Match Report


Pre-season friendly match
played on Saturday, 26 July 2008, at 3pm.


Altrincham emerged with a 3-0 win from their bogey ground, Stalybridge Celtic's Bower Fold, but lost two players in the first half to injury. Just before the interval, Alex Meechan had to hobble off, after making a good start to the game, when he was accidentally caught on the instep by Rob Jones as he was in the act of shooting. And ten minutes earlier Greg Young had had to go off with blood streaming from a split lip after being caught by the elbow of Chris Hall. On a very warm afternoon, all three goals owed something to Celtic's defensive errors.

Chris Denham, who had an impressive game, opened the scoring after 20 minutes when he sprang the offside trap to shoot low past former Droylsden team-mate, Paul Phillips. Colin Little made it 2-0 after 27 minutes when ex-Harrogate Town defender Paul Sykes was unable to control the ball and was dispossessed by Colin Little, who scored with a firm shot. Dale Johnson made it 3-0 when another defensive slip allowed Morris's ball from the right to come to O'Neill. Though his shot was blocked, Johnson slotted home the rebound.

Alty fielded two debutants. New signing Lee Elam looked well short of match fitness on his first outing but centre-half Mark McGregor (ex-Port Vale), a trialist, had a very solid game.

Right: Five of Alty's new players this season watch the referee placing the ball for a freekick. They are, left to right, McGregor (trialist), Street, Meechan, Denham and Doughty.


  • 20 mins: Chris DENHAM (Stalybridge Celtic 0 Altrincham FC 1)
  • 27 mins: Colin LITTLE (Stalybridge Celtic 0 Altrincham FC 2)
  • 68 mins: Dale JOHNSON (Stalybridge Celtic 0 Altrincham FC 3)


    ATTENDANCE: c.300


    stuart Coburn was resting a slight groin strain and Warren Peyton and Anthony Danylyk were other squad members rested today. The recuperating Val Owen watched the game from the stand, as two Alty players (McGregor and Elam) made their debuts, whilst Joe O'Neill made his first appearance of pre-season after injury. James Coates returned in goal to replace Andy Ralph who had started against FCUM last Tuesday. Richard Battersby also came into the starting line-up at right-back, with 31 year-old Mark McGregor, released last April by Port Vale, joining Greg Young at centre-back.


    This game was played in hot conditions, though there was a periodic breeze. The crowd was disappointing with as many seeming to have come from Altrincham as the immediate locality. The pitch was in good condition though the grass seemed a little longer than at Moss Lane.


    STALYBRIDGE CELTIC (All blue): 1. Paul PHILLIPS, 2. Ashley WOOLISCROFT, 4. Rob JONES, 5. Terry BORWICK, 3. Andrew SMART; 7. Greg WILKINSON, 6. Paul SYKES, 8. Nicky PLATT, 11. Chris WILLIAMS; 9. Chris HALL, 10. Keith BRIGGS. Subs: 12. Gary BURKE, 15. Lee ELLINGTON, Jacob WOOD, Barrie KEELING, Pat MAGUIRE, James COLLINGWOOD, Ben RICHARDSON, Michael O'CONNOR.

    ALTRINCHAM (All Yellow): 1. James COATES, 2. Richard BATTERSBY, 4. Mark McGREGOR, 5. Greg YOUNG, 3. Matt DOUGHTY; 7. Alex MEECHAN, 8. Robbie LAWTON (capt), 6. Kevin STREET, 11. Lee ELAM; 9. Colin LITTLE, 10. Chris DENHAM. Subs: 12. Dale JOHNSON, 14.Chris LANE, 15. Chris SENIOR, 16. Joe O'NEILL, 17. Alex MORRIS.


    Kevin Street captained the side for the first time in this game against opposition which had just missed out on promotion to the BS Premier last season. Lee Elam got his Altrincham career off to a dodgy start with his first pass going straight to an opponent. Indeed, it was Celtic who won the game's first corner through the efforts of Wilkinson, who was to be lively throughout. The corner was cleared to Briggs who fired over from 25 yards. For Alty, Meechan started well finding space on the right wing and also getting in a good cross which Phillips, the former Droylsden keeper, kept out (7 mins). Chris Denham was looking a threat for Altrincham but the Robins had still not threatened the Celtic goal when Platt seized on Young's clearing header to fire a well-struck 20-yard shot just over the bar (11 mins).

    Hall them mis-headed a cross from Wolliscroft before McGregor was harshly penalised for a foul on Hall, an award which led to an angry outburst from Grahm Heathcote towards the officials, asking them "What's going on here?". But then Meechan won Alty their first corner (15 mins) before he threatened again on the right-wing. At the other end, Wilkinson curled an effort over the target before Little won Alty's second corner of the match, taken by Elam (18 mins). From this Young headed across goal to beyond the back post where Little shot narrowly wide from right of goal (19 mins). Meechan and Street now combined to set Denham free against Phillips but his attempt at an early chip over the advancing keeper was thwarted by Phillips. But the striker had barely a minute to wait before again being set free, by Young, and this time he strode on and fired a low shot past the Celtic keeper to give Alty the lead (20 mins).

    Graham Heathcote now switched to 4-3-3 with, briefly Meechan pushing forward and then Elam doing so, folowing instructions from the boss to "Split the back four". The goal led to Alty enjoying some possession and a good move involving Meechan, Little and Battersby ended with the latter's cross which Elam headed wide (23 mins). However, Stalybridge soon won a corner, following which a low cross from Wilkinson went across the face of the goal evading everyone in the six-yard box (25 mins). However, Alty then doubled their lead when Sykes was unable to control a ball up the middle and was dispossessed by Little who strode on to shoot, low past Phillips's right hand (27 mins). Another neat Alty move followed and, from Battersby's pass, Meechan forced a save.

    Play then had to stop as Young was caught by Hall's elbow and the centre-back left the pitch with blood streaming from his mouth. Little's protests to the referee about an alleged elbow from the striker brought him only a booking. With Young out of the game with what was later identified as a split lip, Chris Lane came on at centre-back (31 mins). Manager Heathcote had also been upset by the incident and other decisions and removed himself to the stand as Stalybridge won a corner (34 mins). From Platt's corner, Briggs made a hash of his shot. Following Young's injury Alty had lost some of the impetus that had followed their goal but, at the back, the dependable Lane and the wily McGregor were keeping Celtic at bay and keeper Coates had no serious action to worry him.

    However, Alty could have added a second in the 37th minute when Lawton dispossessed Smart and his good cross found Little who, uncharacteristically pulled his shot wide of the far post. Alty then suffered another blow when Meechan, advancing on goal and in the act of shooting, from just outside the box in a central position, brought his foot towards the ball only to kick the stretching foot of Jones who had made a vital block. The Alty player's impetus saw him fall down after an ominously noisy clash of boots. After lengthy treatment from Alan Ainsley, Meechan was helped off with his right foot sockless. His injury was to his instep and it was feared that it might be ligament damage which would sideline him for some weeks.

    Alex Morris came on to replace the unfortunate Meechan whilst another of Celtic's ex-Droylsden players, centre back Gary Burke came on to replace Smart for Stalybridge (42 mins). Altrincham won a corner soon after this but half time arrived with Alty two goals up but their joy soured by the injuries to two players. Stalybridge had had at least as much of the ball but had created no real opening whilst Alty had capitalised on two defensive errors from the hosts.


    At the break Celtic brought on three more subs, including the former Alty man Lee Ellington, who replaced Hall up front. A number 14 and a number 16 also came on, with Platt and Sykes being withdrawn. For Alty, trialist Alex Morris was playing tidily in central midfield but it was Celtic who had the first real threat of the half as Ellington fired over the bar (47 mins). Alty responded with a decent shot from Doughty which went wide. The teams played on without creating any clear chances until Stalybridge brought on a no.17 and a second no.12 to replace Borwick and Williams (57 mins). The play contiued fairly scrappily towards the hour mark at which point Senior and Johnson replaced Little and Denham up front for Altrincham.

    McGregor then distinguished himself with a fine block from the no.14 after Wilkinsion had played the ball in from the right. From the resulting corner by Celtic the ball was cleared and then Joe O'Neill came on for Lee Elam, who had had a quiet debut on the Alty left (64 mins). However, O'Neill was soon getting involved, in the same wide position that Elam had occupied. After some neat play from Lawton and Morris, the latter played the ball in from the right, only for a defender to miskick in the centre of the area. This allowed O'Neill a shot which was blocked but it came out to Johnson, who planted it into the net to make it 3-0 (68 mins).

    Now a new Stalybridge no.4 came on as a substitute (69 mins). Altrincham now enjoyed some dominance with Johnson looking a threat. Indeed, after Johnson had fed Morris, who was surging towards the front edge of the box, the trialist midfielder was brought down. From the resulting freekick, Morris struck a good shot which deflected off a defender onto Phillips' left upright and this led to a corner kick (73 mins).

    Left: Trialist Alex Morris's well-hit freekick was deflected onto the far post in the second half at Stalybridge. Alex is no.16, whilst Matt Doughty (no.3) and Dale Johnson look on.

    O'Neill was soon impressing again on the left as he fired in a fine volley after making space with a neat turn from Doughty's pass (79 mins). Stalybridge were posing little threat now but the game reached its conclusion with Alty adding to their tally. For once, Altrincham had won comfortably at a ground where they have not won for years in a competitive match.

    The trialist, McGregor, who has more than 400 league games under his belt, mostly at Port Vale and Wrexham, had a good game at centre-back. O'Neill did well on his first showing of the summer but Elam looked short of match practice but has another fortnight to build on his game today. Once again, as previously in pre-season, Alty showed they have more firepower than last season and with another clean sheet from the defence, the mood must be fairly optimistic in the Altrincham dressing room. Another test comes next Tuesday when Bradford City are the visitors to Moss Lane.