ALTRINCHAM RESERVES (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Lee MANNION, 4. George MELLING, 5. Stephen ROSE, 3. Keith WEDGE (capt), 7. Colin POTTS, 6.Eddie HUSSIN, 8. Lewis CHALMERS, 11. Justin BOWLER; 9. Pat McFADDEN, 10. Ben DEEGAN. Subs: 13. Chris ROWLEY (gk), 12. Astley MULHOLLAND, 14. Daniel HEFFERNAN, 15. John MALONEY, 16. Michael BROWN.
Altrincham showed seven changes from their previous game with Richard Acton resuming in goal, Lee Mannion playing at right-back, George Melling making his second debut for the club at centre-back and first teamers Eddie Hussin and Colin Potts introduced as part of their rehabilitation from operations. First-teamer Justin Bowler played on the left and there was also a change up front as Ben Deegan came into the eleven. Ben was the leading scorer for last season's Alty Youth team. Indeed, only Keith Wedge, Lewis Chalmers, Stephen Rose and Pat McFadden have started both of the two reserve games this season. So, in the eleven were eight players with first team experience though only five of them had been involved in the first-team this season.
Earlier rain had stopped as Wakefield kicked off on a dull night on which the floodlights were in use from the start. Alty won three early corners in succession, all taken by Colin Potts (right), who looked lively on his return to action after a summer hernia operation. George Melling, now bearded, was also soon imposing himself as he played his first game at Moss Lane since his return from Leigh RMI. There was also some early skilful play from Lewis Chalmers who has looked sharp this season, and now he evaded two tackles to start a move which yielded Alty's fourth flag-kick of the night after just seven minutes. Potts's well hit corner found an unmarked George Melling but, though he got great power behind his header, the young centre-back directed his effort well wide. Potts was kept busy as Alty won two more corners and after the second Hussin (left) got in a fine cross from the left which McFadden expertly hooked into the net, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside. Next, a superb 60 yard diagonal ball from a rejuvenated Potts found Bowler advancing towards the left corner flag but this cross was cleared (13 mins).
A respectably sized crowd, many well-fed by a busy Keith Davey in the refreshment cabin, then saw Wakefield come back into the game as their no.10 did well and was only stopped by a good block from Melling (28 mins). But soon Alty were attacking again and a downward header from Hussin forced the keeper to make a save, gathering at the second attempt. But the Alty club captain, Hussin, was looking to be troubled and was doing stretching exercises before going down to get some treatment from Alan Ainsley to his right leg. Though he was able to get up and walk to the pitchside, Eddie was forced by his injury to carry on to the dressing room and take no further part in the game. The collective will of Moss Lane is desperate to see Eddie back fit again as no one more than him deserves to play in the Conference National, given his marvellous contribution to getting the club into the National Division in the 2004-05 season. But, after missing all of last season after his cruciate ligament operation, he is finding the route back to full fitness littered with setbacks and it is to be hoped that this is just another minor delay to his progress.
John Maloney came on to replace Eddie in midfield. Soon Justin Bowler fired in a low shot from the left from a good pass from Chalmers, but the ball skimmed past the far post (37 mins). Next an excellent interchange on the right, involving Potts and Mannion led to a firm shot from Melling, which the keeper, who had a good game, did well to beat out (39 mins). Soon afterwards, Chalmers shot wide as Alty continued to look for an opening goal. Indeed, Chalmers's shot was so wide that it was retrieved by Potts near the right corner flag, from where he produced an excellent cross which McFadden misheaded wide (42 mins). But Lewis Chalmers then made amends with a battling interception which soon led to two more Alty corners, taking their tally for the half to eight. After these corners, there was time for McFadden to force a fine save after an excellent feed from Deegan from a Keith Wedge pass. Half time came shortly after Mannion fired over the bar. This had been an entertaining first half in which Alty had nothing to show for a lot of pressure. The back-four had looked solid and keeper Acton had little to do.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM RESERVES 0 WAKEFIELD RESERVES 0|
Half time witnessed the replacement of Rose, who had gone down shortly before the interval, by Heffernan. Chalmers now moved back to central defence where he soon impressed . Deegan and Wedge now combined well to force a corner and Potts's kick from the left caused some problems near the goal line before Wakefield got the ball away. But a long throw from Chalmers then produced Alty's tenth corner of the night from which Deegan had a header cleared off the line. Next, a Chalmers cross from the right saw McFadden bundling the ball into the net, for the second time in the match, only to see it ruled out by the match officials for offside (50 mins). Wedge then set Potts running but Wakefield saw off this attack.
Left: Danny Heffernan. Right: John Maloney.
Wakefield then made a substitution as the no.15 came on (51 mins). Almost immediately the visitors took the lead, against the run of play. The no.10 did well and advanced up the inside right channel from where he crossed inside to the no.8 whose first shot from close range was very well beaten out by Acton but the keeper had no luck as the rebound fell back to the Wakefield player, Leighton Moxon, to score (53 mins). The lead was short-lived, however, for Maloney fed Heffernan and from his cross Deegan nodded the ball down for Potts whose clever lay-off set up Heffernan who drove the ball home from the centre of the box (55 mins).
George Melling then picked up a booking even though his attempted challenge made no contact with his opponent and, two minutes later, Astley Mulholland came on for Colin Potts, who left to an ovation from the stand. Astley joined McFadden up front, with Deegan dropping to midfield (58 mins). Bowler was now operating on the right, with Heffernan on the left but it was Deegan who now impressed with a tremendous shot from 25 yards which only just cleared the bar (60 mins). Alty's injury woes continued as McFadden was now hobbling but he seemed to run off his injury over the next few minutes. Wakefield replaced their number 2 by number 17 (61 mins) before Mannion played a well-judged ball to McFadden but the attack was halted. Deegan's fine ball winning tackle then led to a shot for Heffernan which hit the no.5 as the rain now started to fall. Altrincham now scored their second goal when Deegan lashed home an unstoppable shot from 30 yards which gave the keeper no chance (66 mins).
The injury problems continued as George Melling now had to go off to have a bandage applied to a cut knee and during his absence McFadden had a good chance from a Deegan cross from the right, but the young striker miscued his effort (68 mins). With Melling now back on the pitch, Chalmers played a fine ball forward to Mulholland and after an exchange of passes, Mulholland shot wide. Wakefield's no.12 replaced no.10 (71 mins) before a fine shot from Bowler from 25 yards was beaten out by the keeper. The rain was now pouring down as Altrincham dominated proceedings. Chalmers and Mannion combined well to instigate another attack and Mannion was also involved in a later move which led to Alty's third goal. The ball was worked out via Deegan and Bowler and back to Deegan, who had advanced to near the right by-line. Deegan's cross found McFadden who with the ball on his right foot, turned well to make space before planting the ball into the far bottom corner with his left foot (80 mins).
After the keeper had done well to divert a Mulholland shot with his feet, Alty won another corner, soon followed by a second. Mulholland soon had another shot but pulled this well wide of goal as the home side continued to dominate. Deegan then made a fine long pass to Heffernan and his well hit shot struck a defender for another Altrincham corner. This was cleared and as the game went into added time, Wakefield got to the other end but their shot hit the net support beside the goal. The visitors kept going to the end and, indeed, had looked like holding Altrincham for almost an hour as they contributed well to an entertaining game.
For Altrincham, the high points of an ultimately impressive win were the performances of the returning Potts in the first half and of Deegan in the second half, whilst all around the pitch other players, such as Lewis Chalmers, put in good performances. George Melling, too, made a solid return at centre-back. It was also a measure of the good displays from those without first-team experience that an outsider in many cases would have had difficulty in picking them out. Heffernan, for example, had an impressive 45 minutes on the left whilst Wedge and Mannion did well both in defence and in getting forward; likewise Maloney slotted in well during the second half. But the injury to Rose now means that three first-team defenders are in doubt (Band, Scott and Rose) ahead of Sunday's Conference clash with Dagenham and Redbridge at Moss Lane and the set-back for Hussin was also very disappointing.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM RESERVES 3 WAKEFIELD RESERVES 1|
Compiled by John Laidlar