ALTRINCHAM (2) 2 CAMBRIDGE UNITED (1) 2
played on Saturday, 2 April, 2011, at 3pm
This result may have extended Alty's unbeaten run to five games but it also dropped them two places back into the relegation spots. And, after the disappointment of failing to beat Southport in midweek, Altrincham again let a lead slip - this time a 2-0 advantage - and once more had a man dismissed.
It all started so well with Robbie Lawton surging into the box to score into the roof of the net after 27 minutes and Damian Reeves adding a penalty five minutes later after Nicky Clee had been upended. But Alty let United back into the game after 39 minutes when Marc Joseph tried to shepherd the ball out, Danny Wright got away with pushing him, and laid the ball back for the unmarked Hughes to make it 2-1.
Alty started the second half poorly and, to make things worse, lost top scorer Damian Reeves to a hamstring injury just seven minutes into the second period. Brian Saah made it 2-2 after a corner which was won by Wright, who once more got away with a foul in doing so. With home substitutes Baynes, Beesley and Twiss not having any impact, Alty laboured and things got worse when Connors and Bentley were involved in a wrestling match. Connors was shown a second yellow and dismissed for the second time this season (81 mins). After no red cards in their first 24 league games, Alty players have now seen seven red cards in the last 17 matches.
Cambridge were incapable of making their extra man tell and it was Alty who finished the game the stronger but 2-2 was a disappointing outcome for Altrincham in their relegation fight.
REFEREE: Mr W. Barratt
With James Smith picking up a supplementary two-game ban from the FA for his sending of SEVEN weeks ago at Kidderminster, and Anthony Danylyk suspended too, Alty deployed all 16 fit players in their squad today. So, Johnson again spearheaded the attack with Clee on the left and Reeves to the right.
Mike Garnett informs us of the past record of matches between these sides:
The reverse fixture this season ended 4-0 to Cambridge United, with Alty seeing Shaun Densmore's spot-kick saved to deny them a consolation goal.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Stuart COBURN, 3.Jon BATESON, 4. Marc JOSEPH, 5. Rob WILLIAMS, 26. Carl PIERGIANNI, 22. Greg YOUNG, 7. Robbie LAWTON (capt), 18. Steven CONNORS, 11. Nicky CLEE, 8. Damian REEVES, 14. Dale JOHNSON, Subs: 30. Craig DOOTSON, 9. Michael TWISS, 17. Wes BAYNES, 15. Ryan BROWN, 19. Mark BEESLEY
CAMBRIDGE UNITED (Blue and black stripes) 30. Simon Brown, 2. Kevin Roberts, 3. James Jennings, 5. Brian Saah (capt), 6. David Partridge, 20. Jordan Patrick, 21. Mark Bentley, 14. Conal Platt, 24. Dean Sinclair, 29. Liam Hughes, 9. Danny Wright, Subs: 1. Danny Naisbitt, 4. Josh Coulson, 19. Andy Marriott, 12. Rory McAuley, 23. Courtney Herbert
Once Cambridge had completed their bonding huddle, they kicked off towards their own supporters on a sunny afternoon at Moss Lane. Jennings soon got forward up the United left but from his cross, Wright was seen off (1 min). But Altrincham had the best early chance when Connors's ball set Reeves free in the box but he made an air kick and the chance disappeared (4 mins).
From a Bateson cross, Altrincham won the game's first corner, which led to two Clee throws from the Alty left, which were cleared. Alty then won another corner, through Connors, and from the midfielder's flag kick, Young headed over the bar (9 mins). Next, Roberts gratuitously pushed over Clee, who defused the situation with a smile.
Following a Jennings surge which won a corner, Alty started to get on top and when the Cambridge keeper, Brown, got nowhere near a Bateson cross, the visitors were fortunate to see Clee's back-post header smudge the top of the cross bar (14 mins). Play then continued for the best part of a minute with the Cambridge crowd trying to alert the referee to the linesman's raised flag for a visitors' throw-in. Alty then had a scare when Coburn came out to his right to gather the ball and was barged off it by Wright, leaving the Alty keeper out of position. But his defence cleared the resulting danger.
Around the 20-minute mark, Cambridge gained two corners followed by an astute freekick from Alty's corner which just evaded everyone in the United box (22 mins). Coburn then had to be alert to race out and smother the ball from Wright as the former Histon striker was declared onside. Wright's heavy first touch gave the Alty keeper his chance - a corner resulted.
Soon, at the other end, Reeves was allowed to compose himself on the edge of the box and fire narrowly wide of the Cambridge goal (24 mins). Dale Johnson, who otherwise had a quiet game, now showed determination as he dribbled through a couple of tackles to curl a shot narrowly wide (25 mins).
Altrincham finally broke through following a Bateson throw in on the right. Lawton took a touch and surged into the box from the right and planted a firm, rising shot into the roof of the net- his first league goal of the season (27 mins). But from the re-start Cambridge almost equalized. And soon afterwards a Jennings freekick from the left was nodded back into the box from the back post and it took a good save from Coburn to divert the shot by Saah which had been driven into the ground and was heading for the keeper's top right corner (30 mins).
But then Alty won a penalty as Clee dribbled inside the left hand side of the box. He at first lost the ball but regained it before being brought down by Saah. Reeves drove the resulting spot-kick home to make it 2-0 (33 mins). Bentley was fortunate not to be booked for a blatant trip on Connors (35 mins), following which Alty won two corners. From the latter, Reeves shot over the bar (37 mins). With Altrincham looking in control, Cambridge were gifted a goal. It came as Joseph attempted to shepherd out a ball to the right of the Alty goal. Wright barged him in the back but Joseph elected to continue to shield the ball rather than kick it away and the combative Cambridge striker got possession. He laid back into the penalty area where the unmarked Hughes hit it past Coburn to make it 2-1 (39 mins).
As half-time approached Johnson was fouled, first by Partridge and then by Saah to win freekicks, then Danny Wright fouled Robbie Williams and Jordan Patrick fouled Steven Connors to complete a robust quartet of fouls by the visitors in as many minutes.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 CAMBRIDGE UNITED 1|
For some reason Connors came onto the pitch to join the Alty subs some minutes before the rest of the players returned for the second half. The second period got off to a scrappy start and it was not long before Connors was booked for a foul on Wright (50 mins).
Next, stuttering Alty suffered a major blow when 19-goal leading scorer Damian Reeves pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury which prompted his replacement by Mark Beesley (54 mins). Altrincham were then grateful to Coburn who saved well from Hughes who was "one on one" against the Alty keeper. In fact, Altrincham remained on the back foot having failed to find any fluidity after the interval.
However, Clee then got to the by-line and tried to dribble inside the box before losing the ball. At the other end Wright was manhandling Joseph as he forced a corner on the Cambridge left. Though an initial effort was miscued following the corner, the ball fell invitingly for Saah to the right of goal and he rifled home the equalizer (59 mins).
With Alty still misfiring, they brought off Johnson and sent on Twiss to lead the attack (61 mins). Two minutes later United replaced Patrick by Herbert and a minute later Alty made another change as Baynes replaced Williams, signalling Alty's intent to go forward. Meanwhile, Ryan Brown, a regular starter in the first half of the season, sat out another game as an unused substitute.
With Altrincham still finding no real rhythm and Cambridge looking incapable of taking advantage of this, the game stuttered on with McAuley now replacing Sinclair for Cambridge (75 mins). The trio of Alty subs - Baynes, Beesley and Twiss- had made no impact as yet. McAuley was soon in the ref's notebook (79 mins) and then Connors and Bentley were involved in wrestling each other to the ground. After consulting his assistants, Mr Barratt booked Bentley and showed Connors a second yellow followed by a red and also booked Greg Young who had been involved in a melee after the original incident, which took place about 40 yards from the Cambridge goal (81 mins).
Surprisingly, Cambridge seemed incapable of raising their game to take advantage of their extra man, though they introduced Marriott for Hughes (88 mins). Beesley then got booked for dissent (89 mins) before five added minutes were signalled. Alty had the better of these final minutes but for the third time this season, they had surrendered a two-goal lead. Indeed, if Alty do go down this season it will be the games against Bath, Darlington and here against Cambridge, where 2-0 leads were all lost, which will go a long way towards explaining the situation. Stuart Coburn was named the Alty Man of the Match having made several important stops.
Alty now face another "six-pointer" next Saturday at Forest Green Rovers but will need to show more bite up front than they did in this game. But with Connors and Smith both suspended, manager Ken McKenna has few options at his disposal.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2|