ALTRINCHAM (0) 0 LUTON TOWN (0) 1
played on Saturday, 17 October, 2009, at 3pm
Right: Colin Little sees his penalty saved.
Just as in the FA Cup replay between these sides at Moss Lane last season, Altrincham blew their chances of victory with a missed penalty at the Golf Road end. Having dominated the opening twenty minutes - winning six corners to nil - the Robins failed to convert their early superiority into goals. Luton improved as the half wore on but still did not look like a play-off side until the game turned on two incidents in as many minutes midway through the second half. Firstly, Clee did well on the left and fed Burns who was bowled over for a penalty to Altrincham in the 64th minute. With normal penalty-taker Matt Doughty suspended, Colin Little took the kick and continued his indifferent recent record from the spot by striking the ball more or less straight at the keeper, who saved comfortably. Within a minute referee West pointed to the spot at the other end when Clee was judged to have brought down Charles. Craddock drove his penalty into the bottom corner, to Coburn's left to give the Hatters a lead they barely deserved. But, after that, it was the visitors who could have added to their score but for several excellent saves from Coburn.
The match ended with a fleet of police vehicles at Moss Lane after a small number of Luton Town fans invaded the pitch midway through the second half.
REFEREE: Mr R J West
ATTENDANCE: 1,762 (640 in away end)
Alty were froced into three changes as Matt Doughty and Chris Senior were suspended and Chris Denham injured. Into the starting line up came Robbie Lawton, for his first start of the season, Greg Young and Aaron Burns. Lawton regained the captain's armband from Tom Kearney. Alty were also without the injured Dale Johnson. Young took over at left back, with Lawton in right midfield and Aaron Burns up front, with Colin Little. Such was Alty's player shortage that Denham was named on the bench, though not fit to play.
Altrincham took on Luton Town for the third time this afternoon following two goalless draws in last year's FA Cup 1st Round. On that occasion the Hatters won a penalty shoot out in the Moss Lane replay after Warren Peyton had missed a penalty for Altrincham and Luton had played much of the second half with ten men.
Watching the game were former Altrincham stars, Harry Wiggins, Andy Reid, Mick Farrelly and Paul Rowlands, who were guests of the Club.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 2. James SMITH, 12. Robbie WILLIAMS, 5. Greg YOUNG; 7. Robbie LAWTON (capt), 4. Tom KEARNEY, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 11. Nicky CLEE; 9. Colin LITTLE, 25. Aaron BURNS. Subs: 10. Chris DENHAM, 13. Russell SAUNDERS, 26. Sam SHERIDAN, 18. Michael WELCH, 21. Andrew PEARSON.
LUTON TOWN (Orange shirts, white shorts, white socks): 1. Mark Tyler, 2. Ed Asafu-Adjaye, 5. Alan White, 6. George Pilkington, 7. Adam Newton, 8. Kevin Nicholls, 10. Tom Craddock, 14. Asa Hall, 15. Jake Howells, 18. Claude Gnapka, 24. Ben Wright. Subs: 11. Andy Burgess, 13. Shane Gore, 17. Ryan Charles, 19. Steve Basham, 21 Callum Reynolds.
With the on-loan Aaron Burns and Colin Little, making only his third start of the season following injury, the only recognised strikers available for this game, Altrincham kicked off towards the Carole Nash end. They started brightly and dominated the opening period, winning five corners in the first nine minutes against a distinctly ordinary looking Luton. Burns won the first corner in the second minute, whilst the fourth came from a Little effort, which span off a defender and went narrowly wide (6 mins).
Alty were passing the ball about well and, at the end of a move following a Densmore throw-in, Clee got to the by-line to win the fifth flag kick, which Luton again cleared. Luton were also conceding regular freekicks but they finally got in a shot at Coburn on the quarter of an hour mark but the ball went straight to Coburn's arms. Alty's sixth corner arrived in the sixteenth minute with the ball being half cleared to Little. His good cross from the right was met by Williams, whose header narrowly looped over the junction of cross bar and upright.
Craddock, Luton's £80,000 acquisition earlier this year from Middlesbrough, lifted a shot over the bar (20 mins) as the visitors began to come to life. But when Gnapka went down theatrically in the box and received no sympathy from the referee, the Luton winger was taunted by chants of "Cheat" from the home supporters (23 mins). However, Gnapka soon threatened again, driving a low cross/shot across the Alty goalmouth. Play now stopped for treatment to Alty's Danylyk and soon after he recovered, the limping midfielder did really well in his own box to see off Nicholls.
Kearney was again impressing for Altrincham with his ability to make time on the ball and to use it wisely but another Gnapka cross, from the right, produced Luton's first corner after 37 minutes, as Densmore did well to put the ball out of play. Mr West was trying to let the game flow but should have stopped it when Densmore was bowled over soon after this A fine tackle from Young, playing at left-back, stopped the Hatters as the cost of another corner as the ex-League side now enjoyed the upper hand (38 mins).
When Nicholls jumped in recklessly and two-footed on Kearney, the Alty midfielder fortunately jumped out of the way but why the Luton captain was not even booked was a mystery (44 mins). But Burns drove the resulting freekick over the bar. As the game went into three added minutes, Alty came back into the game and from a Clee throw, won a corner. But the added time ended with the game still goalless, just as it had been in these two teams' FA Cup encounters last season.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LUTON TOWN 0|
Luton kicked off the second half, attacking the well populated away end, but after Burns had been felled on the left, Kearney's freekick produced Altrincham's eight corner of the match (49 mins). Soon afterwards, Kearney was fouled after the ball had gone by Asafu-Adjaye who escaped without a booking (51 mins). Next a Kearney cross just evaded Little and ran to keeper Tyler in the Luton goal. At the back Williams and Smith were again impressing for Alty, as Luton now made the first change of the game, with Charles replacing Wright (56 mins). Then from a Lawton cross, Little headed gently to the keeper. Burns went closer a minute later with a 25-yarder which just cleared the bar (58 mins). Clee now advanced well on the left and fed Little whose shot was sliced very wide of the target as Alty continued to have the upper hand (59 mins). But Little did much better soon afterwards with a 20-yard poke which forced Tyler into a good save at the foot of his left post (60 mins).
Burns then sliced a shot wide (62 mins). But Altrincham appeared to have the reward for their pressure in the 64th minute when Clee did well, left of goal. He fed Burns who was bowled over by Nicholls inside the box and referee West pointed to the spot. But, with regular penalty taker Matt Doughty suspended, it was Colin Little who took the ball and placed it on the spot. Gamesmanship saw Luton apparently encroach into the box which led Mr West to call two of their players aside and lecture them before Little could take his kick. Little, whose penalty-taking record in recent seasons has been patchy, drove his kick too close to the centre of the goal and at a comfortable height for Tyler to make a save, pushing the ball out for a corner as he dived to his left. The miss was an echo of Warren Peyton's similar miss from the spot at the same end of the ground in last season's FA Cup replay against Luton.
Luton cleared the corner upfield and, as Charles got into the box, he went down under a challenge from Clee and Mr West awarded his second penalty inside as many minutes. Craddock made no mistake, driving the shot into the keeper's left-hand corner to give Luton a lead which they did not really deserve at this stage (66 mins). A few mindless idiots at the Luton end then ran onto the pitch whilst others dislodged an advertising hoarding behind the goal. Alty's stewards reacted well and soon a number of police officers arrived at the ground and took aside at least one individual before stationing themselves in the away end.
On the field, next, Gnapka was booked for catching Coburn late, after the keeper had gathered the ball (68 mins). Altrincham now brought on Welch for Lawton (70 mins) which allowed Wiliams to go forward, there being no recognised forwards available to the Alty management to bolster their attack. Welch soon proved his worth with a fine tackle on Craddock as Luton now upped their game with the confidence instilled by their goal. Clee was then booked after bringing down Gnapka just outside the right side of the box (75 mins).
Sheridan, making his last appearance on loan from Bolton Wanderers, now came on in midfield for Danylyk, who had done well despite carrying an injury (77 mins). Gnapka then produced a stunning save from Coburn as Luton went for a second goal (79 mins). Little did get in a shot at the other end before Craddock fired wide for Luton as gaps appeared in the Alty back line, now reduced to three men, as they went forward for an equaliser. Three Luton corners came in as many minutes (86 mins) but the Alty defence stood firm. Now, Luton brought on Reynolds for Gnapka as Alty took off Clee and replaced him with Pearson (88 mins).
Coburn made another excellent stop before Burns forced Tyler into a stop at the Golf Road End (89 mins). Two more Luton corners followed before five minutes of added time were signalled. With Welch and WIlliams now both augmenting the Alty attack, Alty went looking for the equalizer but after a late Luton corner, the game drew to its end with, for the second week running, Altrincham emerging with no reward after more than matching full-time ex-league opponents for much of the game. Especially given the weakened nature of the Alty side, this was once again a performance to be proud of. But for the penalty miss, the outcome may well have been different, as Luton had rarely threatened Coburn till they went ahead and Alty had been obliged to push forward more to seek an equaliser.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 LUTON TOWN 1|