Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Away Ground Guide- Harrogate Town (Monday 26 December 2016)







Club Name: Harrogate Town
Nickname: Town
Founded:    1914

Ground Name: Wetherby Road
Ground Capacity:  3800( 500 seated)


Admission Prices 2016/17:    Adults:            £13 Standing/ £14 Seated                              
Concessions :  £8  & £9
Under 18:   £3 & £4



                     


Wetherby Road( or the CNG Stadium, as the suits around those parts would have it) is a neat spot to visit. It’s also one that is constantly in a state of change these days. Our  visit in 2014/15 saw one end covered ( now renamed the Henderson Stand), but last  time around the Wetherby Road terrace now had a smart roof over it and a very serviceable revamped flooring to go with it! Add access to Thompson’s Tea Bar and anyone’s visit to this spot is complete!




Sustenance!
This was provided by those excellent purveyors of food and drink Thompsons Tea Bar and they were every bit as terrific as I always recall them being!


 The menu was inviting( see photo) although the removal of the odd decimal point here and there by some wag did cause a flutter or two. I found no one unhappy with the food, and I was overjoyed to consume a pastie that tasted freshly baked and flavoursome, and also went for the homemade soup ( vegetable) which had more body than a Ford Car Plants Assembly-line. Potatoes …carrots offered surprise after surprise as I attempted to consume the glorious liquid! Wonderful stuff!




Directions:

1.     M60 Ring Rd (E&N)
2.     At junction 18 , at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto the M62 ramp to Leeds/Halifax/Huddersfield
3.     M62
4.     M621 (signs for Leeds/M62/Batley)
5.     At junction 2, take the A643 exit to Wetherby/A58/Harrogate/A61/A64/York
6.     At the roundabout, take the 1st exit ontoA643
7.     At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Wellington Rd/A58
8.     Continue onto A58(M) (signs for Skipton/A660/Wetherby/A58/Harrogate/A61/York/A64)
9.     Take the A58 exit toward Wetherby/Harrogate/A61/Sheepscar/Meanwood
10.                        Turn left onto Clay Pit Ln/A58
11.                        Continue onto Sheepscar St N/A61
12.                        Continue to follow A61 Going through 7 roundabouts
13.                        Turn right onto Hookstone Rd
14.                        Turn left onto Wetherby Rd/A661


Estimated Journey Time  -  1 Hour 30 Minutes

Post Code for Sat Nav :  HG2 7SA

Nearest Real Ale pubs ;

0.4m   Empress on the Stray   ,  on Church Square.
The beer selection is a bit limited, and...be warned... this spot has struggled to cope with County numbers in the past.

 


0.6m   Woodlands Hotel  ,  110 Wetherby Road
Is the best location-wise.....but......



Helpful Note:.....
The Swan on the Stray is a short walk up the Skipton Road from the big island near the Empress. The Swan has 8 hand pumped cask ales on and real cider.




Opens 11a.m, and is the best pub according to a Man in a Hat!

 Finally... if you want to save the hassle of parking, details are listed of the Fingerpost Flyer



Details ....

Departs Finger 11.45 / Picks up Mersian Way: 12.00

Adults £15  / Under 16's £10

Coach is now full.


Ian Brown



Saturday, 3 December 2016

Gloucester City 0 Stockport County 1( Vanarama National League-North) 3 December 2016





An assured performance saw County come away from a decidedly chilly Whaddon Road with 3 well merited points today against a feisty Gloucester City side.



It was a performance built on solid defensive foundations with both Smalley and Clarke putting in monumentally impressive shifts. Ross and Duxbury were not far behind in the merit marks stakes, and when the ball was worked out of defensive positions the blues had Minihan and Lloyd providing power and pace  aplenty down the flanks.

Solid County Defence.

As usual Odejayi’s hold up play was excellent, but it was not until the 74th minute, when Ross's throw gave him the ball, that Big K’s work declared a dividend, and Felix ( on the park for only 3 minutes ) slammed a corker home to stun the home specs.

Odejayi- excellent.

At this point I must mention the enormously poor display from referee Declan Bourne. 
He offered County no protection at all throughout a game in which elbows, upraised studs and iffy tackles flew in with regularity from our hosts. In addition we had 2 penalty claims turned down( 1 cast iron solid/ 1 not quite so), whilst obliging Gloucester with 1 in the early minutes of the game, that had not Hinchliffe been in disobliging mood and saved it, would have given them a massive boost. As it was …the boost was County’s and the 90 minutes of none stop application that followed thoroughly merited the full haul of points it ultimately generated! 
    
Ross for Felix, Duxbury for Cartwright and Ball for Marsden were the changes in County’s line up as the game commenced shortly after 3 o’clock, following a beautifully observed minutes silence in honour of the Brazilian club Chapecoense .

Beautifully observed salute to Chapecoense !

Home keeper Jasbir Singh had early action to contend with as Danny Lloyd surged into the box and in his face.


Danny Lloyd- trouble for Singh !

Luke Hopper offered home specs something to cheer, if briefly, as he scooted clear, hell bent on hitting County on the break. That was an altogether laudable intent, but the delivery failed to match it as the ball headed out of the ground at the far end!
County replied almost immediately, and Danny Greenslade did well to keep Lloyd’s ball from Minihan.

Five minutes had gone, and the score was still 0-0, but another couple of minutes and the home support was heard crowing in anticipation of an opening goal for their side as Hopper went to ground in the box under pressure from Clarke. Referee Bourne wasted no time in pointing to the spot. Parker took up position now to take the kick. Up he stepped sending the ball to Hinchliffe’s right, but……the County keeper was already heading that way and grabbed the ball at the foot of the post to send the sizeable County following slightly AS!


The penalty.....
 
The aftermath.
County looked suitably buoyed by that last action, and Ross made good ground down the right winning a corner. Lloyd took the kick, but Smalley sent his header wide to keep it at 0-0.
Close !

The pressure on City continued, and there was a sharp intake of breath from 200 or so souls behind the away end goal when Odejayi’s header was saved by Singh. There was an altogether sharper intake of breath within seconds however as County piled in after the ball only for Lloyd to be felled right under the referees nose. It was a nailed down penalty but the referee waved play on cravenly, whilst the near side liner’s flag never left his side for a second sealing our fate.
County press.

Undaunted…County pushed on ….corners…free kicks adding momentum, but there was always the possibility of being caught out on the break , and it was good to see Clarke and Smalley combine to see off  Joe Parker’s run as he broke from a deep defensive position.

Breaks seemed about City’s best chance , as County were on the front foot most of the time- Lloyd’s runs causing the home defence no end of issues- Smalley again not far away with a header , and Ball inches from glory not long after with a shot.
Lloyd was in terrific nick –turning his man inside out but having to be content, time after time, with a corner.
Lloyd in control !


 Replying….City got back in numbers and defended doggedly…and when they couldn`t….Mr Bourne  again obliged with a free kick here and there to relieve the home side’s angst.

Hopper seemed to be the nearest to a danger-man in the home ranks , but with Clarke and Smalley in tip top form, chances available to the number 9 were  in short supply, and City were largely limited to shots from distance and Ed Williams sent his, 25 minutes in, pretty much where Hopper had sent his early on.
Ball had a decent first half.

That last action was by no means typical of play and Ball brought us back to reality with a powerful run into the box. Unfortunately he could not add finish to power and Singh was not troubled by the shot that followed.

Mr Bourne had writing to do next as Joe Hanks sent Lloyd crashing into the barriers with a wreckage of a challenge.
`Tackle' coming Lloyd's way !


 Mullins cleared the ball as the kick pinged over, but this only encouraged the irrepressible Lloyd to run at the beleaguered home back line again. Keiran Thomas did really well to stop Lloyd , and we all thought `oh well…..it’s a corner anyway’. …but it wasn’t… Mr B saw it as a GK!
We all want it !

Some good work by Clarke followed, before County went looking for a goal again, and Jack Deaman had to pull out all the stops to prevent another probing Lloyd ball sending MinIhan clear. The ball just could not make its way up the park into the County half, and an almighty melee resulted during which Thomas, under pressure from Lloyd had a `hand to ball’ moment in the box.
Not a pen ............

 Arguably….there was no intent…..but there was contact hand/ ball….but when Lewis Hall hacked the ball clear and it ran loose, the referee looked away and again no penalty resulted.


County press......

Have I mentioned how Mr Bourne had a propensity for coming up with helpful free kicks to aid the home side at times of great stress? Well…....minute 36 saw just such happen again. A shot from Lloyd had just crashed into and rebounded from the chest of keeper Singh, signalling much panic in the home ranks. 

 
Pressurised defending from Gloucester....

Somehow….from somewhere however, and much to the ire of County and their following …Mr Bourne saw `something’ and eased the home side’s angst with the balm of a free kick.

Gloucester u/p...

We entered the `Twilight Zone’ ( that period immediately prior to the break when ,by tradition almost, County become prone to goal leakage)with City having a go, but finding Stopforth and Smalley in top trim in response. That said…Parker did seem to have the drop on us on the stroke of half time, but good work from Ross saved the day for his team , keeping it at 0-0 as the teams went in at the break!   

The home specs are in there somewhere !
   
The second half opened with a series of Gloucester free kicks of varying validity , but none made any impact on a solid County back line at all, and eventually…having weathered what storm there was, County then set about pushing City back.
Ball 7 Stopforth await incoming.....

Duxbury did this in excellent style, his run winning County another corner .Gloucester were again back in numbers and defending well , thus despite conceding another corner, they did not leak a goal which was good work from their view point.

Duxbury- back and in good form !

It was all County, just that crucial clinical finish was missing- Lloyd went close twice- forcing Singh to punch out less than confidently with one effort, but it was now beyond the hour mark ,and still 0-0.

Lloyd & Odejayi  on the prowl.

Briefly….County were pushed back by a free kick but a Stopforth/ Clarke combo sorted that one , enabling Ross and Odejayi to work at opening up their opponents left flank. Lloyd went close again from this action, but it was noticeable that County were leaking free kicks at a growing rate, and that Odejayi/ Ross link up was seen working small wonders at the back as the pressure mounted.
The 70th minute saw JG’s first personnel change, as he brought Felix on for the fast fading Ball. This was another JG master stroke, but we had to wait a  couple of minutes for evidence of this!

Stopforth, Duxbury 7 Montrose at the ready.

First off we saw Stopforth shoot over from Minihan’s run, and Ross head out as a cross by Zack Kotwica came over.

Minihan- flying today....again !

That’s the 2 minutes up….as  Ross's throw saw the ball with  Odejayi  and he  did the rest as his deft header on had the clutch of defenders that surrounded him transfixed. The ball reached  Felix who surged on before slamming a ferocious drive past Singh into the net!

The away end went AS gain and rightly so, and it was oh so nearly 2-0 in a trice shortly after – Stopforth just wide with an effort after Minihan had shredded the home cover comprehensively!

Into the last 10 minutes we went with City on a rare raid- but Hinchliffe positioned himself well to keep a snap shot from Mullings out!

Amis was now on for Odejayi, who left to a good ovation from both sets of supporters.
The near side liner meanwhile was not earning applause, in fact he had the away end up in arms as he allowed Kotwica to take the ball out of play before crossing the ball- County cleared comfortably enough…..but…….

County then turned defence into classic attack, and a lovely move ensued as a Minihan/ Felix break set Lloyd on a run that took him almost to the by-line. The home defence was at sixes/ sevens as Lloyd delivered a fine cross into the box. It was the best of moves and deserved the best of finishes, but having made up much ground and despite having the goal at his mercy, Amis sliced a horror strike way wide of goal. He had only just come on….but……

Would County rue that miss?

Well …Hinchliffe did have to pull off a very decent save to keep Craig Read’s shot out with 6 minutes left.

Pressure mounted from the home side, but with Meppen-Walter on to boulster the defence late on County  were looking set to meet the challenge.

And…..they did…Stopforth denying Kotwica with some great work  …Ross heading clear under pressure….Clarke…Duxbury….and Clarke again all doing really good work  when it was needed.
Duxbury & Smalley organised !

The home shooting in this period, and we were now into an unbelievable 5 minutes added time, was abysmal- Dinsley and Parker failing to hit the target when reasonably set.

The naughty stuff was going in now apace and Mr Bourne was missing it all….the terrible challenge that laid Duxbury out ,forcing Minihan to come over and cover the left flank with young Scott limping. Then there was the elbow on Meppen-Walter…all `missed’ by the officials!
Treatment for Duxbury !!!

In the end none of this counted and County’s solid showing won out!

The points were all ours and it was time to celebrate and team and players duly did!

Great stuff…well done County, here’s to more of the same next Saturday in the FA Trophy!

Oh...and there was time before setting off back to Stockport to sing `Happy Birthday' to Lou Spalding, the driving force behind the Fingerpost Flyer- 



`Happy Birthday Lou !

Gloucester City line up:

Singh, Thomas, Hall( Kotwica 67), Deaman, Avery, Mullings, Hanks( Dinsley 45), Greenslade, Hopper, Parker, Williams( Reid 83).

Subs not used:

Richards ,  Fitzgibbon.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe. Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Montrose, Minihan, Stopforth, Odejayi( Amis 80), Ball( Felix 70), Lloyd( Meppen-Walter86) .

Subs not used:

Ormson, Marsden.

Attendance: 539

Ian Brown


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Stockport County 2 Bradford Park Avenue 0:( FA Trophy 3QR) 26 November 2016




County fought hard to grind out a welcome 2-0 victory against visitors Bradford Park Avenue , at   a chilly Edgeley Park this afternoon ,thus quickly avenging the reverse suffered at the same hands just 7 days previously.

A classic encounter it was not, not even a typical cup tie…in fact at times it was all a touch tedious to watch, but in similar circumstances, on occasions past…..County have failed to put their opponents away. They did today however, and for that I give them full credit, and it was particularly good to see Scott Duxbury get time on the pitch and make full use of it. 


John Marsden- back!

John Marsden  made a welcome return to first team duty also , and whilst his contribution was disappointing at times, he hung in there right to the death where his goal killed any hope Bradford had of staging a late/ late comeback. The first goal had come via another returnee- Sam Minihan, who JG played at the expense of Mark Ross, and owed much to Danny Lloyd’s energetic input.

Sam Minihan too !

For their part, Bradford obviously came with the plan to again play some football , as they had done so successfully last Saturday, but whilst the approach play from them earned plaudits again, the same could not be said for their finishing. Indeed …with the score still 1-0, deep into the second half, danger man Emile Sinclair missed a sitter, that would have sent us on our way to Yorkshire on Monday had it gone in!  That was about the sum total of the visitors chances- County took theirs….’nuff said!

Ready for the off ( Andrew Machin )

Bradford had ex County man Chris Sharp in the starting line up, and following an early free kick for County that came to nought, Sharp showed a clean pair of heels to his former employers as he glided neatly to the by-line, forcing a corner off Smalley. 

Sharp disputes matters with Smalley

The kick saw Nicky Boshell, shoot wide, but as an early statement of intent, I felt it was worth not ignoring! 

Play switched ends almost immediately , and Lloyd gave us an early token of his intent  forcing keeper Jon Worsnop  to a finger tip save  to keep the ball out of harms way. 

Lloyd on the charge.....

Pressure mounted thereafter, as a throw, won by Felix,  caused a flutter or two in the Bradford last third, where  Adam Nowakowski  did well to keep Odejayi from a tasty looking ball by Minihan. 

Kaine Felix(Andrew Machin)

This was looking promising …and more so as Nowakowski waded in again to head Lloyd’s follow up cross out, but the danger would not go away, and Worsnop had to pull out all the stops to beat Lloyd’s final effort of the raid out.

Park Avenue u/p....

It went quiet for a minute or so following which it got a little heated briefly, as Nicky Boshell earned a booking for as poor a tackle, on Minihan, as you would wish not to see. 

 
Close call for Bradford.
 Cartwright’s cross following the kick, promised much, but Odejayi narrowly failed to reach it with the Cheadle End willing the ball in!

That cross from Cartwright.

A loose ball from Minihan put pressure on County for a while afterwards, but the liner’s upraised flag signalled relief for the blues, with Sinclair apparently offside!

Lloyd at the double !

Time again then for County to get forward, and Lloyd was again to the fore- his shot on the end of a surging run, bringing another good save from Worsnop, and a corner that ended with Felix firing wide of the target.
Save by Worsnop (Andrew Machin )

On it went in much the same vein, Lloyd in concert with Cartwright, pushing Park Avenue back .Nowakowski again did well, stemming the County tide with a clearance, but the ball just came back again via Stopforth who was in the box in an instant and on the deck in another!
 
Stopforth's run ( Andrew Machin )

 Hmmm….Stopforth ( and me) appealed for a penalty, but with Danny Boshell doing his `choir boy’ impressions, this was never on and Mr Edwards waved play on.

Fifteen minutes had gone now, and it was time for Bradford to show what they could do, and another good run from Sharp did just that, but Clarke ushered the ball out of play, and the move ended when Nicky Wroe latched onto the ball from the subsequent throw planting his shot wide.

Sharp & Cartwright in watchful mood

That was a poor end to a neat Bradford move, but County offered the visitors encouragement  as a climb by Cartwright on Sharp  gave the Yorkshire side a free kick, not that far outside the box. County defended this well…but then conceded another free kick, and it was fortunate for us that Bradford gave us more evidence of their lack of firepower, as after much pressure the raid broke down.

Sinclair did rally his troops again not long after, but with County back in numbers, and Minihan on his case, the threat again dissipated.

County replied through Odejayi, but his flick on was not put to good use by Felix.
Marsden offered encouragement, but his firmly struck shot took a deflection ushering in a corner. 

 
John Marsden ( Andrew Machin )
The pressure was on again, but a throw was County’s only reward from the flag kick- Montrose lofting his final effort high into the Cheadle End.

The next action was good to watch, as Odejayi treated us to some delightful play crowned by the neatest of balls to Lloyd, who was off like a rocket! Ryan Toulson and Danny Boshell stood in his way, but he beat them both before sending Cartwright away. This was excellent stuff and Cartwright capped it with a lovely cross, as did Odejayi with a header, but the ball flew inches wide with Worsnop beaten, and it stayed 0-0.


2 Views/1 Goal ( Andrew Machin top/ hedgie below)

Odejayi was having another terrific game, his skills winning County a free kick ,31 minutes in. The County number nine got on the end of it, when the kick came over- the ball flew wide, but again there was much to admire in the approach play. 

County had the whip hand at this point, and they kept their opponents pinned down in their last third- a throw here…a free kick there….then a scurrying run from the effervescent Lloyd and Park Avenue were dished as his shot was helped on by Minihan , who turned jubilantly towards the Cheadle End as the ball thundered past Worsnop into the net!

Goal  ( Andrew Machin )

County were one up, but they were not about to let the celebrations continue. They needed a second goal, and Marsden’s run shortly after the goal offered half a chance, if only Worsnop had not been that shade faster than Felix as Marsden released his pass!
Despite doing well so far, County were also still conceding too many free kicks, and from one of them Chris Sharp almost equalised- County needed to tighten up and cut the unnecessary free kicks out.

Lloyd went to ground in the box next, surrounded by 3 defenders, but again Mr Edwards was not impressed. I was not sure either way, but Lloyd does go down easily and rather makes the referees mind up for him sometimes.

Oh….back to those free kicks…..and County conceded another one with around 5 minutes left in the half. I must say that this one was something of a cheeky one `stolen’ for Park Avenue by Wroe, after Sinclair had run at County with a purpose. Fortunately for County, after the world’s worst pre kick mime, from Wroe and Nicky Boshell, the ball headed off into the empty Railway End. 

Mime on the way( still working on the kick!)........


There was much mirth in and around Row R at this, but …those free kicks…….
The last few minutes of the half were a bit of a Danny Lloyd benefit, as Worsnop somehow pushed his shot over the bar, after Stopforth had carved open the Park Avenue defences. 


Bradford under the cosh....



The corner saw Smalley, Odejayi and Cartwright all vying for it at the back post, but the keeper won out!

The half ended with Marsden sending Lloyd clear and a bicycle kick from Felix ending up with us in the Cheadle End.

It had not been a particularly brilliant 45 minutes, but County were 1 up, and at this stage I would take that for sure!

The second half opened with Park Avenue on the offensive, but when Sharp made good ground down the right, and crossed the ball, Sinclair could only place the ball into Hinchliffe’s waiting arms.
Bradford press (Andrew Machin)

Felix saw a shot drift out 6 minutes into the half, and Marsden dragged his shot disappointingly wide, after being set up by Odejayi, some 3 minutes later.
Odejayi surges clear....

After a quiet start to the half, County were began to motor a bit now, but another run from Marsden ended with Worsnop in position to deny Lloyd on the end of Marsden’s pass. The pressure continued until Marsden lifted another effort high and wide. That was disappointing and there was more when Lloyd sent Marsden through only for him to again drag his shot wide.
There is a fund of goodwill towards Marsden from County fans, who desperately want him to start scoring again, but so far it was just not happening for him.

It was time for a reply from Bradford ,and they went as close as they would all game next as Odejayi made a brilliant last ditch tackle to stop Nicky Boshell forcing the ball home after a shot by Luke Dean had crashed into Hinchliffe’s right hand post!
Bradford press.

Did I say that that was as close etc etc? Well they will say they went closer, and not long after as well, as Dean had the ball in the net having drawn Hinchliffe to him. He was offside however, and I did not see a protest as the liner’s flag told him the sad news!
 
Michael Clarke.
Ross was on for Felix not long after that last burst of action, and he took the captains armband from Clarke, taking up position on the right behind Minihan who was now occupying an advanced position down that flank.
Minihan attacking !

Not long after that, JG acted again bringing Ball and Duxbury on for Odejayi and Lloyd. This was interesting as Duxbury set up shop ahead of Cartwright on the left.
County now had a whole lot of full backs on the park, but the move was anything but a defensive one as Duxbury and Minihan pushed on up the flanks, and County were only foiled by the offside flag after Marsden had seen a shot blocked.
Marsden certainly wanted a goal, and was trying hard enough, but another run by him ended badly, as did a fine run by Stopforth that was not well served by Ball who planted his shot well wide.
A welcome return for Scott Duxbury !

County persisted though, and Duxbury was unlucky with a run, and then he was in the thick of things at the other end clearing his lines from a corner after Smalley had done well to save the day with a last ditcher.

We were now just 5 minutes from the end, and Bradford were beginning to work up a head of steam again in search of that vital equaliser which would send us off to risk frostbite or worse on Monday in Yorkshire. Toulson was working as hard as anyone and his ball in from the right seemed to have given Sinclair a chance of glory, and he shaped to take advantage by slipping neatly past Clarke on the proverbial sixpence! The rest was simple…or should have been…having turned towards goal …he would then plant the ball into the net, but despite Hinchliffe being stranded, Sinclair instead stabbed the sort of nervous shot I( long ago) specialised in, inches wide of the post!

Late late action.....

Press as Bradford might after this, they perhaps knew that their chance had gone- just to be sure Cartwright and Duxbury were combining really well at the back to deny the Yorkshire side a sight of goal.

Stopforth provided relief in the form of a break from a deep defensive position . This took him just inside the box where he promptly slid the ball to his left to Marsden who slammed a lethal left foot strike home.

It was 2-0 now and the game was up for Park Avenue, with the game already into added time.

Marsden went off with an injury after the goal, not to return, but County were in no mood to allow the visitors back into it, and Cartwright and Duxbury again took a hand…the duo winning the ball at the back, before Duxbury took time out to get forward, and it was great to see Duxbury stretch his legs on a lung bursting run that took him into the box. The eventual shot went wide….but no one looked to do anything other than applaud! 

Not a bad end that to a keenly contested game, and definitely a good result for County, as they look to progress in the Trophy competition for the first time.

Really looking forward to the draw for the next round now- see you at Cheltenham next Saturday then!

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Minihan, Clarke, Smalley, Cartwright, Montrose, Stopforth,Felix ( Ross 65),  Odejayi( Ball 69), Marsden, Lloyd( Duxbury 69).

Subs not used: Ormson, Meppen-Walter.

Bradford Park Avenue line up;

Worsnop, Toulson, Hill( Spires 82), Dean( Davie 77), Killock, Nowakowski, Wroe, D Boshell, Sinclair, Sharp( Cofie 50), N Boshell.

Subs not used: Sanchez, Hall.

Attendance : 1164

Ian Brown