|57 mins: Danny MURPHY (Altrincham 1 Tranmere Rovers 0)|
|7.30pm||Red & white shirts, black shorts and white socks|| ||Dark/light blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks|
|1.||Stuart COBURN||1.||Joe MURPHY|
|2.||Gary SCOTT||2.||Steve YATES|
|3.||Chris ADAMS||3.||Gareth ROBERTS|
|4.||Mark MADDOX||4.||Richard JOBSON|
|5.||Paul TAYLOR||5.||Dave CHALLINOR|
|6.||Steve HAWES (capt.)||6.||Wayne GILL|
|7.||Jeremy ILLINGWORTH||7.||Sada N'DIAYE|
|8.||Ian CRANEY||8.||Mickey MELLON|
|9.||Carl FURLONG||9.||Alex HAY|
|10.||Rod THORNLEY||10.||Seyni N'DIAYE|
|11.||Danny MURPHY||11.||Arafath HEUVEL|
|12.||Adam FARLEY||12.||Ian SHARPS|
|13.||Dale NEWBROOK (gk)||13.||Thomas DREVES & Andy RALPH (gk)|
|14.||Terry BOWKER||14.||Paul ALDRIDGE|
|15.||Steve PORTER||15.||Philip BAKER|
|16.||Colin HUNTER||16.||Danny HARRISON|
The first game of the season at Moss Lane always throws up surprises in terms of who is still with Altrincham and who has left but the biggest surprise was who had returned; Carl Furlong was named in the Altrincham side. Having scored five times in the early part of last season, Carl's cavalier attitude to training led to a parting of the ways and a move to TNS in Wales. He is now back as a trialist. New signings, Jeremy Illingworth, Chris Adams (both from Ashton) and Paul Taylor (from Hyde) all played in a 4-2-4 formation. Gary Scott was at right-back and Mark Maddox was paired with Taylor at centre-back, with Adams on the left. Up front, Rod Thornley and Carl Furlong were the strikers whilst Illingworth, Steve Hawes, Ian Craney and Danny Murphy comprised the midfield. Paul Edwards and Jason Gallagher were notable absentees. Jason is definitely signed for next season but Edwards is reportedly mulling over an offer of a contract. Reportedly departed from last year's squad are Steve Finney and Stuart Scheuber, whilst Dickie Landon has joined Radcliffe Borough. On the bench, ex-Northwich man Lee Poland was included, months after the first rumours of his impending arrival at Moss Lane. Alongside him were Bowker, Farley and Porter from last year's squad though at least the last two have yet to re-sign. Youth team keeper Dale Newbrook was also on the bench as were newcomers Colin Hunter and Dave Swannick. Hunter is an ex-Guiseley, Gainsborough, Hednesford and Morecambe player, whilst Swannick is a 22 year-old, also from Morecambe F.C.
Tranmere fielded a number of experienced first teamers including Steve Yates, Dave Challinor and Richard Jobson. Alex Hay, who made a good impression whilst on loan at Altrincham last season, played up front. Manager Dave Watson and assistant, Ray Mathias, were in attendance as was goalkeeping coach Eric Nixon, the former Rovers and Manchester City keeper. Ian Senior was also in evidence as the Altrincham goalkeeping coach.
Altrincham kicked off, playing into a strong wind and it was Carl Furlong who got in the first meaningful shot, a low effort which was comfortably saved (1 min). Furlong exhibited his trademark enthusiasm, chasing everything and occasionally making over-exuberant challenges. In a fairly even opening ten minutes, Rovers' keeper Murphy three times had to hack clear through balls into his box. The nearest to a goal, however, came at the other end when an underhit back-pass by Maddox led to a shot which Coburn did well to parry for a corner, to his left. After 14 minutes Tranmere nearly scored again, when from a corner, the ball seemed to come back off the bar. After 21 minutes, Alex Hay turned well but his shot was only moderate as the visitors threatened to get the upper hand. But Craney responded with a fine turn and cross which Danny Murphy contrived to head wide of the target at the back post (27 mins). Minutes later Furlong, too, executed a great turn and got in a shot that was well saved by Murphy. A very competitive first half drew to a close with Altrincham winning a corner, which came to nothing. The UniBond side had given as good as they got against a team from three divisions higher in the pyramid.
|HALF-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 0 TRANMERE ROVERS 0|
Sharps and Dreves replaced Jobson and Heuvel for the Rovers at half-time. Altrincham started the half well and Murphy twice more had to rush smartly from his goal to hack clear through balls. After 53 minutes Furlong had the ball in the net, finishing well but being ruled offside. Then Hawes curled a free-kick just wide, from outside the box (56 mins). However, a minute later, a fine through ball from Thornley set Furlong against the keeper. Carl seemed to have gone too far to the right in rounding keeper Murphy but he got the ball back across goal for Danny Murphy to finish firmly from almost on the goal-line (57 mins). After Taylor had been dubiously penalised for a foul on the edge of the home box, Coburn saved brilliantly, diving to his left to parry the ball away (58 mins). Alex Hay then left the fray with an apparent head injury to be replaced by Baker. With Altrincham now in the driving seat, Murphy beat his defender and his firm shot was well saved by the keeper (65 mins). However, just as Danny Murphy seemed to be coming into the game he was replaced by Hunter, whilst Swannick took over at right back from Scott in a double substitution (67 mins). Sada N'Diaye then screwed a shot horribly wide as Tranmere picked up their game. Lee Poland now replaced Furlong (73 mins) and immediately the sub beat two men and his cross fell for Craney whose shot was saved by the keeper. After Swannick had lost the ball, a curling lob beat Coburn but narrowly missed the goal (75 mins). Coburn then punched clear and Taylor was left prostrate and needing treatment after colliding with the keeper and/or an attacker (77 mins). Altrincham replied with a fine ball from Craney to Poland; the ball was relayed via Swannick to Thornley who got half past the keeper but could not apply a finish (81 mins). Sada N'Diaye produced a fine run up the right and a good cross but Seyni N'Diaye could not direct his header from close range (83 mins). Thornley and keeper Murphy then vied for a ball which had run beyond the keeper, but the Alty man lost out in the chase before Adams was lucky not to be booked for what seemed to be a professional foul. Even a couple of late long throws from Dave Challinor could not prompt an equaliser for Tranmere as they pressed on the Alty goal. The Wirral fans began to voice some discontent with their side as Mr Knowles brought the game to an end after a substantial period of injury time.
Fielding a side of at least half a dozen of last year's regulars, Altrincham put in a cohesive team performance. Graham Heathcote will have been pleased with a clean sheet and he and Bernard can be proud of the team's performance against a team which, on paper, should have beaten them. The Altrincham central defence of Maddox and Taylor looked solid and both Murphy and Thornley increasingly came into the game. Steve Hawes as ever prompted the midfield where Craney, too, had a solid match. The debutants all acquitted themselves satisfactorily and if Furlong's enthusiasm can be channeled effectively, he could be a useful re-acquisition.
|FULL-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 1 TRANMERE ROVERS 0|