ROVERS STAY HOT IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
By Neil Martin
FGR produced a composed and at times fluent display to comfortably see off Altrincham, despite having to overcome a sending off and a howling wind and rain at the New Lawn. Rovers are now seven games unbeaten in all competitions and maintained the pressure on League leaders Cheltenham.
Ady Pennock made two changes from the side that drew El Glosico the week previous, with Kelly and Marsh-Brown coming into the starting line up in place of Jennings and Sinclair.
Jon Parkin took just 43 seconds to open the scoring for FGR with a typically determined effort. First he made the ball his, by storming past two defenders and then slotted an accurate shot into the far corner of the net.
Rovers started the match on fire and Elliot Frear on the left was causing havoc to the Alty defence in the early going. He had a shot well saved by Deasy and then both Darren Carter and Parkin had shots blocked after Frear runs and crosses.
Richman put in a dangerous cross to the far post in the 12th minute with the visitor’s first possession of note and then a couple of minutes later Lawrie’s deflected shot was turned onto the post by Arnold. However this threat was short lived as on 19 minutes Parkin got his and Rovers’ second goal, with a neat header from Marsh-Brown’s corner from the right.
FGR maintained their slick attacking football, despite the driving rain and strong wind and Charlie Clough, up from the back, almost made it three with a good header which clipped the bar from a Marsh-Brown free kick. He curled a useful looking shot just wide shortly afterwards and incredibly hit the bar again on 40 minutes with a neat chip.
Just before half-time Guthrie, who had been booked, spun away from his man and saw his shot deflected for a corner. The game then took a bizarre twist, as Richman was yellow carded for an over the ball tackle on Dale Bennett. Referee Rushton then immediately brandished a red card to the Rovers defender for an apparent kick out in retaliation.
So despite Rovers’ impressive one touch football and clear dominance they went in at half-time knowing they were to be a man down for the entire second period.
David Pipe came on at right back for the sent off Bennett with Marsh-Brown the unlucky player sacrificed. Despite their numbers, FGR should have gone 3 up on 48 minutes when a lovely turn from Guthrie and sublime touch from Parkin saw Guthrie go around the keeper, yet see his shot brilliantly cleared off the line.
As the rain absolutely lashed down, Altrincham gradually started to impose their numerical advantage and after Lawrie spun and shot over, Arnold made a good save from Reeves.
Frear was still the Rovers’ outlet and continued to cause problems as he just missed at the far post and then caught the side netting.
Steve Arnold almost scored box to box on 70 minutes as his clearance caught the wind and cleared the visitors’ bar.
The game went haywire again as Altrincham then managed to have two players sent off in the 78th and 83rd minutes. Firstly O’Keefe was dismissed for a slightly late challenge on Guthrie, who had been on the receiving end of a few fouls. He appeared a bit unlucky not to have just received a yellow, as the referee evened the numbers. Then a more clear cut sending off when skipper Havern, already booked, pulled down the charging Frear just on the edge of the box. Although Rovers didn’t make anything of the free kick, they comfortably saw out time, with Kelly only just missing with a late long range effort.
FGR showed good composure in the second half when down to ten men, after some sparkling football in the first half and now head to League Two leaders Oxford in the FA Cup in great spirits.
After the game Ady Pennock said that Dale Bennett had apologised to the team for his actions and he said that the matter would be dealt with internally. However he was keen to talk about the many positives – a strong start for the third game running, good football in difficult conditions and solid performances from both centre halves. He added that Frear had again been dangerous out wide and looked forward to FGR’s ‘Cup Final’ at Oxford with a confident squad.
FGR- Arnold, Bennett, Kelly, Racine, Clough, Wedgbury, Carter, Frear, Marsh-Brown, Parkin, Guthrie
Altrincham- Deasy, Griffin, Moult, Havern, Leather, Lawrie, Richman, Reeves, O’Keefe, Crowther, Sinnott
Attendance – 1,292 (away 43)
Severn Sport Man of the Match – Elliot Frear