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Despite being without the injured Watmore and Lawrie, Altrincham lifted themselves into the play-off places for the first time this season with this ultimately comfortable win. For the second time in five days at Moss Lane the opposition had its goalkeeper sent off in the first half. The Robins were already ahead, thanks to a 31st minute goal which Richman converted from close range after Moult's low cross had been helped on from right of goal by Reeves.
Reeves's chip had hit the bar as early as the second minute and Town goalkeeper MacGillivray had made several decent saves before he was sent off when he tripped Reeves as he poked the ball beyond him. With no keeper on the bench a lengthy debate led to Nowakowski donning the gloves. He then saved Doughty's penalty to leave Alty just one up at the interval. It was Alty's fifth penalty miss of the season.
Whereas Alty had laboured to overcome ten-man Stalybridge and their makeshift keeper on New Year's Day, this time they pressed home the advantage more effectively.
Carl Rodgers's header from the back post made it 2-0 after 48 minutes. Finally, Damian Reeves's low drive made it 3-0 after 73 minutes before Danny Forrest saw his penalty, awarded against Havern, saved by Coburn (81 mins).
REFEREE: Mr G. Johnson
Altrincham were without the injured Duncan Watmore (ankle) and James Lawrie (toe) but Nicky Clee had recovered from his hamstring problem to start this game. There was a first appearance in a first-team squad for youth team midfielder Callum Mooney, whilst his team-mate, 16 year-old goalkeeper Steven Bullen was involved in the warm-up with Stuart Coburn and Adam Reid.
Altrincham had won the reverse fixture at Wetherby Road back in August. p> Mike Garnett's statistics tell us that the previous record between Altrincham and Harrogate Town was:
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, red socks and shorts): 1. Stuart COBURN, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Matt DOUGHTY, (capt), 4. Carl RODGERS, 5. Gianluca HAVERN, 6. Danny HALL, 9. Simon RICHMAN, 8. Jake MOULT, 7. Jordan SINNOTT, 10. Damian REEVES, 11. Nicky CLEE. Subs: 12. Scott LEATHER, 14. Patrick LACEY, 15. Ryan BROOKE, 16. Callum MOONEY 18. Adam REID (gk)
HARROGATE TOWN (Yellow shirts and socks, black shorts): 1. Craig MacGillivray, 2. Dwayne Samuels, 3. Dave Merris, 4. Adam Bolder, 5. Alan White, 6. Shane Killock, 7. Paul Bolland (capt), 8. Adam Nowakowski, 9. Jonny Allan, 10. Adam Baker, 11. Lee Elam. Subs: 12. Chibuzor Chilaka, 16. Danny Forrest, 15. Matthew Bloomer, 14. Luke Dean, 17. Robbie Youhill
Altrincham, adopting a 4-4-1-1 formation, kicked off towards the Golf Road end on a bright and mild afternoon at Moss Lane. After Town had tried to get forward, Altrincham almost took the lead. A fine through ball found Reeves, whose excellent chip from the edge of the box cleared the keeper but struck the crossbar (2 mins).
After a few unexceptional minutes, an advance by Baker was halted by Hall before a shot from the overlapping Samuels struck the unfortunate Baker. But Altrincham went closer in the sixth minute when a Sinnott cross found Clee whose header forced an impressive save from MacGillivray.
Altrincham continued to look the better side as Densmore's superb long ball found Moult and his half-volley forced another fine save from MacGillivray (8 mins). Next, as Town stood off the advancing Clee, the visitors were relieved to see his shot go 15 yards wide (11 mins).
Alty's formation deployed Sinnott behind Reeves, with Richman on the right flank. Play went through a fairly even spell but when Altrincham won a promising freekick 25 yards from goal in a central position the rehearsed routine went awry and ended with a wild skied shot over the bar by Rodgers (15 mins).
But the defences remained on top even though a clever back-heel by Clee and a resulting Doughty cross produced an Alty corner on the left but it was poorly taken by Sinnott (19 mins). The sides exchanged a couple of freekicks as the game went through a scrappy spell, with neither side able to keep the ball to any productive purpose.
The game badly needed a goal as it passed the half-hour mark when a good Clee run gave hope but was undone by poor control from Rodgers. But then a Moult cross from the right was helped on across goal by Reeves leaving Richman free to hammer home the opening goal from close range in a central position in the goalmouth (31 mins).
Soon afterwards, a Reeves shot was half blocked and ran to the keeper from a good Sinnott feed. Next, a good Clee cross was well taken by MacGillivray after Doughty's one-two with Clee; Alty's two left-sided players combined well this afternoon.
Some Harrogate pressing produced good blocking by Alty's defence (37 mins) before Alty got to the other end. Clee put Reeves running at goal in the inside-left channel. The Alty man poked the ball past the advancing MacGillivray, only to be brought down by the keeper. Referee Johnson pointed to the spot and showed the keeper a red card (38 mins).
This caused consternation on the Harrogate bench where they had no deputy keeper available. The players then held an impromptu meeting on the pitch before Nowakowski donned the keeperís gloves and jersey. After this substantial delay, Matt Doughty took the penalty but Nowakowski saved it, diving to his left. It was the fifth time Altrincham had missed a spot-kick this season (40 mins).
Ironically, just after Elam had impressed with a good run on the left, the former Alty winger was taken off and Bloomer replaced him as Harrogate tried to adjust to being reduced to ten men. For Altrincham it was the second time in five days at Moss Lane that they had been confronted by a ten-man side fielding an outfield player in goal. And they had laboured badly in taking advantage of this situation against Stalybridge Celtic on New Year's Day.
Next, after a good Sinnott run, the Alty loanee from Huddersfield fired over the bar (43 mins). Three added minutes were played during which Moult got into the box and seemed to be brought down but Mr. Johnson was not in favour of a second penalty award. So half time arrived in a game which Altrincham should have been winning by a larger margin given their dominance.
For their part, Harrogate had not tested Coburn in the home goal.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1 HARROGATE TOWN 0|
Town kicked off the second half and spent the opening minutes in the Altrincham half before Sinnott won a freekick on the right front-edge of box. Clee's freekick forced a good save from Nowakowski, tipping the ball out for a corner as it headed towards the top corner. From Alty's corner by Clee, on the right, Rodgers executed an excellent looping header from beyond the back post, which entered the net off the bottom of the crossbar (48 mins).
Harrogate got in a shot by Allan which went just wide (51 mins) before Richman fed Sinnott who forced another good save by the stand-in keeper, giving Alty a corner on the right.
Harrogate attempted to shake things up as they introduced the former Halifax man Danny Forrest in place of former Northwich striker Jonny Allan (58 mins). Though they were on top, Alty boss Lee Sinnott was annoyed at his team, telling them that they were "sloppy".
After 63 minutes, the limping Clee went down for treatment, having been fouled earlier. So Leather came on for Clee, with Doughty moving to left midfield as Leather slotted in at left-back. But for the second time in a week, Alty were not capitalising on their extra man. They were still creating some chances as Sinnott was put clear but dragged his shot wide and then his curler from the right had to be tipped out for a corner on the Alty left (66 mins).
After this, Moult won a corner on the right after which the stand-in keeper punched clear only for Havern to fire over from 12 yards. Town made a change as Baker was replaced by Youhill (69 mins). Altrinchamís dominance continued as they won another corner. But when they finally got their third goal, it owed something to good fortune as, following a throw on the left, a ball deflected to Reeves on the front edge of the box. He drove a low shot to the keeper's right to make it 3-0 (73 mins).
Alty were well in control as Sinnott saw his shot saved (77 mins) and then the same player's chip from the left was only just reached by the keeper as he ran back towards the goal-line. But with ten minutes left, a challenge by Havern gave the visitors a penalty, for which the Alty centre-back was booked (80 mins). But Stuart Coburn saved Forrest's penalty, diving to his left (81 mins).
After a Richman shot had gone well over, Reeves was taken off, to be replaced by Brooke (83 mins), followed two minutes later by Lacey who came on for Doughty. As the game went into added time, Brooke's low shot was held by the keeper at the second attempt. In the three added minutes the alert Moult saw Nowakowski off his line and from 50 yards his lob struck the top of the crossbar, with the keeper beaten. Harrogate did not give up and won a corner after getting to the by-line (90+2 mins) but Altrincham recorded a win that took them into the play-off positions and their fourth clean-sheet of the season.
Though they faced ten men, including a rookie keeper, for more than fifty minutes, Altrincham had shown enough attacking dominance before the sending off to suggest that they would still have won this game without the dismissal.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 3 HARROGATE TOWN 0|
Compiled by John Laidlar