Altrincham 0 United Reserves 3: Convincing win marred by crowd trouble at Moss Lane
Posted by nickogs20 on July 20, 2008
|Altrincham F.C.||0-3||MUFC Reserves|
|–||–||Macheda 22, 34|
1. Gary Woods
2. David Gray (17. Oliver Norwood ’76)
3. Jimmy Derbyshire (18. Oliver Gill ’46)
4. Craig Cathcart
5. James Chester
6. Rodrigo Possebon (12. Kenny Strickland ’81)
7. Magnus Eikrem (15. Cameron Stewart ’46)
8. Daniel Drinkwater (14. Matty James ’62)
9. Federico Macheda
10. Tom Cleverley (c)
11. Sam Hewson (16. Evandro Brandão ’62)
13. Conor Devlin
Gray – Chester – Cathcart – Derbyshire
Eikrem – Drinkwater – Possebon – Cleverley
Events off the field may have somewhat overshadowed those on it, but for 84 minutes at Moss Lane there was a very good United performance and a very watchable encounter to enjoy for those in the crowd who actually came to take in a football match. A first-half brace from Federico Macheda and another stunning long-range strike from Rodrigo Possebon had established a 3-0 lead for the Reds before the game was brought to a premature close with five minutes remaining after a group of spectators purporting to be United fans stormed the pitch and got involved in confrontations with Altrincham players, forcing the referee to abandon the contest. More on that later, but let’s focus on the football for now.
Ole Solskjaer had made three changes to the side that won at Burscough last week, with Gary Woods and Sam Hewson returning from first-team duty in place of Conor Devlin and Febian Brandy, and Jimmy Derbyshire replacing the injured Richard Eckersley, while a seven-man bench would offer several players their first match action of the new season. The formation started out as a 4-4-1-1 with Hewson playing off Macheda, but the midfield had a fluid look to it with Tom Cleverley and Rodrigo regularly interchanging with Hewson.
To say the game started scrappily would be an understatement, a left-footed effort from Rodrigo that went just wide being the only notable action of the first 15 minutes. The disjointed nature of the game suited the home side and, despite Macheda going close after a clever Eikrem through-ball, it was Altrincham who looked the more dangerous as the halfway point of the first half approached. The twenty-minute mark brought the first real chance for the Robins to turn that superiority into a lead, Kevin Street deftly turning Craig Cathcart and shooting low, forcing a smart stop by Gary Woods who got down quickly to turn it away with his left boot.
There followed one of those curveballs that football always like to throw up… against the run of play and with a huge slice of luck, United proceeded to take the lead a minute later. The corner that resulted from Woods’ save was cleared to halfway where, under slight pressure from Macheda, an Alty defender turned the ball back to ‘keeper James Coates. With plenty of time to deal with the backpass, the hapless stopper only managed to tread on the ball, leaving United’s #9 with the simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net.
Credit to Altrincham – heads didn’t drop and only a terrific interception from the alert Jimmy Derbyshire prevented an immediate response from the hosts after Rodrigo had been dispossessed. Just as last week though, the opening goal noticeably calmed United nerves and the Reds’ midfield was now well on top. Hewson spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to double the lead on the half-hour mark after fine work from Cleverley, but that second goal wasn’t much longer in coming. A rapid counter-attack saw Hewson thread a ball through for Cleverley to run onto down the left flank and, after checking back onto his favoured right foot, the skipper precisely picked out Macheda with a cross that was just begging to be buried. The 17 year-old Italian duly obliged, coolly volleying home from six yards for his second of the match.
A hat-trick very nearly followed before half-time. Cleverley was again the provider, his slide-rule pass sending Macheda through one-on-one against Coates, but this time it wasn’t to be as the forward’s tame effort was easily kept out by the keeper. 2-0 was still a very creditable score at the break and gave Solskjaer the chance to make the first two of six changes, Oliver Gill replacing the lively Derbyshire at left-back and Cameron Stewart coming on for the subdued Eikrem on the right side of midfield. Stewart nearly had an immediate impact, unfortunately being let down by his control after Drinkwater’s pinpoint crossfield ball put him in behind the defence.
The start to the second half was otherwise cagey, neither side fashioning any real openings until Hewson again went close on the hour, this time turning Stewart’s left-wing cross just over the bar from six yards. Further changes did little to help the flow of the game (Brandão and James replacing Hewson and Drinkwater on 62 minutes), and there was a growing sense of unease around the ground at the behaviour of those behind the goal United were attacking which seemed to transmit itself to the players.
Brandão went close to adding a third United goal with quarter of an hour remaining – the Portuguese dragging a first-time shot wide when he had time to take a touch – and then after Gray picked up a knock and was replaced by Norwood, Rodrigo took it upon himself to illuminate a game that was in real danger of petering out. A drop of the shoulder engineered the Brazilian room to let fly from 25 yards out and let fly he did, Coates not even moving as the ball fizzed just inside his left-hand post. The distance may have been slightly less than last week’s effort but the quality of the strike was every bit as special.
Unfortunately that appeared to be the cue for the moronic element in the stands to go looking for trouble, and no sooner had Rodrigo been replaced by Kenny Strickland than 20/25 lads clambered over the safety barriers and onto the field. A simple pitch invasion, while unfortunate, would not necessarily have meant the end of the game, but with several idiots soon embroiled in confrontations with players from the home team, the referee had little option but to call a halt to proceedings and take the players off the field with six minutes still left on the clock.
A sad end to what should have been an enjoyable afternoon, but still a valuable exercise for OGS and his young side. Another fine performance from Rodrigo Possebon will have pleased the Reds’ coach, as will solid central defensive showings from Chester and Cathcart and an impressively dynamic cameo from Matty James, but of some concern will be a lack of genuine left-sided options available – neither Derbyshire or Gill are natural left-backs and Hewson, Cleverley and Brandão all showed a tendency to drift inside from the left midfield role. Robert Brady and Richard Eckersley are currently injured, but the sooner that pair and the likes of Joe Dudgeon, Daniel Galbraith and Fábio (again not involved) are available to be called into the fold the better as far as the balance of the team is concerned.
Pictures and some follow-up on the crowd trouble to come tomorrow.