|3pm||All blue|| ||Red & black stripes, black shorts, red socks|
|1.||Dean GREYGOOSE||1.||Alan KELLY|
|2.||Steve HAWES (capt.)||2.||Jeff KENNA|
|3.||Chris ADAMS||3.||Fred MURRAY|
|4.||Dave SWANNICK||4.||Damien JOHNSON|
|5.||Mark MADDOX||5.||Simon GRAYSON|
|6.||Jeremy ILLINGWORTH||6.||Stuart HOWSON|
|7.||Kevin HULME||7.||Jason McATEER|
|8.||Ian CRANEY||8.||Darren DUNNING|
|9.||Carl FURLONG||9.||Marc RICHARDS|
|10.||Rod THORNLEY||10.||Egil OSTENSTAD|
|11.||Danny MURPHY||11.||Alan MAHON|
|12.||Jason GALLAGHER||12.||Ryan ROBINSON|
|13.||Dale NEWBROOK (gk)||13.||Jim CORBETT|
|14.||Lee POLAND||14.||Burton O'BRIEN|
|15.||Gary SCOTT||15.||David McNAMEE|
|16.||Terry BOWKER||16.||Ben BURGESS|
|17.||Keith MAIRS||17.||Jonathan WALTON|
Altrincham did well to limit such a good visiting side to a 1-0 defeat, with Dean Greygoose making some outstanding saves, especially in the first half. In the second half, particularly, Blackburn enjoyed a lot of possession and the Alty defence did well to limit their goalscoring opportunities. Thornley, Furlong and Murphy showed some purpose at the other end of the pitch in the opening stages but the service to them dried up as the game progressed and the arrival of Poland in the latter stages saw him, too, largely, starved of the ball.
With dark clouds threatening the earlier sunny conditions, Altrincham kicked off towards Golf Road. An early scare for the Robins came in the first minute when Maddox lost out to Richards. Richards's shot was blocked but only fell for the £1.5 million Irish international winger, Alan Mahon, whose shot was also stifled as Chris Adams cleared. The next danger came from McAteer, whose looping shot had to be tipped over the bar by an alert, back-pedalling Dean Greygoose (6 mins). Altrincham showed some promise, however, when Murphy got the better of the otherwise impressive Johnson and fed Thornley, as light rain began to fall. The ball came to Illingworth whose fine, long pass to the left found Thornley. He interchanged passes with Furlong but the danger was cleared. Craney then robbed Richards but his shot was blocked (9 mins) as Altrincham matched their visitors at this stage. Carl Furlong, as ever in the early stages of a game, was fired-up and making his presence known to the Rovers' defence.
After a foul by Craney, a Blackburn free-kick, from near their left touchline, led to a cross by Johnson which Grayson headed over the bar. Blackburn were now putting together some sustained passing movements but they lacked penetration and the final pass was repeatedly going astray. The rain had now stopped as Ostenstad, Kenna and Dunning combined to produce a cross which Richards just failed to reach (19 mins). Greygoose then kept Altrincham on level terms with a fine double save. Kenna and Johnson had combined well and from a cross from the right Greygoose saved Ostenstad's free header but from the follow-up the keeper made another excellent save, this time getting to Richards's shot from 10 yards (22 mins). After this let-off, Illingworth prompted a response with a good ball for Thornley but Irish international keeper, Alan Kelly smothered the ball (24 mins). Next, Mahon turned past Chris Adams but his dangerous ball for McAteer prompted an offside decision. However, Altrincham were far from overawed and Furlong now turned well and got in a 25-yarder which went just to the left of the target (27 mins). Greygoose again earned his wages when, out of nothing, McAteer unleashed a thunderbolt from 30 yards which the stand-in keeper held well. A minute later, McAteer tried again but Maddox hurled himself at the ball near the source of the shot to block its progress (30 mins).
McAteer now played a fine ball to Richards and his shot was well saved, one-handed by Greygoose, diving to his left (32 mins). Another Rovers' move ended with Adams clearing the ball but Richards needed treatment afterwards. Greygoose was yet again in action after 38 minutes when he held Johnson's long-range shot at the second attempt. After Hulme had been tripped just inside the Rovers half, the referee wrongly allowed play to continue and Blackburn won a corner. From a resulting cross by Kenna, Richards headed wide. Johnson now tried to chip Greygoose from 30 yards but his aim was off-target. The half ended goal-less, with Altrincham having done well to survive the pressure of Blackburn in the latter stages of the first 45 minutes.
|HALF-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 0 BLACKBURN ROVERS 0|
No substitutions were made at the break and the first threat of the half came from a surging run by Murray which ended in an Altrincham goal-kick (48 mins). However, Altrinhcam had a better chance when Furlong set Hulme racing into the right-hand side of the box, However, off-balance, Hulme was only able to steer his shot wide of the goal (49 mins). Altrincham were then unable to capitalise on a couple of free-kicks before the only unpleasant moment of the match came when McAteer committed a foul and Maddox responded angrily and the two players went briefly head-to-head (58 mins). Mr Bartlett gave them a lecture and play continued. The first substitution saw the arrival of Gallagher for Illingworth (61 mins). Two minutes later Blackburn made a triple change; O'Brien, Burgess and Taylor came on for Murray, Dunning and Richards. Rain was now falling again as Burgess's shot was blocked by Swannick. Built on the scale of Stalybridge's Martin Filson, Burgess showed some very good touches for a big man. Lee Poland now replaced Furlong (67 mins) for the hosts and Altrincham's best move of the game soon followed. Gallagher won a fifty-fifty ball on the half-way line, near the right touchline and advanced into the Rovers' half. His pass found Murphy near the far, left corner. Murphy's cross was met by a diving header from Thornley which narrowly cleared the bar (70 mins). After a stoppage for treatment to Thornley, play resumed with a bounce-up.
Blackburn's Mahon and Howson combined well but the resulting cross was caught cleanly by Greygoose (71 mins). Burgess and Ostenstad were the next to try their luck and their passes allowed a shot by O'Brien, which Swannick diverted for a corner. Two more subs, Robinson and McNamee now appeared for the Rovers in place of McAteer and Mahon (74 mins). In a rare attack, Hulme and Poland fed Gallagher but the Alty man's cross was poor as Altrincham tried to get back into the game. After Thornley had done well, the ball came to Hawes via Murphy and Gallagher. The captain's very high looping ball into the box was well taken by Kelly (77 mins). Then, McNamee and Burgess soon set up a shot for the latter which cannoned off the cross bar (78 mins). Next, Johnson's shot was well saved by Greygoose at the cost of a corner on the Blackburn right. From this, the ball came to Taylor whose mis-hit shot came to Burgess. The big man's stooping header found the left-hand top corner of the Altrincham net (79 mins), despite the presence of a defender on the line. Altrincham's response to going behind was the immediate appearance of Gary Scott for Kevin Hulme (79 mins). This prompted Hawes's move into midfield as Scott took over at right-back. Blackburn maintained their pressure but a neat turn by Craney led to a fine left-foot shot which just curled over Kelly's goal (82 mins). Walton now joined the game as Ostenstad left the pitch (85 mins), before a Robinson cross was just headed wide by Burgess.
This match was a better test of Altrincham's defensive capabilities than of its attacking prowess. The fact that the home side only conceded one, late goal bodes well for the coming season against less exalted opposition in the UniBond Premier League. Apart from the early stages of each half, the Altrincham attack got little chance to show its abilities. Although they lost, Altrincham appear to have the makings of a side which should be serious contenders for the league title in the coming season.
|FULL-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 0 BLACKBURN ROVERS 1|