In an incident packed game, which Northwich ended with just 8 men after two players were sent off and one of their substitutes was stretchered off, Alty gained revenge for their Boxing Day defeat at Moss Lane. But it took a very late goal by Joe O'Neill, which Vics tried to claim had been cleared off the line, to secure the points. Alty fielded all five loan signings and they made an impact, especially in the first half, but the half-time score was goalless. However, Vics went ahead just three minutes into the second half, when Welch headed home Akins's excellent cross from the left. After Wilson's dismissal for a dreadful tackle on Lawton (53 mins), Ryan Shotton levelled in the 55th minute poking Chris Lane's ball into the net. Having used all their subs before the hour mark, Vics were reduced to 9 men when Speight was stretchered off but Alty then laboured to break down the opposition until O'Neill's 87th minute winner. Vics went down to eight men when Brown lunged at O'Neill and was dismissed (90+4 mins).
Altrincham lost 2-1 to the Vics on Boxing Day at Moss Lane but remained a place above their hosts, with a two-point advantage and a game in hand before kick-off today.
Referee Oliver Langford had been involved in controversy with Altrincham in previous games. He was the man who allowed a handball-assisted goal at Burton to defeat Alty in October 2005 and who also awarded a controversial penalty against Karl Munroe which cost Alty the game at home to Exeter in March 2007.
REFEREE: Mr Oliver Langford
Chris Senior remained suspended and Val Owen was still out injured whilst Gareth Whalley had been released since these sides had met on Boxing Day. After two defeats over Christmas, Alty had drafted in five loan signings to try and reinvigorate their form. They were Stoke City centre-back Ryan Shotton, returning after spending three months at Moss Lane before Christmas, Tom Cahill and Liam King from Rotherham United, James Jennings from Macclesfield Town and Ryan Toulson from Halifax Town.
All five started this game but the question would be whether so many new players would gel on their first appearance together. From the Boxing Day starters for Alty, Munroe and Logan were dropped, whilst Aspinall, Scott and McFadden moved to the bench to accommodate the loanees.
Northwich had not brought in new players but, nevertheless, rang the changes as players returned from injury and suspension. Defender Battersby dropped to the bench whilst Morning, Kerr, Steele and Wilson were in the starting line-up - none of them having started on Boxing Day at Altrincham.
NORTHWICH VICTORIA (Green shirts, white shorts and green socks) 13. Scott TYNAN; 2. Simon RUSK, 3. Natt KERR, 4. Michael WELCH, 14. Ryan BROWN, 29. Danny WILLIAMS, 22. Josh WILSON, 28. Adam MORNING, 8. Michael CARR (capt), 24. Lucas AKINS, 23. Lee STEELE. Subs: 1. Ben CONNETT (gk) 7. Michael BYRNE, 5. Greg STRONG, 9. Jake SPEIGHT, 15. Richard BATTERSBY.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) 1. Stuart COBURN; 15. Chris LANE, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 24. James JENNINGS; 23. Ryan TOULSON, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 25. Liam KING, 11. Warren PEYTON; 9. Colin LITTLE, 14. Tom CAHILL. Subs: 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Gary SCOTT, 6. Jake SEDGEMORE, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 18. Pat McFADDEN
James Jennings defends against the industrial backdrop of the Victoria Stadium.
For the second time over Christmas the Northwich "bonding huddle" delayed the kick off but at least this time, unlike at Moss Lane, the referee got the Vics to stop this annoying tactic to make them kick off. Alty made a bright start and had the better of the opening stages despite the fact that five players had only just joined the club on loan and four of them had never met the other players before. All of the new players settled well - Shotton at centre-back, Jennings at left-back, King in centre-midfield, Toulson on the right and Cahill up front. There was a good atmosphere on the transposed Dane Bank terrace which was moved from the Drill Field to the Victoria Stadium and the stewards, bolstered by many from Moss Lane, formed a line of segregation between the opposing fans. When Ryan Shotton went over to take an early throw-in, in front of the Alty support, he received a spontaneous round of applause and a chorus of "There's only one Ryan Shotton". Rarely can a loan player have been so taken to heart by his adopted team's supporters. And the big centre-half was not to let his admirers down.
A crude foul by Welsh on Cahill set the tone for a Northwich performance riddled with crude challenges for which they were later to pay the deserved price. But this time, Mr. Langford, not known for his leniency in previous Alty games, took no action other than a verbal rebuke against the defender (9 mins). After a fine tackle from King, Northwich regained possession to win the game's first corner which led to a foul on Coburn and an Alty freekick (11 mins). Another crude foul by Northwich this time by Morning on Lane again yielded a freekick but no caution from the referee (12 mins). Soon afterwards Coburn needed to make a save from Akins whose underhit shot deflected off Shotton into his hands. After a foul on Toulson, who had been showing some good touches on the right, Jennings showed his prowess as a dead ball taker. It was a pleasure to see a genuine left-footed full-back playing the role for Altrincham after so long having to employ a midfielder (Peyton) and a right-footed player (Scott) in that position.
Altrincham almost made their early pressure tell when good work from Cahill set up King who had two successive shots from the centre of the box beaten out well by Tynan, the latter going for Alty's first corner of the match. Jennings's corner from the right caused consternation in the Vics' box and another corner was conceded. From this Vics counter-attacked and it took a good covering tackle from Lawton to halt the danger. The home side was becoming impatient with their own side's slow start to the game and a number of mis-passes. More good work from Cahill yielded a corner from the former Matlock Town striker on the Alty left (23 mins). But then after this had been cleared, the Vics began to get back into the game, winning two corners in succession. Soon, at the other end, a fine chip from Peyton just cleared the Vics' bar (25 mins). However, the previously impeccable Shotton then made a hash of an attempted back pass and the ball came to Steele and he forced a superb one handed stop from Coburn, to his right.
But Vics were now in the ascendancy and Alty were grateful for a woeful finish at the back post from Morning following a cross from the right by Rusk (29 mins). Next, Coburn caught well from a Vics' cross (30 mins) before Akins became the first played to be cautioned after he threw the ball away following a foul he had committed (33 mins). Shotton then went down under an elbow from Williams but referee Langford merely stopped play and awarded an uncontested bounce-up, to the Alty defender's annoyance. But soon Shotton conceded an unnecessary freekick himself, for holding Akins, 25 yards out. After this had been cleared, Welsh fired in a superb shot which went narrowly wide of Coburn's left post as the Vics enjoyed some dominance (37 mins). However, they suffered a setback as Steele, returning from injury had to limp off with a recurrence of a hamstring injury (38 mins). His replacement was Jake Speight.
The Alty back four continued to perform well despite its new members but another debutant, Tom Cahill, now picked up a needless booking for kicking the ball away (40 mins). From the freekick Carr fired narrowly over the bar (41 mins). But after ten minutes or so when the hosts had been on top, Altrincham won a corner through Toulson's efforts. As half time approached Coburn did well to punch clear a low shot following a Vics' freekick for studs-up against Peyton (44 mins). Next, Lane made a fine ]block after good work from Williams (45 mins) as the game went into three added minutes of play, a surprisingly long period for a half in which neither trainer had been called upon. Half time arrived after an entertaining half in which Altrincham had played well.
|Half-Time: NORTHWICH VICTORIA 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Alty started the second half and soon committed two unnecessary fouls near half way, Lawton and Little being the offenders. When a third needless foul was committed Northwich gained another freekick (49 mins). The ball came to Akins, left of goal and he put in a good cross which found the unmarked Welch who arrived in the box to head into the far corner of the net from left of centre (48 mins). Curiously Kerr was booked before the restart for Northwich. The home fans taunted their vocal Alty counterparts with chants of "Going down". Alty responded well and a shot from Cahill was soon deflected out for a corner on the left, from which Tynan was fouled (52 mins).
An awful studs up challenge by Wilson left Lawton in a heap near the centre-line and saw the Vics' midfielder dismissed - he had missed the Boxing Day clash at Moss Lane due to suspension (53 mins). Lawton hobbled off after treatment but resumed soon afterwards. But the rugged play from Northwich continued as Cahill was elbowed in the back by Welsh but Mr. Langford failed to caution the offender. Northwich now brought on a defender Battersby, for Akins (55 mins). From the resulting freekick Lane exacted punishment as his cross cleared Tinson but landed at the feet of Shotton who seemed to need two efforts to stab the ball past Tynan and make the score 1-1 (55 mins). As Alty pressed to make their one-man advantage tell, Vics made a final substitution, Williams giving way to Byrne (59 mins). After Little had seen a shot well saved from Cahill's lay-off, Welsh shot wildly over the bar at the other end (61 mins). Next Little shot wide for Alty as Northwich played on in a 4-4-1 formation, leaving Speight up front. However, the lone striker soon went down off the ball, seemingly twisting his knee. After treatment he was stretchered off leaving his side with just nine men as all the substitutions had been made (66 mins). For a while Vics intentions were clear as they adopted a 4-4-0 formation but Alty continued to deploy four at the back and seemed bemused as to how to exert their two-man dominance. Vics tried to wind down the clock as Alty laboured to create any clear openings.
Alty made their first change after 76 minutes when Gary Scott replaced Jennings at left-back, the loan player having had a good game. Alty continued to labour and resorted to floating balls into the box which the massed Northwich defence generally headed clear. With ten minutes left Joe O'Neill came on for Toulson, another Alty debutant who could be proud of his performance on the right of midfield (80 mins). When Kerr fouled Cahill on the edge of the box the freekick was cleared. Just as it looked as if Alty would fail to capitalise on their extra men, Shotton - who was now pushed forward - nodded the ball on for O'Neill to score, though the ball was cleared just beyond the goal line, prompting protests from Northwich which got Tynan booked for dissent (87 mins).
Two minutes later a fine shot from Little after good build-up work by Cahill was well saved by Tynan (89 mins). Five minutes of added time were announced but the drama was not yet over. In the fourth added minute Brown committed an ugly challenge on O'Neill and Mr. Langford brandished his red card once again to reduce the Vics to eight players (90+4 mins).. After this, Sedgemore came on for Lawton in the Alty midfield (90+5 mins) and a minute or so later the whistle went to record a vital win for Alty made all the more important by the defeats for all of the rest of the teams on the bottom six of the table.
This was a gripping full-blooded match which demonstrated some wise acquisitions on loan from manager Graham Heathcote. And this was also the first time this season in the league that Altrincham had won a match after going behind..
|Full-Time: NORTHWICH VICTORIA 1 ALTRINCHAM 2|