ALTRINCHAM (2) 2 STAFFORD RANGERS (0) 0
played on Monday, 24 March 2008, at 3pm.
This was a vital win for Altrincham but after securing a 2-0 lead by the interval they withdrew O'Neill and Senior during the second half in favour of Scott and Lane, which allowed Rangers to come more into the game. But the visitors looked a poor side and rarely threatened to score. After King had forced a fine save from Alcock inside the first minute, Alty should have taken a lead in the second minute but O'Neill missed the target horribly from six yards. However, Colin Little continued his rich vein of scoring by putting Alty ahead as the game went into the 14th minute with a header following a Stafford half-clearance. Alty's leading scorer then netted his 21st goal of the season (18 in the BSP) three minutes before the interval when he converted O'Neill's pass from close range to make it 2-0. Though O'Neill hit the bar with a fine effort in the second half, Alty failed to improve their goal diffference but moved up two places in the table thanks to defeats for Halifax Town and Farsley Celtic.
REFEREE: Mr. D Richardson
Carlos Roca, Richard Battersby and Ryan Toulson could not be accommodated in the squad but Val Owen was on the bench for his first appearance for four months due to injury. Alty deployed Joe O'Neill up front supported by Colin Little and Chris Senior with Chris Lane unlucky to lose out due to the change of tactics from Saturday's game at Aldershot. Liam King returned in midfield.
Stafford were without veteran striker Neil Grayson as well as his former joint caretaker-manager Kevin Street. New signing Nick Wellecombe started up front after joining from Newcastle Town and impressing on his debut last Saturday.
After Saturday's good performance in defeat at league leaders Aldershot Town, Altrincham were looking to continue at that level against fellow strugglers Stafford United, now managed by former Wolves and England striker Steve Bull. With games running out this represented Alty's best chance of three points in the run-in.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts shirts, black shorts and red socks) 1. Stuart COBURN; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 4. Ryan LYNCH, 19. Chris SENIOR, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 25. Liam KING, 11. Warren PEYTON, 9. Colin LITTLE,12. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 2. Steve ASPINALL, 3. Gary SCOTT, 6. Jake SEDGEMORE, 15. Chris LANE, 8. Val OWEN
STAFFORD RANGERS (Black & white striped shirts, black shorts and socks): 1. Danny ALCOCK, 2. Richie SUTTON, 5. Wayne DANIEL (capt), 6. Djoumin SANGARE, 38. Alex GIBSON; 17. Ross DRAPER, 7. Chris FLYNN, 24. Steve HOPKINSON, 37. Matt HAZLEY; 42. Nick WELLECOMME, 20. Marco ADAGGIO. Subs: 15. Nathan SMITH, 19. Sebastian ARNOLIN, 22. Samy MAWENE, 30. Ishmale REID, 33. Danny ALLEN.
Before kick-off news came through that Weymouth had won, which further intensified the pressure on Alty to win today to safeguard their place in the BSP. After a minute's applause in memory of Gary Wright, a well-known Altrincham supporter and steward who had died on Saturday, Stafford kicked off towards the Golf Road end, recently renamed the Leighton Stand after the STAR supporters' trust raffle prize-winner. Within 40 seconds Rangers had signalled their defensive fraility, allowing King a clear shot at goal, which Alcock saved superbly only for the offside flag to be raised against O'Neill in any case. Then, Little and Senior set up O'Neill who missed badly from six yards, dragging his shot comfortably wide from slx yards (2 mins). When the referee changed the matchball soon after this, manager Heathcote joked that he wanted to keep the original one as it had produced two chances for his side already.
But the visitors won the game's first corner, through Adaggio, who had scored against Alty back in August in the 1-1 draw at Marston Road (5 mins). Even at this early stage, Altrincham brought all ten outfield players back into their own penalty area to defend the corner. However, it was soon Alty who threatened again as Alcock came out smartly to smother the ball from Senior (6 mins). But Alty almost committed suicide when King misaimed a back pass forcing Coburn to beat the ball out near his near post and the Alty keeper then had to make a fine point-blank save at tbe cost of another corner to the visitors from their left. Although Stafford won their third corner after 12 minutes, it was otherwise Altrincham who were in command and Alcock soon had to dash out of his box to head clear from the approaching Alty forwards (13 mins). From a Shotton throw, from the right, a Stafford defender headed clear but Colin Little latched on to it and sent a looping header into the far corner of the Stafford net from left of goal about 6 yards out to make it 1-0 as the game went into its 14th minute. After the resumption, as Senior chased a ball towards the corner flag he was bundled over by Sutton and suffered a mouth injury. The Alty player appeared to spit something out after his knock - it was later confirmed to one of the striker's teeth! But the Alty man carried on after the briefest of treatment from physio Sean Riley. From King's freekick Alty gained a corner on the right (19 mins).
From the corner Little got in a fine shot which was blocked. Shotton continued to be kept busy taking long throw-ins, mostly from the right side, as Altrincham continued to have the better of the game. But when Liam King lunged in to concede a freekick near half-way he came off worse himself and though he limped on, he soon went down for treatment (24 mins). Referee Richardson fussily insisted on a re-take of Stafford's throw to restart the game, back to Coburn, after treatment to King. Alcock then got away with dropping an aerial ball under challenge from Senior. As the game approached the half-hour mark, Stafford had two shots blocked before a third Rangers' player sliced badly wide. For the visitors, new signing Wellecomme, from Newcastle Town, looked the most dangerous threat. Two more Shotton throws continued to put pressure on the visitors before Adaggio sprang the offside trap and won a corner for Stafford on their left. With King unable to play on, Val Owen returned from injury for his first action of any kind since since Alty's game at Farsley back in November 2007 (33 mins).
Two more Shotton throws came and, from the second of these, Young found space to head over the bar (37 mins). Alty manager Graham Heathcote was getting exasperated as his team's performance had dropped off in quality after its lively start. Shouting to Lawton he said, "Robbie, explain to me why we've gone flat!" And when O'Neill was caught offside the Alty boss was angry at his striker's poor timing of his run. After Sangare had fouled O'Neill, Lynch executed a perfect left-foot chipped freekick to locate Little to the right of goal but the Alty marksman failed to capitalise with a weak ball, inside, which was cleared easily. However, Altrincham soon won a corner but Alcock.punched Lynch's kick clear. The ball came back to Lynch and he found Lawton who did well, from right of goal, to locate O'Neill, His short ball forward reached Little who finished smartly from six yards to give Altrincham a two-goal cushion (42 mins). Three minutes of added time were announced before the break but half time arrived with Altrincham good value for their lead.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 STAFFORD RANGERS 0|
Steve Bull made a double change at the interval, putting on French duo Arnolin and Mawena for Sutton and Hopkinson (46 mins). A snow flurry at half time had not come to much but the temperature seemed to have dropped as Alty now played into a biting wind towards the goal at the Golf Road End. As in the first half ,Alty started snappily with Senior winning a corner inside 20 seconds of kick off. Soon afterwards Peyton forced a decent save from Alcock with a shot from outside the box (48 mins). When Young went down in the Stafford box Mr Richardson waved away penalty appeals but, as in the first half, early Alty pressure was offset by Stafford wining the first corner of the half. From the clearance of this corner Senior and Little got into a two against two position near half way but when Senior fed Little, the leading scorer hit a misplaced return pass, aimed for Senior, to an opponent - much to the annoyance of his manager (52 mins). Alty were now allowing Stafford to come at them but on the break Senior won his side a corner. After some scrappy play Lawton fed O'Neill who struck a superb half volley from 22 yards out to the right of goal. With Alcock completely beaten the shot crashed against the cross bar to safety for the visitors (58 mins). More undistinguished play followed for the next ten minutes though Little did get on the end of a Lynch freekick to roll an effort across the face of goal but he was given offside (64 mins).
Alty continued to have the better of things with Little soon trying to lob Alcock but hitting his effort well over the bar (65 mins). At this point Gary Scott was introduced to right midfield as O'Neill was taken off (66 mins). Senior pushed on with Little up front. Two minutes later Stafford played their last card as striker Smith replaced Hazley (68 mins). Stafford's defensive frailty was underlined when Alcock dealt with Gibson's sliced clearance by slicing the ball into touch himself. Smith soon got in a decent shot which Coburn saved fairly comfortably (71 mins) as Alty's withdrawal of O'Neill seemingly signalled a willingness to allow the opposition to come forward. Indeed, Stafford won two more corners (75 and 78 mins), the latter leading to a wild shot over the bar by Mawene. By the time Senior was given offside just inside the Stafford half in the 80th minute it had been about 15 minutes since the home side had remotely threatened the other end. But Rangers lacked the guile to threaten to get back in the game despite their increased possession of the ball. Arnolin became the first booking of the game when he fouled Owen (83 mins). Just two minutes later Draper was booked for clattering Coburn after the Alty keeper had come out and gathered the ball. Though Coburn was slightly injured the Stafford man needed treatment before resuming (85 mins). At this point Chris Lane came on in place of Senior leaving Little as the lone strike threat for the Robins (85 mins).
As the 90 minutes ended, four extra minutes were signalled during which Adaggio hobbled off after going down off the ball. In the sixth added minute Gary Scott got needlessly booked for a foul deep in the Stafford half. The final whistle came soon aftewards to signal a vital three points which lifted Altrincham to 19th place ahead of Halifax Town and Farsley Celtic, who have respectively three and two games in hand on the Robins. This was a deserved win for Altrincham who might have gone on to win by a bigger margin had they shown more attacking intent in the final half hour.
Colin Little was named as Altrincham Man of the Match and Ross Draper won the award for the visitors.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 STAFFORD RANGERS 0|