HALIFAX TOWN (1) 2
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
Nationwide Conference National Match
played on Tuesday, 27 September 2005 at 7.45pm.
Alty were unlucky not to get something out of this match and would have done had Colin Little not missed the target from 8 yards or Olsen not headed at the keeper from an Adams cross as Alty gave a good second-half performance in pouring rain. Halifax went ahead after 21 minutes from the penalty spot after a mix-up between Band and Munroe had led to Owen being judged to have tripped Senior, who went down easily.
Halifax made it 2-0 when the referee did not see a challenge on Williams as a foul and the Shaymen went up the left, from where a cross found Grant unmarked and he scored (84 mins). In added time, Halifax's Foster was sent off for an off the ball foul on Hawes. Alty made a game of it tonight, underlining the narrow gap between a top six side and a side in the lower reaches.
REFEREE: Mr. D. Foster (Newcastle-u-Tyne)
All four previous Conference games between these two sides at The Shay had ended in draws. And Alty had won three of the four previous encounters at Moss Lane in the league. The pitch at The Shay was in excellent condition but the new stand remains very much unfinished. The Altrincham supporters were confined to a modern terrace behind one goal, with no seating accommodation available.
Graham Heathcote rang the changes tonight, making five changes to the starting line-up which began against Cambridge last Saturday. Out of the line-up went Melling, Hilton, Lugsden, Thornley and Olsen and into their places came McKenzie, Munroe, Chalmers, Rose and Adams as Alty adopted a five-man midfield, leaving Little as the lone striker again. Midfield comprised Rose on the right, Hawes, Owen, McKenzie and, on the left, Chalmers. Munroe started at right-back, Adams at left-back, with Maddox and Band in the centre. There was no place, even on the bench, for up and coming striker Lee Hendley. Alty were still without their long-term injured, Eddie Hussin, Gary Scott, Steve Aspinall, Lutel James and Richard Norris (not to mention Marcus Hallows), but also were without the more recently injured Colin Potts and Gary Talbot tonight. For Little, Owen and Munroe it was a return to a former club tonight.
Halifax had Matt Doughty available on the becnh after suspension but Gary Brabin, Steve Bushell and Peter Atherton were all out, injured. Town included Danny Forrest, on loan from Bradford City.
HALIFAX TOWN: (Blue and white striped shirts, blue shorts and socks): 1. Ian DUNBAVIN, 2. Steve HASLAM, 6. Denny INGRAM, 5. Adam QUINN, 25. Jake WRIGHT; 26. Danny FORREST, 18. Tyrone THOMPSON, 8. Martin FOSTER, 7. Craig MIDGLEY; 15. Chris SENIOR, 20. John GRANT. Subs: 3. Matt DOUGHTY, 11 Ryan SUGDEN, 14. Brenton LEISTER, 16. Greg YOUNG, 23. Justin BOWLER.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, white shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN; 17. Karl MUNROE, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt), 15. Peter BAND, 3. Chris ADAMS; 21. Stephen ROSE, 12 Steve HAWES, 8. Val OWEN, 25. Nehru McKENZIE, 14. Lewis CHALMERS; 9. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 10. Rod THORNLEY,16. James OLSEN, 19. Gary WILLIAMS, 20. Kieran LUGSDEN, 23. Kirk HILTON.
The travelling fans, accommodated on a modern terrace behind one goal, were in good voice throughout. Alty kicked off and started much better than they had done at Cambridge. Halifax were relying on patient rather than incisive build-up play but it was Alty who won the game's first corner (7 mins). Halifax then won two corners. After the second had been partly cleared, a cross from the right found Forrest at the back post but his shot was blocked on the line by a well-placed combination of Hawes and Munroe (14 mins). Senior then evaded the Alty offside trap but was closed down. But, on the counter-attack, Little's searching diagonal ball from left-centre found Rose at full stretch advancing up the inside-right channel but he could only toe-poke his shot wide (16 mins). Maddox and Band were doing well for Alty at the back but it was Band's delayed clearance and subsequent near collision with Munroe which left the ball running loose to Midgley who headed for the bye-line, just left of the Alty goal. As the retreating Owen covered, Senior went down easily under the midfielder's challenge and a penalty was awarded by Mr Foster. Before it could be taken, Munroe and, then, Owen were separately booked. From the spot, Midgley sent Coburn the wrong way (21 mins). Once again, a defensive error had cost Alty dear.
Above: Midgley sends Coburn the wrong way from the spot.
Lewis Chalmers picked up Alty's third booking of the night and his own third yellow card of the season for a trip on Forrest as the Halifax man advanced towards the Alty goal (25 mins). Chris Adams must have said something, too, for he was lectured before the freekick could be taken. Maddox soon had to be alert after a mistake by Band and then Munroe was penalised 30 yards out on the Alty right. Again it was the hardworking Maddox who cleared the ball but with only Little up front, Alty were finding it difficult to get out of their half at this point. However, Halifax's build-up play lacked the incision of previous top-end opponents of Alty such as York and Stevenage. A stoppage then occurred when Adams needed treatment after coming off worse in a block tackle by Grant. Next, after Little had lost the ball, Halifax advanced past Munroe but Owen cut out the resulting cross at the cost of a corner (34 mins).
A foul on McKenzie relieved the Halifax pressure but, soon, Little was caught offside inside the box from Chalmers's feed. After another Alty freekick, Rose lost possession but no danger resulted to the Alty goal. From a low cross by Senior, Forrest's shot screwed off an Alty player for Halifax's third corner of the night. However, Thompson was then penalised for foot-up against McKenzie and soon afterwards Owen also won a freekick for Altrincham, who were looking far from overawed by the Yorkshire side. The freekick from 40 yards out on the Alty left was taken by Rose and Dunbavin was forced into making an unimpressive fumble onto the crossbar to keep it out as it dipped towards goal. From the resulting corner, Hawes knocked the flag-kick too long (44 mins). Alty now enjoyed some pressure as the game went into three minutes of added time. Having won the Halifax penalty in circumstances which many Alty supporters felt were dubious, Senior incensed the vocal visiting fans even more when he went down very easily again from Maddox's challenge, to gain another freekick. This kick was cleared and the half came to an end with the Altrincham supporters chanting to their subdued Halifax counterparts, "We've heard more noise at Frickley"!
Alty had acquitted themselves fairly well in the first half but their inability to support Little had meant that they had caused the Halifax keeper relatively little work. For their part, Alty had worked hard to keep Halifax out and, apart from the penalty, had kept their own goal intact.
|Half-Time: HALIFAX TOWN 1
At the break, left-sided Altrincham midfielder James Olsen surprisingly replaced centre-back and captain Mark Maddox, who presumably was carrying an injury, though his first-half performance did not suggest any problem. Olsen tucked in on the left, inside Chalmers. Alty started well and from a superb turn by Little, the ball was fed for Olsen to chase but he was just tackled on the edge of the box. But Alty's golden chance for an equaliser fell moments later when, from a throw on the right, Rose crossed the ball to Chalmers who rose well at the back post and nodded the ball down for Little. Alty's top scorer seemed certain to add to his tally but he somehow lifted his shot over the bar from eight yards (47 mins). Halifax now looked rattled and when Quinn slipped over he was extremly fortunate to be able to make a headed clearance whilst semi-prostrate. Alty attacked again but Hawes's intended ball for Chalmers was overhit. But then an error by Munroe let in Senior and Coburn had to make a great save, at the cost of a corner on the Halifax right.
At this point, sheeting rain began to fall as if a tap had been suddenly switched on. Munroe redeemed himself soon after the corner had been cleared when he won got possession and won a freekick on the edge of the Alty box. Then Halifax advanced 25 yards up the pitch before Forrest hit a shot a good twenty feet over the bar from right of the target. Coburn was then tested with a firm shot from the left which bounced just in front of him and the slippery ball came out of his hands but he recovered it well. A mistake by Munroe than allowed Halifax their fifth corner of the night as the rain continued to pour down. Halifax were now pressing forward with a little more urgency than in the first half and, after Chalmers had lost the ball, they won another corner. At this stage all eleven Alty men were in the final 35 yards of the pitch but a freekick relieved the pressure. Soon, it was Olsen, for the third time in his brief period on the pitch, who almost got into a goalscoring position but was just caught offside as the keeper rushed out to nick the ball from him. At this point, Bowler replaced Midgley for the home side (61 mins). Little and Chalmers then threatened to create something but the latter's misplaced returned pass ended the move. However, soon afterwards, a great cross by Adams from the left was just marginally too high for Hawes who had timed a run well to get in on goal but the ball just reached keeper Dunbavin instead.
Alty now made their second swap, as Williams replaced McKenzie (62 mins). Halifax continued to pass the ball about but often laterally rather than forwards, though Wright did get a deflected shot in at Coburn. Alty now won two corners in as many minutes, the first arriving from another good cross by Adams, which was just taken off Williams's head at the back post. The first corner, taken by Hawes from the right, was undone by Little's needless push inside the box and the second, won by Chalmers, was taken by Olsen but cleared after Band had got a touch. Alty were now doing well and Olsen, yet again, turned up in a goalscoring position but his shot was well blocked by a defender inside the box. However, Halifax soon broke away and Coburn had to make a good save and concede a corner on the Halifax right, which ws immediately followed by another, on the left.
Kieran Lugsden now replaced Lewis Chalmers (70 mins) as Alty pushed for an equaliser, which seemed quite a plausible outcome at this stage. Another Alty corner came and went before a bad pass from Rose allowed Halifax to surge up their left flank but their final shot hit the side netting (74 mins). After a Halifax corner had been cleared, another excellent cross from the left by Chris Adams set up Olsen for a clear header from about 10 yards out in a central position. Sadly, the Alty man could only direct his header at Dunbavin and he saved comfortably (76 mins). Halifax won the game's next corner off Rose but Rose then won a freekick for handball by a Halifax opponent. Another Munroe error fortunately was not damaging but Alty continued to give as good as they got. However, the game was decided when Hawes and Rose fed Williams on the Alty right flank, about 30 yards out from the opposition goal. Williams seemed to be fouled as he was dispossessed by the touchline but play continued up the Halifax left through Foster and ended with a low cross from the left which found Grant, unmarked, in front of goal and he made no mistake to give Halifax a rather flattering two-goal lead (84 mins).
Halifax now brought on Leister for Senior ,who left to a chorus of derision from the Alty fans, who recalled his easy fall to clinch the penalty in the first half. Alty now won their seventh corner and continued to go forward. A foul on Munroe earned Thompson Halifax's first caution (89 mins). Alty's eighth corner of the night arrived in the last minute. In added time, Williams advanced and via Olsen, Owen got in a low shot which went six feet wide of the keeper's right upright (0+1 mins). In the third added minute, Foster was sent off for an off the ball foul on Hawes. There was still time for Hawes's perceptive through ball to set Lugsden to the bye-line, right of goal, but the referee annoyingly stopped play for an Alty freekick after Hawes had been caught by a late challenge after delivering the pass. Halifax ended the game by bringing on Young for Forrest at the back (90+4 mins).
This was Alty's most encouraging away performance since the draw at Hereford. But, once again they learnt the hard lesson that goalscoring chances must be taken at this level as they do not come around too often. Alty have now scored just once in their last six games and dropped to 17th with this, their fifth successive game without a win. But with Halifax in the top six, they showed tonight that they can compete with teams at this level and with a little bit of luck can pick up points, even away from home. Though Alty have now lost six games this season, five of these defeats have been against top ten teams, four of them away from home. Alty's next game is at home to a team below them, Crawley Town which will be a match they need to win to get their season back onto an even keel.
|Full-Time: HALIFAX TOWN 2