ALTRINCHAM (2) 2 EBBSFLEET UNITED (0) 0
played on saturday, 4 October 2008, at 3pm.
Above, Colin Little, off the picture to the right, beats Ebbsfleet keeper Cronin with his 20-yard freekick to put Alty ahead.
Altrincham made it three wins out of four and 10 points from their last four league games, courtesy of first-half goals from Colin Little and Chris Senior. After 'Man of the Match' Greg Young had put Chris Senior clear, Alty won a freekick inside the "D" of the penalty area. As Densmore decoyed, Little curled a fine left-footed freekick into the far corner (27 mins). Senior made it 2-0 in the 45th minute when McGregor put him through and he calmly scored from right of goal. Fleet boss Liam Daish was dismissed by the ref at half-time following an incident in the tunnel but though much of the second half was played in Alty's half, the visitors could find no way back into the game.
REFEREE: Mr P C Wright
The Robins' previous games against the Kent club (formerly Gravesend and Northfleet) had fallen into two distinct phases. In the first three seasons that they met (1979/80 to 80/81), Altrincham were the best non-league team in the country, winning the Alliance title in those first two seasons, whereas Gravesend and Northfleet, after a good first season when they finished fifth, were relegated in 1982. Alty won five of the six encounters in those three campaigns and drew the other match. Alty won at Moss Lane 4-1, 2-1 and 3-1 in those games.
But in the three seasons since 2005 when the sides have met again, the results have been exactly the reverse - five wins and one draw for the Kent side. Alty have lost all three games at Stonebridge Road, once 1-3 and twice by a 0-2 scoreline, whilst at Moss Lane the scores have been 2-2, 1-3 and 1-3. In the game at Moss Lane last season Alty shipped three goals in eight minutes during the first half before Colin Little responded with a penalty.
This time, Alty arrived with the confidence instilled by two wins and a draw in their previous three games.
For the third game running, Alty kept the same starting line-up - the same eleven who had beaten Mansfield and drawn away at Rushden. There was a change on the bench as the injured Chris Denham gave way to Joe O'Neill.
Ebbsfleet were on the fringes of the play-off places but, today, were without two defenders, the injured Frenchman Sacha Opinel and the suspended Paul McCarthy.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN; 21, Shaun DENSMORE, 2. Chris LANE, 4. Mark McGREGOR, 5. Greg YOUNG, 3. Matt DOUGHTY, 7. Robbie LAWTON (capt.), 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 18. Lee ELAM, 19. Chris SENIOR, 9. Colin LITTLE. Subs: 6. Kevin STREET, 11. Warren PEYTON, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 14. Dale JOHNSON, 15. Alex MEECHAN.
EBBSFLEET UNITED (Green & white shirts, white shorts, green socks): 1. Lance CRONIN; 15. Mark RICKETTS, 12. Dean POOLEY, 24. Darius CHARLES, 2. Peter HAWKINS; 7. Danny SLATTER, 14. Neil BARRETT, 23. Jamie HAND (capt.), 8. Stacy LONG; 9. Michael GASH, 18. Luke MOORE. Subs: 5. James SMITH, 11. Craig STONE, 16. Ricky SHAKES, 20. Kezie IBE, 21. Sam MOTT (gk).
On a cold, blustery and overcast afternoon, Altrincham elected to change ends and play into the wind, allowing the visitors to kick off towards their own supporters in the Carole Nash Family End. Ebbsfleet started the better and when Moore got in a low cross across the face of goal, from the right, Alty were relieved to concede the game's first corner in the second minute. But Alty responded soon afterwards as a foul on Doughty by Slatter gave the home side a freekick. When taken, this came off Ricketts for an Alty corner on their left. Elam aimed this at Young at the near post and his stooping back-header beat the keeper but was cleared off the line (5 mins).
Flowing play was proving difficult in the windy conditions and the ball was spending a lot of time in the air. There was then some panic in the Ebbsfleet defence when Young's clearance led to Little chasing down Cronin, who sliced his kick. Alty then threatened again when Elam did well to get space for a shot which was deflected out for another corner, but this time the wide man put his flag-kick into the side netting (14 mins). Alty boss Graham Heathcote was unhappy that his side was allowing Ebbsfleet too much space in midfield but up front they threatened again as Little and Cronin collided in going for Doughty's ball into the box (16 mins). Soon after this a fine dribble from Senior from Densmore's feed ended with the striker firing narrowly over the bar.
At the back for Alty, Young continued where he left off against Rushden with another fine performance but play overall went through a pretty uninspiring period in the middle of the first half, as conditions got the better of any flowing football. The Alty boss was keen that Coburn and the defence cleared their lines quickly to get the advantage over the Ebbsfleet defence. And when it came, Alty's first goal arrived after Young played a quick ball forward which set Senior free. The striker opted not to shoot but was involved in his second dribble when he was fouled inside the "D" of the penalty area. With Densmore looking the most likely player to take a crack at goal, it was Little, instead, who curled an excellent left- footed shot round Cronin's dive to his right, the ball going just inside the post to give Alty the lead (27 mins).
After Ebbsfleet's reasonably bright start it was Alty who were now on top but again without having another serious effort on goal. Densmore, who has yet to finish on the losing side for Altrincham, then picked up his third yellow card in five outings for a tackle from behind (35 mins). There was a half-hearted penalty appeal when an Ebbsfleet player went down in the box under Lawton's challenge. Alty's best effort this period came from the lively Elam but the ball ran to Cronin (38 mins).
The Fleet's best chance of the half arrived after 41 minutes when Long did well and fed Gash, who attempted to place a shot past Coburn but the Alty keeper saved well with his legs. As half-time approached, Alty's fans would have settled for a one-goal lead but, just as a minute's added time was about to start, McGregor came 35 yards out from his own goal to play a ball forward which went past the Ebbsfleet backline and set Senior free. As Cronin came out, the striker was driven to the right of goal but he nevertheless finished impressively to give Alty a 2-0 first-half lead for the first time since the home game against Stafford Rangers, in March.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 EBBSFLEET UNITED 0|
Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish did not emerge after half-time and the Alty manager Graham Heathcote had clearly been annoyed by something that had happened in the interval as he remonstrated with the visitors' bench. Though Ebbsfleet spent much of the opening period of the half in Alty territory they did so without a great deal of conviction, their movements being laboured and ending with misplaced passes and crosses. Their nearest effort came five minutes into the half when Hand fired narrowly wide. After failing to achieve an early breakthrough, the Kent side made a change as Rocky Shakes came on for Slatter (57 mins). Shakes added some energy to the lethargic Ebbsfleet attacks and they won a corner on the hour mark when Hand's effort struck Young. Though Densmore was pushed into the upright as he cleared the corner, a second corner was allowed to stand. This led to an Alty freekick to relieve the pressure (61 mins).
The atmosphere in Moss Lane remained tense as Alty held their two-goal lead but had not threatened to extend it. It was not pretty stuff as time ticked by with the visitors labouring to get back into the game. The Robins had an escape when Moore did well and got the ball in from the left to Barrett but he headed badly over the bar (66 mins). A further escape came two minutes later after Shakes had won a freekick left of goal, Coburn did not come for it and an Ebbsfleet header hit, rather than was cleared by, a defender on the line (68 mins). Next Shakes shot wildly into the Golf Road (70 mins) but for their part Alty were not troubling goalkeeper Cronin at all at this stage. Indeed when Doughty cleared the next attack there was no Alty player in the final 70 yards of the pitch.
Altrincham made their first change on the 74th minute when Johnson, now shorn of his beard, replaced Senior, who left to deserved applause. Johnson was soon involved with Cronin having to do well to punch a ball off the striker's head (76 mins). Ebbsfleet had a let off when Pooley brought down Johnson on the very edge of the box. But after consulting his linesman, Mr. Wright decreed that he had not been the last man and only a yellow card was brandished. Little's freekick curled well over the bar at which point Elam went off and was replaced by O'Neill (79 mins).
At the other end a shot from distance by Long went narrowly wide of the upright before Ibe, the former Canvey Island man, replaced Long (80 mins). Two minutes later Warren Peyton replaced Colin Little for Alty, the Alty striker leaving the pitch just three short of his century for the club, after 201 appearances (82 mins). Charles then fired just over the bar as the game went into the final five minutes of normal time. Next Stone came on for the Fleet. The visitors threatened again when Moore got in a ball from the left which went across the Alty goalmouth (86 mins). Johnson then raised the home side supporters as he battled to win the ball against the impressive Charles and though he won possession, his attempt to chop the keeper from 35 yards cleared the bar (89 mins). As Charles And Young were named the respective Men of the Match, four added minutes were announced. Johnson continued to work hard to hold the ball up for Alty as the minutes ticked away and the visitors surrendered to the inevitable. The final whistle sounded to choruses of "Part-time and we're proud of it" as Altrincham claimed another full-time scalp to lift themselves to 17th place in the table.
Alty seem to have hit on a formula that works as they have now recorded three home wins and an away draw in their last four matches. Their next test is away at Salisbury whom they held to a deserved draw at Moss Lane just a few weeks ago but having to make a 390-mile round trip midweek is not the ideal fixture for a part-time club.
|Full-time: ALTRINCHAM 2 EBBSFLEET UNITED 0|