GRAYS ATHLETIC (0) 1 ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
Nationwide Conference National match
played on Saturday, 25 November 2006, at 3pm.
A long journey made worse by roadworks on the M1 and an accident on the M25 proved worthwhile as Altrincham deservedly emerged with a point for the second season in succession at Grays. Stuart Coburn made four superb saves in the opening stages before Val Owen drove a shot into the bottom corner to give Alty the lead (23 mins). The visitors then gave as good as they got with Little almost snatching a second before the interval but Man of the Match, Oli, scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half (66 mins). Just 725 spectators watched an entertaining game, the second half of which was played torrential rain.
REFEREE: Mr. Craig Evans (Lincoln)
Altrincham had taken a point with a very late equaliser in the corresponding fixture last season; a game which had not kicked off till 8.30pm on a Tuesday night due to a floodlight failure. Alty fans arrived well disposed towards the Essex club as its chairman, Mick Woodward had generously funded legal costs relating to Alty's appeal against their points deduction last season. Sadly, though, Grays now have a segregation policy so Alty fans were not able to fraternise with their Grays counterparts.
Today's poor gate may have been influenced by the local Essex derby between Colchester and Southend, as well as the bad weather.
Joe O'Neill was dropped for the first time this season as Alty deployed Colin Little as a lone striker. Despite a leg scan during last week, Gary Scott started at left-back.
For manager Andy King's first game in charge of Grays, new signing Comyn-Platt came in for his debut after arriving on loan this week.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Steve ASPINALL, 17. Karl MUNROE, 20. Stephen ROSE, 3. Gary SCOTT; 7. Robbie LAWTON, 6. Steve BUSHELL (capt), 8. Val OWEN, 14. Lewis CHALMERS, 11. Warren PEYTON; 9. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 10. Rod THORNLEY, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 16. Peter THOMSON, 18. Pat McFADDEN, 22. Colin POTTS.
GRAYS ATHLETIC (All pale blue): 11. Ashley BAYES, 17. Jay SMITH, 25. Charlie COMYN-PLATT, 4. Jamie STUART, 3. Adam GREEN, 7. Dennis OLI, 6. Stuart THURGOOD (capt), 10. John MARTIN, 23. Glenn POOLE, 9. Lee BOYLAN, 27. Justin RICHARDS. Subs: 15. Danny KNOWLES (gk), 5. Djoumin SANGARE, 12. Tom WILLIAMSON, 22. Ashley NICHOLLS, 26. John TURNER.
After atrocious wet weather which had flooded parts of the M1, bright sunshine had come out by the time this match kicked off on a soggy pitch in front of just 725 fans, the lowest gate by far at the Recreation Ground this season.
After a quick Alty freekick had been wasted, Stuart Coburn made an excellent save, low down, from Boylan's header following Oli's cross from the right (3 mins). Moments later, Oli got past Scott and Richards's resulting header forced another fine save from the Alty keeper and from Poole's follow-up, Coburn made an even better stop (3 mins). Coburn then punched the resulting corner clear. Alty's keeper further impressed the Alty fans by coming out to clear and comfortably clearing the four-storey apartments at pitch-side.
Above: Steve Bushell, Warren Peyton and Gary Scott prepare to take an Alty freekick at Grays.
Even in these early stages Dennis Oli was looking to be Grays' greatest threat. Scott was soon drawn into a foul on Oli, for which he was rather harshly booked by Mr Evans (13 mins). Soon afterwards manager Heathcote asked his players for "a bit of composure. We've played 15 minutes of just giving them the ball". Stuart Coburn again kept his side in contention with another excellent save, as Richards fired a low shot at goal after holding off Stephen Rose's challenge (19 mins). Owen cleared the resulting corner and, not long afterwards, from Chalmers's throw, Alty gained a corner themselves (20 mins). Having ridden their luck, Alty were now improving, and from a freekick conceded by Smith, Munroe headed Bushell's freekick over the bar. At the other end, Richards's shot was blocked and Alty built an attack. The ball came out of the Grays' box, to Owen. From just outside the box, Owen drove a superb low shot just inside Bayles's left corner for his first goal of the season (23 mins).
Richards, the former Woking striker now on loan from Peterborough, then wasted an excellent opening provided by Boylan from the right, by falling over in the goalmouth. Just to prove it had not been a fluke, Coburn again hoofed a clearance over the roof of the adjacent flats! (28 mins). With the floodlights now coming on, (having failed in the corresponding fixture last season), a Grays corner came and went. For Alty, Munroe and Rose were again doing well, whilst Bushell and Chalmers were much involved in midfield. After 36 minutes a Chalmers long-throw from the left was allowed to bounce in the Grays box and Little nipped in smartly to nod over Bayles but the keeper instinctively tipped the ball over the bar for a corner. Bushell's corner was cleared out to Aspinall, who sliced wide from 20 yards (37 minutes). Soon, from an Aspinall freekick, Chalmers was caught offside. Next, after Munroe had been penalised, Poole's deflected effort won a home corner (42 mins). A Chalmers throw now produced an Alty corner, which was cleared out to Owen, near the spot from which he had scored earlier but, this time, he lashed his shot too high (45 mins).
In the added time, Little lost possession and got himself booked in trying to retrieve the situation by pulling back Oli near halfway (45+2 mins). For the first time this season, Alty held a first-half lead as they went for their interval team-talk.
|Half-Time: GRAYS ATHLETIC 0 ALTRINCHAM 1|
Lawton emerged for the second half with his right hand bandaged and within 20 seconds of Alty re-starting the game, Chalmers was flattened. But he recovered to take a couple of throws which led to an Alty corner, which Bushell underhit (48 mins).
Right: Will the proposed development on the Moss Lane car park produce flats with as good views of the pitch as these at Grays? Despite the building's height, Stuart Coburn still managed to kick clearances well over the roof - twice!
Coburn then tipped a corner out for a second flag kick and from the second corner Boylan headed wide. Grays had upped the tempo for the second half and when Oli got past Rose, the Alty defender obstructed his progress and became Alty's third booking in a far from dirty game. From the freekick Coburn caught the ball but was bundled into his own net. The referee gave a freekick but this time kept his cards in his pocket. However a Grays player finally did see yellow when Green committed a very late challenge on Owen (58 mins).
For Alty, Little was working hard and almost capitalised as Comyn-Platt dwelt on the ball but the big defender got himself out of trouble. Play was now end to end and next Oli shot across goal after a lay-off from Richards who, again, was backing-in to his marker (61 mins).
Turner now came on for Boylan, who looked a shadow of the player who had scored so often for Canvey Island (62 mins). Grays levelled the scores after 66 minutes when Richards's dummy wrong-footed the Alty defence and the ball was fed through to Oli, arriving unmarked in the right of the box from where he fired past Coburn for what was, surprisingly, his first goal of the campaign (66 mins). Alty responded with two corners between which a skirmish between Thurgood and Munroe saw both players booked as rain now began to lash down (72 mins). The second corner was finally taken and the ball came out to Peyton who fired narrowly over (73 mins).
But slack defending followed a Grays throw, allowing Oli a free header which he put wide (75 mins). The rainfall was now torrential as Little improvised a shot which just cleared the angle of post and bar. Alty now brought on a forward, O'Neill, for left back Scott with Peyton moving back to Scott's place (78 mins). Two Grays corners soon followed with Munroe heading the second inswinger off the line. Williamson replaced Martin for Grays after 80 minutes.
The rain had now eased as Alty worked hard to keep Grays at bay. When, two minutes from the end, Richards fed a team-mate for a shot over the bar, Alty boss Graham Heathcote's patience with Richards finally ran out as he shouted to the referee "He's backed in for 90 minutes!". And it would be difficult to disagree with the Alty manager's assessment.
The fourth official's fumbling to display three added minutes on his electronic screen meant that the waiting Alty sub. Peter Thomson could not be brought on. He finally came on for Little shortly afterwards (90+1 mins). The match ended soon afterwards giving Alty a creditable point but leaving Grays without a home win since 9 September. After Stuart Coburn had kept Alty in the game in the opening stages, his team-mates had joined him in an excellent team performance.
|Full-Time: GRAYS ATHLETIC 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|