WITTON ALBION (0) 1 ALTRINCHAM (0) 2
played on Tuesday, 20 December 2005 at 7.45pm.
In this friendly at Witton Albion, Altrincham came from behind to win 2-1. Alty fielded ten first-teamers in the first half, albeit a few of them not regular starters this season, plus trialist striker Michael Rankine from Scunthorpe United. The score remained goalless up to the interval as Alty laboured to impose themselves on the UniBond club, who gave a good account of themselves. Indeed, Albion took the lead, though with a goal containing a hint of offside (57 mins). But Alty were then lucky to survive what looked to be a justified penalty appeal, which was not answered by the referee. The second half introduction of substitutes Marsden, Lugsden, Jenkins and McFadden improved things and gave Alty three attackers. Little lashed home an equaliser following a well taken corner by Peyton (62 mins) before McFadden got on the end of a raking pass by Marsden to score the winner, a chance which he took well (75 mins). The closing stages saw a cameo appearance at left-back for Graham Heathcote's son Charles, whose normal role at the club is as kitman with Dave Mitten. Charles replaced Lewis Chalmers who had a good game at centre-back but limped off near the end. Apart from Rankine and Charles Heathcote, the first-team debutants tonight were Reserves' captain and right-back James Marsden and Byron Jenkins, a midfielder with experience at Crewe, Southport and Accrington Stanley.
This was the first in a planned series of midweek friendlies for Altrincham, arranged to keep players fit and to look at trialists and reserves. Witton are currently riding high in the UniBond Premier and are enjoying a good run under manager Jim Vince, a former Alty player, who took charge at Wincham Park in October 2005.
Although Altrincham included ten familiar first-team names in the starting line-up, some of them had not been regular starters this season and others were playing out of position tonight due to injuries to other squad members. So, Steve Aspinall, still recovering fitness, played at left-back rather than his customary right-back position whilst midfielder Lewis Chalmers made his first senior start at centre-back, a position he has nevertheless played in previously as a junior and youth player. These changes were because of the absence of defenders Mark Maddox, Gary Talbot, Stephen Rose, Karl Munroe and Chris Adams. Rod Thornley started on the left flank with Colin Potts on the right. However, the only completely new face in the starting eleven was former Barrow and Scunthorpe striker, Michael Rankine. But on the bench, alongside Kieran Lugsden and Alty Reserves' leading scorer Pat McFadden, were two more debutants for the Alty first team. One was right back James Marsden who has been the Altrincham Reserves captain for the last two seasons and the other was Byron Jenkins, a midfielder with experience at Crewe, Southport and Accrington Stanley. A late injury to reserve keeper Richard Acton meant that Stuart Coburn continued in goal tonight.
Witton were not fielding their first team and, as no team sheet was available, the only player identifiable to visiting supporters was Griff Jones, the Witton number nine, who had spent some time with Altrincham Reserves earlier this season.
WITTON ALBION (Red and white striped shirts, red shorts, white socks)
ALTRINCHAM (All yellow): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Steve ASPINALL, 4. Peter BAND (capt), 5. Lewis CHALMERS, 6. Ged MURPHY, 7. Colin POTTS, 8. Warren PEYTON, 9. Michael RANKINE, 10. Colin LITTLE, 11. Rod THORNLEY. Subs: 12. Kieran LUGSDEN, 14. Pat McFADDEN, 15. James MARSDEN, 16. Byron JENKINS, 17. Charles HEATHCOTE .
Alty won an early freekick and soon afterwards had the first real effort at goal when Thornley shot narrowly wide from an Aspinall pass (4 mins). Potts was in early evidence with a couple of advances on the right and from the second, where he got to the by-line, the keeper produced a good save to give Alty a corner (7 mins). From this, Rankine rose well but saw his effort cleared off the line; however, the whistle had gone in any case for a Witton freekick. Another two Alty corners followed by the quarter of an hour mark in a game which was being played at a fast pace, with the Alty players given little time to settle on the ball by their industrious opponents. A fourth Alty corner followed, taken by Peyton from the right, but it was Witton who, soon afterwards, went close to opening the scoring as their number ten got a free header from a right-wing cross but put it over the bar (18 mins). Graham Heathcote was not happy with his side's performance at this stage and told them so.
After another Alty corner had come and gone, a cross by Peyton found Rankine, whose header came off the top off the crossbar for a goalkick (26 mins). The next few minutes saw little goalmouth action as play continued at a quick pace but Altrincham were unable to impose themselves on their UniBond opponents. However, two more Alty corners did come before the break, bringing their first half tally to seven. Murphy also got in a downward header, which was saved but a goalless first half was a reasonable reflection of the fairly even performance of the two sides.
|Half-Time: WITTON ALBION 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
At the interval Witton changed their keeper and three minutes into the half, Altrincham swapped Aspinall for James Marsden. The new man slotted in at right-back with Scott moving to left-back (48 mins). Marsden was soon in evidence but as he advanced towards the penalty box he was fouled to give Alty a freekick in a promising position. Unfortunately, Colin Little sent the freekick miles wide .
But, soon Altrincham made a double change, Lugsden and Jenkins coming on for Thornley and Potts (53 mins). So, Little moved back to a position just behind the new front pairing of Lugsden and Rankine. Murphy then had to make a good clearance at the other end from the Witton no.5 but Altrincham soon forced a scrambled Witton clearance when Lugsden's header was palmed away by the keeper. Immediately, however, Witton went to the other end and scored. The goal came from a ball over the top - a ploy which caused Alty one or two problems tonight - and with the visitors waiting for an offside flag which did not come, the number ten went on to fire the ball under Coburn's dive and give Albion the lead (57 mins).
But Alty continued to labour as Little put in a weak shot at the keeper when he actually had time to take the ball on nearer to goal. Alty then had a lucky escape when Band appeared to trip an opponent in the box but the referee waved play on. Play had now opened up more and Rankine at last got free of the defence but his well hit shot, from the left of the box, was well saved by the keeper to concede the eighth corner of the game for Alty (61 mins). After Witton had made a substitution, another Alty corner followed, taken from the right by Peyton. He whipped the ball into the near post where the keeper managed to keep it out but it fell to Little in the six yard box and he lashed it home from a central position to make it 1-1 (62 mins).
Immediately, Little was withdrawn and McFadden came on to form a three-pronged attack. McFadden was on the left, Lugsden on the right and Rankine up the middle. Play was now end to end as Witton were caught offside and then had a shot blocked after Scott had seemed to pull up with a problem, which later seemed to be something to do with his eye or face. With Scott off the pitch, Potts came back on, with Peyton moving to left-back. A Witton corner followed, which Coburn did not hold, under a challenge, but the danger ended with a shot wide of the Alty goal. Soon afterwards the home side's no.14 fired narrowly wide from more than 20 yards out (71 mins). Witton then brought on another sub as Griff Jones was withdrawn before Graham Heathcote urged his men to "Get more urgency" into their performance. This seemed to have an immediate effect as a fine cross from the right by Lugsden found Rankine but his shot was blocked. Finally Altrincham equalised when Marsden, in his own half on the right touchline, found the advancing McFadden on the left with a raking, 40-yard diagonal pass. McFadden held off a challenge before shooting home, though the keeper did get a hand to the ball (75 mins).
As rain began to intensify, Alty were now enjoying the upper hand with Chalmers's long throws increasing their pressure on Witton. But the home side won another corner before Alty won their own tenth corner. But Chalmers was soon having a leg problem and he was taken off, a move which heralded the arrival of an unexpected substitute, the Alty manager's son and Alty kitman, Charles Heathcote, who slotted in as the new left-back. Charles is always involved with Altrincham's pre-match warm ups and although he has played once or twice for Alty Reserves, this was his first appearance with the first team.
Witton soon made another change themselves and soon won a corner off Heathcote from which they got a free header which Coburn saved (88 mins). In the last minute Witton fired narrowly wide but Alty ran out the winners 2-1, having also won the corner count 10-3. This was a good workout against a Witton team which gave a good account of itself. Once again Alty laboured to score until the game opened up in the second half. Of the two trialists, Rankine showed some good touches but looked a little short of match sharpness, whilst Jenkins, too, had his moments in midfield during his second half appearance. Regular Reserves' players Marsden and McFadden will both have been pleased with their part-games and both can expect to be in action again for the Reserves against Morecambe within 24 hours of this game.
|Full-Time: WITTON ALBION 1 ALTRINCHAM 2|