GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET (0) 3 ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
Nationwide Conference National Division
played on Monday, 28 August 2006, at 3pm.
Above: Steve Aspinall scores Alty's penalty.
A very disappointing second half performance from Alty saw them concede three second-half goals, two due to defensive mistakes. In the first half, Alty had played better and had a couple of early chances, which fell to O'Neill, but after a scrappy start to the second period, they fell behind when Peyton failed to clear on the Gravesend right and Quinn's lay-off allowed McDonald to drive the ball home (57 mins). Alty fell further behind when, on the Gravesend left, Munroe allowed a player past him on the by-line and the ball was laid into the path of Moore who drove the ball home (65 mins). It became 3-0 when McCarthy headed a corner from the right, forward, for McDonald to poke the ball in (76 mins). Aspinall confidently converted a consolatory penalty, for handball against Hawkins (79 mins).
REFEREE: Mr. J. Hopkins
One end of Stonebridge Road remained closed for safety reasons but there was still plenty of room for a disappointing gate of exactly 900. Why the Conference had produced such a long-distance pairing on August Bank Holiday was a mystery. Thankfully, a torrential downpour two hours before kick off did not lead to any further rain and the game was played in generally sunny conditions but with a strong breeze blowing down the pitch. The teams started the game ninth and tenth respectively.
Alty were without Peter Band with hamstring and knee problems so they made their first change of the season with Karl Munroe replacing him.
Against Alty's 4-4-2, Gravesend fielded a 3-5-2 formation but were without the injured Opinel and Long. New signings Sodje and Coleman were in the Fleet squad.
GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET (Red shirts and socks, white shorts): 1. Lance CRONIN, 6. Paul McCARTHY, 5. James SMITH, 20. Ross SMITH; 9. Mark DE BOLLA, 8. Rob QUINN, 7. Danny SLATTER, 11. Jon KEELING; 10. Charlie McDONALD, 18. Luke MOORE. Subs: 2. Peter HAWKINS, 12. Onome SODJE, 14. Danny EKOKU, 16. Liam COLEMAN, 21. Sam MOTT (gk).
ALTRINCHAM ALTRINCHAM (Dark / pale blue shirts, pale blue socks and shorts.) 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 17. Karl MUNROE, 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: 10. Rod THORNLEY, 14. Lewis CHALMERS, 15. Justin BOWLER, 18. Pat McFADDEN, 20. Stephen ROSE.
The sides changed ends before kick off as Alty elected to play into the wind, on a very good surface. The early exchanges suggested it would be a game between two fairly evenly matched sides. Indeed, it was Alty who had the first clear chance when Little fed Lawton on the right and his excellent cross was met by O'Neill's header, which the keeper held well at the second attempt (9 mins). But The Fleet gained the game's first corner. In the early stages, O'Neill and Lawton were looking a threat for Altrincham and from the latter's cross, Slatter miscued the ball out for a corner. Though Talbot got up well to head the ball, Little then lost possession. Soon Lawton battled well again, to get the ball to Aspinall, whose cross was met by O'Neill but it span off a defender to Cronin.
Next, Munroe conceded a corner, which was half-cleared to De Bolla, but McDonald headed well over the bar from De Bolla's cross (18 mins). Aspinall then put a freekick straight into touch and, as the gusty breeze caused Alty further problems, the home side won two corners, the second being awarded after Quinn had seemed to side-foot a shot over the bar without a deflection. The Fleet were enjoying some pressure but without creating any clear chances against a fairly solid looking Alty. But the hardworking Lawton now got a booking for a foul on Ross Smith (29 mins). Then, as the half-hour mark passed Slatter found McDonald but he shot at Coburn. Gravesend continued to have slightly the better of the game but neither side was setting the world alight at this stage.
The speedy Keeling, on the Fleet left, was causing Aspinall some concern and when Keeling crossed after 37 minutes, it needed Scott to head the ball out of play at the back post for a corner. Owen and Bushell now prompted a move which ended with a Little shot which Cronin saved, but the Alty man was well offside (38 mins). Another Alty move, involving Lawton, was seen off as Gravesend now went on to win three more corners before the break. From the first, from the left, Aspinall back-headed the ball out whilst it took a great save from Coburn to stop McCarthy's header from the second flag-kick. The third of these corners arose from a freekick, after Munroe had been penalised, and Coburn had had to tip DeBolla's 30-yard freekick over his bar (44 mins).
Half-time arrived with Alty looking to have a decent chance of taking one point, if not more, from the game in a second half during which they would have the wind behind them.
|Half-Time: GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
The second-half got under way with O'Neill soon caught offside and then Owen saw a shot deflected to Cronin. Fleet responded with Ross Smith firing over (49 mins). Play was very scrappy until Keeling got past Aspinall and Lawton, before firing into the side netting (53 mins). Following a foul on O'Neill, Bushell fired a free kick from 25 yards out into the wall but De Bolla was booked for encroachment. However, Little then disappointingly drove the re-taken kick into the wall again (56 mins). And, a minute later, Alty fell behind. This came after Peyton had conceded a free-kick ,near half-way from which the ball came to Quinn near the by-line to the left of Coburn. Peyton failed to clear the danger and Quinn laid the ball back to McDonald who drove the ball into the net (57 mins).
Alty came back when Lawton was flattened by Keeling and then they won a corner - but this was cleared. Another Alty freekick followed for a foul on Owen by McDonald near half-way. But the visitors' response was cut short when a Gravesend player chased down an Aspinall clearance to give Alty a throw deep on their right flank near the corner flag. Aspinall threw this to Munroe, who lost possession and allowed a Fleet player to get past him to the by-line and, in a mirror image of the first goal, the ball was laid back into the path of a team-mate to power the ball past Coburn. In this case, the scorer was Moore (65 mins). Immediately, Munroe was replaced by Rose (66 mins). Soon another substitute was used - Bowler replacing Peyton on the Robins' left (69 mins).
Next, Sodje came on for Moore for Gravesend (75 mins) and The Fleet threatened again as the bustling McDonald got past Talbot and Bushell but Scott got in the way of his shot. Hawkins now replaced Slatter as The Fleet won another corner on the right. McCarthy rose well to head the corner towards goal, where the alert McDonald hooked it into the net from six yards to make it 3-0 (76 mins).
Alty got a fortunate toe-hold in the game when Little, just inside the right edge of the box, knocked the ball against Hawkins's hand and a penalty was given. After a delay for the booking of James Smith, Aspinall drove the ball low to the keeper's right to make it 3-1 (79 mins). Having missed a penalty on Saturday, Aspinall showed great composure in putting this one way so cleanly. Alty now belatedly pressed forward and after 83 minutes they made a change and brought on Chalmers for Owen (83 mins).
Bushell wasted a freekick before Bowler won a throw on the left. Then two Alty corners followed, the first won by a prodigious throw by Chalmers from the left corner. But The Fleet kept Alty at bay and then brought on Coleman for Keeling (88 mins), Alty suffered a late blow when Scott injured his left leg in making a clearance and after treatment he could only hobble through the three minutes of added time. Almost the final act was an underpowered shot from Little, which ran to the keeper.
This was a very disappointing second-half performance by Alty who, after some first-half promise, posed little threat to the home goal in the final 45 minutes. But it was defensive lapses which cost Alty most, allowing an efficient Fleet team to give them a lesson in both taking their chances and defending assuredly.
|Full-Time: GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET 3 ALTRINCHAM 1|