Stuart Coburn's 500th game for Alty ended in defeat against a Blyth side who fully deserved their victory. After a reasonably bright opening, Alty were second best for most of the first half but Blyth did not score till just before the interval when Brayson scored. The goal came after Alty had failed to clear a corner.
Blyth won most of the individual battles though Alty did improve a bit in the second half when three substitutions were made - Twiss, Holsgrove and Hewson. But a long ball up the middle wasn't dealt with by Williams and the ball ran on for Brayson to finish expertly as Coburn raced out to meet him (78 mins). Twiss had a golden chance to score in the 84th minute but missed the target with a side-footed effort. The miss proved costly as Reeves showed him how to finish with a well-taken effort a minute later, which would otherwise have been a leveller.
Blyth held on comfortably to advance to Round 3 as Alty could only look back on another sub-standard cup performance against opposition from a lower level, following equally uninspiring displays against Hyde, Curzon Ashton and Runcorn Linnets this season.
REFEREE: Mr T Harrington
Stuart Coburn captained the side on his 500th start for Altrincham.
Altrincham arrived on the back of two successive away wins in the Conference and a narrow success at Runcorn in the Cheshire Senior Cup last Tuesday.
BLYTH SPARTANS (Green and white): 1. Mark Gillespie, 2. Dan Groves, 3. Phil Cave, 4. Mick Tait, 5. Chris Swailes, 6. Wayne Buchanan, 7. Neal Hooks, 8. Stephen Turnbull, 9. Paul Brayson, 10. Nicky Deverdics, 11. Robert Dale, Subs: 17. Jake Cunningham, 12. Liam Mahoney, 14. John Alexander, 15. Callum Morris, 16. Eion Ridley
ALTRINCHAM (White): 1. Stuart COBURN (capt), 2. James SMITH, 4. Marc JOSEPH, 5. Robbie WILLIAMS, 15. Ryan BROWN, 16. Anthony DANYLYK, 19. Mark BEESLEY, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 7. Robbie LAWTON, 8. Damian REEVES, 17. Wes BAYNES Subs: 21. James COATES, 20. Sam HEWSON, 12. Kevin HOLSGROVE, 11. Nicky CLEE, 9. Michael TWISS.
The game kicked off on a damp and heavy pitch with a strong wind blowing across the pitch, all of which conspired to limit the quality of the match. The ball was bobbling on the surface and the players had difficulty keeping their feet at times. Alty started the better, supported by a good number of travelling fans, a contingent bedecked with a striking collection of red and white flags of nations of the world.
It was the 10th minute before there was a shot of any decent quality, Brayson's 30 yarder going comfortably wide. But it signalled the Spartans' improvement after their slow start. The players on both sides were having difficulty finding their team mates on the difficult surface and in the windy conditions.
A deflected shot by Cave allowed Deverdics to head at goal but Coburn saved comfortably (17 mins). Williams then had to do well to clear a Groves cross as Blyth set the pace. Alty were getting little change out of the Blyth defence with the aerial balls in particular being picked off by the centre backs.
Ryan Brown was playing better than most for Altrincham whilst up the field Reeves was largely starved of the ball. When a Williams clearance went to Blyth's Tait, the resulting shot was spilled by Coburn but he re-gathered the ball at the feet of an incoming player (26 mins). Blyth were now well on top with their attacks concentrated up their left flank. Indeed, Coburn then had to do well with a low effort from Groves (35 mins).
A sortie forward by Smith gave Altrincham their first corner of the game (38 mins). Baynes's corner evaded everyone and the next corner was won by Blyth in the 42nd minute, when Williams did well to clear an attack at the cost of the flag-kick. Though the corner was half cleared it came back to Deverdics, whose mishit shot fell for Brayson, who made no mistake in finding the net (43 mins).
Half time soon arrived with Spartans deservedly leading their higher-league visitors.
|Half-Time: BLYTH SPARTANS 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
Altrincham kicked off but it was Blyth who won the half's first corner. Soon, Alty made two changes as, first of all, Twiss came on for Beesley (51 mins). This came just after Brayson had been put through up the middle but the resulting "goal" was ruled out for offside. Next, Hewson replaced the out of sorts Smith (55 mins) as Alty continued to struggle. The home side seemed more committed than the visitors and they were aided by the traditionally fervent support of the Croft Park faithful.
The hour mark passed with Altrincham looking slightly better than they had in the first half.A Joseph ball forward led to a Baynes shot, which was well struck but narrowly wide of the target (66 mins). This followed another Alty shot, by Twiss. And after 68 minutes Altrincham threatened again when a freekick from 23 yards was laid off to Baynes who forced a good save from the keeper.
Alty's final change occurred in the 70th minute when Holsgrove replaced Danylyk. BUt despite their improvement, Alty were grateful to Brown for two vital interceptions as long balls threatened to catch out Alty at the back. But any hope of a comeback were dashed in the 78th minute when a long ball up the ball led to a stretching Williams, 40 yards out, only being able to knock the ball back towards his own goal. Brayson chased after it and got there just ahead of the advancing Coburn . He cleverly lifted the ball over the Alty keeper to make it 2-0.
Soon afterwards, Alty again nearly allowed Brayson in, from a long ball. But just when it looked to be all over, two Blyth defenders got in a tangle just outside their own box and Twiss took the ball on towards goal. But as goalkeeper Gillespie advanced towards him, Twiss sidefooted the ball, wide of the keeper and his right-hand post. It was a bad miss (84 mins).
Moments later Williams went on a diagonal run out of his own defence and the ball was relayed to Twiss. He threaded the ball through well to Reeves, who was clinical in his finishing to make it 2-1 (85 mins). So, despite being outplayed, Alty could have been level had the earlier chance gone in.
Blyth managed to keep the ball for much of the remaining time and three added minutes, though Dale did get a booking when he tripped Lawton after losing possession to the Alty midfielder.
Following their recent upturn in league form, this was a poor performance from Altrincham who did not seem to relish either the conditions or the occasion. Blyth deservedly advanced to the next round, claiming £6,000 prize money which Altrincham could equally well have used.
|Full-Time: BLYTH SPARTANS 2 ALTRINCHAM 1|