Alty won a freekick from this incident. Before this could be taken, the Barrow keeper then talked himself into the referee's book for reasons that were none too clear. Little fed Potts from the dead ball situation but his shot went wide (54 mins). Then, Potts beat his marker and found Little in space in the centre of the box but the out of sorts Little spooned his effort badly over the bar from 15 yards. Alty had the chances to gain at least a point from this game but did not take their chances.
Adams made a fine tackle to stop Knight on the Barrow right. Alty then had another good shout for a penalty when Cotterill, who got away without a booking this afternoon despite several fouls, was all over Little inside the penalty box but again Mr Johnson saw no misdemeanour. Alty now replaced Lugsden by Mitten in attack (58 mins). Before he could even touch the ball Mitten was immediately penalised for a foul. However, Alty had the upper hand and underlined this with four corners in the next five minutes or so. The first came when Potts's shot from the edge of the box was diverted. Between the second and third of the sequence of corners, Campbell went down theatrically in the Alty box and, though he gained no penalty, his collapse necessitated a couple of minutes of treatment. During the stoppage, Lewis Chalmers replaced the ailing Scott in midfield (64 mins).
Two more corners came and went as Alty manager Heathcote exhorted his men to have "a bit of belief". From Alty's sixth corner of the game and fourth of the half, Talbot was unable to turn the ball home at the back post when he looked to be in a good position to do so (67 mins). Melling then got an elbow in the left eye and needed treatment as Alty continued to have the better of the second half. A long throw from the recovered Melling produced another Alty corner which Bishop caught from Adams's kick.
Barrow now made a substitution with Forde replacing Warren, the assistant manager (74 mins). Within a minute of coming on, Forde sliced a shot badly wide from a Knight feed. Chalmers was giving no quarter on the left of midfield and one crunching 50-50 challenge between him and Cotterill underlined the Alty teenager's competitiveness. Chalmers's long throws were also an additional weapon in the Alty armoury. When Alty won another freekick in the penalty area "D". manager Graham Heathcote told his players to put it "anywhere but in the wall" and Little obliged, forcing Bishop to clutch the ball low down, at the second attempt, from his well-hit freekick (78 mins).
Maddox, Potts and Mitten then combined to allow Little a shot which forced a good save and another corner. Potts's corner came to the late-arriving Talbot but the Alty captain lifted his effort well over the bar (81 mins). The referee finally lost patience with Simpson when he fouled Owen but Bishop gathered Potts's resulting freekick. Adams made another important last tackle to stop Knight on the breakaway before Maddox's tackle from behind conceded a freekick further up the pitch. Next, Melling found Mitten who relayed the ball for Little to chase but keeper Bishop arrived first to clear (87 mins). After Maddox had conceded another freekick, Coburn got a hand to the ball and then pursued it outside his box, to the left. He lost possession, re-won it and then cheekily back heeled it to safety but was penalised in the process, at which point Adams was booked for protesting (88 mins). Forde shot badly over from the edge of the box from the freekick. The dangerous Armstrong was then given offside behind the Alty defence even though the ball had come to him off Norris. In the four minutes of added time, Alty won their 9th corner of the game (to Barrow's 8). Coburn went up for the corner but to no avail and the final whistle set the seal on Alty's fourth successive league defeat.
Altrincham are clearly struggling at the moment as their injury and illness-hit squad limps towards the end of the season. They did enough today to have earned at least a point in a game which was far from a classic. The enforced break caused to Colin Little's season by his recent suspension seems to have robbed him of his sharpness whilst newcomers Richard Norris and Josh Mitten have yet to settle into their best form after their even longer absences from competitive action. The most positive aspect of the recent performances has been the continued good form of the youngsters, Melling, Lugsden and, today, Chalmers. It was a pity that another young reserve, centre-back Adam Brindle, could not be given a couple of minutes at least at the end of today's game, as reward for now having sat on the bench now for seven games this season without yet getting onto the pitch.
|Full-Time: BARROW 2 ALTRINCHAM 0|