LEIGH RMI (1) 2
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
played on Monday, 24 July 2006, at 7.45pm.
Alty, (in blue), defend in the hot sun at Leigh. Left to right are Munroe, Thornley, Bushell, Band and Coburn.
Three friendlies without defeat last week had suggested that Altrincham were beginning to gel for the new season but this defeat at Leigh RMI gave the travelling fans little to cheer - especially after having to pay £8 to get in. Alty once again fell behind to a very early goal as Coburn failed to hold Willis's swerving shot. He could only push it out to Shillito and the ex-Alty Youth player scored with a firm shot (4 mins). After a disjointed performance on a bobbly pitch Alty began to create some chances but failed to take them as half-time arrived. Four changes at the interval failed to prompt an improvement and after 58 minutes RMI doubled their lead when Munroe attempted to shepherd the ball out for a goalkick only for a Leigh player to poke it across goal for a team mate to score a simple goal past substitute keeper, Andy Cummins. Alty's passes continued to go astray and they rarely looked like scoring despite a slight improvement in the closing stages.
The match was played on a hot, sunny evening on a pitch made very bobbly by the dry weather. This was set to be Alty's toughest test to date, as it was their first pre-season game against opposition from Conference North level.
Only four Alty players (Coburn, Band, Peyton and Munroe) started this game who had also started the last match, at Trafford last Thursday. With Gary Scott and Steve Aspinall lapping the pitch before kick off as they recovered from minor knocks, Alty were also without Val Owen and new signing Peter Thomson, who were both present but unfit to play. Robbie Lawton was another absentee but Rod Thornley was back from his World Cup tour of duty as England masseur for his first game of pre-season. Once again Alty were using a mixed bag of shirts with several players wearing shirts bearing names other than their own. No programme had been produced and somebody's handwriting was obviously at fault as the announcer repeatedly read out an Alty team including a Stuart Thornley, a Stuart Little(!) and a Damien Lugsden and most confusingly of all, Joe Smith - who turned out to be Joe O'Neill!
Alty's back line had Munroe at right-back, Adams on the left with Band and Talbot in the centre. Thornley played on the right flank, Peyton on the left with Bushell and Hussin in centre-midfield. Leigh paired the ex-Alty duo of Maddox and Melling at the back. Indeed, RMI had a number of ex-Alty players in their ranks; as well as Maddox and Melling, they included several former Altrincham Youth and Reserve players in the shape of Lee Shillito and Mark Drew in the staring line-up and Paul Lewis, Ian Taylor, Adam Girdlestone and Ben Ashmole on the bench.
LEIGH RMI (All yellow, with red trim): 1. LAMB, 2. LEE, 5. Mark MADDOX, 6. George MELLING, 3. BROCKLEY, 7. Lee SHILLITO, 4. Gareth STOKER, 8. Mark DREW, 11. ROSCOE (capt), 9. McDONAGH, 10. Scott WILLIS. Subs: Included, Ian TAYLOR, 13. Adam GIRDLESTONE, JOSBEK?, MORAN?, Ben ASHMOLE, Paul LEWIS, RYDER, WILLS, etc.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts and socks, dark blue shorts.) 1. Stuart COBURN, 17. Karl MUNROE, 15. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 3. Chris ADAMS; 16. Rod THORNLEY, 30. Steve BUSHELL, 8. Eddie HUSSIN (capt), 12. Warren PEYTON; 19. Colin LITTLE, 26. Lee HENDLEY. Subs: 1*. Andrew CUMMINS (gk), 14. Lewis CHALMERS, 20. Kieran LUGSDEN, 21. Stephen ROSE, 22. Justin BOWLER, 28. Pat McFADDEN, No Number: Joe O'NEILL.
Leigh started the game better than Altrincham and, as early as the second minute, a shot of theirs from the right had to be turned round the post by Stuart Coburn for a corner on the Leigh right. Following this, Thornley had to head a Leigh header off the goal line. But Leigh continued to press and Willis fired in a swerving shot from the edge of the box which deceived Coburn, who had to readjust his feet to push the ball out to his left. There, from right of goal, Shillito was allowed to rifle the loose ball into the net to put his side one up. It was the fourth time in pre-season that Alty had conceded a goal in the first ten minutes and the fifth time they had conceded the first goal of the match.
After the re-start the Alty defence soon found itself in a tangle again as Munroe conceded an unnecessary corner when a team mate got in his way. Then Coburn uncharacteristically dropped the corner kick but Melling's follow-up shot was blocked (6 mins). At last Alty got to the other end but the move ended in a poor shot at the Leigh keeper. Alty's passes, many of them long balls, were going astray with regularity and by the time Shillito's volley had just cleared the Alty bar, the visitors had posed no threat at all to the Leigh goal (15 mins). But at last Alty went close when, out of nothing, a fine left-footed volley from Little, from a Hendley pass clipped the top of the crossbar (20 mins). However, Coburn soon had to be very alert at the other end, to gather a misjudged backheader from Adams before McDonagh arrived. Alty gradually improved and Hendley should have hit the target when a fine lay-off by Little set him up, but he shot wide of the far post (22 mins). Willis was fired up for Leigh but the referee allowed things to cool down with a drinks break after 25 minutes with play resuming a couple of minutes later with another kick-off from the centre spot by Alty.
After Hendley had been held back on the left front edge of the Leigh box, Peyton's freekick hit a defender. Alty now tried to play the ball out of defence but their lateral passes were ponderous and achieved nothing but a Leigh throw-in. However, an Adams freekick soon found Hendley and his pass fed Little for a shot which the keeper did well to save, to his right (35 mins). Shillito then misheaded a presentable opportunity at the other end from Roscoe's cross (38 mins). But Alty now had their best spell of the game as Little and Hendley combined on the left. Little went round the keeper but Brockley did well to clear his shot off the line, though only as far as Thornley, right of goal. However, Thornley blasted his shot high and wide (39 mins). A good Alty move soon followed involving Bushell, Little, Thornley, Munroe, Talbot and Adams before Hussin nodded the ball down to Little whose shot was deflected narrowly wide for a corner on the right. Though Alty continued to press, Leigh had the last chance of the half, with McDonagh shooting wide in added time.
|Half-Time: LEIGH RMI 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
After a long interval break, Leigh brought on their no.19 at the interval whilst Alty made four changes. Goalkeeper Cummins, Bowler, O'Neill and Rose came on for Coburn, Hendley, Band and Adams. Rose slotted in at right back, Munroe moved to centre-back and Peyton dropped to left-back as Bowler played on the left flank. O'Neill joined Little up front. After Little had shot wide (47 mins), the game went through a poor patch enlivened only when Hussin was booked for a foul and then immediately substituted by Chalmers in central midfield (52 mins). The disjointed game continued but O'Neill won a corner, which produced a second flag kick, taken by Peyton. But then, in a rare second-half attack, Leigh went 2-0 up in strange circumstances. Munroe was trying to shepherd the ball out of play for a goalkick to the right of his own goal when Ryder poked the ball from the byline into the goalmouth where a team-mate scored easily. Munroe protested that the ball had gone out of play and, given some of the strange decisions from the officials (who missed at least three blatant handballs), he may well have been right but it was impossible to say from the main stand where the crowd was congregated (58 mins).
At this point McFadden came on for Thornley and Bowler switched flanks to the right (59 mins). Leigh also made a change, replacing their goalkeeper. Alty's slow build-ups continued to little effect, with passes continuing to go astray, even from the normally reliable Bushell. But Alty had a decent chance after 63 minutes when Little headed Peyton's cross over the bar. Booed at every touch by the home fans, the ex-Leigh man Peyton was playing as well as anyone for Altrincham. Next McFadden did well on the left but O'Neill's resulting shot was blocked for a corner. After Chalmers had lashed a shot over the bar, Lugsden replaced Little for Alty and Leigh brought on three more subs (including nos. 15 and 17) for Lee. Stoker and Drew (67 mins). Two minutes later Roscoe was also subbed. Lugsden then got past Maddox, despite clear pulling of his shirt by former team-mate Mark Maddox and an Alty corner resulted. From the corner, the keeper clearly palmed the ball out of play beyond the back post only for a goalkick to be awarded. Next, O'Neill was tripped on the edge of the Alty box but Peyton drove the resulting freekick into the wall. A drinks break was called again, even though the sun was now dropping (71 mins).
Leigh kicked off after the drinks break and they soon replaced McDonagh by a no.20. Play was less than inspiring as the game drifted into the final ten minutes, with O'Neill's play one of the few encouraging signs for Alty. After the referee had, for the third time, got in the way of the ball, Graham Heathcote walked round the perimeter from the dug outs to the tunnel (85 mins).
Moments later Talbot was clearly pushed over in the Leigh box but nothing was given. At the other end, an overhit back pass from Munroe came off Cummins for a Leigh corner (87 mins). As the game stuttered to its conclusion, Maddox was replaced by the returning Drew for Leigh (89 mins). Following almost five minutes of drab added-time, the final whistle went on a thoroughly disappointing night for Altrincham.
|Full-Time: LEIGH RMI 2 ALTRINCHAM 0|