Altrincham 3 - 0 Clitheroe
Clitheroe give a good account of themselves at the home of the original non league giants
In a fixture which could barely have been contemplated even five years ago, Clitheroe gave a good account of themselves at the home of the original non league giants, Altrincham. The hosts might have fallen temporarily on hard time times, but the smart stadium and the quality on the pitch suggest it won’t be for long. They also appear to have taken three Salford players who did not want to make the move to full time, and in John Johnston, a Mullen style right winger, they have a diamond. He tormented the Clitheroe back line and is clearly destined for greater stages.
The Blues had their usual post dressing room nap, but on this occasion the cheeky flick from a right wing cross hit the bar. This was the boost Clitheroe needed as they kicked with the wind. On 7 minutes, Alex Newby received a weak clearance from the home keeper, and with options on his right, he shot softly at the grateful stopper. Johnston was at his most dangerous in the first half and on 11 and 12 minutes, his mazy, purposeful runs and crosses almost led to goals. That said, the Blues were more than holding their own elsewhere. On 15 minutes, Newby slipped Stephen Rigby through on the overlap, although his shot did not trouble the keeper.
Two minutes later, Johnston was at it again and having dispossessed Jacob Gregory, he drove a shot across goal. Clitheroe were now seeing more of the ball and on 30 minutes, a deep corner from Charlie Russell saw a towering header go wide. One minute later, a whipped in corner from Russell saw the keeper wedge the ball on to the bar as it arced in. On 35 minutes, Kurt Willoughby burst 40 yards into the box and as he shaped to shoot, his ankles were clipped. He tried to continue, but a spot kick was probably a fairer outcome. There was still time for the home team and Rigby cleared an Altrincham corner off the line.
As ever, Clitheroe started the second half brightly, but on 53 minutes, a Johnston surge and toe poke saw the ball inexplicably and uncharacteristically squirm from Chris Thompson’s gloves into the net. This put the wind in the home team’s sails, but 10 minutes later, the home skipper saw straight red as he yelled at the referee for not awarding a foul for a perceived elbow. However, Altrincham kept their shape and created the better of the chances. On 81 minutes, a whipped in free kick from the right was expertly glanced into the net by a great header, whilst in injury time the score was given an unfair gloss after an interchange of passes sliced open the Blue’s defence for a suspiciously offside looking goal.
There was no disgrace in this result against a team top of the Premier league and Clitheroe’s football often matched that of the hosts. Simon Haworth will now be keen to translate this form into points in the coming weeks.
Team : Chris Thompson, Jacob Gregory, Stephen Rigby (Robbie Bromley), Ryan Ellison, Ian Rowlands (c), Tom Smyth (Danny Byrnes), Charlie Russell (Ross Dent), Brad Carroll, Kurt Willoughby, Alex Newby, Joe Mitchell. Subs - Ross Dent, Robbie Bromley, Danny Byrnes. Not used - Adam Bolton, Brad Knox.