Alton begin new era with comfortable win
Alton Town 4 – 0 AFC Stoneham
Report by Jamie Phillips
A celebratory day for football across the town was rounded off with an emphatic 4 – 0 win as Alton adapted to their new home with ease against Stoneham on Saturday.
George Burley was on hand to oversee the reopening of the revamped Anstey Park facility. The former Southampton, Ipswich and Scotland manager certainly brought good luck to the Brewers as a brace apiece from Luke Perkins and Johnny Gray either side of half-time saw them romp to a third consecutive victory.
Alton were cheered on by over 250 spectators at their new home and have now moved up into sixth in the Wessex Division One.
The occasion brought about a cagey start from both sides, and it was Stoneham that had the first glimpse at goal as Alton failed to deal with a long clearance and Nyamunga was forced to save from King before Hills somehow put the follow-up wide of the target from the centre of the box.
Hills then fashioned himself another opportunity as he skipped past the outrushing Nyamunga out wide but he could not squeeze the ball in from the narrow angle on the right-hand touchline.
It would be Alton that took the lead though as Ash Peck picked the ball up from deep and drove at the back four before a firing a shot that was deflected into the path of Gray. The striker was about to fire home before being adjudged to have been brought down by Palmer, with the centre-back receiving a red card for his troubles. Alton’s top-scorer Luke Perkins duly dispatched the penalty.
The opener seemed to give the hosts a boost as they soon doubled their lead. Perkins showed his wealth of pace to latch onto a long ball before the Wheildon in the Stoneham goal before tucking the ball in past two defenders.
The Brewers were well on top by now, as Shuttleworth glanced a Hayes free-kick narrowly wide of the far post. Stoneham were struggling to cope with Perkins’ pace, especially effective on the large pitch, and he nearly completed a first-half hat-trick as he skipped past Edgerton before forcing Wheildon to make a fine save at his near post.
The momentum created by Perkins first-half brace continued to build in the early stages of the second period. The Alton striker attempted to turn provider this time as he raced to the byline before sending a cross agonisingly beyond the reach of both Gray and Hunter.
Perkins should have had his deserved hat-trick as he raced onto a through ball, but his effort cleared the bar with only the keeper to beat.
Stoneham themselves were comfortable in possession, but with only ten men they lacked the ability to throw men forward in order to search for a way back into the game, making it a relatively straightforward afternoon for Nyamunga.
There were still goals to come however, as some excellent work out wide from Matt Clarke led to the centre midfielder driving a low cross into the box that was met by a diving Gray to put the game to bed from close-range.
Chances were rare as the game went into a bit of lull with the result inevitable. Nevertheless, Gray did complete a brace of his own, Sean Hayes’ through ball split open a beleaguered Stoneham backline for the forward to confidently finish past the keeper.
And it was Gray that nearly grabbed a hat-trick of his own as his looping shot came back of the bar.
A comfortable win for the Brewers, but no doubt helped by the sending off in the early stages of the contest. Nine points out of nine in the league and Alton will travel to Hythe & Dibden full of confidence on Saturday.
Alton: Nyamunga, Allaway, Taylor, Shuttleworth, Adkins, Hayes, Clarke, Hunter, Perkins, Peck, Gray
Subs: Greeves, Millington-Lee, Graham, Fox
Stoneham: Wheildon, Stupple, Edgerton, Jones, Palmer, Clarke, Hills, Morris, King, Cole, New
Subs: Hammond, Sanger, Cambalero, Hogan, Forbes
Alton Exit Vase
Haywards Heath Town 1 – 0 Alton Town
A single goal second half from Max Miller put high-flying Haywards Heath into the hat for the draw of the FA Vase 2nd Round Proper at Alton’s expense writes Jamie Phillips.
Alton made the trip as underdogs thanks to some rather inconsistent form ahead of the tie, reflected by their league record to date. On the contrary, Haywards Heath had won an impressive fourteen straight games.
It was no surprise then that the side in blue made the brighter start to proceedings. They would have been ahead if it was not for a spectacular block from Greenaway to divert Miller’s effort wide of his own goal after the striker had rounded Nyamunga.
The Brewers, as ever, were a threat on the break though, this time it was Perkins’ turn to round Lehkyj but his effort went narrowly wide. Chances were aplenty as Warwick latched onto Miller’s flick before rolling a shot under Nyamunga but just wide of the post at the other end.
Playing in their normal home strip, Alton had the best chance of the half. Greenaway, who was a constant threat all afternoon, did well to get to the byline before cutting back to Perkins who had the goal gaping, but he was denied by a superb block on the line by Rogers to keep the score level.
The visitors’ best spell of the half followed as Greenaway’s attempted cross almost caught out Lehkyj prior to the winger’s more conventional effort flying wide of the right hand post.
The 0 – 0 half time scoreline reflected how close the game and the two sides were.
It was the home side that would enjoy most of the possession in the second period though, and Alton were lucky to escape unscathed from an almighty goal mouth scramble. Miller’s volley was palmed into the path of Warwick effort from inside of the box was blocked by Wright.
Sometimes it takes a moment of magic to separate a close game. This was definitely not the case for this FA Vase encounter as Heath finally broke the deadlock with just twenty minutes remaining. Nyamunga did well to save Graves’ header from Weston’s corner, but the loose ball was slammed home from close-range by Miller.
The Brewers though could and should have levelled proceeding straight away as Graham saw his point blank header cannon off the cross bar.
Alton were searching for an equaliser, and were looking more and more likely to get one as Bryant had to hook clear off his own line as Greeves look to stab home. Greenaway then made some space for himself but his fierce shot could only bulge the side netting via the head of Simon Wright.
The Brewers could not find that all important goal though, and credit to Haywards Heath for showing the grit and determination to grind out a clean sheet and progress.
Definite signs of improvement from a young Alton side though after some poor showings of late. They are in cup action again on Tuesday night as they host Badshot Lea in the Aldershot Senior Cup at the Bass Ground.
Haywards Heath Town – Lehkyj, Bardner, B.Rogers, Dunk, Bryant, Graves, Turner, Warwick, Miller, O’Toole, Weston
Subs – Marshall, Harris, Beard, Westlake, A.Rogers
Alton Town – Nyamunga; Phillips, Taylor, Wright, Adkins; Hayes, Graham; Peck, Fox, Greenaway; Perkins
Subs – Clarke, Greeves, Denham, Westbrook, Hunter