FOREST GREEN ROVERS (1) 3 ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
Above: All eleven Alty players defend their goal at the New Lawn.
After conceding six goals in their previous two matches, Alty leaked another three goals - all in the opening five minutes of each half - as FGR deservedly took the points. Alty had already survived a scare or two when Rovers took the lead as a cross from the left drifted into the far corner of the net, seemingly off Munroe's head, after five minutes, though the tannoy credited the goal to FGR's Daniel Carey-Bertram. Altrincham levelled with O'Neill's header from Whalley's freekick (35 mins). From then till half-time Alty looked the better side but they imploded after the interval. They threw the game away with more poor defending as, Clist (47 mins) and then Dodgson (50 mins) were allowed to score similar goals from close range from crosses from the right. Poor passing and defending, combined with barely a shot on goal summarised Alty's very disappointing second half performance.
REFEREE: Mr A. Bennett (Devon)
Altrincham were without the suspended Lawton (sent off on Tuesday at Halifax), so O'Neill started, albeit on the left with Senior and Little preferred up front. Warren Peyton returned after injury in pre-season and only had 45 minutes of action under his belt from a Reserves' game last Thursday. Steve Aspinall dropped to the bench.
FGR were without the injured Mark Beesley but Darren Jones and Michael Brough had both recovered from their injuries. However, Adriano Rigoglioso remained sidelined though well on the way to recovery. Former Morecambe and Stockport County defender John Hardiker was making his first appearance after suspension, whilst Danny Carey-Bertram also returned to the side.
This game was played in wet conditions throughout but on a good surface at the New Lawn, where, as at Moss Lane, the travelling fans have no protection from the rain. The "away" end remains unfinished and indeed rust is beginning to set in on some of the stand's girders in a mini-version of the Halifax Town's unfinished stand at The Shay. However, the main stand at the New Lawn is an impressive structure affording excellent views of the playing area.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Ryan ROBINSON, 11. John HARDIKER, 4. Darren JONES, 5. Chris GILES, 3. Anthony TONKIN; 2. Alex LAWLESS, 10. Michael BROUGH, 8. Simon CLIST, 22. Lee DODGSON, 23. Daniel CAREY-BERTRAM, 14. Stuart FLEETWOOD. Subs; 12. Mark PREECE, 17. Les AFFUL, 19. Paul STONEHOUSE, 20. Jonathan SMITH, 25. Terry BURTON.
ALTRINCHAM:(Pale & dark blue shirts, pale blue shorts and socks) 1. Stuart COBURN, 15.Chris LANE, 4. Karl MUNROE, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 11. Warren PEYTON; 6. Jake SEDGEMORE, 8. Val OWEN, 21. Gareth WHALLEY, 12. Joe O'NEILL; 9. Colin LITTLE, 19. Chris SENIOR. Subs: 2. Stephen ASPINALL, 3. Gary SCOTT, 17. Colin POTTS, 14. Stephen ROSE, 20. Matthew BERKELEY.
Alty kicked off towards the still unfinished and fenced-off end but they were second to everything in the opening stages. Lawless had already chipped an effort over the bar after Munroe had missed a cross and a Forest Green corner had been and gone before Rovers took the lead as early as the fifth minute. An angled cross came in from the FGR left and it appeared to glance off Munroe's head into the net, though the tannoy credited it to Carey-Bertram. Nothing was going right for Alty - after the re-start the ball even bizarrely bounced back into play off a corner-flag when Alty wanted it to go out. To make things worse, Senior was then booked for catching the keeper as he went for a 50-50 ball (8 mins). As Robinson received treatment, the floodlights came on and rain continued to fall on a dismal afternoon. FGR passed the ball about well as Alty continued to labour. Senior looked the most lively of the visitors' players whilst Owen was also busy in midfield. Indeed, Owen and Little soon combined for the midfielder to record his side's first shot at goal, but it went narrowly wide (18 mins) .
Jones's foul on Senior gave Sedgemore a freekick but he overhit it. At this stage the crowd was quiet as the play did little to speed the pulse. A dreadful tackle from behind by Hardiker on O'Neill earned the ex-Morecambe man a deserved booking and left O'Neill needing to be treated (27 mins). Next, referee Bennett was only persuaded to give a foul against Little because the linesman flagged and from Sedgemore's freekick, Alty won a corner as Owen's header at the back post was deflected out. The corner was delayed as Giles held Munroe who reacted and both men were lectured. Peyton's underhit back-pass almost gifted Carey-Bertram a goal but Coburn dashed out to force the striker's effort wide. The Alty keeper gave his left-back a verbal roasting that must have seared Peyton's ears (32 mins) .
Above: Joe O'Neill's goal for Alty.
Senior then made progress on the right and was fouled to earn a freekick, towards the corner flag. Whalley swung this in, left-footed and O'Neill did well to rise ahead of the keeper to glance a header into the net for an equalizer (35 mins). Alty now gained the upper hand and their fans were singing in the rain but the game acquired a slightly nasty edge to it before half-time. Although FGR won a corner, the impetus was now with the visitors. When Fleetwood tripped Munroe, the Alty defender lost his rag and soon after jumped in recklessly on Carey-Bertram to earn a booking (45 mins). After Alty had finally scrambled the ball away, Coburn made his views known to the linesman - presumably for not spotting an offence. Half-time now arrived to allow tempers to cool.
|Half-Time: FOREST GREEN ROVERS 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|
Senior got in an early shot, wide, from 25 yards following an FGR error but, just 90 seconds into the half, Carey-Bertram and Fleetwood got the ball in from the right and Clist, who had got behind Tinson, scored from close range with a gentle volley (47 mins). Worse was to follow shortly afterwards as Alty again failed to stop an advance up the right, by Hardiker and Fleetwood, with Dodgson getting on the end of the resulting cross to poke the ball home ahead of Lane's challenge (50 mins). These were two very similar goals and raised a lot of questions about the Alty defence.
Following the re-start, Little, who had had a very quiet game, broke forward but his pass went behind the lively Senior and the attack faltered. Soon, Alty were twice caught offside. From a Sedgemore freekick, Robinson fumbled the ball but FGR cleared their lines. Following a foul on Owen, Tinson won a header from another Sedgemore freekick which Robinson spilled - but the ball was cleared. There was then a stoppage when keeper Robinson went down to allow the physio to come on and seemingly do no more than tie up the keeper's boot-laces as his goalkeeping gloves were seemingly welded to his hands. Alty were now at least going forward but were posing little real threat to the home goal. But it was the Rovers who made the first change as their captain, Brough gave way to Smith on the hour mark and Giles assumed the captaincy.
Indeed it was FGR who looked the more threatening going forward and they now won two corners in as many minutes, the second arising when Tonkin advanced on the left and his cross was misheaded by Munroe into the path of Fleetwood, whose rasping shot was brilliantly pushed over the bar by Coburn (63 mins). Alty's best effort of this period was a 30-yard freekick from Sedgemore which went narrowly wide with the keeper struggling to cover it (66 mins). Another change saw the speedy wingman Les Afful replace Carey-Bertram (66 mins) but Alty still kept faith with the starting eleven.
Play continued in a low key as Alty tried to get into gear and FGR were content to let them do so. A good through ball from Munroe appeared to set Little free behind the defence but the striker saw the ball strike his heel and the opening disappeared. Finally Graham Heathcote made a change, bringing on Potts for Owen after 70 minutes. But FGR had the next chance when Whalley made a mistake and Clist saw his shot well saved by Coburn. Munroe was then caught late by Smith who was fortunate to escape without a booking. Some of the play had been rugged and Tinson by now was displaying a shirt which had been ripped around the neck by an opposition player. FGR then threatened again as Smith got the better of Tinson but shot narrowly wide (74 mins). Afful then got past Peyton but the resulting shot from Dodgson was wild.
Alty now made their final changes as Senior and Munroe gave way to Berkeley and Rose (77 mins). Immediately Rose was involved in breaking up two attacks but the others subs, Potts and Berkeley were finding it hard to get into the game as Alty's passing moves continued to break down. When FGR broke forward they invariably found their men and looked more menacing and they won another corner as the game went into the final ten minutes.
With Hardiker announced as the choice for the home Man of the Match, FGR threatened again when Fleetwood almost chipped Coburn from the right but the Alty keeper just caught the ball above his head (85 mins). A foul by Sedgemore then brought him a booking and left Smith needing treatment (86 mins). When Peyton slipped, FGR threatened again on the right but Sedgemore cleared the danger. FGR's final change came as Fleetwood was replaced by Stonehouse (89 mins). Three minutes of added time started during which Alty won two corners but the score remained at 3-1 as the final whistle sounded.
Alty have now conceded nine goals in three games and unless they can tighten up in that department are going to find it impossible to climb up the table. Both central defenders were caught out of position at times today. On the left of the defence Peyton did well considering he has just returned from injury but had he been fully-fit, he would have made life more difficult for FGR. The midfield was also disappointing with passes going astray with regularity, whilst up front Senior worked hard but Little was unable to slip his markers. On a positive front, Alty have found the net in each of their games to date and the form of goalkeeper Stuart Coburn has been an example to his team-mates.
|Full-Time: FOREST GREEN ROVERS 3 ALTRINCHAM 1|