Football: FA to probe Altrincham trouble

Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
The Football Association is to hold an inquiry next Wednesday into the disorder that marred last weekend's FA Umbro Trophy tie between Altrincham and Bishop Auckland. The match was suspended for 24 minutes by the referee after away supporters allegedly attacked police, and eight fans were arrested.

Bishop Auckland's president, Brian Newton, apologised for the conduct of his club's fans yesterday. "The club wishes to place on record it totally deplores the actions of a minority of people at the game whose actions are a total discredit to football," he said.

It has also emerged that a bizarre fracas involving players took place after the game. Two years ago Bishop Auckland were taken to court by a Macclesfield Town player, George Shepherd, who had had his leg broken playing against the Bishops. Without insurance, the County Durham club faced bankruptcy, so they launched a fund-raising campaign, of which the highlight was a friendly against Manchester United. They raised pounds 30,000, which paid for an out-of-court settlement.

Fit again, Shepherd now plays for Altrincham, and last Saturday was the first time he had faced the Bishops since his injury. He gave away the penalty which led to the only goal of the game, which Bishop Auckland won despite having two men sent off.

After the match, Shepherd apparently came to blows with a Bishops player, George Adams, in the club car park. Both sides are blaming each other: Altrincham's chairman, Gerry Berman, has reportedly claimed that Shepherd was assaulted after leaving the Moss Lane clubhouse.

The Bishop Auckland line is that Shepherd started the fight by striking the first blow: "An Altrincham player ran up from behind one of our players and punched him in the face, busting his nose and lip," Tony Lee, their manager, said.

An FA official who witnessed the disturbance was apparently knocked to the ground as the players came to blows - his contribution to Wednesday's inquiry will be anxiously awaited by both clubs.

Woking are using radar technology to probe their pitch at Kingfield stadium, after Tuesday's GM Vauxhall Conference game against Hayes was abandoned in the first half following the discovery of a two-foot hole in the playing surface.

The trouble has been blamed on the collapse of an underground drainage system, so Woking are resorting to the same soil-probing radar system used by police to track the progress of the environmental campaigners who dug tunnels under the A30 roadworks in Devon.