AFC STOCKPORT LADIES (0) 1 ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES (2) 3
Cheshire Women's & Youth League, Division Two.
Sunday, 11 January, 2015.
ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES: Lizzie Brereton, Caroline Moran, Sam Briggs, Louise Edleston, Heather Scott, Elina Parker, Gail Simpson, Charlotte Dudley, Georgia Plant, Emma Booth, Tracey Blanchard Webb. Substitutes: Chloe Brereton, Beth Crellin, Aimee Gibson and Kathryn McIntyre
Report courtesy of Phil Taylor.
For the second successive week the Ladies took the M60 to Stockport, This week to take on an AFC team positioned in lower mid-table.
Previous fixtures against AFC have seldom been edifying spectacles, due mainly to the contrasting philosophies of the two Managers as to how the game should be played.
Alty, fresh from a convincing win last week, lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Lizzie in goal, with a back four of Caroline, Elina, Louise and Sam, and Heather, Charlotte, Gail and Georgia across midfield. The attacking impetus coming from Tracey and Emma.
On a damp and windy January afternoon, on a somewhat challenging surface, Stockport kicked off the game but Alty were soon on the offensive, Georgia and Emma applying pressure immediately and forcing the hosts into reverse gear.
The first five or six minutes were very much dictated by the blustery conditions with neither side really able to get a grip. The more controlled, passing style of Altrincham allowed them to gain a modicum of control over the conditions and they began to play their preferred style of football.
Tracey who, together with the rest of the team, was not allowing the hosts time to settle on the ball stole possession with her pressure and set up Charlotte whose good shot was well saved.
On ten minutes, not for the first time or the last, Georgia skipped past her full-back before delivering a ball in from the left which was cleared. A minute later and Tracey was on the move again, running onto a delicately floated free kick before narrowly missing the target with a chip from the inside right channel.
Altrincham, by now, had clearly gained the ascendancy and it came as no surprise when they took the lead. Caroline passed the ball into Charlotte, once again operating in a central midfield role, who lifted an excellent ball to the back post where Georgia strode on to it to finish imperiously into the roof of the net.
It was no more than Altrincham had deserved and they continued to apply pressure.
Louise stepped forward and put a slide rule pass into Tracey’s path but, sadly, she was unable to get sufficient purchase on the strike and the chance went away. It was, as usual where Altrincham are concerned, very much a team performance thus far. The somewhat reconfigured back line was defending steadfastly against the more direct style of AFC, with Lizzie always alert to sweep up anything which got over or past them.
Charlotte and Gail in the middle of the park had total control of the game, breaking things up efficiently before releasing the two wide players and the strikers. Tracey and Emma worked tirelessly up front, pressuring the AFC defenders and forcing some hurried defending.
On the half hour Altrincham doubled the lead. Tracey won the ball, before moving onto an intelligent head-on by Emma, to despatch a thunderous volley into the net.
Credit is due to AFC though because straight from kick-off they managed to almost pierce the Alty defence, Elina having to cover responsibly to see off the danger. Alty were soon back on the offensive though, causing the host’s defence and keeper continual problems with passing, movement and link play.
Six minutes before the half the Alty back line was breached for probably only the second or third time in the game. A fierce angled shot came in, which Lizzie pushed around her near post.
On forty three minutes Elina turned her ankle on a particularly boggy part of the pitch and had to be replaced by Beth. Half time was reached with Altrincham holding a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Manager Keith and his associates expressed satisfaction with what had been a very good first half performance in challenging conditions on a less than perfect surface.
Whilst warning that in the second half Alty would be playing into the strong wind, which would help AFC’s more “direct” style, it was emphasised that if we continued to play football as we had then a victory ought to be eminently achievable.
|Half-Time: AFC STOCKPORT LADIES 0 ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES 2|
Altrincham began the second half as they had played during the first, very much on the front foot and applying pressure from the off. It was a blow therefore when AFC reduced the deficit on forty seven minutes. Alty were attacking and were penalised on the edge of the hosts penalty area.
A quick free kick was launched up field and the Alty defence were caught defending too high. This allowed the AFC striker to run on and finish efficiently past Lizzie.
This course of events understandably galvanised Stockport and they began to apply pressure, attempting time and again to get in behind the Alty defence who stood firm. On fifty eight minutes Beth inexplicably handled a long ball, picking up a caution in the process and presenting Stockport with an opportunity to load the box. Again the Alty players were resolute and the danger was averted.
Just short of the hour mark Emma, who had again worked hard up front with Tracey, was withdrawn and replaced by Aimee. AFC almost registered an equaliser on sixty two minutes, another long hopeful ball over the top finding its way to an attacker. A combination of good tracking by the defence and astute positioning by Lizzie, however, meant that the eventual shot passed harmlessly wide.
The two Altrincham goals in the first half had both been excellent finishes and Alty’s third when it came on sixty six minutes was no different. Tracey picked up the ball about twenty five yards out, to the right of the AFC penalty area before beating two opponents and driving an unstoppable shot into the junction of near post and cross bar, not even allowing the Stockport keeper time to react.
The game then settled into a midfield contest with the referee kept busy by a number of minor clashes between players of both teams.
Altrincham kept attacking, trying where possible to use the flanks to get good field position and link with Aimee and Tracey who continued to move the AFC defenders around whilst not allowing them to settle in possession and convincingly clear their lines.
For their part, AFC did keep trying to get forward and on sixty nine minutes were awarded what seemed an extremely harsh penalty. A ball was driven in from the Stockport right and hit Sam, who knew nothing about it, on the arm.
However the decision had been made and, seeing an opportunity to crank up the pressure by reducing the deficit, the Stockport penalty taker strode forward and powered a shot toward Lizzie’s top right hand corner. Lizzie hurled herself through the air and managed to touch the shot over the bar to safety – a quite stupendous effort.
This seemed to take some of the wind from the AFC sails and play once again went through a somewhat fragmented phase.
Altrincham, whilst never actually in danger of losing their advantage, found it difficult to penetrate whilst the hosts’ play became increasingly direct and robust, two AFC players picking up yellow cards for questionable challenges on Altrincham players in the following ten minutes.
Things settled again and Altrincham, having replaced Heather with Cyprus and moved Georgia over to the right, once again applied pressure. The Stockport keeper had to be alert on more than one occasion to deal with the visitors forays.
With ten minutes left Georgia was withdrawn and replaced my Chloe, as the Altrincham management looked to tighten up the security of their grip on the points and the game drifted to a conclusion.
Despite her introduction being for mainly defensive purposes, Chloe did, on at least one occasion, link well with Tracey, releasing her into the inside right channel with a well weighted ball.
The final score was AFC Stockport 1 Altrincham FC Ladies 3. It was a well-deserved and hard fought victory.
The Ladies had proved today that, as well as being able to play good expansive football, it was within their capabilities to battle hard for every inch of territory.
Lizzie was acclaimed as both Players' and Management Player of the Match, primarily for her extraordinary penalty save but also for her organisation of those in front and for sweeping up where necessary.
Once again though, every Altrincham player had made a significant contribution to the outcome.
As Altrincham have a bye in the County Cup there is no fixture scheduled for next Sunday so the chance is there for bumps bruises etc. to be rested in preparation for the Ladies' next game on January 25th when Warrington Wolverines will be the visitors in the previously postponed first round of the League Challenge Cup. As always, all and any support will be hugely appreciated.
|Full-Time: AFC STOCKPORT LADIES 1 ALTRINCHAM FC LADIES 3|