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Altrincham 0 Harriers 1

Date: 27-01-07 Venue: Moss Lane att: 1116 away fans: 100 approx
And the beat goes on
How long can we keep winning these games, eight in a row now, before we're found out?

We went to Altrincham with three key members of the side out either suspended or injured.    Grabbed a goal from a re-bound and survived a second half onslaught that would have made many lesser sides crumble into a shambles.

Instead we buckled down to the job and kept out a side that could see our weaknesses but just could not get past a solid defence and an even more solid keeper.    One save from Scott Bevan towards the end of the game was world class and must surely earn him a call up to the Non League International side or onto the books of a League club before the week runs out.

Dean Craven A priority for the Harriers manager, Mark Yates, this week MUST be to get Bev onto a proper contract before it's too late.

With Russ Penn out for bookings, Iyseden Christie and Jonny Harkness out with injury, and the squad down to bare bones, it was felt that emergency cover was needed and that came in the form of a one day loan of Dean Craven from AFC Telford.

I'm not sure about the legality of that but I'm sure the club checked everything out beforehand.

It was lucky that we had him because Gavin Hurren got injured, re-currence of his hamstring problem, early on and there was no other defender/midfielder that could have come on in his place.

For the second game running Andy White stepped into Issey's blue boots, at the back Michael Blackwood covered for Harkness with Brian Smikle taking his place out wide and Jake Sedgemore came in for Penn.

It was Smikle who was to have the first chance of the game for us, a chance that he wasted when he sent the ball wide from James Constables cross.    He was to make up for his mistake soon after though.

We had a bit of a scare when Bevan mis-kicked a clearance against the Alty striker, Joe O'Neill and it came back at him and he had to save it again.    On twelve minutes the Harriers were forced to make changes to the side when Gavin Hurren signalled to the bench that his hamstring was still giving him trouble and Dean Craven came on for his brief career in a Harriers shirt.

A minute later and another player making his debut - this time Andy Scott, for Altrincham - dallied over a clearance and Constable, not one to dally himself, nipped in to rob him of the ball and then progress forwards into shooting distance.    His shot was pushed away by the keeper but only into the path of Smikle who made no mistake in tapping the ball in for his first ever goal for us.

Smikle missed another chance soon after when, again, Constable played him in but this time his first time shot was blazed high over the bar.

It took until ten minutes after the goal for Altrincham to even look interested in getting back into the game when Colin Little caught Jeff Kenna napping and sent over a cross to the far post for Warren Peyton to wastefully head wide.    Peyton came close again before the half hour mark but his volley from the edge of the area was easily held by Bevan.

With a weakened Harriers still holding on there was one last attack from the home side when a scramble in the goalmouth was cleared as far as Colin Little who fired a return shot back in that Bevan just about managed to get to and, this time, clear away to safety.
HT: 0 - 1
The second half kicked off with Alty sensing that they could get something from the game and with Craven struggling with fitness it was going to be a gruelling time for the in form visitors.

It was us that was to be the first out of the blocks though when Jake Sedgemore was handed the task of taking a free kick after James Constable was fouled for a second time in a matter of seconds on the edge of the area.    His kick clipped the top of the wall and went over the bar for a fruitless corner.

O'Neill missed another chance for his side when he beat Bevan to a cross and again sent his header wide of the empty goal.    We did the same thing ourselves straight after when Michael Blackwood played in Andy White who then sent over a cross for Smikle but he sent the ball over the goal from just a few yards out.

Altrincham started to pile on the pressure now and bought on Rod Thornley and Chris Senior, two strikers, for two defenders, Val Owen and Andy Scott.    We pulled men back deeper to counteract that move and started to defend deeper.

Alty had a great chance to draw level through Little but his shot, that again, beat Bevan came back off the post and was again cleared upfield.    A corner for Altrincham ended in a free for all in the Harriers area and again it was cleared away to relative safety.

Andy White was subbed for Luke Reynolds in an attempt to pep up our attack and Constable dropped into midfield to help shore that area up.    Something he did to good effect at Exeter recently.

There was a moment of confusion when Mark Creighton was followed through by O'Neill and left rolling in agony on the floor.    The linesman signalled for a foul but the referee ignored him, not for the first time, but had to stop the game eventually for the big defender to receive treatment off the pitch.    Luckily for us, with our thin squad, the damage was not too bad and he returned to action soon after.

Reynolds came close to scoring for us when he broke free from his marker to send in a strong shot that the keeper, Stuart Coburn, did well to save at full stretch.

With four minutes of extra time being flagged it was back to the walls time for the Harriers and also an invitation for the home side to be given a second chance.    Thornley saw his shot blocked on the line and then Little let fly with a fierce strike from the edge of the area, but it was cleanly gathered by the giant Bevan.

In the very last minute Scott performed heroics once more to save us from suffering last minute goal agony.    Again Little broke free and, looking almost certain to score, Scott dived bravely at his feet to smother the ball and deny him the chance of a deserved equaliser and then he did equally well to tip over a shot from Chris Senior just seconds later.

In the dying seconds of the game Constable could have wrapped up the points but for the second game in a few days he missed an open goal as the ball went the wrong side of the post.    Must have been those Walsall scouts there again!

With the final whistle came the certainty of the three points and a climb of two more places up the table into seventh, just three points from the play-offs.    It was a tough game but they all are in this League and to see the team grinding out results when the squad is down to bare bones shows the quality of the players that we have got.

It's another enforced break from League action next week when Braintree come to Aggborough in the Trophy but the following week we have a trip to another form side to look forward to.    Forest Green have won their last four games and we could be in for a tough test at the New Lawn.
FT: 0 - 1

 Goal for Harriers: Smikle 13

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Latest table and stats here  

Altrincham  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Coburn     Bevan  
Aspinall     Kenna  
Munroe     Smikle  
Band     Hurren  
A Scott     Creighton  
Chalmers     Whitehead  
Lawton     Russell  
Owen     Sedgemore  
Little     White  
O'Neill     Constable  
Peyton     Blackwood  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Senior     S Taylor  
Thornley     Reynolds  
Rose     McGrath  
McFadden     Eaton  
Thompson     Craven  

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