ALTRINCHAM (1) 1 TNS (The New Saints) (1) 1
Right: Matthew Berkeley, Robbie Lawton, Colin Little and Darren Tinson leave the pitch at the end of the game.
Altrincham's lowest home gate of pre-season (370) saw the Welsh champions draw at Moss Lane. For periods Ken McKenna's side showed Alty how to keep possession and they really should have been ahead at the interval instead of drawing 1-1. Having already hit the bar, TNS took the lead with a fine volley by Michael Wilde from a good cross from the right after 8 minutes and the visitors should have added to their tally before the interval. But Colin Little scored a skilful, if unlikely, equaliser when, following a throw-in, he lobbed the keeper from an acute angle well to the right of goal after 39 minutes. This signalled an improvement in Alty's play but the second half was riddled with substitutions and little goalmouth action and, at times, had the air of a practice match. Gareth Whalley made his Alty debut as both clubs included most of their first-team squads.
REFEREE: Mr Steve Copeland
Alty fielded their first team squad apart from Val Owen, Jake Sedgemore, Warren Peyton and Pat McFadden whilst TNS also had their first team squad but Ronnie Moore, recently signed from Vauxhall Motors, and ex-Alty striker John Toner were missing. First-choice keeper Gerard Doherty was only fit to be on the bench,
Though the TNS manager Ken McKenna was an Alty "legend" these two sides had never met previously. TNS are the reigning champions of Wales and a full-time outfit whilst Alty continue as that rare species, a part-time club in the Blue Square Premier League.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Chris LANE, 4. Karl MUNROE, 5. Darren TINSON, 3. Steve ASPINALL; 6. Robbie LAWTON, 7. Stephen ROSE, 8. Gareth WHALLEY, 10. Rod THORNLEY; 9. Colin LITTLE, 11. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 12. Gary SCOTT, 13. Richard ACTON (gk), 14. Cavell COO, 15. Chris SENIOR, 16. Matthew BERKELEY, 17. Colin POTTS.
TNS (The New Saints) (Green and white hooped shirts, white shorts and socks): 13. Paul HARRISON; 2. Dwayne COURTNEY 3. Chris KING, 4. Tommy HOLMES, 5. Phillip BAKER, 6. John LEAH, 7. Scott RUSCOE, 8. Jamie WOOD, 9. Michael WILDE, 10. Steven BECK, 11. Luke HOLDEN. Subs: 14. Gerard DOHERTY (gk); 12. Martin NAYLOR, 14. Karl LAMB, 15. Barry HOGAN, 16. Mark DAVIES, 17. Robbie WILLIAMS, 18. Tom BRADY, 20. Gary BRABIN.
Before a disappointingly small crowd, TNS kicked off towards the 20/20 End on a warm but dull afternoon. Gareth Whalley, who had only signed for Alty on Thursday night, was making his debut and his first touch was an excellent ball forward for Thornley. But it was the Welshmen who were to settle the better and were immediately passing the ball about well. They won the game's first corner. From this Wilde's header cannoned off the cross bar and from the rebound Baker shot at goal but Coburn got across to his right to keep the ball out (4 mins). An Alty corner came and went before TNS took an early lead. Ruscoe found space on the right and, from his cross, the ball evaded Wood in the centre of the box, but fell into the path of Wilde who volleyed firmly past Coburn to put his side one ahead (8 mins). After the restart, from Lawton's cross, Alty won a corner, following which two TNS players needed treatment after colliding. Whalley was taking Alty's corners and from this one the ball came out to Lawton who played the ball into the box where Little, at the far post, saw his header cleared off the line. A neat TNS attack followed but this ended in offside before each side won a corner apiece, Alty's coming from Little's deflected shot (17 mins).
Soon afterwards Rose went down injured and, though he resumed after treatment from physio Alan Ainsley, he was clearly not able to last the game. But before he could be replaced a neat Alty move ended with Lawton's cross from the right from which Little's glancing header forced a fine save from the TNS keeper. Now Colin Potts replaced Rose, with Lawton moving into centre midfield to accommodate him (24 mins). Next, Lane's fine ball into the box came to nothing as Alty were caught offside before the home side won a corner which was wasted with a short-kick routine that failed. Alty were still not playing well, with passes going astray but then a testing cross from Potts gave Alty hope but it just evaded O'Neill. Soon afterwards TNS won a corner when Munroe's clearing header came off Aspinall. Tinson headed the corner clear but following this a low cross from Holden on the right found Leah virtually on the Alty line but the defender could only scoop the ball wide of the inviting target to give Alty a let-off. Alty continued to be second best, leaving far too much space for their opponents and the visitors soon put together another neat move which ended with Beck firing over from 22 yards (37 mins). It looked as if Alty would be grateful to get to half time just a goal behind when, out of a routine throw in the right corner, they got level. The ball came to Little, who was about ten yards right of goal near the by-line, from where he cleverly hooked the ball over the keeper into the far side of the net to record a well-taken if unexpected goal (39 mins).
But the Alty goal lifted the side and the home side at last came to life, and soon won a corner. Alty had the better of the closing stages of the half but were fortunate to escape a penalty when a TNS player was clearly pushed as he pursued a ball in the Alty penalty area (44 mins). But the interval arrived with TNS having had the better of the half but Alty, nevertheless, were on level terms.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 TNS (The New Saints) 1|
At the break TNS brought on Naylor for Baker, with Courtney now moving to centre-back. A promising early dribble from Thornley ended in a cross and a goalkick before a superb 30-yard shot at the other end by Leah went just wide but smashed a piece of the advertising hoarding beside the goal, so fierce was its power. Little then had the ball in the net but the whistle had already gone for offside (50 mins). But TNS came back at Alty and it took a fine tackle from Aspinall, playing in an unaccustomed left-back role in the absence of the injured Peyton to stop the danger. Peyton, along with Owen, Sedgemore and the visiting Lewis Chalmers, was watching the game from the stands. Alty then made a double switch as Coo replaced Aspinall and Senior came on for Thornley, with O'Neill dropping back to the left flank (54 mins).
The two subs brought some added urgency to their side as TNS continued to keep possession well but do little to advance down the pitch when they had the ball. Alty for their part continued to give possession away, to the annoyance of their manager, as the game passed the hour mark. TNS did get in a shot from 30 yards which Coburn saved (65 mins) before each side made further changes. TNS brought on first-choice keeper Doherty for Harrison, the former Southport keeper - both custodians wearing a pink ensemble. TNS also took off Beck and replaced him with Hogan. Alty brought on Berkeley for Little and also swapped keepers as Acton replaced Coburn (66 mins).
Played in by Whalley, Senior then lobbed a shot at goal before more substitutions arrived. Scott came on for Munroe for Alty, with Lane moving to centre-back and at the same time Lamb replaced Holden for TNS (71 mins). Senior then got in a shot on the turn as TNS continued to find their men with crisp passing but the game was now a rather low key afffair, lacking in passion. However, Berkeley now made space well but fired his shot well over the bar (79 mins). Williams then came on to replace Courtney for TNS (82 mins) after which Senior got the ball well and played Berkeley in to the by-line left of goal but his attempted chip was taken by the keeper (83 mins). A fine cross from Potts then yielded an Alty corner at which point Davies relaced Leah for TNS (87 mins).
The game now drifted towards its conclusion though Potts did win another corner and Senior had a shot blocked (90+1 mins). In the final seconds Wilde went down injured and had to be replaced by Brady (90+2 mins) but the whistle soon came to end a match which, especially in the second half, had the air of a practice match rather than a full-blooded contest.
Whalley came through his first 90 minutes for Alty having had a mixed game of some nice touches and some misplaced ones, which is not surprising after his lay-off. Senior breathed some life into the game's latter stages but otherwise, there was not too much to enthuse the supporters. It was, however, good to see Ken McKenna back at Moss Lane, the scene of his exploits in the early 1990s. His side had the benefit of having already played competitively this season, in Europe, though their league season does not begin for another fortnight. But Alty's next game is the opening match of their Blue Square Premier season against Exeter City, on Saturday 11th August.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 TNS (The New Saints) 1|