ALTRINCHAM (0) 2 KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS (0) 1
played on Tuesday, 8 January 2008, at 7.45pm.
In a match whose first-half was played in unbelievable weather - torrential rain, strong winds, almighty claps of thunder and massive flashes of lightning which were too close to the pitch for comfort - Alty finally got out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. Indeed, referee Metcalfe, who coincidentally had been the official who had to abandon the New Year's Day 2005 game at Moss Lane in similar deluge conditions, had to take the players off for 15 minutes with this game only in the twelfth minute of the first half. After a goalless first half dominated by the weather, a mix up between Lawton and Young on the edge of the Alty box saw the ball come to Christie who fired the Harriers ahead (56 mins). But in the wake of a failed penalty appeal for a trip on Senior, left-back James Jennings, who was Alty's Man of the Match (seen right receiving his award from Paul Daine of Premium Collections), sent in an excellent cross which Tom Cahill converted at the back post in the 65th minute. Alty's winner against a Harriers side, whose indifferent performance belied their seven-game unbeaten run, came in the 76th minute when Peyton scored well with his right foot from Toulson's cross after substitute Colin Little had quickly taken a free-kick on the Alty right.
REFEREE: Mr R L Metcalfe
Altrincham had both Colin Little and Chris Senior available again, the former had been ill and the latter suspended. Senior returned to start the game at the expense of Pat McFadden who had been lent to Radcliffe Borough whilst Little started on the bench. Chris Lane was surprisngly dropped and in his place, Ryan Shotton moved across to right-back as Greg Young came in for his first start, at centre-back, since joining from Halifax Town.
Meanwhile, Kidderminster had four suspended players, James Constable, Justin Richards, Russell Penn and Andy Ferrell, all back from suspension and they had no injury problems to hinder their selection.
Altrincham had lost heavily at Oxford on Saturday whilst Kidderminster were on a seven-game unbeaten run but victory tonight would lift Alty out of the relegation zone for the first time this season. Conditions before the game were good, with dry weather- but they were not to last.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) 1. Stuart COBURN; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 24. James JENNINGS; 23. Ryan TOULSON, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 25. Liam KING, 11. Warren PEYTON; 14. Tom CAHILL, 19. Chris SENIOR. Subs: 3. Gary SCOTT, 6. Jake SEDGEMORE, 9. Colin LITTLE, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 15. Chris LANE.
KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS (Yellow shirts, blue shorts and socks) 1. Scott BEVAN, 18.Paul BIGNOT, 4. Gavin HURREN, 5. Mark CREIGHTON, 11. Michael BLACKWOOD, 19. Dean BENNETT, 17. Andrew FERRELL, 15. Michael McGRATH, 22. Russell PENN (capt), 23. Iyseden CHRISTIE, 8. Shaun CONSTABLE. Subs: 2. Jeff KENNA, 6. Stuart WHITEHEAD, 9. Justin RICHARDS, 7. Simon RUSSELL, 21. Matthew BARNES-HOMER
Rain had started to fall just minutes before Alty kicked off, playing towards the Carole Nash End, in blustery conditions. Following a long throw from Shotton, Alty won an early corner, followed by two more in quick succession, all taken left-footed from the right by Jennings. By now, just five minutes into the game, driving rain was falling almost horizontally on a stiff, gusty wind which was blowing straight into the Popular Side where Tony Spilsbury and the video recordist on the high gantry must have been bearing the brunt of the storm. Curiously, Mr Metcalfe, the referee, had been in charge at Moss Lane on a very similar occasion at Moss Lane on New Year's Day 2005 when a sudden deluge forced the abandonment of Alty's Conference North clash with Stafford Rangers midway through the first half. But the Moss Lane pitch has had a lot of investment in it since then and the hard work of groundsman Neil Brown paid off as the surface absorbed pretty well all that the elements threw at it.
However, the weatther conditions were dreadful and it is a credit to the players that they produced some reasonable football at this stage. A superb tackle from Darren Tinson, the last defender, saw off Christie before good work from Lawton led to Cahill advancing but being pulled up for a foul by Mr Metcalfe, who made frequent use of his whistle throughout proceedings. After King had lost possession and then lunged in to try and recover the ball in midfield, the new Alty midfielder was booked (9 mins). But the weather was getting worse with thunder and lightning added to the sheeting rain. When one flash of lightning appeared to land very close to Moss Lane, followed by an almost instantaneous clap of thunder, Mr Metcalfe rightly judged it was time to take the players off. He announced a ten-minute delay to see how conditions developed and during this time the rain continued to fall steadily on the stiff wind. But the thunder passed and the players resumed the game after a break of fifteen minutes. Though the touchline used by the linesman in front of the Family stand was very muddy, the pitch itself was generally in good condition though there were some soggy patches, especially just outside the penalty area on the Popular Side at the Golf Road end.
With the wind still driving rain across the pitch and the temperature seeming to have dropped markedly since kick off, Alty won two early corners, the first again prompted by Shotton's long throw (19 mins). Following a Harriers' freekick Penn had a shooting opportunity but lifted his effort over the bar. Alty responded with a ball from Cahill which set Senior free about 25 yards out but his early shot was miscued, well wide of the target, though the lashing rain and soft surface cannot have helped the striker's aim. After Toulson had been harshly penalised, a Kidderminster freekick from just outside the box was blocked and Hurren's follow-up went well wide (26 mins).
Offsides were coming thick and fast with three inside a minute, two of which were against Altrincham (29 mins) and when these were followed by a foul on Senior it underlined the stop-start nature of the game at this point (31 mins). Then Kidderminster won five corners in two minutes (34 mins) though the sequence should arguably have been broken after two of the corners when a corner was given despite the ball seeming to be headed over the bar by a Kidderminster player. Toulson was then lectured for what looked a fair aerial challenge. Jennings was having a good game for Alty at left-back and his fine ball forward threatened to set Cahill at goal but the striker's control let him down (37 mins).
Attention was then diverted off the pitch as Alty boss Graham Heathcote engaged in an animated dialogue over tactics with a spectator at the back of the main stand but on the field a poor ball from a visiting player allowed Toulson to set off running at goal, up the right channel, but he elected to shoot very early and his effort ran comfortably to Bevan (42 mins). Senior was then caught marginally offside but, moments later, when Jennings was flattened by Christie off the ball, the referee felt a word of admonishment for both players was called for. The referee further annoyed the home contingent when he somehow found four minutes of added time at the end of the first half. During this time, Bevan smothered the ball from Senior and Senior was then caught offside again (45+2 mins). Mr Metcalfe finally blew for half time having only actually played 2 minutes and 50 seconds of the "minimum of four minutes" that had been announced.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS 0|
Fortunately the rain stopped at half-time and when play resumed the quality improved in accordance with the improved conditions. Kidderminster made the brighter start and soon Coburn had to make a superb save, getting the ball away from McGrath as he attempted to take the ball round the exposed keeper from Christie’s feed (47 mins). Alty won the half's first corner, their sixth and, so it proved, their last of the game. Jennings’s kick went to Bevan and it was the visitors who won their own sixth corner a few minutes later (51 mins). Ryan Shotton was then booked for a foul inside the Alty half (53 mins) before Richards came on for the Harriers to replace Constable, whilst the veteran defender Jeff Kenna came on for Bignot (54 mins).
Altrincham then gifted Kidderminster a goal. Lawton and Young were on the front, central edge of their own box where they seemed to get in each other's way. No fewer than three times did one or other of them attempt to clear and each time the ball rebounded back off an opponent. The last time this happened it went out to the right of the box where Christie fired past Coburn into the net (56 mins). Manager Heathcote was exasperated, proclaiming "It's the same every game!" - an allusion to Alty's tendency to commit defensive suicide in recent matches. The goal temporarily rocked Alty and they went through a rocky spell. But the Alty boss asked his players "Why can't you play like you did in the first half?" And gradually his team got their show back on the road. However, when Senior got into the front edge of the box and appeared to be tripped, Mr Metcalfe waved away penalty appeals and it looked like it was not be Alty's night. However, the ball immediately came out to Jennings on the left touchline about 30 yards out. His excellent cross evaded the Kidderminster defenders and dropped for Cahill to put away from close range at the back post (65 mins). It was the loan-striker from Rotherham’s first goal for Alty on his third start for the club.
Kidderminster replied by winning a corner and moments later Alty brought on striker Colin Little in place of Senior (67 mins). Alty had a scare when Richards was allowed to run up the left despite appeals for offside. However, his cross from near the by-line was poor and went straight to Coburn (73 mins). Kidderminster made their last substitution when Russell replaced Bennett (74 mins). In Alty's next attack up the right, Little was fouled out near the right touchline 25 yards from goal. Little smartly caught the defence on the hop by taking the freekick very quickly, short, up the right to Toulson whose low cross came to Peyton about 15 yards out slightly right of centre. The left-midfielder did well to dig out a low right-footed shot which beat Bevan, low to the giant keeper's left to give Alty the lead (76 mins).
Two minutes later Gary Scott replaced Toulson out on the Alty right. Kidderminster wasted a chance when Creighton headed over the bar from Blackwood's cross (81 mins). Now Alty brought on their last sub, as Joe O’Neill came on for Tom Cahill who had earlier needed treatment for an injury (82 mins). Soon O'Neill did well to make himself an opening on the edge of the box but his shot narrowly cleared the bar (84 mins). McGrath then fired narrowly wide for the Harriers before O’Neill was booked for a foul on Blackwood (87 mins). Next, Blackwood himself was booked for dissent (89 mins).
As in the first half Mr Metcalfe founded a strangely long period of time to be added on at the end of the game, five minutes being his bewildering calculation for a game which had barely a stoppage for injury. Kidderminster won two corners in this period, to bring their corners' total to 10, but Alty rode out the final minutes to record a vital win which lifted them out of the bottom four for the first time this season. All the players and officials deserved plaudits for playing in such atrocious conditions, especially in the first half but the part-timers of Altrincham showed great character to overcome their opponents after falling behind. James Jennings was a well deserved Man of the match with Ferrell taking the award for the visitors.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS 1|