ALTRINCHAM (0) 3 EASTBOURNE BOROUGH (3) 4
played on Saturday, 30 April, 2011, at 3pm
As this game headed into the final minutes, Alty needed just a single goal to stay up. They had come back from a 0-3 deficit at half time after a poor first half performance to level at 3-3 and were pressing for the fourth. But, then, a speculative 30-yarder from substitute Purcell seemed to skid past Alty keeper Craig Dootson in added time and in that instant it was all over for Altrincham despite relegation rivals Forest Green and Southport losing to open a potential escape route for Altrincham.
The first Eastbourne goal came when Alty's offside trap was sprung after 17 minutes and Taylor lobbed Dootson. Two fine long range goals followed from Taylor (21 mins) and Brinkhurst (44 mins). Alty gave it a real go in the second half as Beesley made it 3-1 on the hour following a great run up the left from Piergianni. Beesley then also hit the bar, only for Johnson to spoon the rebound over the bar from very close range.
Then Clee scored a fine goal off the underside of the bar (77 mins) before Beesley levelled with a superb freekick to make it 3-3 (82 mins) but results were now going against us elsewhere. Then, after the tide had turned at Kettering and Tamworth, totally against the run of play at Moss Lane, substitute George Purcell scored from distance to make it 3-4 in added time.
If Alty had played in the first half as they did in the second it might have been a different story but they now go down to the BS Bet North in the most frustrating of circumstances imaginable.
REFEREE: Mr A J Madley
With Anthony Danylyk, Steve Connors, Chris Denham and Jon Bateson all sidelined, Alty were however able to recall a less than 100% Stuart Coburn to the bench today. Alty's starting line up was unchanged from the side which did so well at Grimsby last time out.
Eastbourne included York City loanee George Purcell on their bench.
Quite simply, today, to avoid relegation...
Eastbourne themselves were already relegated before kick-off. There was symmetry in the Sussex side having been Ken McKenna and Stuart Bimson's first opponents when the duo took over the Alty managership and, today, they were closing the Alty season.
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white stripes, black shorts, red socks): 30. Craig DOOTSON, 2. James SMITH, 4. Marc JOSEPH, 5. Rob WILLIAMS, 26. Carl PIERGIANNI, 15. Ryan BROWN, 6. Shaun DENSMORE, 7. Robbie LAWTON (capt), 11. Nicky CLEE, 8. Damian REEVES, 14. Dale JOHNSON. Subs: 19. Mark BEESLEY, 9. Michael TWISS, 17. Wes BAYNES, 27. James SMART, 1. Stuart COBURN.
EASTBOURNE BOROUGH (Yellow) 13 Rikki Banks, 5. Ben Austin, 21. Micky Demetriou, 24. Gary Elphick, 26. Danny Kelly, 8. Simon Johnson, 11. Matt Crabb, 16. Steve Brinkhurst, 28. Eddie Hutchinson, 7. Jamie Taylor, 10. Richard Pacquette, Subs: 3. Neil Jenkins, 4. Matt Smart, 2. Darren Baker, 22. George Purcell, 12. Ethan Strevett
Surprisingly, on the last day of the season when all games are supposed to start simultaneously, this match got under way two minutes early with supporters still streaming into the ground to make up Moss Lane's second largest gate of the league season. It was Alty who kicked off, towards the home supporters in the Golf Road but the away end had a decent number of Sports' fans who had commendably made the 500-mile round trip despite their club having already been condemned to relegation.
The first action was a routine save from Dootson from a shot by Brinkhurst (2 mins). A long throw-in from Clee came and went before a Dootson clearance set Clee free on the left and his low cross was met by a well-timed run from Reeves to the near post, but the attention of a covering defender prevented his turning the ball into the net (5 mins).
After a Lawton holding offence on Hutchisnon, Crabb put the freekick wide from 30 yards (6 mins). Next, Reeves forced a save from Banks, who spilt the ball but regained possession immediately. Spectators were still arriving as news came that Tamworth had taken the lead - good news for Alty!
A couple more throws from Clee came and went but the game was scrappy at this stage as Alty struggled to find their rhythm though they were doing most of the pressing though without creating any chances.
Against this run of play Eastbourne scored when two of their players, Johnson and Taylor, were judged to have sprung the offside trap up the middle of the pitch. It was Taylor who gathered the ball 35 yards out and advanced towards Dootson and, as the Alty keeper came out, the Borough man expertly lobbed him to give his side the lead (17 mins).
Just four minutes later Taylor broke Alty's hearts further. It came after a Piergianni clearance had gone to Taylor and, from 25 yards, slightly right of goal, Taylor curled a shot past Dootson which went into the net just inside the keeper's right-hand stick (21 mins). It looked to be all over for Alty, who had failed to spark whilst Eastbourne now even put together 13-pass move before Alty could break it up.
Elphick and Kelly were taking no prisoners with Johnson on the end of a couple of foul challenges which yielded freekicks but no more formal punishment from Mr Madley. On the half hour things looked up as a Joseph freekick for one of the above offences came back off the defensive wall. From this, Densmore moved the ball forward and Johnson got in a header which Banks tipped out for a corner.
Eastbourne soon won themselves a corner but play drifted on with Altrincham making unforced errors and failing to string together their passes. Banks, the Eastbourne goalkeeper, was already noticeably time wasting (38 mins). As half time approached Brown and Clee combined but Clee's cross ended with a wild shot into Golf Road from Joseph (41 mins).
By now the other scores were not going Alty's way and the mood was sombre as Alty stuttered along. But hopes were raised in the 43rd minute when Johnson and Densmore combined and the latter's cross just evaded Nicky Clee in the goalmouth. Next, from a Clee throw on the left, Johnson's header forced a clearance off the Eastbourne line.
However, just as hopes were rising of an Alty goal before the interval, Eastbourne scored a third time, from a counter-attack. Brinkhurst was allowed time to advance and fire a fine 30-yarder past Dootson, the ball entering the net off Dootson's left post from a diagonal shot (44 mins).
In the two added minutes before half time, a Clee throw won a corner but Densmore's kick was disappointing, leaving Alty three down after a poor performance. Indeed, a chorus of boos rang out as the players went off.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 0 EASTBOURNE BOROUGH 3|
At the interval, striker Mark Beesley came on to replace Ryan Brown and Alty started the half on the front foot, winning an early corner through Clee's deflected shot. As so often this season, the Yorkshire wingman was prompting most of Alty's best forward movements. But once again Alty took a dreadful corner.
A rare lapse from Clee saw him lose possession allowing Brinkhurst to get one on one against Dootson but the Alty keeper did well to block the effort (51 mins). Next, Rob Williams was a little harshly booked for a strong but fair challenge on Brinkhurst which left the Sussex side's man needing treatment (52 mins).
After this, Johnson headed over the bar from a Clee cross (56 mins) and, moments later, Johnson turned well but his snap shot went wide. Johnson was then felled again by Elphick, who again escaped a caution.
With time ticking away, Alty finally got a goal. Lawton passed to Piuergianni and the Peterborough work-experience defender advanced impressively up the left. Via Clee, the ball found Beesley who carefully drove a low shot through a crowded goalmouth into the net (60 mins). In an instant both the team's and the crowd's belief flooded back and the next half hour was one of the most exiciting spells of the season at Moss Lane as Eastbourne threatened to cave in under Alty's onslaught.
But, for the next few minutes, the passion did not bring any tangible outcomes as, first, Clee fell over the ball and then Reeves got into a good position but had no support to pass to, before Alty yet again wasted a corner as a rehearsed routine went dreadfully wrong.
But it was Beesley, who had previously failed to score in 17 league outings this season before his strike in this match, who was the main threat. This time his shot was deflected onto the crossbar and fell invitingly for Johnson, about three yards out. Unfortunately, he could only lift the bouncing ball comfortably over the bar (66 mins).
It was all Alty as the game now featured some desperate defending by Eastbourne. At last, a second goal arrived for Altrincham, before which Beesley had forced a save, Reeves had got into the box but could not shoot and then Banks had again dropped a Clee cross but had regathered the ball. It was Clee who made it 2-3 with a fine shot from just outside the box which hit the underside of the bar before dropping over the line (77 mins).
Moments later Alty threatened again when a Clee shot struck Williams, but the big defender turned well and hooked a shot narrowly over the bar for a goalkick. Belatedly, the serial offender Banks was booked for timewasting as he again dawdled over the kick (79 mins) and Eastbourne now introduced Smart as a substitute for Taylor (80 mins).
The excitement mounted as Johnson was brought down on the front edge of the Eastbourne "D". Mark Beesley scored from the freekick with a superbly placed shot into the keeper's right-hand corner (82 mins). At 3-3 Alty needed a goal but, at this stage, even a win would not have been enough as Southport were drawing.
In a rare excursion to the other end, Alty hearts missed a beat as an Eastbourne ball was missed by Dootson, but Alty got the ball away. Eastbourne now wound the clock down further as Paquette was substituted by Purcell, with the substituted player walking off the pitch as if he were in a funeral procession (87 mins).
In these circumstances, Alty might have hoped for five added minutes but were awarded four by Mr Madley. With Tamworth and Kettering now both winning it was back in Alty's hands; a goal would have preserved their Conference national status. But, out of the blue, a speculative long range shot from Purcell skimmed off the turf and seemed to deceive Dootson who was left to pick the ball out of his net as Alty's hearts sank (90+2 mins).
It was Altrincham's disastrous start to the campaign with just one point from nine games, which set the tone for their relegation but their failure to win three games in which 2-0 leads had been held was also extremely costly as was their failure to take a single point from the bottom two clubs - unlike Eastbourne, whose manager Garry Wilson lamented at the final whistle that his team had gone down despite not losing to any of the bottom teams.
And there was a certain irony that it was Eastbourne Borough, the team which Alty had beaten in the promotion play-off to get back into the Conference in 2005 should be the same club whose win today deprived The Robins of their status in the top flight of non-League.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 3 EASTBOURNE BOROUGH 4|