HEDNESFORD TOWN 1
Pre-Season Friendly Match
played on Tuesday, 2 August, 2005 at 7.45p.m.
Though it took a well-struck 91st-minute goal from substitute Brannan to give the Pitmen their draw, few would argue that they deserved to share the spoils. Earlier, Alty keeper Coburn had produced yet another penalty save to add to his catalogue, stopping Barrow's spot-kick (85 mins). After a reasonably bright start the game was relatively uninspiring till Alty upped the tempo after the interval and went ahead after 51 minutes when Little finished off a good move.
REFEREE: Mr Anthony Taylor
This was Alty first team's eighth pre-season friendly and, apart from defeat to Greenock Morton in the very first game, the Robins had been unbeaten till now. Alty last met Hednesford in 1999-2000 when both were in the Conference and the Midlands side had won 5-0 at Keys Park. Since then both sides had been relegated but were now preparing for promotion - for Alty, back to the Conference National and, for the Pitmen, to Nationwide North.
The Moss Lane pitch still showed signs of the drainage slitting which had been delayed over the summer by the intrusion of "travellers", whose illegal encampment at Moss Lane had prevented the start of the drainage work. But the grass is growing over the slits and hopefully all will be ready for the opening home game of the league season in a fortnight's time.
Graham Heathcote included four of his new signings (James, Williams, Munroe and Hawes) in the starting line-up but included only one trialist (McKenzie), who was on the bench. Thornley was playing on the right flank with Williams, in the absence of James Olsen, on the left. Colin Little, back from holiday, started up front with Lutel James. The Pitmen included a couple of names familiar to Alty fans; in goal was Tommy Whittle who kept goal against us at Hinckley last season whilst on the left was Colin Hunter, the former Harrogate man.
Watching the match but not in the squad for Alty were the injured Gary Scott, Steve Aspinall and Richard Norris, as well as Steve Garvey, and Gary Talbot, whilst Kirk Hilton was also involved in the warm-up.
ALTRINCHAM: (Red & white striped shirts, black shirts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Stephen ROSE, 3. Chris ADAMS, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Karl MUNROE, 6. Steve HAWES, 7. Rod THORNLEY, 8. Val OWEN, 9. Lutel JAMES, 10. Colin LITTLE, 11. Gary WILLIAMS. Subs: 12. Nehru McKENZIE & Colin POTTS, 13. Richard ACTON, 14. George MELLING & Peter BAND, 15. Kieran LUGSDEN, 16. Lewis CHALMERS
HEDNESFORD TOWN: (All pale blue): 1. Tommy WHITTLE, 2. Ross ADAMS, 3. Mark BRANCH, 4. Lee BARROW (capt.), 5. Richard TEESDALE, 6. Lee WILLIAMS, 7. Jamie BARRATT, 8. Rob HEATH, 9. Andrew BELL, 10. Grant BECKETT, 11. Colin HUNTER. Subs: 12. Steve BRANNAN, 14. Tom MARSHALL, 15. Paul McMAHON, 16. Steve ANTHROBUS, 17. Chris BRINDLEY.
Altrincham nearly went behind after less than 20 seconds when a through ball up the middle found Hunter completely unmarked and it took prompt action from Coburn to block the no.11's shot, which was not cleanly hit. Alty's sluggish start was underlined as Coburn shouted to his team-mates "We're second to everything" (2 mins). For their part, Hednesford were deploying their top scorer, Bell, as the lone front man.
Early in the game, Altrincham's James appeared to be clearly pushed over inside the box following a neat turn and feed from Colin Little, but referee Taylor waved play on and it was Hednesford who went on to win the game's first corner. For the Pitmen Williams was impressing in midfield and it was he, too, who took the corner. Alty responded by winning a corner themselves, through Thornley, after a pass from James (8 mins). From the corner, by Hawes, Munroe headed well wide. A good run by Gary Williams then led to a Thornley cross soon afterwards but this was caught by Whittle. Next, Thornley and Little combined for the latter to get in a well-struck shot with his right foot which the keeper saved competently (11 mins). The game's fairly bright and even start continued as James won Alty's second corner. But, after this, Hednesford gained three corners in as many minutes as the visitors began to get the upper hand. Alty boss Graham Heathcote was strangely silent in his unaccustomed Moss Lane vantage point of a seat in the substitutes' seats.
However, Alty brought the corner count back to 3-4 after 28 minutes through an Adams and Little combination. Soon, a good Alty passing move produced a freekick for a foul on Thornley. But an obviously pre-rehearsed dead-ball routine involving Thornley and Williams went badly wrong when Rod's short ball forward was overhit behind the goal before Williams could reach it (29mins). After an Owen foul, Beckett needed treatment, following which Hednesford gained another corner. This time, Barrow arrived late in the box and was not picked up by the Alty defence who were relieved to see his header narrowly clear the cross bar (35 mins). Alty had another scare soon afterwards when an apparent shout from Coburn led Maddox to duck out of a clearing header and the Alty keeper had to go full stretch to claw the ball away (39 mins). A foul on Rose relieved the pressure and as half-time approached Hednesford had their own defensive mix-ups. Firstly, Whittle called for a ball but a defender nevertheless cleared it as the keeper came off his line and then the keeper came for a catch near the penalty spot only to collide with a defender and spill the ball to James. However, the Alty striker could not get his shot past a covering defender (43 mins). Despite a couple of injury stoppages, no injury time was played and the first half ended with the fans hoping for better fare from the home side in the second period.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 HEDNESFORD TOWN 0|
Rain was falling steadily as the second half began at which point Alty brought on three subs. Potts, Chalmers and Band joined the game as Rose, Thornley and Williams were withdrawn. Band initially took up the right back position but soon swapped inside with Karl Munroe. Chalmers went on the left and Potts on the right. Alty began the second half with a bit more purpose and won an early corner though James's shot over the bar did not actually seem to have touched anyone to gain the flag-kick. The tempo of the game had now increased as the rain lashed down. Bell continued to look lively for the visitors whilst Hawes was much involved in the Alty midfield. Alty's improvement paid off when an excellent passing move involving James, Potts, Munroe, Hawes (twice) and Potts ended with Hawes's perceptive ball forward for Little who finished neatly from inside the box to make it 1-0 (51 mins). But Hednesford almost levelled immediately. A cross from the right by Bell was deliberately left by Hunter and the ball ran, left, to Heath. His shot forced a fine save from Coburn. But, a minute or two later, the Alty keeper surprisingly dropped a routine catch and it took a bit of anxious play to get the ball clear. However, Alty soon won a corner through Little as manager Graham Heathcote now started to make his appearance on the touchline to convey his intructions to his team (57 mins).
Hednesford had a shot over the Alty bar as manager Heathcote berated his back line for not being straight - "It's like a dog's back leg", he told them. Chalmers then fed Little, whose ball set up Hawes for a shot which went well wide (61 mins). Then, Chalmers got in a cross from the left which was mis-directed by a defender to Potts, whose first-time stab at goal cleared the bar (62 mins). The rain had now stopped and there soon arrived a curious moment when a string of Alty passes led to Little's cross from the right which Potts, first time, poked towards the bottom corner of the net. In fact, some spectators thought the ball had gone into the net and started to celebrate before it was realised that the ball had hit the perimeter boards and not the back of the net (69 mins). Alty supporters' thoughts went back to Eddie Hussin's goal-off-the-hoardings which was allowed to stand against Alfreton last season.
Substitutions now began in earnest as Hednesford brought on Brindley for Barratt (70 mins). This was followed by McKenzie for Hawes for Alty and McMahon for Bell for the Pitmen (76 mins) and then Lugsden for Little (77 mins). In between, from Chalmers's pass, Potts found James drifting into space, to the right, across the box. But James's shot was well blocked by the recovering Teesdale (72 mins). At the other end Peter Band, though seemingly holding his side at regular intervals, played on and made another excellent clearance.
Hednesford's sixth corner arrived after 78 minutes just before Melling replaced Adams for Alty and Brannan came on for Town's Beckett (79 mins). Band now moved to left-back as Melling went to right-back, leaving Munroe and Maddox in the middle - four centre backs occupying the back line. Up front, McKenzie badly sliced an intended pass out of play but there then followed some neat approach play from Alty. However, Hednesford won the next corner, from the left. As this came across there was a shout from one of the players and the referee awarded a penalty, presumably for holding or pushing by an Alty player. Stuart Coburn was incensed and, after the ball had been placed on the spot, for some reason he paced out the 12 yards from his goal-line to the spot. Alty fans are nowadays almost surprised if an opponent actually nets a spot-kick, such is Stuart's prowess at stopping penalties and once again he produced an excellent save, low to his right, to keep out Barrow's effort (85 mins).
Now, Alty went to the other end and Potts put James clear on the right. His cross was met by the incoming Lugsden's head at the near post but his glancing effort went across the face of goal (88 mins). Then James miskicked a shot at goal before Alty won a late corner after Chalmers's long throw had been well headed out of play by a defender as James was about to pounce at the back post (90 mins). With the game in the first minute of added time, Hednesford mounted a last attack from which the ball was half cleared out to Brannan. The substitute hammered a low shot from the edge of the "D" which whistled past Coburn into the bottom right of his net (90+1 mins). There was just time for a little more play in which Lugsden challenged for a high ball and caught Barrow, which led to a skirmish as the referee blew the final whistle.
A draw was probably a fair outcome but Altrincham gave a disappointing performance for much of the game after doing so well against Lincoln City. Hopefully things will improve for the final friendlies against Marine (away) on Saturday and Bangor City (home) next Tuesday.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 HEDNESFORD TOWN 1|