ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
GREENOCK MORTON (2) 3
Pre-Season Friendly Match
played on Saturday, 16 July, 2005 at 3p.m.
Above: Three of today's debutant trialists, James Olsen, Gavin Salmon and Karl Munroe. And in the background, the serial streaker has returned to Moss Lane!
Fielding five trialists and their three new summer signings in a squad of 17 today, Altrincham were unable to overcome a Morton side reduced to 10 men for 65 minutes after Ryan Harding had been harshly sent off. Alty got off to a nightmare start when, at the end of the first minute of the game, left-back Kirk Hilton rolled the ball across his own penalty area, presumably hoping that Richard Acton would come for it. Instead, it ran to Morton's Lilley who drove the ball into the net. Then, from a freekick, 40 yards out, the impressive Andy McLaren fed Weatherson, who advanced at speed past Steve Hawes, into the box before slotting the ball into the bottom corner of Acton's net to make it 2-0 for the visitors (16 mins). Harding's foul on trialist Steve Garvey gave Alty a deserved penalty but Harding's red card, for little more than a nudge, was excessive in a friendly game. But Colin Little's penalty was well saved by Gonet (24 mins). With so many new faces, Alty laboured going forward and went three down when Walker turned impressively past Maddox just in the Alty half and ran on to strike the ball past Acton (77 mins). Substitute trialist Wes Wilkinson's trickery won Alty a second penalty but Little, once again, saw his spot kick saved well by Gonet (84 mins). Alty finally did score when Norris converted Little's pass (88 mins) but it was the large contingent of vocal Scotsmen in the 618 crowd who left the ground happier than the home supporters. However, the main object of this afternoon was to allow the Alty management to assess their potential imports rather than winning the game.
REFEREE: Mr Karl Evans
Greenock Morton, from the Second Division of the Scottish League, had lost 2-0 at Northwich last Thursday in front of 453 spectators in the inaugural game at the new Victoria Stadium and this was the middle game of a three-match Cheshire tour which is to end at Witton Albion in midweek.
Neil Brown has put in a tremendous amount of work on the Moss Lane pitch in the baking heat of this summer but the pitch has not yet had time fully to recover from the slitting done to improve drainage but the grass should have fully regrown by the start of the season.
Altrincham were without captain Eddie Hussin, whose cruciate ligament operation, scheduled for today had to be postponed for a fortnight. Gary Scott was also out, as he may need an operation, whilst Marcus Hallows and Steve Aspinall had not sufficiently recovered from their surgery. Goalkeeper Stuart Coburn was rested to allow a twinge time to clear. In goal, therefore was Richard Acton, whose last duty was on the bench for TNS in their European tie against Liverpool last week. Indeed, only Mark Maddox (captain), Colin Little, Colin Potts and Val Owen were the only regular first teamers from last season who were in today's starting line-up. The newcomers in the starting eleven included three new signings, Peter Band (returning from Northwich) at centre-back, Steve Hawes (returning after spells at Worksop and Stocksbridge) in central midfield and James Olsen on the left flank (signed last week from Vauxhall). Kirk Hilton returned after his end of season injury, whilst the side was completed by two trialists from Northwich Vics, right-back Chris Royle and striker Steve Garvey. Missing today were Lewis Chalmers and Gary Talbot but, with five games to be played in eight days, they are likely to figure soon. Rod Thornley and Paul Tilley were both at Moss Lane today but also sat out this match.
The Alty bench included Chris Adams, Kieran Lugsden and Richard Norris from last season's first-team squad plus three more trialists. These were defender Karl Munroe (ex-Macclesfield), Wes Wilkinson (a former Alty Youth striker who was released by Oldham Athletic in the summer) and Gavin Salmon, (the former Hyde and Droylsden player).
Morton, managed by Jim McInally, included new signings Andy McLaren (32), Kevin Finlayson, Derek Lilley and Ryan Harding. They had finished third in last season's Scottish League Division Two and brought with them an impressively large and vocal group of supporters. They did not wear their new tartan shirts today but instead used their traditional blue and white hooped shirts.
ALTRINCHAM: (Red & white striped shirts, black shirts, red socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Chris ROYLE, 3. Kirk HILTON, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Peter BAND, 6. Steve HAWES, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Steve GARVEY, 11. James OLSEN. Subs: 12. Karl MUNROE & Wes WILKINSON, 14. Gavin SALMON & Chris ADAMS, 15. Richard NORRIS, 16. Kieran LUGSDEN.
GREENOCK MORTON: (Blue and white hoops, blue shorts & socks): 1. Stefan GONET, 2. Peter WEATHERSON, 3. David McGREGOR, 4. Ryan HARDING, 5. Stewart GREACEN (capt.), 6. "A TRIALIST", 7. Chris MILLER, 8. Kevin FINLAYSON, 9. Derek LILLEY, 10. Andy McLAREN, 11. Jim McALLISTER. Subs: 12. Jason WALKER, 14. Dean KEENAN, 15. John ADAM, 16. S. McCLUSKEY, 20. D. McGURN.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, Alty kicked off towards the Golf Road but as the first minute ended, the hosts found themselves a goal down. The goal came out of nothing when Hilton, in his left-back position, played a ball sideways across the penalty area, presumably expecting his keeper, Richard Acton to come out for it. However, the ball was played too far away from the number one and fell to Derek Lilley who accepted the free gift and scored comfortably from 10 yards. This boosted the already vocal Morton fans massed on the Popular Side. Alty's first effort of note came after seven minutes when Garvey's ball forward, inside the box, was just too long for Potts to latch onto before it ran out of play for a goalkick. Garvey soon showed another neat touch but it was his Northwich team-mate Royle's testing cross from the right which was to produce Alty's first corner when it was met by Owen, whose miskicked shot was deflected out of play by a defender. Potts's corner came to nothing before play was stopped for Owen and Miller to be lectured by Mr Evans. Following a long throw on the right by Weatherson, the ball was cleared to 40 yards from the Alty goal, where a foul by Hawes yielded a freekick for Morton. From this, the impressive McLaren found Weatherson who advanced quickly and confidently into the box, side-stepping Hawes's challenge in the process, before slotting a neat shot low into the corner of the net, to Acton's left, to make it 2-0 to the visitors (16 mins).
Left: The first of Colin Little's two penalty misses.
Altrincham were still not gelling, and with all the new faces that was not altogether surprising. In particular, they were ponderous in getting forward until Little's fine ball for Garvey looked promising, only for the trialist's first touch to let him down and send the ball to keeper Gonet. But moments later, Garvey was put through again, in the inside-left position, and as he shot from just inside the box, he was jostled by Harding and went down as his shot went wide of the keeper's left post. Mr Evans was right to award a penalty but it was a harsh decision of his to send off Morton's new centre-back for the offence in a friendly match. Without regular penalty-taker Steve Aspinall, Colin Little took the spot-kick, which was delayed by the sending-off, as well as the resulting protests and an aborted run-up caused by a player encroaching into the box. When he finally took the kick, Little put it too near to keeper Gonet's dive to his right, and the number one saved it well (25 mins). Immediately, Gonet's punt caused Acton some problems as he took two attempts to gather the ball.
Following a Hilton interception on the left, the ball came to Little on the edge of the box and after jinking to try to find an opening, Little laid the ball off, left, for Olsen whose rasping goalbound shot was diverted from goal by a defender for a corner (31 mins) Soon afterwards from a Little feed, Garvey got in a good firm shot which Gonet did well to tip over for a corner (33 mins). However, ten-man Morton responded by winning a corner themselves after the wily McLaren had got past Maddox and Owen had covered well. The heat did not help the eleven men to press home their numerical advantage over the visitors but Little did win another corner (42 mins). Each side won a further corner before Mr Evans found a surprising three minutes of added time in the first half. The interval arrived with Alty still two goals adrift.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 GREENOCK MORTON 2|
Olsen's hooked shot, wide, after 47 minutes was Alty's first effort of the second half and Morton replied with Lilley's 25-yarder, which drifted wide, at the other end (50 mins). Alty now brought on Karl Munroe at right-back for Royle, who had had a decent game (52 mins). The former Macc and Halifax man, Monroe, was soon impressing with a fine ball forward for Little. Then Wilkinson and Adams came on for Garvey and Olsen. This prompted Hilton's move to left-midfield as Adams went to right back. Wilkinson joined Little up front and soon did well, linking with Hawes, Potts and Little in a move which ended with Little's header over the bar (56 mins). After Acton had done well to hold McAllister's shot, from a feed by McLaren, the Scots made a four-man substitution, with Adam, Keenan, Walker and McLuskey replacing the anonymous Trialist, McGregor, McLaren and Lilley (58 mins).
Hilton was booked for a foul on Finlayson (62 mins) before Gavin Salmon replaced Colin Potts on the Alty right (62 mins). After a foul on the pacy Wilkinson, the ball came via Little to Hawes but his low shot ran easily to Gonet. Soon afterwards Owen, Hilton and Wilkinson joined together to feed Little for another shot, which won a corner. "Get forward" yelled manager Heathcote and soon Salmon won his side a corner, followed promptly by a Morton corner. In general, both sides' corners caused the respective defences few problems today. After 72 minutes Little got in the best shot of the game from an Owen pass but the ball flew past the keeper's left upright into the advertising hoardings. Moments later the same player's effort from 20 yards was far more widely off target. Next, a push on Little led the Alty player to yell for a penalty but none was given (76 mins). Then, after a sustained Alty passing movement, Morton won the ball and Walker turned smartly past Maddox, just inside the Alty half. He raced clear up the middle-right before planting a shot past Acton to make it 3-0 (77 mins).
After the re-start Owen fed Little but the keeper just pushed the ball away before the Alty striker could pounce. Alty now made another change, Ruchard Norris replacing Hilton on the left (79 mins). Then, Wilkinson's trickery on the left saw him advance into the box, where he was brought down for a clear penalty. Little again took the kick, this time putting the ball to the keeper's left but, again, Gonet made a good save (84 mins). Salmon put a follow-up effort wide with a diagonal shot across goal. But soon, Norris fed Salmon for another shot, from an acute angle left of goal, which Gonet saved well (86 mins). Alty finally scored, when it was too late, as Salmon fed Little who passed inside for Norris to finish neatly from close range (88 mins).
So the game ended 3-1 to the visitors, who had looked a far more impressive outfit than their fellow Scots from a higher division, Queen of the South, had in their game at Leigh last Saturday. Whilst the outcome today was disappointing for Alty, the game will have helped the management decide on their squad for nest season. They have four more games in the next week to make further assessments and to get the players back to full match fitness. It was good to see Band and Hawes back in the red and white stripes and both worked hard today. All of the trialists had their moments, with Wilkinson having as much impact as any. Tuesday's visit to Cammell Laird will give them another tough test before they meet Trafford on Thursday, a Crewe Alexandra XI on Friday and Radcliffe Borough next Saturday.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 GREENOCK MORTON 3|