ALTRINCHAM (0) 2 CRAWLEY TOWN (0) 3
played on Tuesday, 11 March 2008, at 7.45pm.
Referee Mr S Procter-Green determined the outcome of this match when he dismissed Alty's Joe O'Neill a minute before the interval for two offences which at best could be called trivial; the first was a card for both the Alty striker and the persistently niggling Thoams for allegedly pushing each other in the box, whilst the second was for a tackle near half-way. Until then Alty had had the better of a windswept, goalless first half. Crawley went ahead in the 57th minute when Pittman was allowed to drift in from the right and he fired a low shot across Acton, standing in for the injured Coburn in the Alty goal.
Thompson made it 2-0 with a breakaway goal, tapping the ball home from a right-wing cross in the 72nd minute. Alty were then gifted a lifeline when Stevens did not look behind him as he poked Battersby's ball towards his own box, 20 yards out. The ball went past his own advancing keeper, Bayes, leaving Little with an open goal to make it 2-1 in the 75th minute. But an error by Acton allowed Pinault to fire a shot past him from the right with six minutes left to restore the visitors' two-goal lead. Alty got the game back to 3-2 after a quickly taken freekick caught out the Crawley defence but that was in the third of the four added minutes at the end of the game and too late to make much difference.
REFEREE: Mr. S Procter-Green
Alty goalkeeper Stuart Coburn had pulled up with a groin strain just an hour or two before kick off so Richard Acton was drafted in for his first BSP game for five months during which time he had not been playing competitive football apart from one Cheshire Senior Cup outing. The only other change saw new loan signing Ryan Lynch make his debut at left-back with Ryan Toulson dropping to the bench to accommodate him. Robbie Lawton was a doubt before the game after picking up an ankle injury on Saturday but he was fit to start. Chris Senior returned to the bench after missing Saturday's game to take an exam.
This was Altrincham's third successive home league game in the past eight days - and another vital one as they sought to consolidate their position just outside the drop zone. But it was a very windy night in Greater Manchester which would make good football difficult. However, Alty had already beaten Crawley this season, 1-0, back in September.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 13. Richard ACTON; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 4. Ryan LYNCH, 15. Chris LANE; 7. Robbie LAWTON, 25. Liam KING, 11. Warren PEYTON; 12. Joe O'NEILL, 9. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 14. Tom CAHILL, 17. Richard BATTERSBY, 19. Chris SENIOR, 20. Carlos ROCA, 23. Ryan TOULSON.
CRAWLEY TOWN (Yellow shirts, blue shorts and socks): 1. Ashley BAYES; 19. Kieran MURPHY, 6. Jamie STEVENS, 16. Glen WILSON, 14. Dannie BULMAN, 7. Tyrone THOMPSON, 17. Thomas PINAULT, 4. Bradley THOMAS, 20. Josh DUTTON-BLACK; 31. Kevin JAMES, 15 Jon-Paul PITTMAN. Substitutes: 8. Lee BLACKBURN, 9. Ollie ALLEN, 23. Pierre-Joseph DUBOIS, 24. James KRAUSE, 26. Mustapha CARAYOL.
Crawley won the toss and predictably elected to play with the wind behind them in the first half, attacking the Carole Nash and Family End where a small knot of their supporters had done well to make the 230-mile journey despite the grim weather. Alty started with more attacking intent than against FGR 72 hours earlier with Lane now on the right of midfield rather than in the hole in front of the back four and, two men (Little, O'Neill) deployed up front. In the third minute, Joe O'Neill chested down a cross and volleyed the ball expertly at goal but his effort was blocked. Rain was also now falling in the early stage of the game but this soon eased off as the players struggled to keep the ball on the ground in the blustery conditions.
Both team managers had started the game in the directors' box but soon Crawley's volatile boss Steve Evans was forming a double act with his equally loud and vociferous assistant, Paul Raynor on the touchline, where the fourth official fought a losing battle to keep them in the technical area. How the players, several of whom are foreign, could understand what was being barked at them was difficult to say but the volume, tone and accompanying animated gestures were sufficient for even a deaf man to understand that the management was not pleased with its players. Soon, Alty's Graham Heathcote also came down to the technical area and in contrast to the aggressive Sussex duo, the Alty boss seemed positively mild-mannered.
There were few if any goalmouth chances over the next few minutes but, in the nineteenth minute, Peyton, Young and Little fed O'Neill who won the first corner of the game. From this, taken by Peyton from the right, Shotton had a goalbound volley deflected just over the bar for another corner. After this Alty continued to apply some pressure. Next, Peyton did well to keep the ball in play and fed Lynch whose excellent cross from the wide-left found Little but his header was held by goalkeeper Bayes (22 mins). Lawton then chased a ball from Shotton to earn another Alty corner (26 mins). Soon after this O'Neill, inside the Crawley box, was so clearly pushed hard in the back that you could hear the exhalation of his breath from the main stand - but the referee was deaf to the penalty appeals. Next, Shotton, who was involved all over the pitch, shot well wide (27 mins).
Alty continued to have the upper hand with O'Neill more than once executing smart turns to get away from his marker but when a foul on O'Neill by Thomas was followed almost immediately by a foul on Little by Thompson, the referee stopped proceedings to book both O'Neill and Thomas though quite what O'Neill's offence was other than annoyance at being jostled in the box, it was difficult to see (32 mins). A minute later O'Neill was involved again as he almost got his head to Lane’s fine cross, but the ball reached Bayes's hands. A rare Crawley shot cleared the bar from Pinault. But now Crawley won a corner but this was poorly taken and cleared by Little in front of the near post.
As half-time approached things were looking promising for Alty as they had had the better of the first 45 minutes but then, following an Acton punt, O'Neill was judged to have fouled Stevens, who stayed down. Mr. Procter-Green deemed this worthy of a second yellow and dismissed the Alty striker for the first time in his Altrincham career. As one spectator in the Main Stand said, "He's been sent off for doing nothing, twice" and there was more than a grain of truth in that. However, when play restarted Little came in late on an opponent and he could have no complaints at receiving a yellow card (45 mins). But the referee then chose to ignore a blatant challenge on Acton as he gathered an aerial ball, with the offender, Wilson going down "injured" and avoiding any retribution from Mr. Procter-Green (46 mins). A foul by Dutton-Black followed soon afterwards before the half time whistle arrived and Mr. Procter Green ran the gauntlet of a wave of booing and the complaints of Graham Heathcote to get to the dressing room.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 CRAWLEY TOWN 0|
Alty's ten men started the second half in a 3-4-2 formation with Lynch pushed forward to left midfield and Lawton sent forward to join Little. The Altrincham manger yelled at his team to "Get the ball into the box" and also told them "You're being too nice; get forward!" A trio of Shotton throws kept Alty going forward following which a Little header was held by Bayes (50 mins). The wind was now getting even stronger as Alty's ten men more than held their own against the visitors. But then, after Tinson had lost possession, Crawley got forward up the right, past Young. Pittman then drove a low shot across a flat-footed Acton to give Crawley a lead (57 mins). The goal temporarily knocked the stuffing out of Alty but they were frustrated in getting substitute Tom Cahill onto the pitch to freshen things up by the fourth official's inability to master the technical complexity of pressing the right buttons on the electronic display board. With play carrying on, the official fumbled to get the correct response from the panel, he finally gave up and Cahill was eventually ushered onto the pitch to replace Liam King without any numbers being shown (64 mins).
Cahill was immediately involved on the Alty left but his ball across the box went unconverted (65 mins). At the other end, a fine tackle from Shotton stopped a Crawley attack as the visitors lifted their game. Crawley now brought on Carayol for Dutton-Black (68 mins). Next, a Crawley scissor kick from Pinault cleared the bar. Alty then won four successive throws all taken by Shotton but, following the last one, Crawley broke quickly out of defence through Bulman and, despite appeals for offside, he was allowed to advance and his low cross from the right fed Thompson for a tap-in at the back post to make it 2-0 (72 mins). At this point Battersby came on for Lynch (73 mins). Just as on Saturday, the arrival of Battersby produced a goal for Altrincham. This time his ball up the right touchline looked innocuous until Stevens, just outside the box, steered it towards his own goal without looking behind him. Unknown to him, keeper Bayes had rushed out to the edge of his box and Thomas's touch took the ball past him for Colin Little to chase. Despite a fast-retreating defender, Little got to the ball to put it into the net from a couple of yards (75 mins).
But Crawley did not allow Alty to build on their good fortune. Then, as the game approached the last ten minutes Pitman went down off the ball. After treatment the physio tried to lead him off, limping slowly across the full width of the pitch. But Mr. Procter-Green had the nous to stop this timewasting ploy and make him leave the pitch on the far side. Crawley played on or a minute or so with ten men till Dubois came on for Pitman after yet more trouble for the fourth official with his display board (81 mins). More minutes ticked away with Alty not able to pose any serious threat and, indeed, things got worse when Pinault fired in a head-high shot from outside the box on the right that seemed to go through Acton's hands into the net to make it 3-1 (84 mins).
Now Toulson replaced Lane for Altrincham (85 mins). Shotton had now been pushed up front in a last desperate ploy and soon the big defender did very well on the left, getting past his man but sending in a badly directed cross (88 mins). A Crawley corner came as the 90 minutes ended, but four minutes of added time were announced. When Crawley were penalised for handball just outside their box, left of goal, quick thinking by Cahill and Little saw the latter make it 3-2 to record his 18th goal of the season, 15 of them in the league (90+3 mins). But there was not enough time for Alty to get another goal. With 3 minutes and 45 seconds of the added four minutes having elapsed the crowd were treated to the bizarre spectacle of Messrs Evans and Raynor bellowing at the referee that time was up. Evans even removed his watch and waved it angrily in the air claiming that six minutes had been played.
This was a hugely disappointing night for Altrincham who looked well capable of taking one if not all three points from the game before O'Neill's sending off. Instead Alty's defeat saw them drop a place, having played three or four games more than all four teams below them. But there are nine games left, six away and three at home, so there is still plenty to play for.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 CRAWLEY TOWN 3|