Result: Gainsborough Trinity 5-4 Altrincham (Skrill Conference North)
Venue: The Northolme (Tuesday 7th January 2014, 7.45pm)
The week began without me having a game planned, this was until the Monday, when I made the somewhat strange decision to undertake the 2hr plus journey to north Lincolnshire for the Skrill North contest between Gainsborough Trinity & Altrincham. Having finished work, I made my way to the first pick up point for the Altrincham supporters’ bus, the Vine Inn on Washway Road, Sale, and was soon boarding the coach which would server us for this evening, although as it was to turn out, quite unreliably!
After further pick ups at Moss Lane & the Fox & Hounds in Altrincham, the journey was soon underway, and within half-an-hour we had arrived in Sheffield. I should point out at this point that it was a half hour due to my visit to the land of nod on the way…. After a short pit-stop at a McDonalds on the outskirts of the South Yorkshire city, the trip entered its second phase, and continued onwards towards the borders between the counties of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire & Lincolnshire, passing by Robin Hood airport, which serves the amp; South Yorkshire area.
Soon after the coach exited the darkness of the country lanes and into the lights of the town of Gainsborough, access being served by a bridge crossing over the River Trent, and past a petrol station, where the team coach which had carried the Robins side at some point earlier today, was currently stationed. After a short time within the lanes of the town the coach had undertaken a right turn and was immediately alongside Trinity’s home, Northolme.
After 35 minutes or so sat in the ground’s social club, which was decked out in beams, it was time to make my way to the turnstile, where I parted with the decent price of £11 for admittance, and a further £2.50 for the somewhat underwhelming programme. As you enter from the turnstiles, you find the refreshment building on your right, and a large covered terrace on your left. Opposite you on the far end of the pitch is an open terrace, both of which run the full width of the playing area. Along the near side runs another covered terrace, which covers the majority of the side, and opposite is the Main ‘Ping’ Stand, which is all seater and accessible for a further £1. In front of this is where the dugouts are situated, either side of the players tunnel which protrudes from the bowels of the stand. The Northolme is quite the impressive ground, and quite similar to Moss Lane in terms of size. It can hold a capacity of 4,304 supporters, of which 515 can be seated within the Main Stand.
*The club have played continuously at the Northolme since their inception meaning the ground has been in continued use for over 140 years, making it one of the oldest grounds in the world. Former chairman Peter Swann had announced plans for a new 4,000 seat stadium in 2009, but by 2012, Swann had abandoned the plans and stepped down at the end of last season, to become Chairman at Scunthorpe United.
Gainsborough Trinity have a long and distinguished history, having been formed back in 1873 as Trinity Recreationists, which gave rise to the present suffix, and the nicknames ‘Trinity’, and ‘The Holy Blues’, which sounds like an unsuccessful American group from the mid 1950’s. In 1889, they became founder members of the Midland League, which was won in 1890-’91. After a couple of runners-up placings in 1891-’92 and ’95-’96, the club applied for the Football League and achieved election via third place in the ballot, ahead of existing members Port Vale & Crewe Alexandra. Placed in Division 2, they finished their inaugural league season 7th, 1901-’02 saw the club finish bottom, needing re-election to remain in the League, which they duly received, and just three years later achieved their best League finish, 6th place. In 1912, the club finished bottom, this time failing to be re-elected missing out to county rivals Lincoln City. The club thus returned to the Midland League, and after a third and a second place finish in the next two seasons again applied for the league, but were rejected.
When the Football League created the Third Division North in 1921, Trinity again attempted to join, but were again knocked back. 1928 saw the Midland League title lifted for a second time, and the following season, the club claimed a League scalp in the FA Cup, beating Crewe 3-1, before losing to Chesterfield in Round 2.In ’31-’32, they again beat the Alex, before losing out to Watford, and in ’37-’38 defeated Port Vale, before crashing back to earth due to a defeat to fellow non-leaguers Yeovil & Petters United. The following season saw Trinity take another League scalp, this time Gateshead, before Doncaster Rovers again stopped them in Round 2. Following the war years, a third Midland League title was won in 1948-’49 but, despite remaining in the league, this was the last silverware the club was to win, before the league disbanded in 1960. After a single season in the Yorkshire League Division 2, a return to the newly formed Midland Counties League beckoned, and the league title came in ’66-’67, before the club became founder members of the Northern Premier League (NPL) in 1968.
In 1975 & 76, Trinity applied for the Football League again, but failed on both occasions, only attaining one vote on each occasion. When the NPL created a second division in 1987, Trinity were placed in the Premier Division, where they remained until 2004, when they became founder members of the Conference North. During their time in the NPL Premier Division, the club lifted the League Challenge Cup on two occasions, in 1982, and again in 1997. In 2011-’12, the club finished in P4, and in doing so qualified for the play-offs. After beating FC Halifax Town in the semi-final, Trinity suffered heartbreak in the final, losing out to Nuneaton Town 1-0. Last season saw Trinity reach the semi-finals of the FA Trophy for the first time ever, where they lost out to the eventual winners, Wrexham.
Tonight’s game saw the Cheshire-based Robins enter as favourites, chasing as they are the play-offs at least, whilst Trinity are in the lower reaches of mid-table. Altrincham were also giving a second appearance to their newly signed centre-back, ex-Manchester United, Derby County, Sunderland & Stoke City man Danny Higginbotham. This would turn out to be the last match of the Gibraltar international’s illustrious career.
The teams entered into a biting wind, and the game began at pace, perhaps with both sides trying their best to ward the cold off, and they definitely were doing wonders for the spectators, when after just three minutes winger Liam Davis fired home a sweet strike from 20 yards.
Altrincham fought back immediately, and should have been level when Damien Reeves was put through one-on-one with Trinity ‘keeper Phil Barnes, but the usually clinical frontman dragged his effort wide of the mark, much to the surprise of many in attendance. A warning for the home side, but one that was not heeded, as just five minutes later, former Lincoln City & Tamworth man Kyle Perry was this time give the one-on-one opportunity via Nicky Clee’s ball, and unlike his strike partner, found the net as he fired over Barnes and into the roof of the net.
You’d have put money on the Robins from there, as they were in the ascendency and playing with confidence, apart that is from the defences. As the score-line was to show, it was one to forget for the two respective back-lines, however it was Trinity who went ahead for a second time. Bradley Barraclough competed hard, and after beating two players fed the ball inside, for a shot that was blocked by Higginbotham, who scuffed his clearance, with the rebound only going as far as Jamie Wooton and he fired past the helpless Stuart Coburn.
2-1 with 30 minutes played, and it looked likely to be all square again, when Reeves was again sent clear. He would surely score this time….wouldn’t he? The answer was no, as Barnes came rushing off his line, and pulled off a wonderful save to deny the ever more frustrated frontman, and this stop proved crucial, as Trinity broke and went two goals clear, when more good approach play by Barraclough saw him force his way into the area, before lifting his effort over the onrushing Coburn, before Barnes had to be on hand five minutes before the break to deny Reeves once again, and ensure his side went in at the break with a healthy cushion.
At the break, I decided the lure of the smell of chips was too good, and after purchasing a very tasty, and decent size portion for £1.50, I retook my position at the top of the covered terrace behind the near goal that Alty would now be attacking.
The game seemed to have settled somewhat for the first 15 minutes of the half, that was until Barraclough again created havoc within the beleaguered red & white striped defence, and Simon Russell ran onto the pass, rounded the stranded Coburn, and slid inside the far post whilst showing good composure. 4-1, game over. Or so it seemed….
Having nothing to lose, Altrincham poured forward, bringing on the likes of the two James’ Lawrie & Walshaw, (h latter of whom Lawrie replaced not too long after his introduction due to injury), and it was the former who gave his side the slightest glimmer of hope with around 15 minutes to play, when he put the ball across the six-yard line and Perry slammed home from close range. However, it seemed too little, too late until the major flashpoint occurred on 89 minutes. An innocuous challenge involving Perry and a home centre-back ended in a 22-man handbags contest after the two aforementioned players squared up and Perry was pushed over in the resulting melee by Liam Davis. After consulting his assistants, the referee correctly gave Davis his marching orders, with both Perry and the CB receiving bookings for their parts in the scrap. The Trinity man could consider himself fortunate to have only received a yellow, having only done the same offence Davis had been dismissed for.
Anyway, at 4-2 and with tails up, Altrincham sensed an opportunity and on 91 minutes it was 4-3, when a ball was pulled back to edge of the box where Carl Rodgers met it to powerfully thump an effort into the top corner, grazing the underside of the crossbar as it travelled. Alty’s assistant Neil Tolson was then sent off for pitch encroachment, when he decided that Trinity custodian Barnes was taking liberties with the time, and ran, collected the ball, and place it on the six-yard lane for him. And whilst pouring forward, Alty always gave Trinity the opportunity to catch them on the break, which they duly did after 95 minutes, when they cleared the ball forwards, Barraclough ran onto it unchallenged, and fired home to spark jubilant scenes from the home support. Even then the scoring was unbelievably not over, when immediately from the kick off, Nicky Clee fired home from 30 yards, but this proved to be the last meaningful kick of the game, as the referee brought the curtain down on what really was a dramatic performance, and, as previously mentioned, for one player, it proved to be the final curtain call.
My Gainsborough Trinity M.o.M.- Phil Barnes (Crucial saves allowed side to score twice immediately afterwards)
My Altrincham M.o.M.- Nicky Clee
Game:10- Quite unbelievable. Crazy scenes!
Ground:9- Old, character, traditional setting, and smart.
Programme:5- Not enamoured by it, maybe because it was midweek?
Food:8- Good price, taste & portion size.
Fans:8- Good exchanges with the Alty fans, and kept behind their players throughout.
Value For Money:10- Do you have to ask?!
Referee:8- Missed the red card at the end
GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY: 1.Phil Barnes, 2.Josh Wilde, 3.Dominic Roma, 4.Ciaran Toner, 5.Mike Leary, 6.Callum Howe, 7.Simon Russell, 8.Alastair Taylor, 9.Bradley Barraclough, 10.Jamie Wootton, 11.Liam Davis. SUBS: 12.Darryn Stamp, 14.Josh Batty, 15.Josh Williams(p) 16.Lynton Karcach, 17.Josh Lacey.
ALTRINCHAM: 1.Stuart Coburn, 2.Shaun Densmore(c), 3.Adam Griffin, 4.Danny Higginbotham, 5.Gianluca Havern, 6.Tom Marshall, 7.Jake Moult, 8.Carl Rodgers, 9.Kyle Perry, 10.Damien Reeves, 11.Nicky Clee. SUBS: 12.James Walshaw(p), 14.Matt Doughty, 15.James Lawrie(p), 16.Greg Wilkinson, 17.Adam Reid(GK)
Referee: Mr. D. Richardson