LUTON TOWN (1) 2 ALTRINCHAM (0) 1
played on Saturday, 14 August 2010, at 3pm
A well-struck goal two minutes from time by Matthew Barnes-Homer prevented Altrincham from gaining a point against the title favourites. Luton dominated most of the attacking play and took the lead after 22 minutes when Czech defender Kroca headed in from close range after a far post corner had been headed back to him. Alty brought on three subs around the hour mark and one of these, Michael Welch nodded on a Densmore corner to Reeves whose header made it 1-1 after 70 minutes. But Alty could not hold out and, when a bouncing ball deceived Williams, Barnes-Homer smashed home the winner (88 mins).
REFEREE: Mr M Thompson
ATTENDANCE: 6,665 (101 in the away end)
Altrincham had lost major players in Chris Senior (to Darlington) and Greg Young (to York) over the summer and had brought in nine players during the close season. Two of these, however, were players returning to Moss Lane in the shape of Matty Crowell and Michael Welch. New striker Michael Twiss had been injured in pre-season so missed out today.
But delays at the Australian FA ruled out Crowell's international clearance and new winger, Kevin Holsgrove, sat the game out with a suspension carried over from last season. So Alty had just 16 players left. The eleven who started included only two new signings; Damian Reeves and Marc Joseph.
With Luton being installed as the bookies' favourites to win the league, this could not have been a more dificult start to the season for Altrincham. The Hatters, celebrating their 125th anniversary wore a special pink and blue kit.
In their four previous encounters, neither side had scored a single goal from outfield play in six and a half hours' action:
LUTON TOWN (Pink & blue halved shirts, shorts and socks): 1. Mark Tyler, 2. Dan Gleeson, 3. Freddie Murray, 4. Keith Keane, 6. George Pilkington, 11. Andy Drury, 13. Zdenek Kroca, 14. Adam Murray, 15. Jake Howells, 20. Kevin Gallen, 9. Matthew Barnes-Homer. Subs 10. Tom Craddock, 12. Shane Blackett, 18. Claude Gnakpa, 30. Kevin Pilkington, 19. Danny Crow
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts and red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 5. Robbie WILLIAMS, 2. James SMITH, 4. Marc JOSEPH, 11. Nicky CLEE, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 7. Robbie LAWTON (capt), 15. Ryan BROWN, 8. Damian REEVES, 14. Dale JOHNSON. Subs: 21. James COATES, 10. Chris DENHAM, 19. Danny HOLMES, 17. Tom McCREADY, 22. Michael WELCH.
Despite the optimism at Luton about their prospects this season, the home fans were in a strangely muted mood in the early stages of this game, whereas the Altrincham supporters were in good voice. After only two minutes, Alty midfielder Anthony Danylyk took an early knock but he managed to run it off. Smith, who had an outstanding game, headed out a Gleeson cross to give Luton an early corner. After this, Drury threatened but his cross failed to find a colleague (5 mins). Smith then saw off Barnes-Homer before Drury was stopped as he, too, made an incursion into the Alty area.
Clee was looking lively for Altrincham and he embarked on a mazy 50 yard run before running out of options and losing possession (13 mins). This came soon after Brown's speculative effort from 30 yards had drifted very wide of the Luton goal. Another fine interception from Smith stopped Barnes-Homer. Luton were making the running, switching the ball about from side to side but a fine Danylyk tackle saw off their next attack. The home crowd remained silent as their side laboured to convert possession into any real threat.
But they came to life when a Barnes-Homer cross from the left was met by Drury's volley, which Coburn held well; it was the first real shot of note (20 mins). Densmore than had to concede a corner on the Luton left, which appeared to have been overhit when it was taken. But the ball was nodded back from beyond the back post by Pilkington and, from right on the by-line. It dropped into the six yard box for the big Czech, Kroca, to head through a crowded goalmouth into the net (22 mins).
Luton remained on top but managed no further shots at goal with Howells's dragged shot, which went wide, their best effort (29 mins). The half hour mark passed with Altrincham containing their opponents and the visitors' supporters taunted their full-time hosts with a chant of "We only train on a Thursday". But Luton went close after 40 minutes when a Barnes-Homer cross-cum-shot from the right had to be cleared off the line and over his own bar by Densmore.
After the corner had come to nothing, Smith again did well, this time dispossessing Howells (42 mins). Luton won a late corner (44mins) and then Gallen curled a shot wide (45 mins). After two added minutes, the whistle went for half time with Altrincham still in the game.
|Half-Time: LUTON TOWN 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Luton exerted some early pressure, with two corners in the first three minutes before a freekick 30 yards from the Luton goal gave Alty an opening after Lawton had broken up the right and been fouled. But Brown made nothing of the freekick. However, soon after this, Johnson turned well and his shot hit Howells's hand but, despite an appeal, no response came from the referee (51 mins). From a better freekick soon afterwards, by Densmore, Williams got in a header which was saved (56 mins).
Gallen then wasted a free header from Gleeson's cross,putting the ball wide. Just after an excellent Densmore tackle, Alty brought on Denham for Johnson and Holmes for Danylyk. Holmes went to right back as Densmore moved to centre-midfield (59 mins). Two Luton corners came and went (62 mins) before Coburn made a fine save from Barnes-Homer.
Alty got some respite when Denham was fouled but the ref failed to get the wall back ten yards and Brown's kick came to nothing (67 mins). After 69 minutes, Michael Welch, who had only reappeared at Moss Lane last Tuesday and was signed that night, came on to replace Clee. Alty soon won a corner on their right and from Densmore's kick, Welch nodded the ball forward and the quick reaction of Reeves allowed him to head the ball into the net from close range to make it 1-1 (70 mins). An inspired substitution, if ever there was one, as Welch had barely been on the pitch for a minute.
After a couple of minutes of confusion, which it later emerged was due to a coin being thrown at Damian Reeves, play resumed after the referee had spoken with his assistants, with a dropped ball and a Luton change which saw new signing from Cambridge United, Danny Crow and Gnapka come on for Luton in place of Gallen and Howells (75 mins). Reeves then got booked for "unsporting behaviour" (76 mins) as Alty now had him playing on the left, with Welch the lone front man. Luton's Keane then went in the book for a crude foul on Brown (80mmins).
The minutes ticked away as Alty resisted Luton pressure, with Barnes-Homer seeing a shot saved and Crow shooting wide. Coburn then made a good punch clear but the ball came back and Williams was deceived by the bounce. This allowed Barnes-Homer to shoot at goal and his well-struck effort from left of centre flew into the net to put Luton ahead (88 mins). Five added minutes were announced and soon Williams had to clear off the line for Alty as Luton kept coming at them. Holmes got a booking and Barnes-Homer was replaced by Craddock after 94 minutes before the ref blew, spot on five minutes after the ninety, making no alllowance for the substitution.
Altrincham could not complain at the outcome but the timing of the winner was cruel. Nevertheless, Alty had given a good account of themselves and will face Darlington on Tuesday with confidence that they can more than hold their own against the best the league has to offer.
|Full-Time: LUTON TOWN 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|