ALTRINCHAM (0) 3 SALISBURY CITY (1) 1
played on Saturday, 12 April 2008, at 3pm.
Trailing to Matt Tubbs's tapped-in goal after 15 minutes and having lost left-back Ryan Lynch to injury, Altrincham looked to be in deep relegation trouble till a tactical switch five minutes after the break saw striker Joe O'Neill withdrawn and defender Ryan Shotton sent up front. The change worked as Shotton levelled the scores just six minutes later when he got the better of a three-way aerial duel with keeper Clarke and defender Cook. The on-loan Stoke defender hooked the ball in whilst on the ground. A superb dribble up the left by Paul Turnbull laid on a second goal for Shotton at the near post after 61 minutes. Just after Turnbull had hobbled off injured, a fine run from Chris Senior brought the striker Alty's third goal in the 77thminute. The win lifted Alty four places to 18th- their highest placing this season- as Farsley and Northwich lost and both Weymouth and Halifax drew. But all four have games in hand on the Robins.
Right: Ryan Shotton celebrates with Ryan Toulson at the final whistle.
REFEREE: Mr. D Webb
Joe O'Neill replaced Chris Senior as Colin Little's strike partner but, otherwise, the side was unchanged from last Tuesday.
Today's referee, Mr Webb, was the man who, at York City earlier this season, ruled out Chris Senior's goal when keeper Henderson (now Weymouth's stopper) put the ball down thinking he had won a freekick, only for Alty's striker to steal in and score before Mr Webb had blown his whistle.
Despite torrential overnight rain which had caused the postponement of Droylsden's match only 16 miles away, groundsman Neil Brown had done a superb job, even mowing the pitch with circular patterns to put many of the grounds that you see on Match of the Day to shame. Immediately before the match, hard work from vice-chairman Grahame Rowley and fellow-volunteers with the drying machine and forks ensured there were no over-wet areas.
A result that still haunts Altrincham supporters is the 3-3 draw away at Salisbury earlier this season, when Alty led 3-0 with 18 minutes to go, so they were hoping for better things today. But the mood was nervous as Alty started the game today in 22nd place whilst City had enjoyed a long run with only two defeats.
ALTRINCHAM (Red &white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks) ALTY: 1. Stuart COBURN; 16. Ryan SHOTTON, 5. Darren TINSON (capt), 10. Greg YOUNG, 4. Ryan LYNCH; 14. Greg TANSEY, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 21. Paul TURNBULL, 11. Warren PEYTON; 9. Colin LITTLE, 12. Joe O'NEILL. Subs: 3. Gary SCOTT, 15. Chris LANE, 17. Richard BATTERSBY, 19. Chris SENIOR, 20. Carlos ROCA.
SALISBURY CITY: (Dark blue shirts, white shorts and socks): 1.Ryan CLARKE; 8. Scott BARTLETT, 5. Timothy BOND, 4. Aaron COOK (capt) , 3. Matthew ROBINSON; 33. Robert SINCLAIR, 6. Michael FOWLER, 7. Wayne TURK, 18. Darrell CLARKE; 10. Matt TUBBS, 19. Liam FEENEY. Subs: 23. James BITTNER (gk), 20. Charles KNIGHT, 21. Jamie BARRON, 2. Jonathan BASS, 15. Marvin BROWN.
After the overnight rain, the sun had come out to bathe the players as Alty kicked off towards Golf Road in their final home fixture of the season. Alty had moved Lawton back to centre-midfield, swapping with Tansey who had occupied that position in the last game at Burton. After just 90 seconds they had a half chance when good work from Little fed Peyton but his shot was blocked on the edge of the box. Tinson, who went on to have a very solid game, then made an important clearance as Tubbs threatened. An error by centre-back Bond then allowed Little to get free just inside the box but as he attempted to take the ball round Clarke, the keeper grabbed the ball off his toes (5 mins). So, already two half-chances had been spurned. But the home fans remained in good voice. However, Salisbury now won four corners in as many minutes, the first coming when Lynch covered well but had to concede the flag-kick (6 mins). Coburn tipped the corner out for a second one and the third corner came off Shotton. From this Coburn punched clear but as Alty had all of their players back in their own penalty area, possession was regained by City. Following two Salisbury throws by Bartlett, the visitorsí fourth corner came off Peyton, which Coburn again punched clear (10 mins).
A late challenge by Turk on Turnbull gave Alty a freekick (13 mins) but it was now evident that Alty left-back Lynch was struggling with a leg injury. But as he hobbled on, Tubbs got Feeney behind the Alty defence on the opposite flank, Salisbury's left. Feeney's shot from an acute angle was pushed out low, to his left, by the full-stretch Coburn but Tubbs was on hand to tap the loose ball into the empty net and stun the home supporters (15 mins). Alty won their first corner a couple of minutes of later through Shotton at which point Lynch had to give way to a substitution. Graham Heathcote showed his positive intent by bringing on striker Chris Senior in place of the injured left-back and adopting a 3-4-3 formation. The Alty corner, from their right, was cleverly played out deep to the incoming Little who hit a great volley from 22 yards but it struck a defender and went for another corner, this time on the left. Tansey's corner was caught by Clarke (18 mins).
When Fowler jumped in on Senior, he became the first player to see a yellow card (21 mins). Soon afterwards, Senior himself cut into the Salisbury box but his shot was blocked. But the Alty striker then had a glorious chance to equalize when Shotton's cross from the right was headed back towards the near post by Little only for Senior, with a clear chance from six yards, to send an understrength header straight at Clarke (22 mins). Alty were creating chances but were not converting them. Next Clarke did well to gather a Shotton cross (25 mins) as the Moss Lane crowd became tense at their relegation plight. Play drifted on with neither side creating a clear opening, past the half-hour mark. Coburn then had to make a routine save from Feeney's curling shot before Senior got into the box at the other end only to be seen off by the defence. A stoppage for treatment to Turk followed as Alty now reverted to 4-4-2 with Peyton dropping to left-back. Alty's fifth presentable chance of the afternoon arrived in the 38th minute when Tansey fed Senior who got into the City box and his blocked effort came to Little. Alty's leading scorer tried to place a shot past the keeper but the ball went into the arms of Clarke. Salisbury survived an optimistic shout for a penalty for handball off Bartlett which nevertheless gave Altrincham a corner (40 mins).
Some extravagant stepovers from Feeney were halted by good covering from Peyton who had to come across to the Alty right to clear. Senior then almost embarrassed Bond as he dwelt on the ball but the big defender got the ball away safely for his side. Ryan Shotton then had an aberration allowing the ball to drift behind him to Tubbs on the Salisbury left, from where he won a corner as the game went into overtime (45+1 mins). Coburn caught the corner and there was then time for Little to shoot at goal but Clarke saved comfortably (45+2 mins). Sp. half-time arrived with Alty having failed to convert a hatful of half-chances and they were left chasing the game in a match which manager Graham Heathcote had declared a must-win fixture.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 SALISBURY CITY 1|
Altrincham's supporters attempted to rally their side for the second half with some good singing as substituted defender Ryan Lynch limped to the bench with an ice-pack tied round his knee. After five fairly uneventful minutes, Manager Heathcote made the decisive decision of the afternoon, withdrawing striker Joe O'Neill and introducing Chris Lane. This allowed him to send tall right-back Ryan Shotton up front where he had proved so effective in the recent Cheshire Senior Cup Final. Lane slotted in at right-back himself (50 mins). Senior moved to the left flank in a 4-4-2 where Shotton partnered Little at the sharp end. But the immediate outcome was a Salisbury corner won by Clarke on their left (52 mins). However, soon afterwards a Peyton shot from 20 yards went wide at the other end. A long punt from Coburn was only just gathered by Clarke as Shotton closed in (55 mins) but the Stoke City loanee was soon to enjoy better fortune. Peyton's ball into the box was met by a collision between Clarke, defender Cook and Alty's Shotton. As all three hit the deck, the two Salisbury men stayed down hurt as Shotton, on his back, acrobatically hooked the ball up into the net to level the score (56 mins).
The game resumed after treatment to both Clarke and Cook. Shotton was now being kept busy with long throws as well as his striking role and from one of these throws, Young won a corner, but this was cleared. But a minute later from a Peyton throw on the left, Turnbull did superbly dribbling forward, almost losing then regaining possession, and then delivering a perfect ball to the near post where Shotton cracked it home, just inside Clarke's right upright to give Alty the lead (61 mins). Shotton has been a very popular player since his arrival on loan from Stoke City but never more so than now.
With Turk injured for Salisbury, Alty put the ball into touch only for Fowler to return the favour rather unsportingly by putting the freekick into touch rather then relaying it back to Coburn. Altrincham were now playing with more confidence but Coburn needed to catch a freekick from Feeney after a foul by Turnbull (67 mins). Next, Alty won a corner when Shotton's long throw from 35 yards out found Little on the by-line. Tansey's corner went to the keeper before Salisbury brought on their first substitute, Brown for Sinclair (68 mins). Then Shotton poked a pass from Little wide of goal before Coburn was forced to backpedal to tip away a cross from the Salisbury right. The Alty keeper did even better when Tubbs got free in the box but the Alty keeper made a fine save (72 mins). Alty's Lawton was now hobbling as Salisbury attacked again, this time Robinson volleying wildly into Golf Road (73 mins). Coburn then had to come to the edge of the box to clear before Turnbull went down injured after a foul and had to be taken off (76 mins). The ball next came from Shotton to Senior, left of goal and he cut in and advanced on goal before planting a shot past Clarke for an excellent individual goal. Senior celebrated by whipping off his shirt and twirling it in the air, for which he received the inevitable booking, but it was a small price to pay for a vital goal to settle Alty's nerves (77 mins). At this point Gary Scott came on to restore Alty to eleven men after Turnbull's injury (78 mins). So, Shotton now reverted to a defensive role before Alty won another corner, taken by Peyton (80 mins).
Soon Peyton himself volleyed narrowly wide from Tansey's feed (82 mins) before Tansey lost possession and a Salisbury corner resulted (83 mins). After this, Salisbury made a double switch as the amusingly named combination of Barron and Knight came on for Clarke and Fowler (85 mins). Altrincham showed none of the jitters they had displayed when leading by a similar score at Salisbury and closed the game out efficiently. Indeed in the last minute of normal time they almost scored again when Little did very well to advance into the box, only to lose his footing as he was about to shoot. Five minutes of added time were necessary after the various injury stoppages and substitutions but Altrincham held on comfortably to record a vital win which lifted then four places to 18th, their highest position of the season. But this gives a false impression of security for all of their fellow relegation contenders (Farsley, Halifax, Weymouth and Northwich) have two games in hand on them and at most are just two points adrift of Alty. Altrinchamís remaining two games are both long-distance away trips - at Ebbsfleet next Saturday and then Weymouth on the final day of the season. This Saturday's trip to Stonebridge Road thus assumes massive importance so get yourself booked on the STAR supporters' coach now! (Details here).
Ryan Shotton was a deserved winner of the Man of the Match with the substituted Fowler taking the visitors' award. But, above all, this was a fine team effort which needs to be maintained for the final two games. Tough injuries to Lynch, Turnbull and Lawton will ensure that physio Sean Riley is busy this week making sure everyone is fit for selection.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 3 SALISBURY CITY 1|