County 0 Altrincham 0 ; Conference North
County made it six games, last night, without so much as one goal to show for all the effort expended during the 540 + minutes. It therefore seems ridiculous to say it, but County were probably happy with last night`s 0-0 draw, as indeed they may well be with the previous two. Both these had been against promotion contenders , and Altrincham were the latest ,and the third of that ilk to contest the points with the Hatters, so blue pleasure can perhaps be understood.
Eight months ago Altrincham, with Walshaw and Reeves running the show, had given County a thorough lesson , and indeed for long periods last night County were very much second best, against an Alty side that looked sharp, incisive, well drilled and full of ideas- in short promotion material! There was however altogether more heart in County`s performance in response this time, and immense credit must go to the whole back four, Ormson and Moses and Milligan too, for a thoroughly disciplined professional showing. Maybe a free kick or two too many was conceded ,and Moses` booking rather than any form lapse probably forced his substitution at half time, but there was solidity there in shed loads and that was encouraging, and referee Ryan Johnson was a long way from being 100% correct a lot of the time. Jevons gave 100% as usual and Moke offered a first 45 with some threat about it, but, apart from 2 saves that veteran keeper Stuart Coburn made before the break, there was little fire power up front from County.
Altrincham by way of contrast had Walshaw and Reeves and they were terrific....mobile and energetic all over the front line, and with Nicky Clee also in prime form, and Jake Moult attack prompter in chief, County were frequently stretched to near breaking point. Add a constant flow of dangerous crosses from ex Hatter Adam Griffin into the mix, and it was plain to see why County`s preoccupation was over long concerned with matters defensive! For the most part they did this well, and with a small amount of good fortune thrown in took a point and the applause at the end.
|The away support, not all here but beginning to arrive....|
There were not far short of 4000 on site at 19.45, and the old place throbbed with excitement with the away support populating the Railway End for a change in good numbers.
County opened brightly with Dennis slinging a cross over from the right, and Moke harassing Shaun Densmore into conceding an early corner, but when this came over, there was no one in blue at the back post to apply a finish and any threat dissipated
with the sight of Jevons lifting his eventual shot high into the away support. A shot not long after, from Milligan, albeit a fairly tame one, kept Coburn interested, but he was untroubled , and the first 3 minutes has passed with the game goal less.
Twice after this, Clee probed the County back line......Jacobs ...then Lees in position to deal , but when Reeves went down under pressure from Moses, I thought that we had trouble because it was in a decent position for a pot on goal. In the event the kick emphasised one weakness in Alty`s make up, namely the set pieces, and this one had Row R ducking hurriedly as it whistled past my left ear.
|Free kick joins me in Row R.|
That was 5 minutes gone....the sixth saw County respond as Moke and Jevons combined to good effect, but when the ball reached Dennis, he lifted his shot wide of goal. You had the feeling that there was a great need for County to take what chances that came their way, with the visitors already hinting at a steely determination to win, so the last outcome was disappointing.
|A corner for County to defend.|
Altrincham came back at County, and Jacobs did well to stop Jake Moult reaching Reeves with a neat pass. Alty still had a corner though, but again they wasted it and it stayed 0-0. The pressure remained on the blues however and intensified when Reeves went down for a rest and Mr Johnson obliged with a free kick and a school masterly look in the direction of Mark Lees. Within a minute though, another school masterly look was called for as the free kick whizzed to the back of the box where Walshaw climbed to punch the ball into the net. Credit to the referee, he spotted it, and saved an ugly incident by showing the free scoring forward a yellow card( I will spare you my standard Fagbola/ Eaton rant, but you know by now how it goes!).
Moke offered relief for the blues with a couple of tasty runs, but the Alty defence held firm and they were soon pushing County back again through Reeves and Walshaw, who exchanged passes with precision. Duxbury did enough to see this threat off, and had to do it again almost immediately as James Lawrie entered the fray looking to cross the ball to a clutch of red/ white shirts queuing in front of goal. Duxbury blocked this effort too, but just as County thought the danger was gone...it wasn`t as O`Halloran was penalised just outside the box for a tackle on Walshaw, and Ormson did well to keep a strike by Reeves out following the kick.
|Ormson punches out.|
So far ......so good.....it was still 0-0 ,and Moke and Jevons were showing signs of a promising partnership , and a neat 1....2 twixt the pair set Dennis up nicely, with 12 minutes gone, only for keeper Stuart Coburn to deny the ex Ashton man with his legs! One shot on target in 12 minutes is way better than one in 90( our recent diet) so there was hope of better things, at least from the occupant of Row R seat 53! Another Moke run relieved pressure from Alty`s latest free kick, but offered little in the way of threat, and consequently County were faced with Reeves latching onto a through ball at the sharp end. A turn......a shot, and it looked all over 0-1, until Ormson`s dive saw him snaffle the ball before it could roll over the line- the save took 2 goes, but a save it was ...so we`ll take it, wont we!
With Reeves, Walshaw and Clee on song and urged on by Moult, Altrincham looked every bit as useful as in August, and it was a relief to see the Pop Side liner`s flag up as Reeves darted clear onto a pass by Clee.
It was beyond half way now in the first half and time for a reply from County, but when it came a decent dummy from Milligan, just inside the box, just failed to round off a good cooperation with Jevons- that was unlucky, but the boot was on the other foot shortly after as Walshaw slipped clear bringing an excellent saving tackle from Lees that prevented County shipping that vital first goal! As before Alty wasted the corner, but it did not matter that much as a tasty diagonal ball from Griffin saw Lawrie in on goal. Churchman and Ormson were in the vicinity but looked seriously challenged, and it was a considerable relief when County`s young keeper managed to grab the ball and end the angst, if only temporarily.
County responded with a couple of mazy runs from Moke, and a free kick from Jevons, but this was sent straight down Coburn`s throat, ushering in a break by Reeves which thankfully Duxbury saw off. I was just congratulating County for still looking solid in the face of some lively opposition play, when I gasped to see Ormson plant the poorest of kicks right at Reeves` feet! It was a lulu, and Reeves was probably taken by surprise by it all and thus sent his shot heading our way to sounds of raucous laughter from in and around Row R.
Again County tried to take the game to Altrincham, but Churchman`s shot was charged down, and there were now 2 men on Moke and one of them( Carl Rodgers)brought him down as he went by him. Milligan whipped the free kick in, but this and Duxbury`s follow up effort were both dealt with easily enough by the visitors back line. Dennis then shot well wide, and Moke was once more upended, earning Densmore a booking, but although Milligan again sent in a decent kick, Jevons diving header saw the ball fly up and over the bar.
There were less than 10 minutes of the half left now and plenty of time for either side to snatch one, and Alty almost did so, on 37 minutes, as Clee shielded the ball brilliantly before turning and firing a fierce shot on target. It was a good strike, but Ormson proved equal to it and his dive kept it out to great applause. The pressure remained on County for a while after this however, and O`Halloran did well to stop Walshaw after Churchman lost possession for the first of several times in the game. Still Alty surged on, and Moses went into the referee`s book for a perceived foul on Reeves.
This was annoying to say the least because with Reeves on the ground and County in possession he allowed play to continue and apparently had no intent to even give a free kick....and then he did ...and more.....
Lees headed the kick out but I now had the referee in the Roger Dixon mode for
reliability and trustworthiness....it was every thus I suppose!
|Tussle in blue box.....|
In the minutes that remained of the half....keeper Coburn again saved with his legs after Jevons had been sent clear by Milligan, whilst at the other end Walshaw was foiled first by Duxbury and then O`Halloran as he tore into the blue back line.
Halt time then.......0-0.....and two shots on target...not bad!
|Part view of C.E ( top) and Sanchez Payne( below) at H.T|
AL swapped Platt for Moses for the re-start- which I took as a precautionary measure taking the Moses booking into account. Would we miss the Moses midfield bite?
Altrincham set off at a pace in the second half with Moult sending Walshaw dashing clear, but he was flagged offside, so no damage was incurred. I was in rant mode however straight after this as a long throw sent Walshaw clear in the box- he had company and went to ground for no apparent reason. The referee saw it as a dive( correctly) but presumably remembering Walshaw`s earlier yellow opted for leniency!
|Alty attack the nicely full Railway End.|
The Cheadle End were in excellent voice now encouraged by Jevons who forced a decent block from Scott Leather, with Dennis waiting to his left to pounce. For a time County were on the up and twice Milligan applied the cosh to Alty – first with a free kick that Leather was happy to lump into the Pop Side, and then via a shot that only just drifted wide of goal with Coburn looking on anxiously!
|Veteran Alty keeper Stuart Coburn.|
It was a decent game was this, and despite Altrincham`s obvious quality, to their credit, County were very much still in it!
Inevitably Altrincham applied the pressure again- Leather heading wide from one of several corners, and Moult continued to try to coax something more from his forwards- unlucky to see Walshaw flagged offside on the end of one pass , and firmly blocked by O`Halloran latching onto another.
Moke continued to run at the visitors, but these excursions were getting less frequent as Alty applied the pressure, and an interception by Lawrie , saw him link up with Walshaw and then Densmore, whose cross fizzed like a bomb across the face of goal where absolutely no one, defender or forward, managed a touch! Chance gone!
Densmore and Griffin were finding time now to get forward , and the Alty captain`s cross on 72 minutes had County grateful for Ormson`s alert responses with 3 or 4 red/white shirts lurking in the box.
|County on the attack.|
Moke did have another run after this but after his shot climbed disappointingly over the bar, another break was on for the visitors from the goal kick as Clee and Lawrie made light of the County cover to bear down on goal. Lawrie it was who took the final ball, and his shot was a good one, but not good enough and Ormson emerged with the ball, albeit after needing two goes at it.
|County keeper Ian Ormson.|
Crosses were now whizzing over like promises at election time, and Walshaw was only denied by excellent work by Ormson who punched the ball out for a corner under much pressure. The kick went to the back post, and again Leather looked to have a free header, but once more planted his effort wide! Chance gone again!
County were battling hard , and they needed to as Alty were looking hell bent on all 3 points, and Ormson was exposed as Moult threaded a decent ball to Walshaw in the box. A goal looked a possibility, but Duxbury did enough to stop the forward getting a shot off, which was excellent stuff, and no mistake!
With 11 minutes left- Jevons was inches away from reaching a tempting bouncer in the box, and a minute later Leather was likewise thwarted trying to apply a finish to a Densmore ball. It was nip and tuck now and still County had a fighters chance, and a tad unlucky as a corner, set up by a Moke run, ended with the mother of all scrambles in front of Coburn`s goal- Alty held out, and I felt that that was probably County`s last chance of taking all 3 points. Could they survive though?
|Smoke gets in your eyes !|
Well......they were making a decent fist of it and both Reeves and Lawrie were thwarted by good work from Ormson . Altrincham were getting loads of possession now with the last 5 minute beckoning, and with County still scoreless I found myself again wondering why young Sanchez Payne was still languishing on the bench when something different was needed!
Altrincham piled into the attack, and crosses fizzed across the face of the County goal with no takers still as the minutes ticked away with Milligan and Duxbury making vital interventions. Ormson too was still on his toes and had to make a truly excellent save to stop Lawrie from getting that crucial winner with barely a minute left of normal time.
At last AL rang the changes bringing Payne and Howard on for Milligan and Churchman, who seconds earlier had lumped a free kick over the bar.
Jevons went close with a header after this, but it was still Altrincham , now urged on by a feisty display from Adam Griffin, who looked the more likely to.....
Griffin lifted one over......blocked....then another, and a scramble ensued followed by a welcome free kick to County that offered some respite. But there was all of 4 added minutes to contend with – time enough for us to leak a late one, but instead another nippy run by Clee ended with his cross again finding no takers as it flew across goal!
County did manage to reply and Moke was just short of getting to a Jevons pass. The ball was lifted back into the box and I convinced myself that I saw a hand to ball moment from a defender, but you know me, and there was not much of a response along those lines from others around me so.......
The game ended with Havern launching one from distance hopefully and County defending it with characteristic application, and the points were shared.
It`s off to the seaside on Monday then, and the hope is for a goal or two, but then you know me, and I will meanwhile keep taking the tablets!
County line up;
Ormson, Jacobs, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Moses( Platt 45), Milligan ( Howard 89),Churchman ( Payne 89), Moke, Jevons, Dennis.
Subs not used : Charnock, Lofthouse.
Altrincham line up:
Coburn, Densmore, Griffin, Rodgers, Havern , Leather, Lawrie, Moult, Walshaw, Reeves, Clee.