ALTRINCHAM (1) 3 GATESHEAD (1) 2
played on Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, at 7.45pm
If you'd missed the opening six minutes and the final three of this game you would have missed four of the five goals in a game with one of the strangest conclusions witnessed at Moss Lane in recent years. It all started well when Anthony Danylyk fired Alty ahead from 25 yards after just 80 seconds. But then Coburn failed to hold Turnbull's fierce 20-yarder and Armstrong nipped in to tap the ball home for Gateshead in the sixth minute.
Alty then spent most of the next 80 minutes or so passing the ball around as Gateshead sat back, but the Robins lacked a telling final ball at the end of their moves. And with some of the home crowd getting restless, completely against the run of play, Gateshead took the lead in the 67th minute. The goal came when Alty allowed the visitors too much room in the right-centre of their own half. Turnbull took advantage with another strong shot which beat Coburn. The Tynesiders held their lead till the third of four announced minutes of added time. Then, from Doughty's corner from the right, a skilful flicked header at the near post by Chris Denham made it 2-2. With play extended following a head injury to Burns, which meant that both sides were reduced to ten men, (as Richardson had hobbled off a few minutes earlier for the Tynesiders), Alty won a penalty.
The spot kick came as Chris Senior chased a seemingly lost cause with the ball running wide of goal and the keeper the favourite to get it. But Senior was barged by a defender as he chased across the box and ended up colliding with keeper Farman. Referee Martin unhesitatingly pointed to the spot and Doughty hammered home the penalty in the sixth minute of added time to lift Alty to tenth place in the table.
REFEREE: Mr S J Martin
Robbie Lawton was available after suspension and joined the bench along with Michael Welch who was continuing his return to fitness. Before the game both Greg Young and Colin Little were fit enough to warm up but not yet ready to rejoin the matchday squad. Dale Johnson and loan players Scott Moffatt and Danny Edwards remained on the injured list.
Gateshead included teenage keeper Paul Farman in their starting line-up in place of the veteran Jim Provett.
Altrincham had won only once at home this season before tonight's game, whilst Gateshead had won only once away. This was the first league meeting of the sides since 2002 when they were in the UniBond Premier and Alty won 4-0. Alty started the game in 13th place and Gateshead were 19th.
The attendance was disappointing but Gateshead did bring a small number of dedicated supporters on their long midweek journey to Moss Lane. But there were a couple of well-known faces watching the game. Former Alty striker Jeff Johnson was a guest of the club whilst ex-Cambridge United boss Gary Brabin was also at the game. Gary is a good friend of Ken McKenna and also seemed to know some of the Gateshead management well.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 2. James SMITH, 12. Robbie WILLIAMS, 3. Matt DOUGHTY, 10. Chris DENHAM, 4. Tom KEARNEY (capt), 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 26. Sam SHERIDAN, 11. Nicky CLEE, 19. Chris SENIOR, SUBS - 25. Aaron BURNS, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 13. Russell SAUNDERS (gk), 18. Michael WELCH, 21, Andrew PEARSON
GATESHEAD (Ble shirts, white shorts and socks): 13. Paul Farman, 2. Craig Baxter, 5. James Curtis, 15. Chris Swailes, 19. Phil Cave, 4. Kris Gate, 14. Alex Francis, 24. Darren Williams, 8. Phil Turnbull, 9. Graeme Armstrong, 10. Steven Richardson. SUBS - 23. Armand One, 21. Michael Mackay, 1. Jim Provett (gk), 3. Mark Robinson, 11. Wayne Phillips.
The game started in steadily increasing drizzle, with Altrincham kicking off towards the Golf Road End and Altrincham got off to a great start. They were awarded a freekick over towards the right touch line. A short freekick routine led to Kearney's cross which came back from the left of box via Clee and Williams out to Danylyk. From more than 20 yards out, the midfielder drove a fine shot past young Farman in the visitors' goal to put Alty one up in just eighty seconds. Soon Alty threatened again but a fine tackle from a defender stopped Senior. But Alty were rocked when, With their first real attack, Francis advanced on the Gateshead right and fed Turnbull. He made space well before driving a fierce low shot from right of centre, outside the box, through a crowded goalmouth towards Stuart Coburn's right post. The Alty keeper got down to the shot well and seemed to have held it but in the greasy conditions it spilt from his grasp, allowing Armstrong to tap the loose ball into the net to level the scores (6 mins).
Alty almost restored their lead when from a Clee throw, Williams found Senior but his goalbound shot was blocked by a defender (10 mins). An Alty corner came and went as the home side had the better of the game and Gateshead conceded a fair number of freekicks, following one of which Cave was booked (20 mins). Altrincham were passing the ball around patiently but were unable to find a telling final pass to get through the opposition defence. New Gateshead player Williams was lucky to escape a booking when he kicked the ball away after conceding a freekick. But the half-hour marked passed without any further serious threat of a goal.
Gateshead continued to sit deep as Alty were faced with role reversal from their last game at Stevenage when it had been they who were defending strongly against their opponents. Gateshead's Armstrong then got a talking to after barging, Nat Lofthouse 1958 Cup Final style, into Stuart Coburn well after the keeper had gathered the ball (36 mins). Many a referee would have booked him for that. Although Clee and Denham switched wings a couple of times, Gateshead were fairly comfortable at the back and one or two voices in the main stand began to get restless at Altrincham's patient build-ups. But the team were clearly enacting a careful game plan. However, without a target man to hold the ball up, the end product was not evident.
As the first 45 minutes ended, Alty won a throw on the left. At this point Mr Martin stopped play for a long discussion with one of his assistants who had spotted some jostling inside the Gateshead box involving Alty's Smith and Gateshead's Francis, both of whom he booked (45 mins).
A minute of added time did not alter the score and the teams went off locked at 1-1.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 GATESHEAD 1|
The second half took up where the first had ended with Altrincham impressively stringing together pass after pass as Gateshead sat back challenging the Robins to break them down. Clee shot wide (52 mins) but most of the play was in midfield as Alty switched the ball from left to right and vice versa. Kearney continued to orchestrate Alty from midfield and Doughty continued to look to get forward up the left. It was the Alty left back who roused the crowd by making a great run to the right by-line in the 55th minute, only to see his low cross run right across the goalmouth with no one on the end of it. Next Denham won a corner, Alty's leading scorer having had a quiet game so far. Alty were now beginning to get a sight of the opposition goal, as Sheridan shot wide (58 mins). Sheridan almost repeated his feat at Stevenage last Saturday soon after this. His freekick from the left was again met by a good run from Williams but this time a goal did not result (60 mins).
Gateshead now brought on their former York City left-back Robinson to replace Cave at left-back (61 mins). After a foul by Swailes on Denham, Kearney's 25-yard freekick struck the wall and went over the bar for another Alty corner (63 mins). Farman got away with a fumble from Kearney’s corner before the visitors brought on 6ft 7inch Frenchman, Armand One to replace Armstrong up front (65 mins).
Then, completely against the run of play the ball was played up the centre from the Gateshead midfield where Francis found himself unchallenged and able to find the equally unmarked Baxter overlapping to his right. His lay back came to Turnbull who, as with the first Gateshead goal, struck his shot well and it powered past Coburn from 20 yards in a central position to make it 2-1 to the Tynesiders (67 mins).
After another Alty corner had gone, Gateshead brought on Phillips for Darren Williams whilst Alty's response to dropping behind was to bring on Robbie Lawton and Aaron Burns for Nicky Clee and Sam Sheridan (71 mins). But a corner was the best that Alty could manage in the next ten minutes and, indeed, One almost set Richardson free at the other end. Richardson got injured as he was challenged and went down in the Alty box (79 mins). After treatment he limped back on to the pitch. Alty made their final change after 82 minutes when they won a freekick and brought on Goal of the Season man Michael Welch to take it as his first touch of the ball. But Welch’s strike hit the wall. Welch slotted in at the back as Williams was pushed forwards to supplement the strikers.
Richardson now limped off leaving Gateshead a man short (86 mins), Denham now sprang to life and won two corners (87 and 88 mins). Gateshead now had all their players back in defence and when they cleared it there was no one there to relieve the pressure. Four minutes of added time were announced. In the first of these, Burns bravely stooped to try and get on the end of a cross from the right but received a kick on the head for his troubles - but importantly he had won a corner. After treatment he was led off, with a cut head, to the dressing room by physio Sean Reilly, leaving both sides now with ten men. Doughty took the corner from the right and his inswinger was met brilliantly by Chris Denham who cleverly arched the ball over his own shoulder into the net to give Altrincham a very late equalizer (90+3 mins). Moss Lane erupted with relief.
Unbelievably the excitement was not yet done. Just after a Welch ball had gone harmlessly into touch and with the game heading towards the sixth added minute, a diagonal ball across the Gateshead goalmouth from the Alty left prompted Farman to chase out to gather it. The keeper seemed odds on favourite to gather the ball but Chris Senior who had had a difficult game competing against two defenders who had six or more inches height advantage, did not give up and raced across the six-yard box in pursuit. He ended up colliding with Farman, who had now smothered the ball and when the ref's whistle sounded many in the ground expected it to signal either the end of the game or a foul against the Alty striker. But the eagle-eyed Mr S J Martin, who on his last visit had failed to give Alty a penalty when Histon keeper Naisbitt flattened Senior with a foot-up challenge, this time endeared himself to the home supporters by spotting that Curtis had knocked over Senior as he approached Farman. Mr Martin pointed to the spot and Matt Doughty put the icing on his own good performance by keeping his nerve to convert the penalty comfortably in the sixth minute of added time.
Moments after the re-start the final whistle sounded to enormous cheers from the home supporters in recognition of their side's late rescue act. Gateshead were understandably less happy and one of their players (Curtis) was shown a yellow card after the final whistle. Altrincham's patient approach play had finally paid off and the statistics of 11 Alty corners to none for Gateshead underlined the flow of the game, as did Alty's 17 shots (12 on target) to the visitors' 5 (4 on target). The foul count was 6 against Alty and 16 against Gateshead. The evening ended with the unaccustomed sight of the referee being cheered off the pitch by the home supporters. Afterwards, on seeing the match video, Gateshead officials agreed that the penalty call had been just.
James Smith was Alty’s well merited Man of the Match whilst Turnbull took the corresponding accolade for the visitors.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 3 GATESHEAD 2|