GRAYS ATHLETIC (1) 1 ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
played on Saturday, 15 March 2008, at 3pm.
Above: Alty in action at Grays, as the local residents enjoy the view.
It took Altrincham till the 92nd minute to record a shot on goal, but then they almost scored twice. But before their late flurry, they had rarely threatened. Grays scored the only goal of a scrappy game in the 36th minute when, O'Connor, the liveliest player on the pitch hooked home Patterson's cross from the right from six yards. Coburn got his hands to the ball but could not keep it out. Alty sent Ryan Shotton up front after conceding the goal. But Alty were kept in their own half for much of the second half, until they threw men forward at the very end, with Greg Young forcing a fine save in injury time after Colin Little had had the ball taken off his boot as he was about to drive a close-range shot at goal in the last minute of normal time.
REFEREE: Mr. Guy Stretton
Stuart Coburn returned in goal after injury and with O'Neill suspended, Toulson returned to the starting line-up. For Grays, their ex-player Stuart Thurgood started his first game back on loan from Gillingham, whilst Barry Cogan was a new face on the bench.
Both teams entered the game with question marks over their immediate futures. Indeed, with Grays embroiled in a dispute with the FA that could see them suspended from football next week, and Alty locked in a relegation dog-fight, it was possible this might be the last game between these sides for some time.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale and dark blue shirts, pale blue shorts and socks) 1. Stuart COBURN; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 4. Ryan LYNCH; 15. Chris LANE; 23. Ryan TOULSON, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 25. Liam KING, 11. Warren PEYTON; 9. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 3. Gary SCOTT, 13. Richard ACTON, 17. Richard BATTERSBY, 19. Chris SENIOR, 20. Carlos ROCA.
GRAYS ATHLETIC (Pale blue and shirts,shorts and socks): 12. Nicky EYRE, 2. Andy SAMBROOK, 3. Adam GOSS, 4. Jamie STUART (capt), 5. Simon DOWNER, 33. Neil McCAFFERTY, 34. Scott TAYLOR, 6. Stuart THURGOOD, 17. Marlon PATTERSON, 8. Aaron O'CONNOR, 9. Jamie TAYLOR. Subs: 10. Danny KEDWELL, 12. Danny KNOWLES (gk), 14. Jon ASHTON, 24. Michael STANDING, 20. Barry COGAN.
Alty started with a defensive 4-1-4-1 formation, Lane patrolling the space in front of the back four and Little deployed as the lone striker. An error by Lane produced an early Grays corner (2 mins). Alty then threatened when Lynch fed Lawton but his cross was overhit (3 mins). Alty supporters' hearts were in their mouths when Colin Little's boot came off and he picked it up as play continued. When Chris Senior had done the same thing when the same referee was in charge against Stafford last season, Mr Stretton had stopped the game and sent Senior off the pitch to put his boot on, allowing Stafford to take advantage of the confusion to score the game's only goal. This time, he allowed Little to re-boot himself as play continued, the difference seeming to be that Little asked for permission to put it back on.
The visitors matched Grays in the early stages and after 9 minutes, the re-shod Little fired in a good shot from the left, but it went narrowly wide. Shotton, as ever, was impressing at the back for Alty, whilst Thurgood and O'Connor looked the pick of the players for Grays.
Apart from a Grays' corner (17 mins), neither goal was seriously threatened at this stage. Alty's next decent effort came from Shotton's long throw from the right, which Young nodded on but Little's audacious back-heel at goal struck a defender (26 mins). Sambrook, only recently returned from injury, went down off the ball and had to be substituted by Ashton (28 mins).
After several minutes more of head-tennis and similarly undistinguished play, Lane won possession and fed Lawton, who then found Toulson. But his cross was disappointing (33 mins). Neither keeper had yet been seriously tested so when Patterson advanced to within 15 yards of the by-line near the left touchline, there seemed little immediate danger. Shotton stood off the Grays player, who got in a low cross which found O'Connor loosely marked in the far side of the goalmouth. He hooked a left-footed shot from six-yards which goalkeeper Coburn could only push up into the net (36 mins). Soon after going behind Shotton was booked for a late challenge (38 mins) at which point he was sent up-front, with Lane going to right-back in a 4-4-2 formation but this had little immediate effect. Flrst Taylor saw his shot beaten out by Coburn, and two successive corners followed (43 mins).
As half-time approached, Gross showed ingenuity, taking a quick throw-in by deliberately throwing the ball against the back of the unsuspecting Thurgood, to allow the thrower to get in a cross. Next, Alty had a let-off when Patterson was allowed a free shot but the Grays man fired well over the bar (45+1 mins).
|Half-Time: GRAYS ATHLETIC 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Grays had not looked unbeatable in the opening 45 minutes, so Altrincham re-started the game with some hope of retrieving something from the afternoon. Shotton won an early corner which Peyton wasted (48 mins). Apart from a Grays corner, four minutes later, there was little of note to report until Taylor was replaced by the former Welling striker, Kedwell (56 mins). Alty then put together a 15-pass move but could not advance to put any danger on the Grays goal. After Coburn had punched clear a corner, Carlos Roca came on for Ryan Toulson and Chris Senior replaced Liam King (61 mins).
Alty had a half-chance soon afterwards but it fell to defender Greg Young who mis-hit it. A speculative long-range effort from the Grays right then struck the top of Alty's bar (64 mins). Senior almost had an immediate impact as he ran through the centre but saw his shot go narrowly wide (67 mins).
Grays responded with two successive corners as rain now began to fall. Another Grays' corner came and went, as did a booking for Lynch (74 mins) before Barry Cogan replaced O'Connor for Athletic (76 mins).
With just 10 minutes left, Lynch began to get forward on the Alty left, as the rain intensified. But despite increased Alty pressure their first shot on target continued to prove elusive. In the final minute they almost snatched an equalizing goal when Roca found Little in the box and it took two superb defensive blocks to stop him scoring from 6 yards (90 mins).
Alty continued to show more adventure than in the preceding 90 minutes and, in the second of the three added minutes, Lynch found Young, whose well-hit shot from six-yards was brilliantly blocked by Eyre. Out of the blue, Little was then booked, presumably for speaking out of turn (90+3 mins). There was still time for two Altrincham corners to be won but, with Peyton about to cross a ball back into the box, the final whistle sounded. Had Alty been able to apply the same pressure earlier in the game, they might have emerged with something from the game. As it was, they used up another chance to put space between themselves and the bottom four.
|Full-Time: GRAYS ATHLETIC 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|