STAFFORD RANGERS (1) 1 ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
Despite taking the lead and having most of the second-half play, Alty had to settle for a point in a generally poor game. Alty went ahead after 15 minutes when a good turn by Whalley led to Senior getting in a shot from left of goal which was parried out to Lawton who netted from close range. But Alty gifted Rangers an equaliser when Rose was outpaced by Adaggio who was chasing a hopeful punt forward. With goalkeeper Acton staying on his line, Rose brought down his opponent to concede a penalty, which Adaggio converted comfortably (20 mins). With Potts on at the interval, Alty looked the more likely to score but their closest effort was Sedgemore's superb freekick, which Alcock saved equally well.
REFEREE: Mr D H Coote (Nottinghamshire)
Colin Little missed today's game through suspension after seeing a red card for violent conduct on Saturday and with Gary Scott still injured after limping off soon after half-time on Saturday, manager Graham Heathcote was forced to make two changes. But both Munroe and O'Neill were dropped in favour of Rose and Senior, the latter being deployed as lone striker against the giant Stafford central defence. With Scott injured, Aspinall came in at left-back. Little was suspended but Sedgemore returned after injury.
Stafford Rangers included Irishman Fred Murray for his second game since his release by Northampton Town but veteran striker Neil Grayson was only on the bench..
This was a bottom of the table clash with Rangers pointless after four games and Alty just a point better off. Neither side had kept a clean sheet yet this season.
Stafford won the corresponding game last August 1-0, with a goal by Guy Madjo, who has since moved on. Indeed, Rangers have seen a lot of changes in personnel since last summer. The only Rangers' starters from that match in 2006, who are still at the club, are Sutton, Talbott, Daniel, Street, Grayson whilst substitutes Alcock, Oldfield and Olaoye also remain. Altrincham have seen slightly fewer departures from their line-up last year at Marston Road with only Band, Talbot and Bushell having left from the starting eleven that day whilst Chalmers and Hendley have moved on from the substitutes' bench to other clubs.
Marston Road has seen some building work since our last visit. Both ends now are covered, though both look to be temporary or semi-permanent structures. The large new seated stand behind the goal has a canvas roof but nevertheless it improves the ground.
STAFFORD RANGERS: (Black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Danny Alcock; 2. Richard Sutton, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt) 25. Fred Murray; 23. Greg Stones, 8. Kevin Street, 7. Chris Flynn, 22. Matthew Hazley; 20. Marco Adaggio, 10. David McNiven. Subs: 9. Neil Grayson, 18. Ramon Manak, 21 Jemiah Richards, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 27. Robert Duggan.
ALTRINCHAM: (Pale and dark blue shirts, pale shorts and socks): 13. Richard Acton; 15. Chris Lane, 14. Stephen Rose, 5. Darren Tinson (capt), 2. Steve Aspinall; 7. Robert Lawton, 8. Val Owen, 6. Jake Sedgemore; 21. Gareth Whalley, 11. Warren Peyton; 19. Chris Senior. Subs: 1 Stuart Coburn, 4. Karl Munroe, 12. Joe O'Neill, 17. Colin Potts, 18. Pat McFadden.
After changing ends, Rangers kicked off with good vocal support from the Alty fans encouraging the visitors. A bad mistake by Tinson, from a low cross from the right, allowed in Stones but he badly miskicked his shot from 7 yards (7 mins). The overall standard of play was unimpressive but after 15 minutes Alty took the lead. Peyton fed Whalley who turned superbly past his marker in central midfield, to feed Senior. He got in a shot from near the left by-line which Alcock parried out, allowing Lawton to sweep it into the net from close range.
Above on a dull afternoon, Lawton nets for Alty
After a superb tackle by Lane on Hazley had seen off danger on the Alty left, a long high ball was lumped forward by Stafford. With Rose several yards ahead of the chasing Adaggio, the Alty defender was outpaced - he was possibly expecting Acton to come out. Rose then brought down the striker and the linesman unhesitatingly signalled a penalty. Rose was booked. Acton had saved a penalty 48 hours earlier but, this time he was beaten by Adaggio's fierce drive, which the striker celebrated with an impressive double somersault (20 mins).
Above: Adaggio beats Acton from the spot.
Stafford now had their tails up but the Alty defence held firm until pressure was relieved by a corner. Passes continued to go astray and when Hazley badly sliced a cross into the crowd, it summed up the level of play (31 mins). With both sides conceding regular free-kicks, Graham Heathcote berated his men for allowing Rangers to threaten their goal with their tall players. Flynn was then booked for a foul on Sedgemore (35 mins). Play continued in fairly even fashion but without any serious action being required of the goalkeepers. Lane continued to look the pick of Alty's summer acquisitions, at right-back, but as half time approached Peyton became the second Alty player to be booked, for a foul near half-way (41 mins). Two minutes of added time were play during which Murray volleyed wide but Alty boss Graham Heathcote was not happy with his team, telling them to get a "buzz" into their game.
|Half-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|
Winger Colin Potts came on at half-time in place of midfielder Val Owen for Alty but play continued to be less than skilful as both sides gave the ball away frequently. After Aspinall had won the ball, but nevertheless been penalised, Stafford won a corner off Lane which Stones completely messed up. There was danger when Street advanced in space up the Rangers' right and fed Adaggio but he ballooned his shot miles over the stand (55 mins). But Alty were being hemmed back in their own half at this stage though Tinson and Rose seemed relatively untroubled at the heart of the defence and Aspinall made some good contributions. The tide turned around the hour mark when Alcock had to make a good save to keep out a cross/shot from Potts. Alty now enjoyed possession in the Stafford half and a good move involving Lane, Lawton, Potts and Sedgemore produced an Alty corner (64 mins). When Tinson went down in the Stafford box referee Coote showed no interest but soon the hardworking Senior fired narrowly wide with a cross shot from the right. Stafford now replaced Hazley with Manak. Another neat build up from Alty saw Potts taken down inside the penalty area "D" and although Mr Coote gave a freekick he did not produce a card (67 mins). Sedgemore's superb freekick was clawed out of the top corner by Alcock at the cost of a corner (68 mins).
Alty continued to set the pace without ever looking really incisive. Sedgemore than became Alty's third booking and he could have few complaints about it after a lunge at an opponent (73 mins). Alty continued to dominate as Stafford held on with their solid defence. Each side now made a change with Grayson replacing Street for Rangers and McFadden coming on for Senior up front for Alty (78 mins). Grayson took up a position on the left flank.
Soon, a foul on Whalley gained Alty a freekick 25 yards out but Sedgemore's kick came to nothing this time. After a wide shot from Lawton, Stafford won a corner as they made a final surge for a winner after being on the backfoot for much of the second half (83 mins). A neat Alty move then ended with Potts's snap shot over the bar from Lawton's feed (87 mins). Rose almost sold Acton short with a back pass and though Adaggio got the ball Acton was able to reclaim it (87 mins).
As the 90 minutes ended, Potts did well on the right but overhit his cross. Three minutes of added time were announced but more than four were played during which neither side could break the stalemate. Whilst Alty will be pleased to have doubled their points tally and not to have conceded a goal from open play for the first time this season, they will also have been disappointed that they were unable to take all three points against a struggling Rangers side. Though Adaggio was named the home side's Man of the Match, few on the pitch matched the performance of Alty's Chris Lane, whilst Senior also worked hard up front. The introduction of Potts also gave Alty a second half threat but they were unable to capitalize on it.
|Full-Time: STAFFORD RANGERS 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|