LINCOLN CITY 0
Pre-Season Friendly Match
played on Thursday, 28 July, 2005 at 7.45p.m.
Altrincham came through another stiff test tonight against last season's League Two play-off team Lincoln City. In a game of relatively few clear chances, the Alty defence and midfield could be especially proud of their efforts. A surprise for Alty fans was the appearance of former Bury, Accrington and Droylsden striker Lutel James up front though he looked a little short of match fitness. After torrential rain, the recent drainage work proved its worth though, not surprisingly, the pitch was sodden in places.
REFEREE: Mr Rick Bartlett
After the shirt-sleeve weather at Lancaster 48 hours earlier, tonight's game was played at the end of a day of incessant rain. Alty started the game unbeaten in their last five pre-season games whilst Lincoln had won all of their 10 pre-season games before this one.
A very wet day had tested the recent drainage work at Moss Lane and though the grass has not yet fully regrown over the diagonal slits (thanks to a month's delay to this work caused by so-called "travellers" invading the ground), the pitch stood up well to the deluge. In places, there were splashes as players ran over the surface but the ball still ran truly.
Lincoln had narrowly missed promotion to League One last season, having reached the play-offs. Their wily ex-Northwich manager Keith Alexander has adopted a policy of developing non-league players and even had our former winger Kevin Ellison on loan last season before he opted to join Chester City.
The only real surprise in the Alty side was the unheralded arrival at Moss Lane of former Accrington and Droylsden striker Lutel James, who partnered Rod Thornley up front in the absence on holiday of leading scorer Colin Little. So the starting eleven included just six regulars from the end of last season plus trialist Lutel James and new signings Munroe, Band, Hawes and Olsen. The Alty back four comprised four players who are regular or capable centre-backs, presumably with a view to countering the greater overall height of the Lincoln City side. But with Scott seeing a specialist on Monday and Adams carrying a knock, the manager's defensive options were limited in any case. On the bench Lewis Chalmers was making his first appearance of the summer after a run out with the Reserves on Tuesday. Three trialists were also on the bench- Steve Garvey, Nehru McKenzie and Gary Williams.
Lincoln's most familiar player to Alty fans was Danny Bacon. The former Hucknall striker was on the ten-strong Imps' bench alongside Scott Kerr, who was at Scarborough and has been the England semi-pro captain. Lincoln also included new signing Maheta Malongo from Brighton & Hove Albion. Their starting line-up included five players who had made 30 or more first-team starts last season (Marriott, Bloomer, Morgan, McCauley and Green), whilst another (Beevers) had started 4 first-team matches.
ALTRINCHAM: (Red & white striped shirts, black shirts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Karl MUNROE, 3. Peter BAND, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Gary TALBOT, 6. Steve HAWES, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Rod THORNLEY, 10. Lutel JAMES, 11. James OLSEN. Subs: 12. Kieran LUGSDEN & Nehru McKENZIE, 14. Gary WILLIAMS & Lewis CHALMERS, 15. Stephen ROSE, 16. Steve GARVEY.
LINCOLN CITY: (All dark blue): 1. Alan MARRIOTT, 2. Lee BEEVERS, 3. Paul MAYO, 4. Matthew BLOOMER, 5. Paul MORGAN (capt.), 6. Gareth McCAULEY, 7. Nathan BROWN, 8. Colin CRYAN, 9. Francis GREEN, 10. Gary BIRCH, 11. Omari COLEMAN. Subs: 12. Lee FRECKLINGTON, 13. Simon RAYNER (gk), 14. Dean KEATE, 15. Scott KERR, 16. Luke FOSTER, 5* Peter FOULKES, 7* Maheta MOLANGO, 8* Danny BACON, 9* Olly RYAN, 10* Marvin ROBINSON.
Altrincham attacked the Golf Road End in the first half. The torrential rain which had preceded kick-off eased as the game got under way but the cool, wet and breezy conditions were far from ideal and certainly not what might be expected at the end of July. Both sides started fairly brightly, with Potts being the most prominent Alty man going forward, on the right flank. From a Hawes freekick inside his own half Thornley tested keeper Marriott early on (6 mins). But Lincoln were also looking menacing and it took a superb sliding tackle from Maddox to cut out a ball from Birch into the goalmouth. Both Maddox and Coleman emerged injured from the incident but, after treatment, they played on (9 mins). This incident gave Lincoln the first of three corners in as many minutes but the Alty defence held firm under this pressure. James Olsen was also doing his bit, helping out well in defence.
From an Owens and Hawes link-up, Olsen then found James going forward but his well struck shot hit a defender before it got near goal (13 mins). The defences remained on top until Lincoln gained their fourth corner of the game after 18 minutes. This was cleared by Owen to Beevers, whose shot came off Maddox for another corner. But Alty won their first corner after 24 minutes when an impressive twelve-pass move ended with James winning the flag-kick. Alty boss Graham Heathcote was giving his team plenty of instructions as they did a good job against their League Two opponents. Birch won his side another corner, however, taken by Mayo and from which Brown got in a good header which Coburn could only push away. Fortunately a folow-up was miscued and the ball was hacked away from near the goal-line (28 mins). Soon afterwards, Cryan headed over the bar. But a slick move involving Owen, Hawes, Thornley and Potts looked menacing until Potts's final cross was miscued. Alty's back four were dealing well with the physically larger opposition and Coburn was doing his bit too, racing out of his box to clear from Coleman (33 mins). Band, in particular, was having a good game for Alty and manager Graham Heathcote will have a difficult decision to make from his wealth of centre-back resources, considering he also has Stephen Rose and George Melling in reserve.
Lincoln continued to press but were not getting shooting oportunities against a competitive Alty side. Play stopped after a bit of "do" between Maddox and the equally combative Brown (43 mins). As half-time approached, Hawes played a fine ball for Olsen on the left but his cross was cleared. Alty threatened again when the busy Hawes found Potts whose pass was met by a hooked shot from Thornley, to the right of goal, but play stopped for offside. Lincoln were leading the corner count 6-1 but Alty had finished the half well and given a solid team performance.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LINCOLN CITY 0|
Midway through the interval the heavens opened again but the rain eased as play got under way. Alty made a change at the interval, Stephen Rose replacing Val Owen in midfield. Early on, Cryan's curling shot went narrowly wide (46 mins) but despite a couple of freekicks, Alty were unable to create any openings. James was seeing little of the ball on his debut as Lincoln pressed forward but play at this stage was rather scrappy (53 mins). The Imps' seventh corner came and went and both Band and Thornley received lectures for fouls, the latter a slide/jump-in on Cryan. Following this, a freekick led to Brown rising well to head over the Alty bar (59 mins). Lincoln had now switched to a 3-4-3 formation and with Alty on the backfoot, Graham Heatchote made a change, replacing Olsen by Lewis Chalmers on the left (62 mins).
There then arrived a moment which said a lot about Stpehen Rose's commitment. The young defender is just returning after a broken leg suffered last season at Worcester but one wholehearted but fair 50-50 tackle by him on an opponent in midfield made spectators wince but Rose emerged unscathed. Band continued to excel for Alty but his defensive colleagues were all doing well as Lincoln were kept at bay. After 67 minutes Alty made a double change as Williams and Lugsden replaced Thornley and James up front. At the same time, Kerr came on for Cryan and Foulkes replaced Morgan (67 mins) for the Imps. Almost immediately, a lay-off by Lugsden set up a long-range shot from Hawes which produced a fine save, to his left, by Marriott. This gave Alty their second corner of the game and, a couple of minutes later, they won another corner after an excellent turn of pace from Williams. Alty were now on top and enjoying their best spell of the match. Next, Potts and Williams combined to set up a fine header from the left by Chalmers, which Marriott saved (73 mins).
Lincoln now brought on Danny Bacon for Green (74 mins). But Alty continued to press forward as a Lugsden shot was blocked. Robinson now replaced Coleman for the Imps (76 mins) and then Garvey came on for Potts for Alty (78 mins). Lincon wasted a good chance when Bacon's cross from the left, after he had got the better of Garvey, was headed badly wide by Beevers (81 mins). Robinson, too, wasted an opening when he slipped inside the penalty box. Lincoln now changed their keeper, with Rayner replacing Marriott (82 mins). Soon after this, Molango replaced Birch and Alty's McKenzie came on for Hawes, who seemed to have a neck problem (84 mins). A couple of minutes later Molango shot wide. Before the end, Garvey also shot well wide for Alty from 30 yards after good work from McKenzie, who had an impressive closing few minutes.
This was a good test of Altrincham against a physically stronger, full-time side and will stand them in good stead for the challenges of the Conference. That they held Lincoln to a goalless draw after the Imps' impressive pre-season record, was testimony to the hard work and application of the team and is another pointer that Graham Heathcote is assembling a side to hold its own in the Conference National, despite having the lowest budget in the division.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LINCOLN CITY 0|