Fresh from their fine title-clinching performance at Grantham, Altrincham's return to the J Davidson Stadium was hardly the return of the conquering heroes as they fielded a starting eleven devoid of nine first-team regulars (James Poole, Tim Deasy, Ben Harrison, James Jones, Shaun Densmore, Tom Peers, Andy White, Simon Richman and Josh Hancock), albeit half or more of those were injured to varying degrees. Alty only named three substitutes. Likewise, Marine, with one eye on their Liverpool County Cup Final in 24 hours time also made several changes and named just one player on their bench.
And a change of fixture date helped to account for a crowd of just 482 which robbed the occasion of much of its potential for celebration of the championship win, which will no doubt take place on Saturday.
After Altrincham had taken a tenth-minute lead through Jordan Hulme's smart conversion of a John Johnston feed, Alty failed to build on their advantage, despite dominating possession for most of the match. Marine equalised in the 53rd minute with a well-taken shot from Murray before Alty substitute Josh Hancock missed a penalty, awarded when he himself had been upended. His spot-kick hit the post and was cleared.
REFEREE: Mr Mark Reeves
Both teams seemed to have their minds partly on another match rather than this hastily rearranged penultimate game of the league season. Alty had Saturday's finale to the season to look forward to, when they would receive the championship trophy, whilst Marine were eyeing silverware in the Liverpool County Cup Final to be played the next day.
So, Alty fielded four players with three league starts to their collective names whilst nine first teamers were absent from the starting eleven through injuries or otherwise. It had been a down and up week for teenager Harry Sheridan who made his first league start tonight, at right-back, having played at centre-back for the youth team on Sunday, when his game had been unfortunately curtailed by a red card.
With this match being hastily rearranged to become an unaccustomed Wednesday-night fixture, the attendance was the lowest for a league match at the JDS this season, another factor adding to the slightly unreal atmosphere of the whole evening.
Ex-Alty man Tony Sullivan was the visitors' assistant manager, but Marine's Josh Amis was not permitted to take part in tonight's match under the terms of the agreement which had seen the Alty striker join the Crosby club earlier this season.
ALTRINCHAM (Red and white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks) 1. Tony THOMPSON, 2. Harry SHERIDAN, 3. Connor HAMPSON, 4. Tom HANNIGAN, 5. Sam HEATHCOTE, 6. Jake MOULT (c), 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Chris MERRIE, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Max HARROP, 11. Theo BAILEY-JONES. Subs ONLY THREE NAMED 12. Rhain DAVIS, 14. Josh HANCOCK, 20. Andrew JONES
MARINE (Gold shirts, green shorts and socks) 1. Germano Mendes, 2 Peter Wylie, 3. Adam Hughes, 4. Kenny Strickland, 5. Phil Baker, 6. William Smart (c), 7. Liam Tongue, 8. Michael Brewster, 9. Niall Watson, 10. Tony Donaldson, 11. James Murray. SUB ONE ONLY NAMED 12. James Short
This match had been deferred for twenty-four hours after the pitch had been waterlogged on Tuesday night. And despite quite a bit of rain during Wednesday the game took place in dry and bright conditions for the most part.
Alty had won the reverse fixture, on Boxing Day, 3-0.
Mike Garnett provides the data on previous meetings between our clubs...
There was a generous gesture from the visitors as they formed a "guard of honour" for the Alty players when they took to the pitch. In the early stages of the match, manager Phil Parkinson was encouraging debutant right-back Sheridan to get forward up the right flank, which he was to do with some positive effect for much of the first half.
The game's first corner arrived via a Bailey-Jones cross, but this was cleared. In what was, at times, a very quiet stadium given the low attendance, the home supporters tried to raise the atmosphere as Alty started the game mostly on the front foot. At this stage Bailey-Jones was operating on the right, with Johnston in an unfamiliar no.10 role, and Harrop on the left, leaving Merrie and Moult in central midfield.
Altrincham took a tenth-minute lead when Johnston got round his marker, right of goal, and his cross was cleverly finished by a Hulme flick at the near post, for his 26th league goal of the campaign and Alty's 98th league goal of the season.
But Altrincham were to be unable to build on this promising start. Goalkeeper Mendes made one of what was to be a series of good saves as he bravely gathered a Bailey-Jones cross when Hulme closed in (13 mins). He was soon in action again as a Harrop ball was skilfully chested down by Moult, before a well-strucke Hulme shot was impressively blocked by Mendes.
Another fine Mendes save soon arrived, from Johnston's effort, after a neat build-up had been started by a lively Theo Bailey-Jones. At the other end, Marine's first real sight of goal was a glancing header across the face of goal from a right-wing cross (16 mins). But soon afterwards, Thompson was called into action to save a long shot from Donaldson (18 mins).
Harrop, operating on the left, now won a corner from a cross before Hulme almost found Moult inside the box. As the floodlights came on during a pleasant evening, after a damp day, a Marine shot flew just wide (23 mins). Neither side created any chances over the ensuing minutes before a Tony Donaldson long shot went narrowly wide and a Harrop 30 yarder was well saved by Mendes just as the half-hour mark was reached.
. Marine now enjoyed a better spell but there was no real threat of a goal at either end before Hulme jinked along the byline, right of goal, getting in a shot from an acute angle, which Mendes saved (37 mins). A couple of minutes later a Hulme shot won a corner, from another Bailey-Jones feed, after which Johnston gained a second corner, which came to nothing from a short-corner routine (40 mins).
Shortly before the break a Harrop 25-yarder cleared the bar comfortably and then Harrop won another corner, from which Hulme glanced a header wide before the half was concluded without any additional time, a rare occurrence these days.
|Half-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1
Alty kicked off and the sides traded a freekick apiece in a quiet opening to the second half. Things got better as a great crossfield ball from Heathcote found Bailey-Jones but his subsequent shot went wide from 18 yards (49 mins).
Marine deployed their only substitute in the 52nd minute as Short replaced Brewster, who was given an ice pack for his leg as he sat down on the bench. Within seconds Marine had equalised, with a well-worked goal, finished off with a fine cross shot from Murray (53 mins).
After a miskick by Merrie had conceded a corner, a Marine shot from a corner had to be smartly pushed round the post by Thompson for another corner. It then took a fine Hannigan block inside the box to end the danger.
Alty made their first change after 58 minutes when Davis replaced Hannigan, with Moult moving to centre-back. Almost immediately, a Davis shot was blocked. Soon after this a Johnston cross from the right won a corner, which was poorly taken but was followed by a Harrop thirty-yard thunderbolt which had to be beaten out by Mendes (61 mins).
The Marine keeper was fortunate to survive a 63rd minute incident when, as Hulme was getting round him and clear on goal, Mendes dived at his feet and handled the ball outside the penalty area. In keeping with the generous mood of the match, Mr Reeves showed only a yellow card to the visitors' keeper, which was just as well for them as they had no keeper, or indeed anyone else, on the bench (63 mins).
Johnston hammered the freekick at goal and Mendes was immediately of great value to his team as he diverted the ball over the bar for a corner. The Marine keeper then made a rare mistake as he fumbled the corner and a defender had to head the ball off the line before Heathcote skied a chance at the back post (65 mins).
Soon afterwards, Murray put a half chance over the bar at the other end. On 71 minutes, Hancock came on for Johnston. Barely a minute later Hancock was clearly tripped by Wylie and a penalty was the outcome, with the Marine man being booked. With penalty-taker Johnston off the pitch, Hancock stepped up and hit the ball well but it cannoned out off the inside of Mendes's right upright (73 mins).
After a few more uneventful minutes a well executed Davis volley just cleared the bar as Marine remained on the back foot. Bailey-Jones then gained a corner, which Moult misheaded across goal (80 mins). Next, a fine Merrie shot had to be beaten away by Mendes for a corner.
On 84 minutes a good move ended as Bailey-Jones played in Hulme but he miskicked weakly to the keeper. Next, Hulme glanced a header wide from a Bailey-Jones cross before Davis's touch was a little too hard as a great ball located him in the Marine box. Alty continued to press and Harrop fired just over from 20+ yards (87 mins). An Alty corner on the right, won by Hancock, came and went before three added minutes were played.
In the first of these Thompson slipped as he cleared the ball to a Marine player, but the visitors could not take advantage and the final meaningful action saw Mendes smother a ball from Hampson (90+2 mins).
So, honours were even on a slightly unreal night at the J Davidson Stadium.
|Full-Time: ALTRINCHAM 1