DROYLSDEN (0) 1
ALTRINCHAM (0) 0
UniBond Premier League match,
played on Monday, 31 March, 2003 at 7.45p.m.
REFEREE: Mr. J. Collin
The pitch was in better condition than on our last two visits when Alty had lost on both occasions. Droylsden play in dark red shirts with shiny black numbers which would be hard to read at the best of times. With some of the Butcher's Arms floodlights not working there were varied patches of light and dark on the pitch making identification very difficult so apologies for any gaps or errors in player-identification, below. An excellent innovation was the announcement of the two team line-ups to fans drinking in the clubhouse before kick-off.
Altrincham were forced into yet more changes by injury - they have now used 42 players this season and 20 in the last eight league games alone. This time both Gary Talbot and Stephen Rose were missing; Gary was unable to get off work and Stephen had dislocated his shoulder at Bradford on Saturday. Steven Clegg and Rod Thornley were also missing from the squad, as well as Murphy, Gardner and Smith. In fact, there were almost as many current and ex-Alty players in the crowd and opposition squad as wearing Alty shirts tonight, as the spectators including the injured Gardner, Rose and Murphy, as well as former players Paul Taylor and Stuart Coburn. There were also four ex-Robins (Glendenning, Chambers, Porter, Locke) in the Bloods squad and a fifth (Farley) watching.
Alty gave a debut to their new signing from Salford City, striker Mattie Hughes, and brought in Andy Tunnicliffe for only his second league start this season. Chris Adams and Jason Gallagher both had to play out of their normal positions at centre-back and central midfield respectively, whilst Barry Shuttleworth moved to left-back and Peter Band was in midfield. Ian Craney started up front with Hughes.
ALTRINCHAM (Pale blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks): 1. Richard ACTON, 2. Gary SCOTT, 3. Barry SHUTTLEWORTH, 4. Mark MADDOX (capt.), 5. Chris ADAMS, 6. Peter BAND, 7. Andy TUNNICLIFFE, 8. Ian CRANEY, 9. Matt HUGHES, 10. Jason GALLAGHER, 11. Paul ROBERTSON. Subs: 12. Steve LUNT, 14. Anthony SULLIVAN, 15. Neil RYAN.
After an entertaining first half of end to end football, in which two fine saves from Phillips kept Hughes at bay, Droylsden enjoyed more of the possession in the second half without seriously troubling Acton in the Alty goal. In fact, it took a controversial refereeing decision to deprive Alty of the points when Mr Collin harshly awarded a penalty for handball against Maddox and Hall netted from the spot (66 mins). Mr Collin was also the man who sent off Jamie Phoenix against Kendal Town in the FA Cup last September and he produced his red card rightly again tonight to dismiss Leroy Chambers for head-butting Ian Craney (81 mins). After this, Alty had their only sustained period of the second half at the Droylsden end of the pitch and Phillips had to produce another magnificent save to foil a deflected Craney effort before the end.
Droylsden kicked off and almost immediately won a corner on their left, which was overhit. Band needed early treatment after being pushed over, off the ball by Glendenning (2 mins) before Phillips had to race out to clear from the onrushing Hughes (3 mins). Gallagher was getting some early success in central midfield before a blocked effort from Chambers won Droylsden another corner, which in turn yielded the Bloods' third corner when Acton knocked the ball over his bar. This kick was poorly taken and it was Alty who had the next crack at goal, a left-foot volley, firmly hit, but well wide by Hughes from the edge of the box (13 mins).
After Gallagher had again won the ball, Alty won their first corner on the right (15 mins). The corner came to Hughes but he was penalised for climbing. Then a deflected Chambers shot was well held by Acton before the lively Salmon, operating on the right, fired in an extremely high shot over Acton's goal. Gallagher then started another Alty counter-attack with an interception in midfield which came eventually to Craney on the left touchline. He did extremely well to get past a defender on the by-line and as the Droylsden defence paused, expecting the ball to run out of play, Craney laid the ball back to Hughes who shot wildly wide from inside the box (21 mins).
Hughes did much better soon afterwards when he rose superbly to head at goal from a Tunnicliffe cross from the right after build-up work by Scott and Craney (25 mins). Phillips did very well to tip the header over his bar, near the top corner, for an Alty flag-kick on the right. Robertson's kick was poor, however, but it came out to Craney whose shot was sliced and bisected the space between the goal and corner flag to the right of goal. Alty were now playing well and a Craney shot soon struck Glendenning to yield the Robins' third corner of the night and the sixth of the game so far. This time Robertson's kick went straight to Phillips.
At the back Adams was doing well in his unaccustomed position and though play was even, the Bloods were getting little sight of Acton's goal. Indeed, they almost fell behind when a long ball forward from Adams up the centre of the pitch found Hughes whose instinctive left-foot volley from 30 yards was brilliantly tipped onto the bar for a corner by Phillips (32 mins). A second Alty corner followed immediately, this time on the left, both of which were taken by Robertson. The second one was again a disappointing effort from Robertson and play soon switched to the other end where Droylsden won a corner of their own, which Acton punched clear.
Hughes impressed again when, from Tunnicliffe and Scott's build-up work, he surged up the right channel and Phillips had to come out smartly to block his shot and to concede a sixth corner to Altrincham (39 mins). Droylsden had good cause to be grateful to their keeper for keeping the score goalless in this game. Despite a foot-up challenge by Chambers in midfield, play continued and led to Warner's shot, albeit well over the bar at the other end. Burke then shot from all of 40 yards but Acton calmly watched the ball clear the bar (41 mins). After a foul by Maddox on Wright, a free-kick from 25 yards was hit wide just as the "2 minutes" board was shown for added time. The half ended with a tame shot from Salmon at Acton and the game remained goalless despite an entertaining forty-five minutes which had included ten corners, six of which were for the visitors.
|Half-Time: DROYLSDEN 0 ALTRINCHAM 0|
After a couple of exchanges a foul by Burke on Hughes gained Alty a free-kick taken by Robertson (50 mins). This came to Maddox whose effort was screwed wide to give Droylsden a goal-kick. Chambers then aimed a shot at the other end, which went sideways to a colleague. The first booking of the game came when Burke, the former Northwich defender, was cautioned for a foul on Hughes. At the same time the home side replaced Kerr at right-back by Locke, another former Alty player (58 mins).
Altrincham won a corner soon afterwards but again Robertson could only find the keeper with his kick from the right (60 mins). Yet another ex-Robin appeared when Porter came on for Kevan in midfield (62 mins) and a minute later Alty made a swap of their own, replacing Gallagher by Lunt, who went up front, obliging Craney to move to midfield. Then came the incident which decided the game. A ball from the Droylsden left-back position was aimed at Wright, just inside the left edge of the Alty penalty area. As Maddox went to challenge, the ball bounced up and Mr Collin harshly awarded a penalty for what seemed, at most, accidental handball. Hall drove his penalty into the bottom corner of the net, just past the diving Acton's reach as he dived to his right (66 mins).
The referee then delayed play to have words with Graham Heathcote on the Alty bench but when play resumed the pattern continued of Droylsden doing most of the passing and pressing, with Altrincham relying heavily on speculative aerial balls out of defence and midfield. However, Shuttleworth did find Hughes on the left and though he had time to compose himself, the new striker volleyed his shot well over the bar (68 mins). Droylsden resumed their pressure but could not get any sight of Acton's goal before Ryan came on for a limping Tunnicliffe (75 mins).
Altrincham, too, were not creating any real shooting opportunities and the service to Hughes and Lunt was not good at this stage. Droylsden made their third change when Salmon was replaced by Murphy (77 mins) whilst Alty now pushed Band further forward to assist the attack. For the Bloods, Chambers continued to make great use of raised arms as he backed in to the Alty defence but his aggression got him into trouble when he fouled Craney on the centre-line and then went head to head with the aggrieved Alty midfielder. Leroy then clearly headbutted Craney. Mr Collin took the two players aside and, first, booked Craney before showing Chambers a deserved straight red card (81 mins).
With the extra-man advantage Altrincham now pressed forward and from a miskick by Glendenning, Band headed wide (83 mins). Next, Gary Scott fired in a shot from 22 yards which went narrowly wide of Phillips's left post (84 mins). Alty pressure then led to another corner but Phillips again got the ball from the corner kick, injuring Burke in the process. With four minutes of added time left, Alty continued to press and almost got an equaliser when Craney jinked past a defender on the right edge of the box and fired in a shot which was deflected by a defender, forcing Phillips to change direction in mid air and make a magnificent one-handed save (87 mins).
Despite further pressure and a brief period when Droylsden were reduced to nine men after Porter hobbled off, Altrincham could not find the target and for the third year running left the Butcher's Arms empty-handed.
Droylsden had Altrincham in their own half for much of the second period but their attempts at the passing game were ably seen off by the Alty defence and Acton had little to do. However, after their impressive first half, Altrincham were a little disappointing in the second period as they made use of the long aerial ball which was meat and drink to Burke and Glendenning and led to the relative isolation of Hughes and Lunt. Playing without so many regulars and with others forced to adopt unaccustomed positions obviously did not help Altrincham to produce a flowing performance in the second half. On the positive side, there were some impressive first-half moments from new striker Matt Hughes and Chris Adams showed his versatility with a solid performance at centre-back. Indeed, but for the controversial penalty, Alty's defence was not seriously troubled and it was Phillips in the Droylsden goal who had to make four top class saves to keep his side in contention.
Altrincham have now won just two of their last ten league games but with Thornley, Gardner and Cullen all now at or near full fitness and the return of Rose and Talbot also expected, the closing games of the season could see an uplift in fortunes - and hopefully better luck with refereeing decisions!. As the season draws to its final stages, a review of the campaign to date shows that the last 13 league games have yielded 17 points, compared with 23 points from the previous 13 games and just 11 points gained from the first 13 league matches.
|Full-Time: DROYLSDEN 1 ALTRINCHAM 0|