BRACKLEY TOWN (1) 1
ALTRINCHAM (1) 1
played on Tuesday, 24 January 2017, at 7.45pm
Altrincham lost two centre-backs to injury but put in a battling performance to secure an away point at promotion chasing Brackley.
Nicky Clee's fine chip gave Altrincham a sixth-minute lead after keeper Laurie Walker had elected to punch away Heathcote's freekick when he could have gathered it.
However, following a Moult foul, Brackley were awarded a spot-kick but Armson's penalty smacked the bar and Byrne's follow-up went narrowly wide. Four minutes later Armson atoned for his miss when he headed home Glenn Walker's cross, from the left, to make it 1-1.
Alty lost Heathcote to a throat injury which necessitated a lengthy stoppage in the second half.
As fog descended ever more thickly on a, by now, freezing St James Park, it was difficult to see what was happening on the far side of the pitch. Although Brackley had more of the second-half attacking play, Altrincham could have snatched a win at the end when substitute Adeloye was brought down and Brackley captain Dean received his marching orders for a second cautionable offence.
But Adeloye's freekick was blazed over the bar.
- 6 mins: Nicky CLEE (Brackley Town 0 ALTRINCHAM 1)
- 25 mins: James ARMSON (Brackley Town 1 ALTRINCHAM 1)
REFEREE: Mr Robert Massey-Ellis (Coventry)
Jake Moult had now fulfilled his three-match ban but Sean Miller, Shaun Densmore, Craig Hobson and Alan Goodall were all missing through injury. There was a further blow when Tom Hannigan failed to emerge for the start of the game, a hip injury meaning he had dropped out to be replaced by midfielder Simon Richman, wearing number 14. So Moult was drafted into the back line alongside Cyrus and Heathcote.
BRACKLEY TOWN (Red & black shirts, black shirts, red socks) 1. Laurie Walker, 2. David Moyo, 3. Alex Gudger, 4. Shane Byrne, 5. Luke Graham, 6. Gareth Dean (c), 7. Glenn Walker, 8. James Armson, 9. Lee Ndlovu, 10. Steve Diggin, 11 Adam Walker. Subs 12. Matt Lowe, 14. Jordan Gough, 15. Jack Bowen, 16. Ellis Myles, 17. David Pitt
ALTRINCHAM (All yellow) 1. Tim DEASY, 2. Sam PATTERSON, 3. Sam HEATHCOTE, 4. Jake MOULT (c), 5. John CYRUS, 7. Kyle BROWNHILL,14 Simon RICHMAN, 8. Gary JONES (c), 11. Nicky CLEE, 10. James LAWRIE, 9. Andy OWENS. Subs 12. Oluwatomisin ADELOYE, 15. Damian REEVES, 16. Laurence TAYLOR, 17. Elliot NEWBY.
The thick fog which was evident before kick off had dissipated to a significant degree before kick-off but amongst spectators, there was some doubt about whether the game would be completed with worse visibility threatened by the forecasters.
Before kick-off tonight, Brackley Town were the only club in the division not to have previously played Altrincham this season, the original fixture from November 2016 having twice been postponed owing to clashes with cup competitions.
Mike Garnett's records reveal the record of previous encounters between the two clubs:
Brackley kicked off in quite reasonable visibility and, soon afterwards, Tim Deasy had to stop an Armson header, at the second attempt, after Diggin had been allowed to advance (2 mins).
From a Heathcote freekick from the left, awarded for a foul on Owens, the home keeper, Laurie Walker, elected to punch rather than collect the ball but he only succeeded in finding Clee, who lobbed him superbly from outside the box to put Altrincham ahead (6 mins).
Brackley then wasted a chance of their own when Diggin was put clear by a fine through ball but the striker missed the target badly, to the right of goal, from inside the box (10 mins).
After an Alty corner had been won by Clee, the same Alty man did well to clear from the byline of his own goal (13 mins). Next, Andy Owens was held as he was getting free and Graham was deservedly booked, with it not being out of the question that a red card might have been the punishment. But Clee drove the freekick into a defender (14 mins).
In Hannigan's absence, Moult was deployed in the back three and he now blocked a Diggin shot (19 mins). Soon after this, Deasy had to beat out a shot by Diggin but the home pressure told as Moult now conceded a penalty with a challenge in the box.
But Armson's well-struck penalty-kick smacked the bar and rebounded clear of goal. A Byrne follow-up shot then flew just wide for a corner, after which the ball was scrambled away (22 mins).
Armson soon atoned for his missed spotkick as he headed home Glenn Walker's cross from the left to level the scores (25 mins).
Next, Adam Walker who had already had treatment off the pitch, was replaced by Lowe (27 mins). After that change of personnel, Luke Graham's excellent ball fed Diggin but he was halted by the Alty defence.
Visibility was still reasonable as Lawrie got to the byline but then Ndlovu got clear at the other end and Deasy spilt his shot but the ball was cleared (31 mins). Next, a Gudger cross was headed to Deasy before Clee ran into trouble at the Brackley end.
Owens continued to draw fouls from the central defenders but from a Moult freekick for another such transgression, the ball was cleared. End to end play continued as, now, Gudger was allowed to advance and substitute Lowe won a corner, which Altrincham cleared successfully.
Alty responded again as, now, Patterson's cross led to a visitors' corner, won off the keeper. Play again switched as, next, Glenn Walker's cross was headed wide by Ndlovu (41 mins). It was to be a wasteful evening for the Brackley forwards.
When Owens was pulled down once more, it meant a booking for Graham, so both Brackley centre-backs were now on a caution. However, Clee's freekick was too low and was cleared, but Alty kept up the pressure as the next Alty throw, by Clee, earned his side a corner which led to another straight afterwards.
So the scores were level at half-time. Alty had worked hard to maintain parity but both sides had been below par in their shooting.
|Half-Time: BRACKLEY TOWN 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|
As had been forecast, the fog started to roll back in during the interval and, with the temperature dropping to freezing, the pitch was also getting to be a trickier surface.
Indeed, fog was now hanging about 20 feet over the surface of the entire pitch as spectators witnessed a very wild shot by Jones from 25 yards (51 mins). Next, Deasy held Byrne's shot low down as attacks were again traded.
Yet again, the unfortunate Owens was felled by an opponent but Clee's freekick was again too low and went into the defensive wall. Next, after Patterson had stayed down off the pitch, he came back on but was holding his lower back (55 mins).
Next, Heathcote went down for treatment to what later emerged had been an accidental elbow in the throat, which affected his breathing. This required a lengthy stoppage with Heathcote going down again as he initially tried to walk off the pitch.
After some five minutes of treatment, striker Reeves came on to replace the young Alty defender (64 mins). So Alty had lost two centre backs tonight and had to reshuffle their pack on each occasion. And moments later, Clee went down as well but he resumed, albeit holding his head (66 mins).
Brackley wastefulness continued as Lowe advanced but fired well over the roof of the main stand. The fog now descended to pitch level, making it difficult to identify players across the pitch.
At this stage, Alty were struggling to get forward and from a Moyo cross, Ndlovu's shot had to be shovelled away by Deasy (70 mins). With play largely heading towards Alty's goal, two Brackley freekicks came and went in the gloom.
Next, Deasy blocked a shot from a phantom figure in the fog. After a Brackley corner, an almost synchronised substitution saw both sides replace their no.10s with number seventeens as Newby replaced Lawrie for Altrincham and Brackley's Pitt came on for Diggin (83 mins).
Visibility was now very poor; any player more than 50 yards away from the main stand was just a vague shape and those on the far touch line were little more than smudges.
When Richman was penalised in the Town half, Reeves blocked the freekick and was booked. At this point, Adeloye replaced Owens (89 mins).
No added time was displayed but some seven minutes were played, largely due to Heathcote's injury. In the first of these added minutes, Brackley's Bowen replaced Graham.
Two home corners passed in the fog before Adeloye beat his man and was fouled by Dean as he headed towards the box. The Brackley captain was sent off for his second yellow card (90+6) but Adeloye disappointingly hit the freekick well over the bar.
Nevertheless, it was a well deserved point for Altrincham in difficult conditions. After the match it happily emerged that Heathcote's injury was not serious.
|Full-Time: BRACKLEY TOWN 1 ALTRINCHAM 1|