|3pm||Red and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks|| ||Green shirts, white shorts and socks|
|1.||Stuart COBURN||1.||Paul GIBSON|
|2.||Steve HAWES (capt.)||2.||Darren KNOWLES|
|3.||Chris ADAMS||3.||Mark BARNARD|
|4.||Mark MADDOX||4.||Marcus JONES (capt.)|
|5.||Mark SERTORI||5.||Gary BURKE|
|6.||Jason GALLAGHER||6.||Gary TALBOT|
|7.||Kevin HULME||7.||Richard NORRIS|
|8.||Ian CRANEY||8.||Steve GARVEY|
|9.||Carl FURLONG||9.||Adie MIKE|
|10.||Rod THORNLEY||10.||Greg BLUNDELL|
|11.||Danny MURPHY||11.||Mark DEVLIN|
|12.||Jeremy ILLINGWORTH||12.||Andrew BROWNRIGG|
|13.||Dale NEWBROOK (gk)||13.||----|
|14.||Gary SCOTT||14.||Steve WALSH|
|15.||Lee POLAND||15.||Richard MITCHELL|
|16.||Terry BOWKER||16.||Greg CHALLENDER|
|17.||Dave SWANNICK||17.||Peter HOLCROFT|
This was a deserved victory for Altrincham against Northwich Victoria's first team at Moss Lane. Alty made a fine start, going two up inside ten minutes. They went ahead when Murphy converted a Hawes corner just inside the five-minute mark and doubled their lead through Furlong, after good work by Thornley (10 mins). The impressive Garvey pulled one back with a free-kick from outside the box (22 mins) but, in a less interesting second half, Altrincham added a third through an own goal by Burke after Murphy had been let in by Hawes and Gallagher (51 mins). Five minutes from the end, the Vics got one back from a corner unnecessarily conceded by the otherwise strong Sertori, Blundell heading home after Talbot had flicked the ball on.
Ex-Robins'captain Gary Talbot was in the strong Vics' side, but ex-Vics' striker, Lee Poland, only started on the bench for Altrincham, who had centre-back Paul Taylor out injured. Paul was replaced by new signing Mark Sertori, fit again after a knock received against Trafford nearly two weeks ago. The Robins adopted their normal 4-4-2 formation with Furlong and Thornley at the striking end and Sertori replacing Taylor alongside Maddox at centre-back, with Hawes and Adams at full-back. Midfield comprised Gallagher on the right, Murphy on the left and Craney and Hulme in the centre. To replace Lance Key the Vics have signed a new keeper, Paul Gibson a 24 year-old former Manchester United trainee. Another newcomer is 30 year-old ex Stockport, Scarborough and Hartlepool full-back Darren Knowles, whilst the new Vics' captain was the imposing Marcus Jones, formerly at Yeovil. The Vics played 3-5-2 with Jones, Burke and Talbot at the back.
The game was preceded by a minute's silence in memory of Keith Prince, formerly the kit-man at Moss Lane, who died on 3 August. Although the Vics had the first shot of the game, a tame first-minute effort by Devlin which went wide, it was Altrincham who dominated the opening stages. Furlong won a free-kick after three minutes. Hawes's chipped free-kick found Murphy running round the back, left flank of the defence to get in a header which Gibson fielded comfortably. Adams and Craney then combined to win a corner on the Alty left. A second corner immediately followed and Hawes's flag-kick found Murphy unmarked towards the back post. Danny volleyed the ball into the net from close range with just under five minutes on the clock. A minute later Furlong nearly doubled the score with a left-foot shot which Gibson saved well at the second attempt (6 mins). For the Vics, Garvey tried to respond but his 25 yard shot was comfortably saved by Coburn (9 mins). A minute later, however, the Vics fell further behind when Thornley did well to get past Jones before crossing to his right to Furlong who, after taking a step forward, crashed the ball into the net past Gibson (10 mins). Shortly after this Furlong needed treatment for an accidental kick in the midriff before Altrincham resumed their domination of the early stages, with the busy Garvey looking to be the main hope of a Northwich revival.
Thornley and Furlong continued to menace the Vics, whilst Sertori started strongly and Hawes and Craney were also playing well. A Mike header, wide, from a Norris free-kick was the Vics' most serious threat at this stage. Indeed, the regular concession of free-kicks by Altrincham throughout this match was perhaps the most worrying aspect of an otherwise encouraging performance. From another such kick, given away by Maddox when tackling Mike from behind, the Vics got themselves back into the game. Garvey struck the ball well from 20 yards, across Coburn and into the keeper's left-hand corner (22 mins). At this point the injured Knowles was replaced by Walsh but another chance soon fell for Altrincham. From one of several good crosses by Adams, Gallagher stooped to head over the bar before the Vics won another free-kick 40 yards out. Alty then almost got in a mix after 29 minutes when Coburn came for a ball, but Murphy headed it back over him. The ball was cleared off the line for a Northwich corner. At the other end, Craney dispossessed Norris to set up Murphy, who fed Thornley whose shot easily cleared the bar. A great tackle on the by-line by Hawes on Mike earned Graham Heathcote's praise before the Alty coach was driven to berate his players for conceding another "silly foul". Soon after this Blundell got through one on one against Coburn but after drawing the keeper, he steered his shot wide of the upright (34 mins). However, Thornley caused similar trouble at the other end when he got the better of Jones and fed Furlong whose shot across goal, from left to right, was well hit but narrowly wide. Then, twice in as many minutes Gibson had to be alert to take the ball off Furlong's head from crosses. Alty finished the half well with a Murphy shot, which hit a defender, coming to Hulme, whose neat back heel set up Murphy for a second attempt which won a corner. However, both this corner and another, just before the interval came to nothing.
|HALF-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 2 NORTHWICH VICTORIA 1|
The second half started in heavy drizzle and the first chance fell to Adie Mike who shot over the bar (48 mins). However, it was Altrincham who were to find the target first. Fine work by their captain, Steve Hawes, set Gallagher off down the right flank. His cross found Murphy who attempted to steer it into the net but managed only to knock it across goal. However, the hapless Burke then turned it back into his own net for a clear own goal (51 mins). A minute later Thornley smashed a volley at Gibson before Barnard got past Hawes and Coburn saved well. Illingworth now replaced Gallagher for the hosts (54 mins) before Blundell's pace took him past Sertori. However, the big defender recovered well and used his strength to dispossess the Vics' striker. Adams and Craney conceded free-kicks as play now became more scrappy towards the hour mark. Brownrigg replaced Norris for Northwich (62 mins) before Mike again failed to capitalise on a half-chance.
Hawes beat Brownrigg but Murphy could not capitalise on this, as the flow of the game was broken once more by a substitution; this time Challender came on for Jones (68 mins). Furlong won an unproductive corner and the Vics put together a nice passing movement which lacked any final punch. The free-kicks continued on both sides; Furlong was badly fouled by Devlin and then from a Garvey free-kick Gary Talbot rose well to head against the crossbar (74 mins). A minute later Lee Poland came on against his former club, to replace Furlong up front. Swannick also replaced Hulme and for the Vics, Mitchell took over from Mike. The substitutions meant that Hawes moved into midfield as Swannick slotted in at right-back. Another promising Vics move ended with a poor final ball, this time a poor cross from Challender which went over the terrace roof and straight into Golf Road (76 mins). Altrincham looked to be coasting to a 3-1 win as the game meandered towards its closing stages. But then Alty gave away a needless corner. Adams touched a ball that was running harmlessly out. However, the full-back made amends when he got in a good cross which Poland nearly converted, the ball being cleared off the line (84 mins). But, then, Sertori gave away another avoidable corner-kick, mis-directing his chested ball which was aimed for Coburn. Talbot won a header from the corner and the ball went, left, to Blundell who, under a challenge, headed it into the corner of the net (85 mins). Two minutes later Holcroft came off the bench to replace the influential Garvey, who left to a deserved ovation. Holcroft was soon given a sight of goal, but he shot wide as the Vics pressed for an equaliser. With a minute left Devlin got in to a good position but Coburn beat the ball out well to preserve Altrincham's lead and earn them a deserved victory against opposition from a higher league.
This was an encouraging performance from Altrincham, particularly in the first half, with virtually all of the side contributing well to the team's effort. Things went off the boil a little after the 3-1 lead had been gained in the second half and the giving away of often needless free-kicks was a feature which will lead to problems if carried through into the UniBond League campaign. At the back Steve Hawes had a fine game, whilst Mark Sertori was also prominent. Thornley and Furlong again combined well, especially in the early stages, whilst Coburn gave a good account of himself in goal, though he was not overworked by a disappointing Northwich attack. With just one more friendly to come, at Witton on Tuesday, Altrincham seem to have found a more or less settled first team line-up, though it seems likely that new centre-back Paul Taylor will not be fit to be part of it.
|FULL-TIME: ALTRINCHAM 3 NORTHWICH VICTORIA 2|