Altrincham 3 County 0 ; Conference North 24.8.2013
Over 16500 people are so naffed off with life on this planet apparently, that they have signed up for a trip to Mars in 2023( No air, water or food on arrival, and definitely no return ticket!).
I found myself asking just what would drive someone....anyone....to give up life as they know it and opt instead for certain death? Well today, after witnessing County`s latest abject display against near neighbours Altrincham, at the J Davidson Stadium, I am resolved to sign up immediately, and head for the canals and arid plains of the red planet! I may not be alone either, as 2000 or so County supporters made their way across Cheshire to urge their team on. The fans got little return for the effort they put in either, as the County team were pretty much A.W.O.L for 90 minutes of the game, going down to a thoroughly deserved 3-0 defeat to an Altrincham side that was vastly superior in every aspect of the game! They were sharper....faster ...more inventive ....livelier...more resilient, and in Damian Reeves and James Wilshaw they had the games stand out performers ...need I go on?
Well....yes....as you will be asking just what were County doing whilst Altrincham strutted their stuff so impressively? It could be said that, for the first 41 minutes of the game County did their best to give as much as they took from Alty, but they seldom made any progress much beyond the edge of the box, and it was a total mystery to me as to why keeper Stuart Coburn was named the home sides M.O.M, as he had precious little to do after donning his kit some time prior to 3 o`clock. The 42nd minute saw County surrender a poor goal......ANOTHER poor goal, and thereafter the game became a procession with the Robins pecking away at County`s scabrous entrails with monotonous regularity. Two more goals went in for Alty midst a master class of miss placed passes from the blues, and we were perhaps lucky to keep it at 3-0 in the end. Boos greeted the County players as they trouped off at the end, and Adriano Moke must have felt more than a touch peeved at this as he had buzzed about busily trying to massage something resembling life into the County corpse, whilst bucking the blue trend by actually making sure his passes went to his team mates. The problem was though that Moke was only on for the last 37 minutes with County already 2 down.
The same is true of Rhys Turner who again was only used in the second half and then wide on the right which manifestly is not his best position- he didn`t have a good game ,but he might have. Jevons is seen by IB as being more experienced and thus the better option, but with him requiring one too many touches most of the time, and with his first touch less than wonderful at others, I am far from convinced. The midfield worked hard enough but the incisiveness that was so much in evidence from Alty, was manifestly absent from County`s game, and the Robins were able to block the path to Coburn`s goal with something approaching total effectiveness as a consequence.
A massive disappointment then, but circa 3 o`clock something resembling optimism abounded with me as I took up position in the Main Stand of this excellent.....real football stadium! The big blue support was in 3 of the four sides of the ground and in numbers, so there was every reason for the optimistic approach in my view!
Part of the County following.
A lively start ensued with Mike Williams dispossessing Dennis before he could get to a flick on from Jevons. Having digested that early tit bit, I was rudely awakened to see Damian Reeves heading for goal on the break – thankfully Ormson reacted quickly and just managed to snaffle the ball before the goal hungry forward, but with only a minute on the clock I was beginning to think we had one heck of a match in prospect!
For the next minute or two County pressed, but without ever looking likely to worry long serving Stuart Coburn ( 600 appearances for the Robins). That said Altrincham did concede a free kick some 10 yards outside the box in a decent position from County point of view, but Jamie Hand`s attempt at improvisation( a tap to the side) rather fell flat when Jevons and Verma were unable to progress the move.
Jevons did better moments later, finding Jacobs with a cross, but the ex FCUM man`s header failed to test Coburn and it stayed 0-0.
The goal kick that followed turned the tables in dramatic fashion as Altrincham had it on the break through Nicky Clee. There was none of the prissy approach seen from County, in that of Clee, who darted clear before cutting inside going past Jacobs as if he was absent. On he went only for Charnock`s outstretched leg to upend him. Alty fans in the vicinity felt it was a penalty......Clee certainly did, and I must say I agreed with them, but crucially Peter Wright the referee did not and his expansive mime show told us precisely that!
Hmm...............that was an escape and no doubt about it and the game was developing something of a Cup Tie feel about it rather than that of a humble old Conference North fixture!
To emphasise this last point the sixth minute saw a Verma/ Jevons cooperation break down at the edge of the home box, triggering an immediate counter attack from the Robins. It was another potential visit to Calamity Gulch for County as Reeves bore down on them from the right, cutting inside past Charnock- Fagbola did well to cover for Charnock and usher the ball clear, but only as far as O`Halloran who immediately found Reeves in his face. Down went Reeves under pressure from the fullback to loud penalty appeals from the home players and crowd. Again the referee was not convinced, and neither was I, and Alty were denied again!
Play went on swinging from one end to the other with Dennis inches away with one shot....Verma on target but thwarted by Coburn with another, before Ormson was in action to deny Williams who was finding space quite nicely down the right.
It went on as County won and wasted a free kick in what is becoming traditional style. Walshaw got a lecture from the referee for his foul that set up that last action, and he probably earned himself another from his manager immediately after, when he fluffed an easy ( unchallenged!) header from what was a decent cross from Jake Moult.
Altrincham`s game plan looked set...defend steadfastly and hit County on the break So very simple, but County`s propensity for giving the ball away meant that we were forever feeding our opponents ,and Craney did just that on 16 minutes being dispossessed by Moult who promptly sent Clee darting dangerously clear. It looked a dicey moment for County but the liner`s flag saved them, but it was a close call!
Not long after we were again grateful to the liner on the far side, as Hand committed himself to a tackle and didn`t execute it, allowing Walshaw a clear run at goal- flag up.....disaster averted but......
However, perhaps I needn`t worry, maybe County were just biding their time, and waiting for their opponents to tire? Well Verma offered some evidence of intent a couple of minutes later letting a veritable rocket shot go from outside the box. It was cracker but Coburn reacted magically to it diving backwards to tip the shot over the bar at the very last gasp!
The game continued to swing back and forth with Ormson doing well to save from Reeves one moment, and Shaun Densmore fluffing his lines the next when given the chance to take a free kick with County at sixes and sevens.
A period of County attacking followed much of it orchestrated by Jevons and Craney , but it was all pretty one paced stuff and Altrincham just bided their time before putting bodies between blue shirts and Coburns goal , and it was job done, when someone, usually Craney, lost possession. He did it again just before the break allowing Densmore a clear run down the right – it was another iffy moment and no mistake, and it was a relief when the full back lifted his shot over the bar.
Back came the blues again , but when once more the attack broke down at the edge of the box, Altrincham were away ,and Ormson had to make a wonderful double save to deny them- first to stop Walsham whose shot looked goal bound, and then to beat out the follow up effort from ex Hatter Gianluca Havern . That was a magnificent effort and must have gone some way towards silencing his critics as well as saving the day for his team!
Did I say `save’? Well I was premature, as County, with just 3 minutes left of the half, imploded and conceded a free kick that seemed to disrupt their game plan. Clee had his first effort blocked, but the ball was soon with Walshaw who managed to squeeze the softest of shots just inside the far post.
In the minutes that remained County went reasonably close from a corner, but Altrincham again went closer through Walshaw whose firm header flew inches wide of goal.
That was the first half put to bed, and it was frustrating. Up until that goal, despite County`s rather plodding approach, it was possible to remain optimistic, but now we were chasing the game again.
Turner was on for Craney but pushed out wide as the game re-commenced.
Straight off Altrincham took the game to County. Clee started it off with some determined work down the left, but within 5 minutes the decisive move came from the other flank where County failed to clear their lines allowing Densmore to get a cross over. It was a belter and picked out Reeves with immaculate precision at the back of the box. The rest was like drawing breath for the Alty striker.....neat header.....second goal!
Hand then managed to toe poke an effort inches beyond the angle of bar and post, before normal service resumed and a one/ two between Walshaw and Clee ripped County`s right flank asunder. Walshaw was clear and advancing on goal- his shot drifted out beyond the far post but that was the clearest of warnings that the blues needed to do better.
IB`s response was to bring Moke on for Howard as he had done at Workington, but within 2 minutes County almost went another goal behind as Hand dozed off allowing Mount to send Reeves clear. His shot cleared the bar but not by much!
It went on.....corner to Altrincham...header by Walshaw just over the top........free kick to County.....headed wide by Dennis.
Meanwhile County were trying to get back into the game but twice in rapid succession Jevons first touch let him down- he did not get a second on either occasion.
In general County were still giving the ball away far too easily, exceptions at this point being Moke who was not wasting anything and Jacobs who saved the day more than once with Alty searching for that game ending third.
Eventually it arrived and it was a long ball from the back that started it. Fagbola looked to have it covered and then he didn`t and it was Reeves pace that had changed matters and he was gone in an instant and in another the ball was nestling in the net behind Ormson`s back. A good goal from Alty`s perspective but oh so not so from County`s!
The blues game was in tatters now but it did my sad old heart good to see Moke working his socks off winning the ball....running with it ( 2/3rd`s of the length of the pitch at one point!) , and not wasting a thing. Dennis shot wide on the end of that long run, but the applause rang out for the Portuguese player from the County fans.
Verma profited next from Moke`s good works, and profited further when the referee saw a fall by him as a free kick to County on the edge of the box. Unfortunately that`s where his profit ended as he sent a really poor free kick sailing off into the terrace behind the goal.
County attacked a bit thereafter, and I indulged myself with unlikely fantasies of consolation goals, but consolation was nowhere to be found and when the referee`s whistle went I slinked off to the Flyer for a sulk.
Not a good day at all for County, who really must put this right on Monday.
County line up:
Ormson, Jacobs, Fagbola, Charnock, O`Halloran, Hand, Craney ( Turner 45 ), Verma, Howard( Moke 53), Jevons, Dennis.
Subs not used: King, Windsor, Tunnicliffe.
Altrincham line up:
Coburn, Densmore, Williams, Moult, Havern, Leather, Richman, Boshell, Walshaw, Reeves , Clee.
Attendance : 2875