CAMBRIDGE UNITED (1) 2 ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
played on Saturday, 26 January 2008, at 3pm.
In terms of pressure, Cambridge probably deserved to win but Altrincham were unlucky to be beaten by one offside goal and an own goal, which came just five minutes from the end. Alty's bad luck also saw Robbie Lawton's shot come out off the underside of the bar and both their centre-halves, Darren Tinson and Greg Young, taken off injured. After the physical McEvilly had put Cambridge ahead in the 22nd minute from a pass by the offside Rendell, Stuart Coburn kept Alty in the game with several excellent saves. Nine minutes from time, O'Neill's good work allowed Little to jink round keeper Potter to level the scores before Convery's speculative shot hit Lane and was diverted past Coburn (85 mins)
REFEREE: Mr Russell Fletcher
Alty were without the injured Tom Cahill, so Colin Little returned to the starting line-up.
CAMBRIDGE UNITED (Yellow and black shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Danny POTTER, 6. Mark ALBRIGHTON, 21. Michael MORRISON, 27. Wayne HATSWELL; 7. Daniel GLEESON, 14. Mark CONVERY, 11. Courtney PITT, 8. Rob WOLLEASTON, 3. Stephen REED; 28. Lee McEVILLY, 9. Scott RENDELL. Subs: 2. Ben FARRELL, 5. Mark PETERS, 22. Michael HYEM, 23. Joshua COULSON, 26. Robbie WILLMOTT.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale and dark blue shirts, pale blue shorts and 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; 9.Colin LITTLE, 19. Chris SENIOR. Subs: 3. Gary SCOTT, 6. Jake SEDGEMORE, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 15. Chris LANE, 17. Richard BATTERSBY.
With Cambridge having taken over the normal away end (South Stand) for a special event, Altrincham were confronted by a wall of drum-induced noise from both ends as the game got under way in overcast conditions. But the visitors started well, keeping the home side from creating any clear openings. However, in the 12th minute a good move involving Rendell and Gleeson ended with Coburn blocking McEvilly's shot superbly with his legs, at the cost of a corner. However, soon afterwards, when Gleeson went down theatrically under Jennings's tackle, the Alty left-back was booked (16 mins).
Alty won their first corner soon afterwards but Jennings's kick was caught by Potter. At last the Cambridge drummers fell silent as it became clear that the visitors were not going to be intimidated by the atmosphere or by Cambridge's boisterous approach. However United then took a fortunate lead when Wolleaston was allowed to advance and feed the patently offside Rendell, to the right of the Alty box. His low cross was knocked into the net from close range by McEvilly (22 mins). Alty were fortunate, a couple of minutes later, when Gleeson's effort was diverted wide from close range for a corner (25 mins). Alty responded well to this pressure as King's shot was deflected out for a corner at the other end, the on-loan midfielder again having a good game for Altrincham (27 mins).
Referee Fletcher produced a series of bewildering decisions in this game, not least when Peyton was pushed over from behind and he waved play on despite being the man in black being very close to the action. Next, Tinson and Rendell collided in the air and both needed treatment before continuing (30 mins). The burly United striker McEvilly continued to try to unsettle his teenage marker, Ryan Shotton, but the on-loan Stoke defender refused to be intimidated. Jennings then got in a low shot, which went wide, from 22 yards (34 mins). But then, as Darren Tinson put a through ball out of play, he pulled up with what looked like a hamstring problem (35 mins). He limped on but signalled to the bench that he needed to be substituted. Before the change could be made, Tinson was judged to have tripped McEvilly on the left edge of his own penalty box. As the freekick was being prepared, Tinson hobbled off, to be replaced by Chris Lane. Lane went into centre defence, leaving Shotton at right-back (36 mins). From the freekick by Reed, Albrighton's close-range header was brilliantly tipped over by Coburn (37 mins). From the resulting corner, Cambridge were caught offside.
Alty relieved the Cambridge pressure with a well-struck, low shot from Peyton, which fizzed narrowly wide (40 mins). Meanwhile Rendell committed another foul without a booking. King soon prompted an Alty attack but as half-time arrived Cambridge retained their 1-0 lead.
|Half-Time: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
After Cambridge had kicked off, Alty more than held their own in the opening stages of the second half. Indeed, they went very close to equalizing when Jennings got into the box and from his cross, Little's excellent shot forced a fine block from Potter, and the loose ball just evaded Peyton in the goalmouth (56 mins). After another Rendell foul, Cambridge soon won another corner but the next good chance fell to Altrincham when Senior of all people outjumped the tall United defence to head Shotton's long throw at goal but Potter saved it (64 mins). Having already lost one centre-back, injured, the other, Greg Young, was now in distress, holding his side after a challenge by Rendell (65 mins). As play continued, a rare slip from Shotton allowed McEvilly to force another fine save from Coburn. The keeper could not hold the ball but Shotton was fouled as he attempted to clear. At last Rendell was booked for this latest of his catalogue of fouls (67 mins). Now O'Neill came on for Senior (68 mins).
Off the ball, Young now went down, presumably with his earlier chest injury, which had not been helped by being bundled into an upright by an opponent. After brief treatment, Young had to be replaced by Battersby (72 mins). So, Toulson moved to right-back as Shotton shifted to centre-back. Yet another superb save came from Coburn when he stopped Convery's point-blank effort. Next, as Alty manager Graham Heathcote was engaged in exchanges with the home supporters, O'Neill fed Lawton, whose fine shot from just outside the box, crashed against the underside of the bar, but bounced down just the wrong side of the line for Alty and was cleared (73 mins).
Next, at the other end, Coburn excelled again, back-pedalling to tip McEvilly's header over the bar (74 mins). Then, a hopeful long ball from Hatswell got McEvilly into the box but, under pressure from Lane, he could do no more than force another good save from Coburn (75 mins). Just after a Little effort had hit the side-netting, Cambridge brought on Farrell for Pitt (78 mins).
From Toulson's pass, O'Neill, who had a good game, then did well to thread a ball into the box for Little, who smartly took it round the advancing Potter before sliding it into the empty net (81 mins). Immediately, Jimmy Quinn replaced McEvilly by Willmott (82 mins). Convery soon did well to feed Gleeson, but he shot wide (83 mins). United then scored in very fortunate circumstances when Convery's low shot-cum-cross from the right struck Lane's legs, diverting its trajectory by ninety degrees. The ball went into the bottom left of Coburn's net, with the keeper unable to adjust to the deflection (85 mins). It was a cruel blow and the final piece of bad luck to afflict Alty on an afternoon when they had lost two players to injury and had struck the underside of the bar.
Hyem now replaced Convery (88 mins) just before five minutes of added time were announced. United successfully wound down the clock to emerge with a very fortunate three points, thanks to an offside goal and an own goal. For their part, Altrincham could take heart from a good team performance which, with better luck would have brought them a deserved point against a powerful side in a play-off position. McEvilly was named Man of the Match for United but, for Alty, Stuart Coburn was a prime contender had there been such an award for the visitors. Alty may have lost but if they continue to play as well in the coming weeks, they stand every chance of staying clear of the relegation places.
|Full-Time: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|