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Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round match
played on Saturday, 2 September 2017, at 3pm


After 23 minutes Altrincham were leading 3-0 and in almost complete control of the match but by the end of the afternoon they were grateful for an Abbey Hey miss which would have dumped them out of the Emirates FA Cup at the first hurdle. And, to compound Alty's misfortunes, their already depleted squad lost another three players to injury; James Poole and Ben Harrison had to be subbed in the first half and, more seriously, Laurence Taylor was stretchered off in the closing stages.

John Johnston's trickery was the key that Alty used to unlock Abbey Hey and, as early as the fifth minute, he cut in from the right before planting a rising shot into the top of the hosts' net. Alty made it 2-0 in the 17th minute. Poole's freekick hit the defensive wall but came to Hulme who nodded it on for Hancock to volley home. The third goal arrived on 23 minutes when Johnston's cross from the right byline was swept home, from close range, by Jordan Hulme.

Having then lost Poole and Harrison to injury in a three-minute spell, Alty conceded a poorly defended goal from an Abbey Hey freekick which was taken from just inside the Alty half. They failed to pick up defender Smith, who powered home a header from left of goal. And Alty were stunned a minute before the interval when another Abbey Hey freekick produced a goal. This time the ball was driven at goal; Thompson saved it but only managed to push the ball onto the post from where it rebounded for Wilshaw to make it 3-2 from close range (44 mins).

Although Alty had more of the ball, again, in the second half, they laboured to create any clear chances. And four minutes from the end of normal time, following a throw-in, Abbey Hey substitute Webb cut in from the right and went down as Thompson dived at his feet. The resulting penalty kick was comprehensively converted by former Alty trialist Sam Freakes to level the scores. After this, Fabrice Bembo-Leta dispossessed Moult and Alty were grateful when the resulting shot was beaten out by Thompson only for Webb to put the loose ball wide.

With the game into added time, Webb's harsh challenge on Taylor earned him a yellow card but left Alty's young midfielder needing to be carried off with what, it is hoped, is a less serious injury than it appeared to be.

REFEREE: Mr Freeman

With John Disney and fellow full-back Lewis Short being less that 100% fit, as well as Simon Richman who had played in that position last, midfielder Sam Sheridan was pressed into action at right-back. In addition, centre-back Tom Hannigan was deployed at left-back. Altrincham were also without strikers Josh Amis and Sean Miller, recovering from their repective operations.

With seven subs allowed in the FA Cup, Alty named two reserve defenders, Callum Jones and Tom Westall, on the bench.

In addition to former Alty physio Alan Ainsley, who performs that role for Abbey Hey, other links between the clubs included Sam Freakes, an ex-FCUM player who was an Alty pre-season trialist in 2013. Two other Abbey Hey players, the twins Fabrice Bembo-Leta and Djenny Bembo, are elder siblings of Joel Bembo-Leta, who was an Alty trialist this summer.


ABBEY HEY (Red) 1. Elliot Wynne, 2. Matt Cook, 3. Jack Tinning, 4. Lee Wilshaw, 5. Andrew Smith (c), 6. Adam Farrand, 7. Rob Swallow, 8. Sam Freakes, 9. George Noon, 10. Benito Lowe, 11. Ashford Blake. Subs 12. Adam Hampshire, 14. Des Flanagan, 15. Paul Smith, 16. Djenny Bembo, 17. Rhys Webb, 18. Fabrice Bembo-Leta

ALTRINCHAM (Purple shirts and shorts, white socks): 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Sam SHERIDAN, 3. Tom HANNIGAN, 4. James JONES, 5. Ben HARRISON, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Laurence TAYLOR, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. James POOLE, 11. Josh HANCOCK. Subs: 12. Max HARROP, 14. Lewis SHORT, 15. Tom PEERS, 16. Shaun DENSMORE, 17. Callum JONES, 18. Tom WESTALL, 20. Tim DEASY.

BACKGROUND Prize money of £3,000 is available to the winners of First Qualifying Round matches in the FA Cup.

Altrincham had never met Abbey Hey in a competitive game before today, despite the two clubs' proximity to each other and both being more than 100 years old, (Abbey Hey were founded in 1902).

However, no fewer than twelve pre-season friendlies have been played between the clubs since 2000, all at Goredale Avenue. Of these, Altrincham have won ten and drawn two. The most recent match, in 2015, ended goalless.

In their six league and cup matches this season, Abbey Hey had won all three away fixtures but had yet to win at home. They lay 20th in the 23-team Hallmark Security League (NW Counties) Premier Division, two rungs below Alty on the non-League ladder.


Abbey Hey won the toss and opted to change ends, presumably to avoid their keeper having to look into the strong sunshine which instead afflicted Tony Thompson.

So, Alty kicked off and in just the second minute, Hannigan got forward but shot wide after Johnston had cut in from the right. Indeed, it soon became clear that locating Johnston on the wing was the preferred option for the Alty midfield.

And it was Johnston who opened the scoring in the fifth minute, as he cut in from the right and hit a rising left-foot shot into the keeper's top corner to his left. Abbey Hey were allowing Alty space and time to pass the ball around in these early stages and they almost paid the in the ninth minute when a Johnston cross fed Hancock, whose shot was saved point blank by Wynne but offside was signalled in any case (9 mins).

Alty had been dominant so far but in the 14th minute came the first Abbey Hey attack but it ended in a cross, which went out for a goalkick. A foul on Hancock gave Alty a freekick a little more than 20 yards from goal in a fairly central position. Though Poole's freekick was too low to clear the wall, the ball came to Hulme, who nodded it on for Hancock, who volleyed home impressively from left of centre to make it 2-0 to the visitors (17 mins).

Next Taylor's ball into the box ran off Poole's chest to keeper Wynne before a Poole 25-yarder, struck with his right foot, cleared the bar. Then after a foul on Hancock, the same player's shot went close to the upright as the visitors dominated (21 mins). However, Abbey Hey than threatened as Noon got behind Jones but Harrison covered well.

Altrincham assumed a three-nil lead in the 23rd minute when a low Johnston cross from the right by-line was swept into the net from close range by Hulme.

With a 3-0 lead Altrincham maintained their dominance as Johnston fired well wide from left of goal and a Poole cross narrowly evaded Moult, in the box, at the near post. Just after the half-hour mark a Johnston shot from 20 yards went just wide of both the diving keeper and the post as it looked as if the Alty margin of lead would be increased.

But soon after a Johnston curler had only narrowly cleared the bar, following a quickly taken throw by Hannigan, Abbey Hey won a freekick no more than ten yards inside the Alty half near their right touchline. From this less than threatening position a fine ball was lofted towards the back post where defender Smith arrived, unmarked, to head firmly past Thompson and make the score 1-3 (33 mins).

Further setbacks for Altrincham arrived in quick succession as, first, Poole had to be replaced by Peers (36 mins) and three minutes later, Harrison needed treatment after making a clearance. The Alty centre-back was unable to continue and Short came on at left-back, with Hannigan moving inside to centre-back (39 mins).

Following a foul by Freakes, Hancock's freekick from about 20 yards out yielded a corner off the defensive wall. As half-time approached Moult was penalised 35 yards from his goal on the Abbey Hey left. Instead of floating the freekick into the goalmouth, the Abbey Hey player involved drove the freekick at the near post. Thompson dived to his right and got his hands to the ball but could only divert it onto his right upright. The ball bounced down and Wilshaw darted into the goalmouth from the left to put the ball into the vacant net and make it 2-3 (45 mins).

The home side were buoyant now and in added time Blake dragged a shot wide of the back post. What had looked to be a comfortable win in the making had now become a real contest for Altrincham.

Half-Time: ABBEY HEY 2

Three minutes into the second half, Alty won a corner, after which a Jones shot was blocked, before a Johnston effort gained another corner (49 mins). Peers' header from the corner was only just too high to hit the top corner of the net. Next an Alty freekick by Johnston went to keeper Wynne before a foul on Sheridan by Lowe gave the visitors a freekick. SO Altrincham were again in the driving seat though Abbey Hey were looking more secure at the back than they had been in the opening stages of the first half.

After Moult had won a corner, Abbey Hey made their first change as Djenny Bembo replaced Farrand (57 mins). However, neither side was creating any real goal chances though the Alty bench called for a penalty when Peers won the ball only to go down under a resulting challenge (63 mins). Next a Peers shot deflected to the keeper, after which came another substitution as Webb replaced Abbey Hey's Lowe (65 mins).

Noon now moved to the left to accommodate Blake. Soon Johnston won another corner and then Hancock did well to get onto a ball from Sheridan but he shot well wide (69 mins). Another misplaced shot, this time over the bar, followed soon afterwards from Short. Harrop was readied to come on but did not do so.

Hulme was hauled over just outside the box but Alty hit the freekick into the wall (72 mins). The Gorton side made their final change as Bembo’s twin brother Fabrice Bembo-Leta replaced Swallow, with fourteen minutes remaining on the clock.

Alty were well on top but not creating chances and were misfiring when half-chances cropped up. With the match into the last ten minutes, Bembo-Leta won his side a corner, which Alty only cleared at the third attempt. His twin brother Djenny Bembo became the match's first booking when he fouled Hancock (82 mins).

Alty did threaten when a cross from the right produced a flicked header by Hulme, which Wynne saved. Altrincham were edging towards the next round when, following an innocuous throw-in near halfway on the Abbey Hey right, Webb was allowed to advance and cut in from the right. As he drifted towards goal, Thompson dived at his feet and conceded a penalty. Freakes blasted this into net to level the score at 3-3 (87 mins).

Alty almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as Moult was robbed by a strong Bembo-Leta tackle, which led to a fierce shot, which Thompson could only beat out. The ball fell for Blake but, thankfully for Alty, he hooked his effort well wide and a great chance of a "giantkilling" went begging (89 mins).

In the first minute of added time, Webb felled Taylor on the halfway line and the young midfielder stayed down. After treatment he had to be stretchered off and Shaun Densmore came on to replace him (90+3 mins).

In the closing minutes of what proved to be seven added minutes, Peers forced a save by Wynne and Bembo-Leta had to be halted by Short.

So, an afternoon which had started so well for Altrincham ended in disappointment and, worryingly, three more injuries to add to the four players (Amis, Miller, Richman and Disney) already sidelined.

Full-Time: ABBEY HEY 3