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Once again, when within sight of the play-offs, Altrincham faltered and Hinckley emerged with a deserved draw. Things were not helped, before kick off, when Chris Lynch was ruled out with concussion and Nicky Clee was unavailable as his partner had gone into hospital to have a baby. There were further problems when Kieran Walmsley had to limp off after 22 minutes and stomach cramps prevented Simon Richman coming out for the second half.
In the early stages it became clear that United's quick counter attacks were causing Alty problems, with Andre Gray especially a danger on the Hinckley right. When he got the better of Mark Lynch, Alty's defender clearly hauled him down and a spot kick was the inevitable result. Belcher drove the ball confidently past Collister with less than eight minutes on the clock.
However, Alty got back on level terms four minutes later when a big kick upfield from Collister led to Reeves showing his strength to hold off a determined challenge before looping a header over the stranded keeper Haystead, who was making his first appearance after suffering a broken arm.
Mark Lynch survived another strong penalty appeal from Gray as the half-hour passed, but then Jack Redshaw, watched by his new bosses, Morecambe's management duo of Jim Bentley and Ken McKenna, enjoyed a purple patch during which he could have had a hat-trick. In the space of three minutes he found himself three times in one on ones against the keeper, in two of the cases having done really well to engineer the situation himself. But it was third time lucky when he finally converted one of the opportunities to give Alty the lead after 41 minutes.
It looked set up for Alty to go on and win the game comfortably in the second half but, after a scrappy opening period in which both sides produced numerous unforced errors, Altrincham conceded another penalty. A long punt upfield was headed back by Broomes towards his keeper, but towards the Hinckley right of the goal. Collister came out, Gray went down, and a spot kick resulted. Again, Belcher blasted the ball home to make it 2-2 (69 mins).
Belatedly, Alty applied some pressure but, when Miles went down in the box, only to be shown a yellow card for alleged simulation, it became clear it was not going to be Alty's night. Making his full debut, in central midfield, John Miles was a deserved man of the match and that, plus Damian Reeves's 34th goal of the season, were the two major positives from the match for the hosts.
REFEREE: Mr A Scregg (Liverpool).
Mr Scregg's previous Alty games included some memorable matches; a friendly at St Helens Town in 2003 in which Mark Maddox scored twice, a match at Marine in 2005, which ended in a punch-up, and a 2-1 win over Worksop in 2004, which included a rare Gary Scott goal. Both Mark and Gary were at today's game, after which Mark received a Life Vice-Presidency of Altrincham FC.
As mentioned above, midfielder Chris Lynch was ruled out with concussion and Nicky Clee was unavailable as his partner had gone into hospital to have a baby. So Jack Redshaw returned up front and James Lawrie moved to the left flank. John Miles, a recent signing from Stockport County, came in for his full debut in central midfield. Nine of Alty's squad had started fewer than 10 league games for the club prior to this match. Goalkeeper Stuart Coburn remained sidelined by injury so loanee Joe Collister continued in goal. James Holden and Adam Flynn returned to the squad, both were named on the bench.
Youth team defender Sam Grimshaw warmed up with the first team, having just signed his Conference North playing forms.
Hinckley also had goalkeeper problems. They had a loanee in goal for their last match but he had moved on to Norway since then, so it meant a recall for Dan Haystead for his first start since suffering a fractured arm.
Recent encounters between the teams were:
Mike Garnett's record of previous games between the clubs tells us that Altrincham's tally is as follows:
ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Joe COLLISTER, 2. Kieran WALMSLEY, 5.Matt FLYNN, 6. Marlon BROOMES, 3. Mark LYNCH; 7. Simon RICHMAN, 8. Shaun DENSMORE (capt), 4. Chris LYNCH, 11. Nicky CLEE; 9. James LAWRIE, 10. Damian REEVES. Subs: 12. Mark LEES, 14. John MILES, 15. Michael TWISS, 16. Jack REDSHAW, 18. Adam REID (gk).
HINCKLEY UNITED (All orange, with white trim): 1 Dan Haystead, 2. Tendayi Darikwa, 3. Callum Flanagan, 4. Danny Newton 5. Paul Lister, 6. Haydn Hollis, 7. Lloyd Kerry, 8. Andy Gooding, 10. Craig Farrell, 9. Andre Gray, 11. Sam Belcher. Subs: 15. Danny Bragoli, 12. Tom Byrne, 14. Jake Holt, 16. James Hicks.
Altrincham kicked off towards the Golf Road end on a dry, mild evening but almost immediately Redshaw lost a boot. The Hinckley keeper, Haystead, had to deal with a bad bounce the first time he handled the ball before Redshaw came off the pitch to change his footwear. So, it was a scrappy start, but it was the visitors who settled the better with some swift forward movement.
However, Alty had an early pot at goal as a good Walmsley cross from the right was volleyed well wide by Reeves (6 mins). But then the impressive Gray, operating on the Hinckley right, got the better of Mark Lynch, who clearly brought him down to concede a stonewall penalty (7 mins). Sam Belcher stepped up and gave Collister no chance as he put The Knitters ahead (8 mins).
Soon, Gray again got past Lynch, leading to Walmsley having to head off the line. Altrincham soon got level, however, through a "route one" goal. Collister's long punt set Reeves chasing with a defender in close attendance. The Alty striker's strength allowed him to hold off the challenge and nod the ball in a looping arc over the advancing and stranded goalkeeper, Haystead, and into the net (12 mins).
Two minutes later Alty had good chance to take the lead when a superb cross from Walmsley was poked over the bar by Redshaw. Play was now end to end, as Hinckley's Kerry fired over (17 mins). Just after he had delivered a testing freekick from the right, Walmsley had to limp off with a hamstring problem and he was replaced by Mark Lees at right-back (22 mins). Next, as Alty stood off, Hinckley won a corner on the right, following which Collister saved from Belcher (24 mins).
Hinckley continued to threaten with quick breaks from the back, before Hollis saw off some potential danger from Redshaw, who was being watched by his new manager Jim Bentley and his assistant at Morecambe and former Alty manager, Ken McKenna (27 mins).
Altrincham, having succeeded with the long ball which brought them their goal, continued to use this tactic, presumably with the aim of getting Redshaw or Reeves behind the back line of Hinckley. But the best they could manage as the game passed the half-hour mark was a corner, gained by Richman (34 mins). But, soon afterwards, Redshaw rolled a dangerous ball across the face of goal before Mark Lynch had another worrying moment at the back when Gray went down under his challenge and what appeared to be strong appeals for a penalty were waved away by Mr. Scregg (36 mins). Just as Gray was impressing up front, Darikwa was also doing well for the visitors at right-back.
Then a bizarre spell occurred in which Redshaw three times in as many minutes got behind the visitors' defence. Two of these one-on-one chances were created by the young striker himself as he turned Hollis inside out; the first time Haystead blocked Redshaw's shot, the second time, Redshaw found the side netting (40 mins). But on the third occasion, Redshaw found the net though Haystead got a hand to the ball, to his right. But Alty now had the lead (41 mins).
And, just as had happened after Alty's first goal, the second strike was immediately followed by another great chance. From a Redshaw feed, Lawrie's rising shot cleared the bar but he was awarded a corner. An entertaining first half went into a minute of added time as Redshaw got to the by-line and fed Reeves. With the 34-goal striker odds-on to score, his firmly hit rising shot was deflected out for a corner (45 mins).
After a rocky start Altrincham could have had a two-goal lead by the interval but Hinckley, like Blyth before them, proved that there are no easy games in this division, even when at home to a team near the foot of the table.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 HINCKLEY UNITED 1|
Simon Richman was unable to continue after the break, as he was suffering with stomach cramps. So, James Holden, who has yet to make a start for Altrincham, came on at the interval in midfield. Rain started to fall as the game meandered in scrappy fashion, with both sides giving the ball away cheaply. Between Collister making a routine save from Gooding and Gray firing a shot into Golf Road, over the top of the terrace roof, Hinckley's Chesterfield loan-player, Darikwa, was booked for a foul on Lawrie (51 mins).
There was an absence of any meaningful action till the game passed the hour mark at which point a Broomes error led to pressure on the home goal which was cleared by Lees's header off the line. With possession continuing to be lost with frequency, Hinckley's Byrne came on for Newton on the left of midfield (64 mins). Three minutes later, Lawrie did win a corner, which was taken short and cleared. Then, after good work from Holden had seen Reeves make space for a shot which Haystead saved, Altrincham conceded their second penalty. It was the second time they had conceded a brace of spot-kicks in a single match this season. This time it was Collister who conceded the spot-kick, rushing left from his goal as a long ball was headed back towards him by Broomes along the Hinckley inside-right channel. But the header was too short and Collister's dive at the feet of Gray brought down the Hinckley man. Once again, Belcher confidently beat Collister from the spot to level the score at 2-2 (69 mins).
Things did not improve when Lees was booked for baulking Byrne as he threatened to get free just inside the Alty half (72 mins). Then Collister came out but could not get to an aerial freekick but a goal kick resulted.
Next, Lawrie went off to be replaced by Twiss (73 mins) and when, soon afterwards, Lees conceded another freekick it was fortunate that Mr. Scregg did not produce a second yellow card. Alty just did not look like scoring up to this stage of the second half and, indeed, it was United's Farrell who won the next corner as Hinckley went forward. But as the game went into its final ten minutes Altrincham did raise themselves for a sustained push forward. When Miles advanced into the inside left channel of the box, Lister's challenge brought the Alty midfielder down. But amidst penalty appeals, Mr. Scregg booked Miles for alleged simulation (82 mins).
After this, Reeves appeared to be impeded in the box but play was waved on (86 mins). However, Altrincham kept coming forward now as, firstly, Reeves chipped a Holden feed over the bar (88 mins) and then a Miles freekick was cleared. With the game in added time, Hinckley brought on Holt for Farrell (90+1 mins). Despite playing some five added minutes, Altrincham could not find a way through and so dropped two points in their quest to get into the play-offs.
On the positive side, it was good to record that John Miles was a deserving Man of the Match in his first start for the club and that Damian Reeves's goalscoring continues, with number 34 notched tonight in the 29th league game of the season. Also, Altrincham have lost just once in their last seven games which, for a team undergoing such a major change of personnel in mid- season, is a good return. But it is at the back where the major problems remain, with ten penalties having been scored (and a couple missed) against Alty this season and just three clean sheets recorded in 32 league and cup matches.
A trip this Saturday to another struggling side, Bishop's Stortford, gives Altrincham a chance to improve on their record of failing to keep a clean sheet in any away game this season. But, as both Blyth and Hinckley have shown, no matter what the league position of the opposition, results have to be earned the hard way in this division.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 2 HINCKLEY UNITED 2|