ALTRINCHAM (1) 4
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (0) 1
Nationwide North Match
played on Tuesday, 19 April, 2005 at 7.45p.m.
Another excellent team performance saw Altrincham move into fourth place against a spirited Celtic side which lacked any real punch up front. After Celtic had shaded the first half hour Alty finished the half strongly and took the lead in first-half injury time when the unmarked Little arrived at the back post to head home Potts's fine cross from the left. Two goals in two minutes finished off Celtic. The first came when Hussin coolly drove the ball home following a long-throw from Chalmers (69 mins) and then a quickly taken freekick by Potts caught Celtic asleep and Little nipped in to beat Dootson (71 mins). Celtic's Steve Smith scored a consolation when his shot from just outside the box bobbled past Coburn and into the corner of the net. But Alty had the final say when Norris converted Chalmers's well struck cross from the right in the third minute of added time. The Robins' overall dominance, especially in the second half, was summed up in a corner count of 14 to 3 in their favour.
REFEREE: Mr Jason TYAS
This match was taking place three days late due to the postponement of Saturday's fixture because of a waterlogged pitch. The pitch was heavily sanded in places and still soggy in one or two spots but, nevertheless, perfectly playable. Celtic had brought good support for a Tuesday night match as they sought to escape the relegation places. For their part Alty were seeking the first of the three victories which would make certain their place in the promotion play-offs.
Celtic boss John Reed was surprisingly absent tonight so Mark Atkins took charge of the team.
For Alty, Steve Aspinall was still unfit and Mark Maddox was only fit enough to join the bench. So Gary Scott continued at right-back. Colin Potts started his first game in the last three and Kirk Hilton had recovered from his concussion last week to resume on the left flank.
ALTRINCHAM: (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. George MELLING, 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Eddie HUSSIN (capt.), 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Rod THORNLEY, 11. Kirk HILTON. Subs: 12. Richard NORRIS, 14. Kieran LUGSDEN, 15. Jonathan MITTEN, 16. Lewis CHALMERS, 17. Mark MADDOX.
STALYBRIDGE CELTIC: (All blue): 1. Craig DOOTSON, 2. Grant BLACK, 3. Danny CALDECOTT (capt.), 4. Barrie KEELING, 5. Paul SYKES, 6. Paul SHEPHERD, 7. Steve SMITH, 8. Scott WILLIS, 9. Andy PARTON, 10. Aron WILFORD, 11. Nathan WHARTON. Subs: 12. Kevin PARR, 14. Ben SMITH, 15. Andy HASKINS, 16. Andy HAYWARD, 17. Phil ROBINSON.
Stalybridge kicked off towards the 20/20 End and won an early freekick against Hilton but then a holding offence by Wharton on Adams gave Alty a kick of their own. The first significant goalmouth action followed a foul on Potts. Melling’s freekick came off Sykes to Hilton, who won a throw. From Adams's throw, Thornley's cross from the left was headed wide of the far post by Potts (6 mins). An injury to Melling required treatment but he hobbled back into action afterwards. After an Alty error, Wharton, Wilford and Parton combined but the last named's effort ran out for a goalkick to Altrincham (11 mins). Stalybridge were having slightly the better of the game at this stage and Alty boss Graham Heathcote came down to the touchline to try and improve his team's performance. Although Hilton chipped a ball into the box soon afterwards, it went well wide of goal (13 mins). For the visitors Sykes was looking impressive at the back but no more so than his counterpart, Gary Talbot for Altrincham.
Celtic had brought good support and both sets of fans were in good voice to lend some atmosphere to this evening game. With play now fairly even, goalmouth chances were scarce but after good work by Scott, Melling gave away possession to Steve Smith. He, in turn, found Wilford and the former Whitby striker forced a good tip over the bar from Coburn for the game's first corner, on the Celtic left (19 mins). Following this, Scott made an excellent block from Keeling's shot to concede a second corner. This produced a scramble in the Alty box as Thornley's attempted clearing header from the by-line on the Alty right went to an opponent.
But soon Rod was active at the other end, getting on the end of a Scott and Little combination before running into trouble and conceding a throw on the Celtic right (21 mins). After a foul on Hussin, just inside the Alty half, Coburn's freekick came via Thornley to Little who lashed a shot 20 feet over the roof of the Golf Road End (23 mins). Stalybridge then went close when Willis poked an effort wide. But immediately after this Alty won their first corner after good work by Owen, who controlled a loose, skied ball by Keeling brilliantly, before feeding Hilton, who won the corner. Hilton, in fact, was looking in good form on the Alty left. Potts's corner was poor, hitting the first defender in front of the near post (25 mins).
When Wharton went down, injured, near the Popular Side touchline, the referee refused to allow physio Dave Pover onto the pitch and as the injured man limped off to support himself the crowd barrier, well-known Alty supporter Dennis Birch gave the unfortunate Wharton a piece of his mind! Soon after this Hilton and Black needed treatment after a clash of heads; given Hilton's concussion in last Tuesday's game this was a worrying moment but both players recovered after a long stoppage. However, the unfortunate Wharton now had to limp out of the game and was substituted by Ben Smith (30 mins). The game went through a quiet few minutes before a foul by Scott on Steve Smith gave Celtic a freekick 40 yards out. This was taken quickly and, via Ben Smith and Sykes, the ball came to Parton whose shot from 10 yards, right of goal, was half smothered by the advancing Coburn but it needed a defender to clear the ball off the line (36 mins). Alty's lack of awareness at the quick freekick did not please their manager.
Not long after this, Thornley needed treatment after a knee in the back but he was offside so the freekick went to Celtic. Soon, however, Alty won a corner when Little's cross from the left struck Keeling. The corner was met by Hussin and a defender with the decision being another Alty corner as the ball looped over the bar. Hilton took this, from the right, but eventually the ball was cleared. After this Parton fed Wilford for a low shot, which Coburn held at the second attempt (40 mins). Talbot then made another fine tackle to stem another Celtic advance.
Altrincham finished the half strongly. After a freekick awarded to them in the centre-circle, the ball eventually came, via Owen, to Little whose left foot shot was narrowly wide of Dootson's left post (44 mins). Four minutes of added time were announced just as Alty won their fourth corner of the game. This was cleared and the ball went down to the other end where Adams laid off a back-pass to Coburn which looked a little short. However, the Alty keeper got the ball clear to Potts, some 30 yards from goal on the Alty left wing. He curled in an excellent cross and Little arrived at the back post to head cleanly past Dootson and into the net. It was Little's 36th goal of the season and Alty’s third goal to have been scored just before the interval in their last four games (45+2mins).
Before play could resume, Celtic's woes continued as Shepherd, the former Harrogate man, limped off. Altrincham continued to press as the added time was played out and won a corner as the game went into the fifth added minute but the score remained 1-0 at the interval.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0|
Things often seem to go badly for teams at the wrong end of the table and as the second half started, Celtic were forced to make their final two substitutions as Parr and Haskins replaced the injured Black and Shepherd (46 mins). Alty had a golden chance to finish off the game just a minute into the second period when Potts's ball up the middle evaded Keeling and left Little free. He advanced to the edge of the box where he met Dootson and, though he got in a shot, he managed to lift the ball over the unguarded net (46 mins). But Alty continued to press and won two corners in succession. These were cleared before a falling Parton got in a shot at the other end which he hooked well over Coburn's crossbar (50 mins). Another two Alty corners followed this as the home side upped the pressure, their performance stoked by strong performances in midfield by Owen and Hussin. The combative Hussin received a lecture a few minutes later for a foul on Wilford which came soon after the same Celtic player had headed wide of Coburn’s goal.
After a quiet couple of minutes, Alty's 10th corner of the game arrived through Potts's efforts. When this had been cleared, Celtic's Parton fed Willis for a shot over the bar from the edge of the box (59 mins). From a Hilton feed, Thornley ran at goal and sent in a rising drive from 22 yards which Dootson did very well to tip out for a corner. Celtic continued to battle, however, and it took a good covering tackle from Adams on Willis to stop a visitors' attack (62 mins). Celtic's next effort was a respectable shot from Caldecott which just cleared the bar from 40 yards.
Midway through the half Alty brought on Chalmers for Hilton, with Potts moving to the left as Chalmers moved into the right side of midfield (67 mins). Soon, Alty won another corner when Sykes's backheader went wide of his own goal. Following this, Alty won a throw on the right, about 15 yards from the byline. Long-throw expert Lewis Chalmers hurled the ball into the box where it came out from Keeling to Hussin who instantly drove the ball into the net from about 15 yards (69 mins). Just two minutes later, Alty won a freekick on the left about 25 yards out after a Keeling foul on Thornley. Potts took the kick quickly, threading the ball forward for Little who nipped in ahead of a static defence to nick the ball past Dootson and make it 3-0 (71 mins). Following this, Celtic went through a wobbly few minutes as the home crowd taunted the absent Celtic manager with a chorus of "Cheer up, Johnny Reed" to the tune of "Daydream Believer".
Alty now made another change with Lugsden replacing Thornley up front (75 mins). Soon after this, Hussin took the ball off Sykes and fed Little whose carefully placed, left-foot shot from 15 yards was brilliantly saved by Dootson, who pushed the ball wide with one hand to concede a corner on the Alty left (77 mins). After Coburn had comfortably held a low shot from the Celtic right, Alty made their final substitution, with Norris replacing Hussin in midfield (79 mins).
Despite their three-goal deficit, Stalybridge continued to try and retrieve the situation but when they gained a freekick just outside the box, Ben Smith put the freekick high over the roof into the Golf Road front gardens (84 mins). A foul by Keeling on Lugsden then produced the only yellow card of the game (86 mins). Potts took the kick, from the left front edge of the box and his well-hit effort forced another fine save from Dootson, who tipped the ball round the post as it headed for his top right hand corner. From the corner, Owen had a shot blocked but a goalkick was awarded. After this Steve Smith got the ball on the outer edge of the Alty box and made himself some space before shooting, low towards Coburn's right corner. The keeper seemed to have it covered but somehow the ball bobbled into the corner of the net to make it 3-1 (88 mins).
Three minutes of added time were announced at the start of which Steve Smith, Celtic's most lively player, curled a shot wide. But Altrincham had the final say when Norris advanced up the middle and got the ball out, via Lugsden and Scott, to Chalmers on the right. The Alty substitute got to the by-line before sending across a measured low cross which Norris knocked into the net at the back post despite the attention of a retreating defender (90+3 mins).
This was a convincing Altrincham win against a team who, over the last few years, have had generally the better of our contests. Though defeat keeps Celtic deep in the relegation fight, for the first half especially, they played some good football and looked far from a bottom of the table side. But they created few clear chances up front and made enough errors at the back to lose the game. Eddie Hussin was named Altrincham Man of the Match but overall it was, again, a very good team performance, with no one letting the side down.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 4 STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 1|