ALTRINCHAM (1) 2 GRAYS ATHLETIC (0) 0
played on Saturday, 18 April 2009, at 3pm
These three points confirmed Altrincham as mathematically safe for next season in the Blue Square Premier. But it was never a great performance from the home side against a Grays team which won the corner count 12-1 and enjoyed plenty of possession yet lacked any punch up front. Altrincham took the lead after 24 minutes when Colin Little finished calmly from the edge of the box. For much of the second half Grays were on the front foot but Alty substitute Chris Denham scored another well-taken goal ten minutes from the end to wrap the game up.
REFEREE: Mr R. Fletcher
Altrincham had Shaun Densmore back in midfield, after missing the last game through injury, whilst Robbie Lawton dropped out to start his two-match suspension. Otherwise they were unchanged from the Wrexham game last Monday, with Mark McGregor again on the bench with hamstring doubts ruling him out of the starting line-up. Joining him as a potential substitute was Warren Peyton, who replaced Rod Thornley. In Lawton's absence, Greg Young took over the captaincy.
Grays were without suspended loan striker from Gillingham, Andy Pugh, who had been their main scorer recently.
Altrincham were still in need of a point to ensure mathematical survival following their fine win at Wrexham. Grays were six points worse off and in urgent need of a win to escape the bottom four. They had beaten Alty 2-1 earlier in the season, down in Essex.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 22. James SMITH, 5. Greg YOUNG (capt), 18. Michael WELCH, 2.Chris LANE; 17. Ben WILKINSON, 21. Shaun DENSMORE, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 3. Matt DOUGHTY; 9. Colin LITTLE, 14. Dale JOHNSON. SUBS: 4. Mark McGREGOR, 10. Chris DENHAM, 12. Joe O'NEILL, 23. Richard ACTON, 11. Warren PEYTON.
GRAYS ATHLETIC (Pale blue shirts, shorts and socks): 26. Lee BUTCHER; 15. Kenny DAVIS, 4. Jamie STUART (capt), 14. Ronnie JONES, 3. George BEAVAN, 8. Tommy BLACK, 6. Stuart THURGOOD, 17. Barry COGAN, 7. Stuart ELLIOTT, 9. Jamie TAYLOR, 16. Jamie SLABBER. Subs: 2. Sam LONG, 5. Fabian WILNIS, 11. Ishmael WELSH, 19. Bradley HUDSON-ODOI, 20. Joe SWEENEY.
On a sunny but breezy afternoon, Grays kicked off against an Altrincham team which they had beaten 2-1 earlier this season in the reverse fixture. On a pitch presented in superb condition by groundsman Neil Brown, Altrincham started slowly and Grays won their first corner in only the fourth minute, followed shortly afterwards by a second, which Alty could only scramble clear.
But then a fine ball from Little allowed Doughty to win what was to prove to be the home side's only corner of the match (6 mins). Grays continued to have the better of the game but overall the standard of play was pretty mediocre. Altrincham were also giving away unnecessary freekicks against a Grays side which was passing the ball about reasonably well but seemingly lacking some bite at their front end.
After another Grays corner had been seen off, Johnson and Little gave Doughty a half chance at the other end but his attempt to emulate his wonderful volleyed goal at Torquay ended in a miscue high over the bar this time (20 mins). As Alty continued to misfire, the almost unrecognisable Johnson, who had had a serious haircut and was also lacking the beard he had sported earlier in the season, found his attempted long throw from the right failing to gain much distance (22 mins). But within two minutes misfiring Altrincham had taken the lead. The goal came from good work from Johnson on the left. He found Little just outside the box. The Alty leading scorer seemed to have missed his chance as he jinked for an opening rather than shooting immediately. But Colin bemused his marker before slotting a fine, low shot into the net from the edge of the box to give Alty the lead against the overall run of play (24 mins).
Undeterred, Grays won their fourth corner, straight after Alty's goal, and then Coburn had to be out smartly to deal with a slightly underhit back pass from the otherwise reliable Smith. But Alty's next good moment again came from some bright work by Johnson. He fed Little, whose lay-off allowed Doughty a shot. The left-sided midfielder's attempt to place the ball across the keeper into the far corner of the net missed the target narrowly (31 mins). Despite the adverse position of his side, Grays chairman/joint manager Micky Woodward found time for some laughter as he expertly returned a ball to play after it crossed the touchline.
Next, Colin Little chased down a back-pass and keeper Butcher was fortunate to see his kicked clearance cannon off the Alty striker but it went out for a throw-in. After Coburn had done well to tip a Black effort over for a corner, the Alty keeper was hurt when Welch allowed a cross ball to go past him, as he thought, to his keeper. But the ball ran to Elliott and when the former Northwich midfielder and the keeper collided, Coburn needed treatment (39 mins). Two more Grays corners followed soon afterwards but again they failed to capitalise on these dead ball situations. Grays then took their first-half corner count to eight, against Alty's one before the interval but again the Alty defence held firm to go into the break with the home side's lead intact.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 GRAYS ATHLETIC 0|
Grays kicked off towards their supporters in the Carole Nash End but the first good chance of the half came when Johnson did well and got in a well-struck shot from 25 yards, right of goal, which Butcher saved well (49 mins). From a foul on Little, a rehearsed freekick move ended with Welch shooting into the defensive wall (51 mins). Alty again threatened after a fine diagonal ball from Little found Doughty on the left but, soon afterwards, Densmore was booked for a foul (53 mins). After this Doughty set Johnson free up the left but the striker had no support at all and his low cross passed safely across the Grays goal area (54 mins).
Alty continued to give away unnecessary freekicks which annoyed the Alty manager Graham Heathcote on the sidelines. "How many fouls are we going to give away?" he asked (57 mins). Alty then had an escape when a Grays freekick just evaded a player in the goal area, after which the Essex side brought on Ishmael welsh for Black (58 mins).
On the hour-mark Warren Peyton replaced Ben Wilkinson for Altrincham and the new arrival was promptly penalised for a foul. Grays continued to produce some neat build-up play but with no end-product as play drifted on till each side made a swap. Chris Denham came on for Colin Little and Hudson-Odoi replaced Elliott for Grays (68 mins). O'Neill then replaced Johnson for Altrincham (71 mins). After Beavan had fouled Densmore, Welch waded in and got himself booked along with the Grays defender (73 mins). From the freekick Welch almost made amends, getting in a powerful header from Lane's freekick which Butcher held.
Grays' tenth corner arrived with 15 minutes left but again it caused no real problems to Altrincham. Coburn then set Doughty free and from his cross Peyton saw his first shot blocked and put his second over the bar (76 mins). Play continued fairly uneventfully until Altrincham finally settled things in the 80th minute. Doughty's feed up the left-centre put Denham clear and he finished coolly past the Grays keeper for his second league goal of an injury ravaged season (80 mins).
Densmore then drove a freekick into the wall (83 mins) before Grays brought on Sweeney for Slabber (84 mins). Denham then went close again, clipping an effort narrowly over the bar. As full time approached Grays won yet another corner, following which Denham was harshly penalised for hands when he raised them as the ball hit his head as well. Doughty got himself booked, presumably for dissent (88 mins). In the three added minutes Doughty again surged forward on the left but his cross just evaded O'Neill in the goalmouth (90+1 mins). Smith, who had a good game in the Alty defence, then had to scoop a ball over the bar from six feet out after a testing low cross from the Grays right. In the dying seconds, Thurgood got booked for deliberate handball before Cogan also saw yellow for dissent to round off a disappointing afternoon for Grays.
The Essex club have been good friends of Altrincham particularly at the time of our points deduction in 2006 but the Robins obviously had to treat this like any other game. Hopefully Grays's small cushion of points will allow them to stay up for next season; they played plenty of neat football today but lacked an edge to their game to produce an effective end-product.
Chris Lane was named Man of the Match and after the game spirits were high as the Ballboy/girl awards and the Player of the Season awards were made at pitch side, with Greg Young a deserved winner of the supporters' vote.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 GRAYS ATHLETIC 0|