WITTON ALBION (1) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
played on Tuesday, 21 July, 2015, at 7.45pm
Altrincham went down to their first defeat of pre-season at EvoStik First Division Witton Albion on Tuesday evening. The Robins fell behind in the 14th minute to a fine header by Lee Cropper, which went in off the underside of the crossbar, after Alex Titchener had got behind Adam Griffin on the Albion right. Lee Sinnott made four half-time changes, with Richman, Moult, Rankine and Lawrie coming on to replace Griffith, O'Keefe, Clee and Crowther. The changes prompted an improved second half from Alty but few clear scoring chances for the visitors.
With just three goals scored in five pre-season games, one area that has been particularly disappointing has been up front. But several players elsewhere in the formation displayed a lack of sharpness, with mis-control and passes going astray with frequency.
- 14 mins: Lee CROPPER (Witton Albion 1 ALTRINCHAM 0)
REFEREE: Mr Jon-Paul Kenny
ATTENDANCE: 206 tbc
Alty started with seven players who had figured regularly towards the end of last season, plus three new signings (Deasy, Griffith and O'Keefe), plus an unnamed trialist.
Jordan Deacey was not in today's squad, having been released and also absent were Luca Havern and Jordan Sinnott. The same unnamed trialist who had played against Wigan, once more was involved tonight. Reserves Joel Swift and Sam Heathcote, as well as youth team graduate Rhain Davies were also in the squad.
Witton included on their bench ex-Alty reserve Ashley Stott, former Alty trialist Tom Schofield and ex-youth teamer Joel Brownhill.
WITTON ALBION (Red and white striped shirts, navy shorts, red socks): 1. Danny Roberts, 2. Niall Green, 3. Jon Dawson, 4. Gary Roberts, 5. Scott Lycet, 6. Darren Chadwick (c), 7. Kyle Diskin, 8. Jon Beaumont, 9. Lee Cropper, 10. Alex Titchener, 11. Danny Andrews. Subs: 12. Nathan Valentine, 14. Joel Brownhill, 15. Tom Schofield, 16. Ashley Stott, 17. Gary Grant, 18. Michael Schofield, Shaun Breen, Jack Disney
ALTRINCHAM (Yellow shirts and socks, blue shorts): 1. Tim DEASY, 2. Shaun DENSMORE, 3. Adam GRIFFIN, 4. Anthony GRIFFITH, 5. Scott LEATHER, 16. Tom MARSHALL, 6. Josh O'KEEFE, 7. Nicky CLEE, 8. A. TRIALIST, 10. Damian REEVES, 11. Ryan CROWTHER. Subs: 12 Sam HEATHCOTE, 14. Jake MOULT, 15.James LAWRIE, 9. Michael RANKINE, Joel SWIFT, 17.Simon RICHMAN, David BROWN, 18. Stuart COBURN, Rhain DAVIES.
This was Alty's fifth pre-season game, following draws at Abbey Hey and at home to Wigan and 1-0 wins at Bamber Bridge and Stalybridge Celtic.
After Witton had kicked off on an excellent surface, Andrews fired over the bar from a Cropper feed in only the second minute. Leather covered well after Marshall had misjudged an aerial ball as Alty faced into a steady breeze (5 mins). Witton were on their game as trips on Clee and Crowther confirmed their determination. After Gary Roberts had executed a strong but fair tackle on Griffith, Alty's unnamed trialist dribbled into the right of Witton’s box. His shot was fumbled by keeper Danny Roberts but it ended up being a goalkick (11 mins).
Witton took the lead with a well-worked goal in the fourteenth minute. Titchiner got round Griffin on Albion's right and his cross was firmly headed into the net off the underside of the bar by Cropper to make it 1-0.
After Reeves had been fouled on the edge of the Witton box, Densmore played a short freekick to the trialist who was robbed of the ball, But soon a looping Densmore cross from a right-wing overlap located Crowther, who fed the trialist but the ball was cleared. Next Griffith wanted too much time on the ball and was robbed, leading to a fine 20 yard hit from Andrews, which forced a fine save from Deasy, diving to his left (18 mins). Alty were second best at this stage.
But then a Crowther cross led to a shot by the trialist which went for a corner on the left, which was taken poorly by Crowther, low and to the first defender at the near post (21 mins). Midway through the half Clee switched from right to left, after which the trialist and Densmore combined well, with the latter's shot going only just wide (24 mins).
Things improved further as a Crowther 25 yarder was deflected for another corner, this time taken short. When Clee was fouled again, it must have been the fourth time he had been impeded.
Albion were soon back at the other end as Cropper won a corner, followed by a Roberts cross, which Deasy caught (29 mins). Alty's trialist, who was playing as well as anyone for his side, did get the ball in the net , after a Griffin cross had been relayed by Reeves (30 mins). Alty's play had been a bit better over the last few minutes bBut then O'Keefe miscontrolled the ball on his own byline to concede a corner. This was followed by a second corner, after a shot from the right had been deflected. From the corner, Witton headed wide (35 mins). But Alty continued to misfire as a Griffin pass found touch before Crowther miscontrolled the ball to concede a throw and Marshall lost possession.
Though Alty were looking rusty, Densmore now got forward after making an interception and his cross found Reeves, whose shot deflected to the keeper (39 mins). Two minutes later Cropper brought a long ball down superbly, allowing Diskin to try a chip but this was caught by Deasy (41 mins).
Alty boss Lee Sinnott was by now already instructing four potential second half substitutes (Moult, Lawrie, Richman and Rankine) who all huddled round a written game-plan on the touchline. A late Alty freekick for a foul on Clee was taken by the victim but it drifted out of play for a goalkick (44 mins).
So a disappointing half ended in which misplaced passes, indifferent ball control and, at times, an apparent uncertainty in how to play the ball forward from the back and midfield had plagued the visitors' performance. Witton were value for their lead.
|Half-Time: WITTON ALBION 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|
As expected, Moult, Lawrie, Richman and Rankine all started the second half as Clee, Griffith, O'Keefe and Crowther left the fray. Altrincham won an early corner on their right from which Rankine nodded the ball forward but Reeves was unable to connect with an attempted bicycle kick (46 mins).
Alty were now set up as a 4-3-3 formation with the trialist and Reeves flanking Rankine up top, with Lawrie in midfield on the left, Richman on the right and Moult centrally positioned. The back four remained unaltered.
After a foul on Richman, Marshall headed Lawrie's freekick over the bar (50 mins). Alty were now getting forward more regularly but Rankine overhit his cross after making space well on the right. The combative Roberts fouled Lawrie in midfield before a Marshall shot was blocked at source. After this Beaumont felled Lawrie 30 yards out and the same Alty player's freekick from 30 yards had to be tipped round his post by the keeper for a corner (58 mins).
After 61 minutes Brownhill came on for Diskin and not long afterwards Witton appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty as Andrews went down in the Alty box. Near half way, a late, lunging foul on Moult prompted a melee of a dozen or more players before order was restored.
On 66 minutes, before play restarted, Stott came on for Andrews. Next a Lawrie cross gained a corner, which was disappointingly taken by Lawrie and was cleared by the first defender. However, Rankine soon won another corner, followed by a freekick for a foul on Lawrie.
Next, Tom Schofield replaced Cropper. A Leather misheader towards his goalkeeper allowed Stott in. He fed Roberts who badly sidefooted over the bar from a clear chance in front of goal (69 mins). After a Brownhill trip on Densmore, Rankine headed his captain's freekick to keeper Roberts (71 mins). Witton wasted another good chance when Stott was played into the box but spooned his effort miles over the bar (72 mins).
Heathcote replaced Leather and Witton's Valentine replaced Gary Roberts in the 74th minute. After an Alty move had faltered, Griffin hit a crisp 35 yard shot which skimmed the top of the cross bar (75 mins). The floodlights came on with twelve minutes remaining. Nine minutes from time a Lawrie right-wing corner was half cleared and after three blocked shots from Alty, another corner was gained, this time on the left. Despite winning the corner count, Alty made little of these opportunities.
Michael Schofield now came on for Albion (82 mins) before Lawrie fired a shot well over the bar from left of the box. He did better in the 85th minute when the trialist laid off a long ball forward from Heathcote and his shot went narrowly wide. Yet another corner arrived as a Lawrie lay off allowed Richman a shot which was deflected out of play (87 mins). A late Densmore freekick went to the keeper before the game ended with a disappointing first defeat of pre-season.
There is still clearly plenty of rustiness in Alty's players and whilst, defensively, just two goals have been conceded in five matches, only three have been netted at the other end. Obviously mid-match changes of personnel, the bedding of new players, as well as positional and formational experimentation, all have their effect on pre-season performances. The real test will come on 8th August when the National League makes its debut.
|Full-Time: WITTON ALBION 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|