Moss Lane – Altrincham

18 Jan

Altrincham – 3

Colwyn Bay – 4

Football Conference North – 7th January 2012

This game was one of the first games I looked out for on the announcement of our first season in the Football Conference league. I will also go far as to say this was the first game I looked out for when the season was announced for pleasurable reasons. Sure I wanted to know when I’d be off to Bishops Stortford for an arm and a leg, and also games I’d miss due to work commitments, but this game was the one I wanted to attend.

The reason? I work in Altrincham, a stones throw away from the football ground (which we’ve tested, as we work near a builder’s merchant) and the Altrincham game was pencilled in for a work day’s out.

At least, that was the plan in August. Come January, with memories of a 6-1 trouncing at the Bernabay as well as 4 defeats on the bounce, Colwyn Bay weren’t in form (in fact, scoring one goal in that time, a penalty). Furthermore, with the work day out fizzling out quicker than a sparkler in a waterfall due to the fact my work colleagues “didn’t like getting wet”, like the North West England wing of the Wicked Witch of the West Appreciation Society, I headed to the ground.

Frank Sinclair - So hated by the Altrincham faithful, even the players don't want to be near him

Bay were buoyed a couple of days before the game with the arrival to the club of ex-Chelsea’s Frank Sinclair to the club. It added a delicious undertone to the game: Sinclair, in his Wrexham days, broke the leg of Altrincham’s Tom Kearney in a match between the two clubs. So with the short, half an hour trip to the ground (and meeting a mate at Altrincham train station) completed, I headed to the local pub.

It was there where I met Jack, who writes for this here blog, who is an Altrincham. We shared a couple of beers with the Bay faithful and then headed to the ground.

The main reason for my work colleagues missing the game was the fact that we began the game segregated and our area of the standing segregation was not under cover. Despite being a lovely crisp winter’s day, we felt we’d prefer some cover. This was rectified 30 seconds after kickoff when the Altrincham stewards sensibly saw we were no trouble, and opened the whole ground to both sets of supporters.

A word on the ground, it is fantastic. It’s a decent size ground, probably requiring little extra work should Altrincham push for the league, but at non-league level they understand how the game works. Couple with the amount of fans Altrincham get through the gates at games, Altrincham is quite an atmosphere.

Sweet, sweet pies.

Anyway the game kicked off, and in a sign of things to come it was purely end to end stuff. Colwyn Bay forced half chances, whereas Altrincham forced a few chances, one resulted in a clash of heads that saw Colwyn Bay’s centre back Matty Hughes substituted, but it was Colwyn Bay who took the lead when Lee Davey’s shot was parried into the path of Rob Hopley who slotted home for the first Colwyn Bay goal in 4 games & 17 minutes. The Seagulls lead lasted all of three minutes when Jack Redshaw scored after what appeared to be a handball. The teams remained level for again all of two minutes when Gareth Evans raced clear of the defence and slotted a ball past the sprawling keeper. This lead lasted all of 6 minutes when Damien Reeves headed in from a corner. After a scintillating first half, it finished 2-2. There were further goals in this game, but from where?

We headed to the bar and had a couple of drinks, chatting with the Altrincham fans on the first half. The bar seemed small, with standing room only, but it was nice enough with Baltic Sky showing Ice Hockey during the break. I also sampled a pie which was nice enough, a rare Chicken Balti pie, of which there are few at this level.

The frenetic pace of the game caused players to tire.

Four minutes after the break Adam Flynn played the ball of the game that landed perfectly at the feet of Redshaw who shot past a sprawling Cudworth to give the home side the lead, and took the applause of fans of quality football around the ground. Seven minutes later though Colwyn Bay were level when a Lee Davey shot (who appeared offside in the build up, I must admit), was again spilled to Rob Hopley, to level the game 3-3.

Then followed a period of stalemate, but with an amazing save by Jack Cudworth to deny Renshaw a hat-trick, Colwyn Bay came back into it, forcing a number of chances, and within the second minute of injury time, the Altrincham keeper spilled a corner straight to Frank Sinclair. Sinclair – who had the crowd on his back the entire game – slotted the ball through bodies to score the winner in a script that was already written by both sets of fans. Final score a mintue or so later, Altrincham 3 – 4 Colwyn Bay in an entralling game.

Bay pressed for a winner, that eventually came.

After the match, we joined the Altrincham faithful in the bar, and shared tales of the game. It is one of the reasons I love non-league, that fans on the whole are quite a friendly bunch. I wished the Altrincham fans and players well for the season, and Jack took me out to see the sights and sounds of Altrincham, even if he was a little worse for wear by the end of the night.

I think it sums up what I love about non-league. Everybody there loved their club but it appeared to not be at the detriment of others. Both clubs have suffered last minute defeats (Colwyn Bay did a week before at Vauxhall Motors), so gloating would be wrong. In comparison between the vitriol that exists between fans of some of the top flight teams, it’s nice going to a football club, being free to move around the ground, mingle with opposite fans, and not get your head kicked in. Altrincham are a shining example of a club that understand this, and deserve their utmost credit for this. Go and check them out one time. Hell go and check out any non league club one time (bonus points for clubs that have never been league clubs). You will be welcomed with open arms.

Furthermore, you may also get a cracking match like the one witnessed at Moss Lane in early January.

About Rhys Wynne

Rhys Wynne is the editor & creator of You're Supposed To Be At Home. For his sins, he is a Colwyn Bay & Liverpool fan, and a serial blog creator. You can follow Rhys on twitter here.

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