STAFFORD RANGERS (0) 1 ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
Nationwide Conference National Division
played on Tuesday, 15 August 2006, at 7.45pm.
After Altrincham's fine performance last Saturday, this was a much more low key affair which was settled by a mix-up between Val Owen and Stuart Coburn, eight minutes from the end, which allowed Guy Madjo to score the only goal of the game. Alty's best spell came in the latter stages of the first half but in the second half, they were largely on the back foot and only really threatened in the dying stages, with Band forcing a good save from keeper Williams
REFEREE: Mr. Guy Stretton (Leicester)
Stafford Rangers v Alty matches go back many decades but it was couple of seasons since they had last met, in Conference North, on a snow-covered Marston Road pitch on Boxing Day 2004. Alty had won 1-0 that day and had enjoyed a good record in the Alliance/Conference at Marston Road, winning 8 and drawing 2 of their 14 games away to Rangers.
Peter Thomson remained unfit so could not make his Alty debut against his former club. However, Robbie Lawton had recovered from his "dead leg" suffered on Saturday and, so, the Alty line up was unaltered from the win over Stevenage. However, on the bench, Pat McFadden replaced Rod Thornley, who was on England-masseur duty. New man, Justin Bowler remained sidelined by injury.
For Stafford, Ged Murphy started in centre-midfield, after his recent release from Moss Lane. Up front, Stafford had Guy Madjo, who had caused Alty problems last season when playing for Forest Green Rovers as they trounced Alty 5-0.
STAFFORD RANGERS (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Dean WILLIAMS, 26. Richie SUTTON, 5. Wayne DANIEL(capt), 30. Liam MURRAY, 3. Nathan TALBOTT; 7. Lee DOWNES, 8. Kevin STREET, 27. Ged MURPHY, 11. Robin GIBSON; 9. Neil GRAYSON, 12. Guy MADJO. Subs: 6. Craig LOVATT, 16. Brian QUAILEY, 17. Danny ALCOCK (gk), 18. Dolapo OLAOYE, 28. David OLDFIELD.
ALTRINCHAM (Dark / pale blue shirts, pale blue socks and shorts.) 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 4. Peter BAND, 5. Gary TALBOT, 3. Gary SCOTT, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 6. Steve BUSHELL, 8. Val OWEN, 11. Warren PEYTON, 9. Colin LITTLE, 12. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 14. Lewis CHALMERS, 17. Karl MUNROE, 18. Pat McFADDEN, 19. Lee HENDLEY, 20. Stephen ROSE
In their new away kit, Alty kicked off down the gentle slope on a dull evening at Marston Road. But, soon, Talbot had to be alert to see off Madjo after Talbott's ball forward had evaded Band. Although Alty soon won the game's first corner, this came to nothing. From the start, the home side was launching long balls forward, trying to get the pacey Madjo and the forceful Grayson behind the Alty back four. This ploy worked after 11 minutes when Street got the ball past Band and Madjo 'scored', only to have his effort wiped out for offside. But both sides were guilty of misplaced passes as they largely cancelled out each other for the next few minutes of unexceptional play. However, after Coburn had been alert to see off Madjo, Alty put together a good move, following a Scott throw on the left but the move ended when Owen had his shot blocked and, from the rebound, O'Neill lifted his shot over the bar (15 mins). For Stafford, Murphy was working hard to try to show Alty the error of releasing him but he fired a shot well wide (17 mins). Next, Alty had a let off when Scott stopped, apparently awaiting a decision against Rangers, and then fouled Gibson, as the winger went past him - but Talbot, who had a good game, cleared the resulting freekick well.
Graham Heathcote (right) and the Stafford management duo watch the game.
Following a foul on O'Neill, by Murray, Alty gained a freekick themselves, in a central position just outside the Stafford box, but Little drove his effort into the wall. Soon after, Peyton lashed an effort very wide. However, Alty were improving and Owen now won them a corner, following which Peyton snatched a shot very wide, as Graham Heathcote urged his side to show more composure. "You've got more time than you think out there", he told his players. But goalmouth incident remained very scarce with Bushell's shot over the bar the nearest to a goal (28 mins) until Little advanced up the middle and fed Lawton, to his right inside the box. But Lawton over-ran the ball and the chance was gone (32 mins). A fine Bushell tackle then saw off a Rangers attack as Alty now went on to enjoy their best spell of the match to date. Following a brief spat between Murphy and Bushell, Bushell deftly switched feet to get in a good cross from the left edge of the box to O'Neill but his header was cleared (37 mins). The sides now traded abortive attacks before Altrincham put together their best passing sequence so far, stringing nine passes together and advancing well till Little's pass to O'Neill saw the alert Stafford keeper just get to the ball first to clear (40 mins). Another effective passing move soon followed before Lawton was dispossessed in the Rangers' box, where Daniel was playing excellently.
Alty then had a scare on the breakaway as Madjo set Grayson running towards the front edge of the box, with Band in hot pursuit. Both players went down, with Rangers making strong claims for a penalty but the referee saw no offence by either player and the game continued. Grayson, still apparently annoyed at the decision, was booked a minute later when the referee stopped play to produce his yellow card - presumably for dissent (43 mins). Soon, the fired up Grayson jumped in late on Talbot but the referee had already blown for an earlier freekick to Stafford and the Rangers front man escaped further sanction. Grayson soon made another plausible penalty appeal when he appeared to be pushed by Scott inside the box but again the referee showed no interest, to Alty's relief (44 mins). In the one minute of added time, Joe O'Neill had a good chance, when a long ball up field was excellently laid off by Little to the former York City front man, but he shot wide of the keeper's right post (45+1 mins).
After Saturday's game, which had been one of the best Alty performances in recent years, this evening had, so far, been a bit of an anti-climax, though Alty had shown some signs in the final third of this first-half that they could still put together some effective passing movements. But, overall, the half had been characterised by over-use of the long ball and by misplaced passes from both sides.
|Half-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
There were no substitutions at the interval and the second half got off to frantic start with little in the way of measured football. O'Neill's late challenge gave Stafford a freekick but this was from the Stafford half and caused Alty no problems (48 mins). Indeed, the first serious threat to either goal same out of the blue when Colin Little turned well onto a throw-in from the right by Aspinall and lashed the ball fiercely at goal from 35 yards. Though his shot might have caused Williams a problem from 25 yards, the extra distance meant that it bounced before reaching the keeper (50 mins). Alty soon had another shot when a neat move ended with Owen poking a first-time effort narrowly wide of the keeper’s left upright (52 mins). Moments later came the first booking of the match as Gary Scott became Alty's first cautioned player of the season for a foul on Gibson. Alty boss Graham Heathcote was not happy at his team's showing, shouting to his captain Steve Bushell, "Bush, get everyone sharper, come on!"
But Stafford now pushed Alty back and a shot from Murphy went just wide of Coburn's right stick (55 mins). Another good Stafford move ended after a foul by Grayson and then a Band sliced clearance from 12 yards out flew backwards to Coburn. Alty's first attack for six minutes saw Lawson's cross headed by Little into Williams's waiting arms (58 mins). Alty suffered another booking when O'Neill jumped into a tackle, late, in centre-field and the referee reminded O'Neill of his earlier offence before showing the card (60 mins). Next, Madjo got past Band and found Grayson but his volley went wide. The Stafford pressure continued as they won a corner off Bushell, on their left. This was taken short but then the ball came to Owen to clear but he was hampered by the fact that all eleven Alty players were in the final third of the pitch at the Alty end (63 mins).
Soon Grayson got in a header at Coburn but finally Alty got to the other end, only for O'Neill to go down in the box, but there was no strong appeal and no award by the referee. A wayward shot by Peyton, well over the bar, was the best Alty shot in the next few minutes (65 mins). The Alty travelling supporters had been vocal since before kick off and they continued to give their side excellent support as the visitors, at last, went close, with Owen hooking a shot narrowly wide (68 mins).
Stafford now made a change as Olaoye came on for Street (68 mins). Bushell and Little then conspired to find O'Neill but, though he chested the ball down well, O'Neill's intended pass was poor (70 mins). After Peyton had won a freekick for holding by Madjo in the Alty half, the freekick came, via several passes to Little, who fired in a useful diagonal shot which just went past the back post (72 mins). Play went through a fairly unremarkable few minutes till Peyton found O'Neill in a good position but he elected not to shoot and instead ended up poking the ball out of play for a goalkick (77 mins). O'Neill again worked hard today but does seem to have a reluctance to shoot in good positions which may be due to lack of confidence, having not scored in any of the pre-season games.
Alty made their first change with just eleven minutes left when O'Neill gave way to Lee Hendley up front (79 mins). After a Stafford offside, the home side continued to press but then went ahead in strange circumstances. Owen had tracked back well towards his own goal to break up an attack by Olaoye but, still facing his own goal, he got into a mix up with the advancing Coburn by the keeper's left post. Though there was time for one or other to put the ball out of play as it headed towards the by-line, to the left of their own goal, they ended up keeping the ball in play and allowing it to come out to the unmarked Madjo, about 12 yards out, slightly right of centre, and he hammered the ball into the unguarded net prompting Owen to put his head in his hands (82 mins).
There was almost another mix-up moments later when Band underhit a back pass to Coburn but the Alty keeper showed remarkable, if alarming, coolness as he dribbled the ball round Madjo and passed it to safety. Soon afterwards Lawton was booked for holding Grayson. Alty were still struggling to create any openings at the other end. Indeed, Stafford almost broke through again after 86 minutes, following a freekick, when Coburn was forced to make an excellent save but Madjo was given offside. In the final minutes Alty pressed forward but when Williams dropped Aspinall's cross from the right, there was no one on hand to take advantage for Altrincham (89 mins). Meanwhile, Lewis Chalmers had been waiting several minutes to come on but play continued as Alty put together a good move which saw Owen win a corner. Chalmers finally came on as the game began three minutes of added time. From the corner, by Peyton, the ball came out to Owen who lashed a shot wide.
Next, from a long throw by Chalmers in the right corner, Alty won a late corner, which Talbot back headed towards Hendley but the danger was cleared by Rangers. However, Alty had one last push and from Peyton’s cross into the box, the ball came for Band to fire a firm shot at goal from inside the box, only for Williams to make a very good save (90+3 mins). Time soon ran out and Alty went back up the M6 without any points from a match between two fairly evenly matched sides. Alty had shown more composure on the ball, but only in snatches, whilst Stafford had demonstrated good organisation and team spirit.
This was a game in which Altrincham started slowly, improved as the first half wore on but then did not build on that improvement in the second half. They have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 20 league games (as well as in all nine of the 2006 pre-season friendlies); the last time the opposition failed to score against Altrincham was on 2 January 2006 against Kidderminster Harriers. Stafford, as ever, had a commanding figure in Daniel at the back and up front the combination of the powerful and experienced Grayson and the athletic Madjo gave Alty problems. In the end, the visitors could not complain too much at their defeat even if, in the closing stages, they had thrown away what had looked increasingly likely to be a point gained for a goalless draw.
|Full-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|