Alsager Town 1 Squires Gate 0

Saturday 29th November 2008
Alsager Town 1 Squires Gate 0
Vodkat League Premier Division
At: the Town Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: £1
Attendance: 31
Weather: cold, fog
Duration: first-half: 45:50; second-half: 48:33

For my last press assignment, I chose to return to the Town Ground for a game between two midtable sides separated by just one point. However, fog put the game in doubt before it got underway and came close to forcing an abandonment. In the end, the game took its full course and Alsager won their fourth league game in a row but left it very late to overcome stubborn ten-man Squires Gate. Striker Andrew Whitney emerged the hero in the 89th minute when he got on the end of a pass from Dean Williams to fire home what proved to be the only goal. Earlier in the first half, Alsager skipper Lee Jones had missed a penalty, awarded for a professional foul which resulted in visiting defender Kevan Ford being sent off.

Alsager, who went into the game in 10th position, one position and one point worse off than their visitors, got the game underway attacking from right to left in relation to my seat in the stand. Quickly on the attack, they almost to the lead inside the first minute. Scot Taylor crossed from the left into the area where Vincent Francis fired straight at Squires Gate keeper Andy Speight.

Neither keeper was called into action before Alsager were awarded a penalty in the 19th minute. Up to that crucial moment, the closest the Bullets had come to scoring, in what started as a contest largely confined to midfield, was a well-stuck 25-yard free-kick from Louis James.

Taylor was tripped inside the area by last defender Ford which resulted in a penalty and the inevitable red card. Penalty-taker Jones was forced to wait while Ford slowly left the field and ended up ballooning the ball over the bar.

The visitors replenished their defence by replacing sacrificed midfielder Paul Ryan with substitute Tom Phillips and relied on just one up front.

Squires Gate almost punished the Bullets for the penalty miss. John Cheetman completely misjudged a harmless-looking throughball and allowed Lee Cantlow a clear run on goal. However, keeper Luke Hebblewhite stood firm and kept his side on level terms with a fine block.

A good move down the left set up a good chance for Alsager early in the second half. James got to the left bye-line and pulled the ball back for Taylor to fire just wide.

With the fog growing thicker, Algager Mananger Neil Gill freshened up his side and the introduction of Matt Wooley provided more of a threat. Whitney saw one shot loop off a defender and out for a corner while Wooley saw another 30-yard drive take a deflection.

However, Squires Gate almost took an 80th minute lead when Andy Richards beat Hebblewhite, only to see the ball rebound off the left-hand post.

With the game seemingly heading for a goalless draw or an even an abandonment, substitute Tom Swann fed Williams who got to the left bye-line. The tall striker pulled the ball back for Whitney to fire home the winner. I suppose Alsager were pleased that the two assistant referees could just about see the opposite touchline.

Alsager Town (white/black/black): 1. Luke Hebblewhite, 2. Vincent Francis, 3. Louis James, 4. Nathan Griffiths, 5. John Cheetham, 6. Daniel Gleaves, 7. Kurtis Gill, 8. Lee Jones (capt), 9. Dean Williams, 10, Ashley Whitney, 11. Scott Taylor. Subs: 12. Kurtis McCarthy (not used), 14. Kyle Griffin (not used), 15. Matthew Wooley (for Jones, 71), 16. Tom Swann (for Francis, 57), 17. Dean Clarke (for Taylor, 78).

Squires Gate (red/red/red): 1. Andy Speight, 2. Tom Benfield, 3. Nigel Taylor (capt), 4. Russ McKenna, 5. Tom Bartlett, 6. Kevan Ford, 7. Paul Ryan (Phillips, 23), 8. Andy Richards, 9. Chris Bennett (Hibbert, 79), 10. Lee Catlow, 11. Stuart Horn (Muscroft, 69). Subs: 12. Tom Phillips (for Ryan, 23), 14. Matty Muscroft (for Horn, 69), 15. Steve Hibbert (for Bennett, 79), 16. Andy Harvie (not used).

Referee: R Bartlett.
Assistants: M. Barlow and G. M. Polkey.

1-0 Andrew Whitney (90)

Alsager: Kurtis Gill (YC, 24)
Squires Gate: Kevan Ford (RC, 19), Andy Richards (YC, 29), Tom Phillips (YC, 63), Nigel Taylor (YC, 75)