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EvoStik Premier match
played on Monday, 1 January 2018, 3pm


Altrincham's 16-game unbeaten run in the league came to an end in a match played in atrocious weather, in which they led twice but succumbed to two late goals. It was their first league defeat since a loss in equally atrocious weather at Workington in September.

On an already soft pitch, heavy and increasingly squally rain fell from the kick-off but Alty took a sixth-minute lead when the visitors' keeper was unable to hold a Poole shot and Hulme netted the loose ball. However, Albion levelled just three minutes later when Owens made space on the edge of the box and scored a fine goal with a rising shot which went in, off the post.

Witton then took a deserved lead as Foley slotted home from close range after Witton had struck the crossbar in the 24th minute. After their disappointing first-half showing, Alty improved in the second period with Johnston looking more dangerous on the less sodden side of the pitch. They levelled after 54 minutes when Poole poked the ball home after good work in the box from Hulme.

Next, debutant full-back Andy White's low 25 yarder gave Altrincham a 3-2 lead after 67 minutes.

Altrincham looked to have the game in their hands at that stage but eight minutes from time a good Witton move up the right allowed Owens to net his second and Albion's third goal. The outcome was decided when an uncharacteristic misheader by Ben Harrison fell to Jones who volleyed past Thompson to clinch the game for the visitors in the 88th minute.


REFEREE: Mr Daniel Hitchell

Manager Phil Parkinson had indicated that he would rotate his squad for today's game, given that Alty had only played 48 hours earlier. The changes that he made were to move Hannigan and Densmore to the bench and bring in Jones and White, respectively, to start today in their places. For White it was his first appearamce for Altrincham, following his arrival from Southport.

Witton had a shortage of personnel and named only four substitutes, one of whom was former Alty winger, Micah Evans. Joel Bembo-Leta, who had recently joined Albion from Alty was unable to play under the terms agreed for his transfer.


ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Andy WHITE, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. James JONES, 5. Ben HARRISON, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Simon RICHMAN, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. James POOLE, 11. Josh HANCOCK. Subs: 12. Tom PEERS, 14. Sean MILLER, 15. Shaun DENSMORE, 16. Tom HANNIGAN, 20. Tim DEASY

WITTON ALBION (All grey) 1. Calvin Hare, 2. Prince Haywood, 3. Danny McKenna, 4. Michael Wilson, 5. Matty Devine, 6. James Foley, 7. Owen Dale, 8. Tom Owens, 9. Rob Hopley (c), 10. Will Jones, 11. Steven Tames. Subs: 12. Micah Evans, 14. Cesaire Lingouba, 15. Matty Coughlan, 17. Ryan Neild.


For the second time this season a match against Coalville Town was immediately followed by a fixture against Witton Albion. In our meeting earlier this season, Alty had won 2-0 at Wincham Park, thanks to goals by Poole and Hancock.

Of all the teams in the EvoStik Premier, Witton Albion is the one which has played against us on the most occasions, as Mike Garnett's data reflect.


After Club Chaplain, Rev. Andy Barclay-Watts had read the Roll of Honour to commemorate those with club connections who had died during 2017, the game kicked off in rain that shortly became torrential. The pitch was already very soft after recent downpours and, from the off, the players were kicking up surface water in the inside-left channel as Alty attacked the Carole Nash & Family End. Johnston was deployed on that wing, with Hancock on the right.

Given the poor conditions, there was little of note in the opening stages until, in the sixth minute, Hancock fed Poole, whose firm shot was beaten out by Hare, only for the predatory Hulme to net the loose ball and give Alty an early 1-0 lead.

Witton heads did not drop and three minutes later they were level. Owens impressively made space for himself on the front edge of the box and scored a fine goal with a rising shot which went into the net off the inside of Thompson's right post (9 mins).

The pitch was already cutting up in places as the rain varied between steady and intense and the wind became increasingly gusty. After 14 minutes Poole's sweeping crossfield pass located Johnston on the left and a corner was won, after which Alty were caught offside.

Next, a Hampson cross caused a mix-up in Witton's defence but the ball was cleared. A few minutes later, White was penalised giving Albion a freekick which led to Alty failing to clear the ball and conceding a corner (20 mins). But Witton now enjoyed a good spell. After three succesive Devine throw-ins, a Tames cross won a corner for Witton.

Then, when Johnston conceded a freekick, a visitors' shot from right of centre struck the Alty bar and fell for Foley to slot home the rebound and give Albion a deserved lead (24 mins).

With heavy rain falling again, Poole was fouled 25 yards out from goal but he hit the freekick into the wall (26 mins). Five minutes later, Hancock likewise struck the defensive wall from a freekick.

On 34 minutes, Poole fed Hancock, but he shot wide from 20 yards, right of goal. Squally conditions and heavy rain continued as Alty were still not playing well. And when Owens barged over Poole, 25 yards out centrally, for the third time an Alty freekick was driven straight into the wall, this time by Poole (39 mins).

Things did not improve for Alty in the remainder of the half, leaving Witton with a deserved 2-1 lead at the break.


The rain was still pouring down as Alty kicked off towards Golf Road. They started the second half with a bit more tempo than in the first half and, with Johnston now operating on the less sodden left-wing, they looked a bigger threat.

From a Johnston freekick, a Hulme ball was diverted over the bar for a corner (49 mins). Witton responded as a Dale cross won his side a corner which, in the swirling wind, Thompson could not gather cleanly and a second corner followed, with a third then resulting, this time on the right (52 mins).

Already the ball was not running smoothly on the sodden surface but Alty now drew level. The equalizer arose after Hulme had done well in the right of the goalmouth and Poole poked the ball over the glutinous goal line to make it 2-2 (54 mins).

At the other end, a fine save by Thompson was needed to stop Dale who had been played into the goalmouth, left of the target. In the build-up Witton had escaped with what seemed a clear handball, which annoyed the Alty management (55 mins).

Shortly before the hour-mark, Richman was booked as Witton counter-attacked (58 mins). The next few minutes saw the weather continue to dominate proceedings before a Poole freekick gained his side a corner (66 mins). But this was cleared.

However, the ball soon came to debutant full-back White who, from a fairly central position, some 25 yards piut, hit a low shot into the bottom corner of the Albion net, to Hare's right to put Alty ahead for the second time in the match (67 mins).

After Johnston had got to the byline at one end, Witton won a corner at the other, off Moult, as rain still poured down. Johnston was looking more effective on the relatively drier left side of the pitch in this half but the impressive Dale now won Witton a corner (71 mins).

An injury obliged Densmore to replace Hampson (73 mins) and this, in turn led to White switching to left-back. Altrincham looked the likely winners at this stage but did not make much use of the drier left wing, the ball instead becoming stuck in the far muddier right-wing on more than one occasion. Witton then got forward up the right, through McKenna, and via Tames's low cross, Owens equalised from close range (82 mins).

Three minutes later, Foley was fouled and Densmore booked. Alty had a scare when goalkeeper Thompson cleared the ball to an opponent who, thankfully, shot directly at him and he made a comfortable save (85 mins). Three minutes from time, Witton made a double swap as Evans came on for Dale and Lingouba for Hayward.

Just after an Alty cross had run to Hare at the Golf Road end, in the swirling wind Harrison got under the ball at the Hale end and misheaded it out to Will Jones, who smartly volleyed it past Thompson to give Witton the lead for the second time in the afternoon (88 mins).

As the game went into a minimum of three added minutes, Peers replaced Richman (90+1 mins). Witton then won a corner and kept the ball upfield for a while. In the third added minute an Alty through ball was seemingly blatantly handled by Hopley, deployed in an unaccustomed defensive role, but again the officials allowed play to continue.

And so, Alty surrendered their 16 game unbeaten run in the league on an afternoon when a win would have capitalised on Shaw Lane and Workington's defeats. The very poor weather conditions and the consequently heavy pitch did not help Alty's normally fluent passing game but Witton certainly deserved to take at least a point from the game and their adaptation to the conditions ultimately earned them all three.

Footnote: Jordan Hulme was also booked during the game.