Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Stockport County 1 AFC Fylde 2 ( Vanarama National League- North) 27 September 2016

I was proud of my team last night!

Oh……yes……there they were….faced with the task of matching skills with hugely funded ….big spending….table topping juggernauts …AFC Fylde, and expected not only to lose but to be leathered in the process… some experts anyway!

The teams( Andrew Machin )

That was the prognosis pre match, as I say …from some….. on paper, but we all know about matches played on paper…on grass it turned out altogether a different ball game- one in which  County played assured football whilst taking the game to opponents that played for time from early in the first half being content to find touch rather than seek to delight us with their apparently precocious talents.

League Leaders sparse support.

To be fair they did look a strong outfit, and to be equally fair they made their physicality count, capping a particularly loathsome display with a seriously bad foul that stopped the game for 10 minutes whilst Scott Duxbury received treatment prior to being stretchered off, not to return, after being comprehensively taken out via Dom Collins’ elbow in the box.

2 views of the Duxbury treatment from Andrew Machin.
But….ignoring the fouls….the time wasting…the lack of class both on and off the park from Fylde, the real story is County…..they were magnificent! JG set the team up to perfection and every man jack of ‘em responded with a top notch performance. As early as the 12th minute County could have taken the lead, as a thunderous drive from Marsden crashed into the upright with Fylde’s largely befuddled keeper Tony Thompson comprehensively beaten. Instead despite much County pressure, Fylde sneaked one on 21 minutes hitting us on the break.

Marsden hit the woodwork.

The game pretty much took that order from there on out…as County, marshalled brilliantly by Stopforth and Montrose , piled on the pressure. The back four were excellent throughout , but the blues flow was constantly interrupted by a series of fouls, and if I could point to one County failing it was a familiar one- an inability to make good use of a huge number of free kicks!

That said ….it was a massive injustice that County were one down, but JG’s personnel changes again looked to have squared a circle when Scott Spencer slammed home a wonderful strike deep into added time- repayment I thought for the Fylde time wasting.

Scott Spencer ( Andrew Machin )

Even deeper into added time however, with Fylde desperately trying to salvage the game, Dom Collins( who by rights should have been showering by that point) drew a foul on the edge of the box. Up stepped ex Hatter Danny Rowe and it was 2-1 and the money boys had snatched the unworthiest of wins!  

 The first 3 minutes of the game belonged to the Lancashire side, but there was no point when County looked at all disturbed as the visitors strutted their stuff at the Cheadle End.

Andrew Machin sees an early catch by Hinchliffe.

A neat link up between Lloyd/ Amiss and Marsden interrupted the Fylde flow, but this was cut short by Danny Holmes’ tackle on the edge of the box. County  were quick to come at their opponents again however, and Lloyd might have made headway had not Holmes sent him sprawling with the first of a match long series of hopelessly poor tackles. The free kick offered some recompense, but the Fylde keeper managed to push it out and the danger dissipated.
Fylde under pressure....

This was not bad at all from County, and I nodded in approval again as a shot from Amis thudded into the boards a foot wide of Thompson’s unguarded post.
Fylde responded through Bohan Dixon, but Scott Duxbury did excellent work to dispossess him near the corner flag.
Already, with just 12 minutes gone, the free kicks were piling up for County, and Lloyd sent the latest to the back of the box. The Fylde defence were doing traffic cone imitations as Marsden latched onto the ball and it should have been 1-0 to County, instead the shot crashed into the upright with Thompson nowhere. It stayed out…. and stayed 0-0.

County pushed on…Amis seeing a run cut out by a defender whose instinct thereafter was to find touch- a modus operadi much in favour on this occasion by the visitors! Yes….the early bounce we had seen in those first 3 minutes was now decidedly missing from the Lancashire sides play!

I was getting bored now ….with the volume of free kicks Fylde were apparently willing to concede to keep their expensive but rickety ship afloat. I counted 3 free kicks in a 5 minute period, the last of which from serial offender Holmes laid Lloyd out as he looked on to cause Fylde issues!
Another casualty ( Andrew Machin )

 The kick put Fylde under pressure yet again, but with County probing relentlessly for that opening goal, a loose pass allowed Dixon to break from deep.

Lloyds free kick.....

 He was away and it looked ominous as he ate the ground twixt him and goal in double quick time. Upon reaching the box Dixon was joined by Dan Bradley and his pass gave the number eleven the simple task of beating Hinchliffe .

Unbelievably…it was 1-0 to Fylde….totally unbelievably….one shot… goal…they had punished a moments slackness on our part, and we needed to learn from that!

I do not think that Duxbury needed any tuition in this respect and he was doing great stuff at both ends of the park…cutting Bradley off with a neat intervention one moment before going close to putting both Minihan and Marsden in with decent balls at the sharp end.

The 28th minute saw Fylde reply through Rowe, and after making it to the by-line he must have thought that his cross had set Dixon up with a second goal chance, but he sent his header straight at Hinchliffe. 
Danny Rowe.

Miffed?.............I am not sure…..but Rowe took a petulant pot at goal from  the edge of the box next. Again his expectation sped on ahead of reality and the ball flew 2 foot wide of Hinchliffe’s far post. 

County re-applied themselves after this…..mainly taking free kicks – Marsden went close from one ,but generally the set pieces were not that great at all.

The Fylde approach was frustrating to watch, we just needed Lady Luck to stop belting us amidships with her fashion accessory, and we would be quids in, but after good work at the back from Montrose, Lloyd’s searing run ended with a shot that flew just a foot wide of goal.

Thompson grabs the pill gratefully.

On it went in the same vein….County attacking….Fylde so…so negative  defending, but with 3 minutes left of the half County again lost their discipline and a loose ball sent Dixon away on a run again.  Company was arriving fast in the shape of Rowe and Bradley as Dixon made it into the box, but he decided to shoot and Hinchliffe saved the effort brilliantly with his legs to keep it at 1-0.

There was time for a decent punch out from Hinchliffe ......

Hinchliffe to the fore.

....... and a shot by Andy Bond that he dragged hopelessly wide, before we went into 1 minutes added time…..60 seconds of which were taken up by Thompson time wasting near the by-line taking a free kick- poor stuff indeed!
Ready for the re-start ( Andrew Machin )
The re-start saw County re-double their efforts to equalise and Marsden, Minihan and Lloyd all went close in the first five minutes. Amis went closer still, but having challenged and robbed the keeper of the ball……… as it was rolling towards the net the referee blew for a foul on the keeper…..hmmm!!!!!!!!!

Dixon interrupted the County flow with a break from deep, but his shot was poor and never threatened Hinchliffe’s peace of mind at all.

Marsden was dumped unceremoniously for about the umpteenth time, and my irritation at this was not eased when we again made nothing of the kick that followed. 

Down goes Marsden again ( Andrew Machin )

 But….County were now playing some neat football and the crowd were getting behind them well as Duxbury pushed the ponderous orange shirted defenders back at speed. 

Duxbury - excellent ( Andrew Machin )
He was excellent, and Minihan was in decent nick on the other flank too, and Amis only just missed out at the back post on the end of a really good Minihan cross!
Minihan takes game to Fylde....

On it went with Montrose the next to go close without the cigar…..then Lloyd joined in again  missing out by inches after the hapless Thompson had spilled a drive by Ross, who was having a real captains game.
Lloyd about to shoot....

We were beyond the hour mark and the time wasting had reached such a peak of obnoxiousness that referee Aaron Jackson ( possibly the worlds worst referee)was moved to wave a yellow card in his direction!

Yellow for Thommo !Well deserved! ( Andrew Machin )

You could perhaps see why Fylde….and in particular Thompson were hell bent on wasting time…they were being out played, and if County’s finishing could match up to their approach play………………….instead somehow Thompson managed to survive a visit to Trauma City and scramble the ball off the line with Amis oh so close to stabbing it home!

It was pretty much all County now, and the equaliser looked only a matter of time…when it all took a rather sickening turn as Duxbury went for the ball in the box…was beaten to it by Collins who followed through taking young Scott out with his elbow.
Duxbury- poleaxed by Collins receives treatment.

It took 10 minutes for Scott to receive treatment before being carried off on a stretcher, meanwhile there was the penalty wasn’t there ….and a red card!

Err….not so… the referee unbelievably signalled a bounce up which allowed Fylde to clear.

That was impossible to take….almost as impossible to take as the foul….the injury to the player…and the mocking laughter Thompson treated us too whilst the treatment was going on. Fylde may be top of the pile just now but classy……..never!

Rule came on after the long delay but after looking on to score…County’s rhythm was understandably  disturbed- Minihan was now at left back, but it was Ross at the back post on the right who saved the day with a neat clearance as Fylde tried to capitalise.
With less than 10 minutes left JG brought Odejayi and Spencer on for Amis and Marsden, but an early Spencer run fizzled out as Odejayi couldn’t move his pass on.
Rule was quickly up to speed and a shot from him was deflected for a corner which again had Thompson flapping like a penguin with the shakes. The visitors were in total disarray as another ex Hatter Richie Baker hacked the ball clear with cries of `handball’ ringing in his ears!

We went into 10 minutes added time with County back in the groove again and pushing on for glory. The Fylde response remained the same……find touch…..waste time…..foul your man, but we were still not making the free kicks count, as Thompson scrambled hither and thither desperately trying to save his team’s bacon.
County press......

The 93 rd minute arrived accompanied by a County goal, and a right good one it was too.  Fylde were reeling from the effects of yet another blue assault when Lloyd played the ball deftly to Spencer who smashed it low and hard into the net! Cue mayhem as County players and fans went AS in delight!

County goal captured by Simon George.

`The Scarfe’ belted out now from Cheadle End/ Pop and Main Stands…it was a delight and full payback for all the unworthy time wasting from the league leaders!

Well….it was not to be….with Fylde desperately trying to get back the lead , deep into added time, Collins engineered a free kick smack in front on the edge of the box.  Kennedy lined it up with an elaborate mime, before allowing Rowe to step forward and curl the kick past Hinchliffe into the net. A very good free kick it must be said…..but deserving of winning this game….absolutely not!
Bugger !!!!!

Not long after the referee blew for time and the game was lost, but County had won everything bar the points….our hearts……our respect…..and a knowledge surely that, having outplayed the league leaders for the majority of the game, they can look forward to the rest of the season with confidence.

Well played County….I am still proud of my team this morning as I write this!

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury ( Rule 74), Montrose, Minihan, Stopforth, Amis( Odejayi 81), Marsden( Spencer 81), Lloyd.

Subs not used ; Ormson, Meppen-Walter.

AFC Fylde line up:

Thompson, Holmes, Kennedy, Langley, Collins, Bond( M Hughes 99), Hardy( Newell 78), C.Hughes( Baker 45), Rowe, Dixon, Bradley.

Subs not used; Blinkhorn, Jennings.

Attendance: 2206

Ian Brown

PS; After such a stirring performance I am loath to introduce a negative element.  However at last nights game I was given a hard time by two County fans , the pretext being my taking of the photo you see above of Scott receiving treatment. One of the two clambered over 5or 6 rows of seats to get at me. That no actual violence took place is irrelevant, and I thank those supporters a couple of rows back who tried to reason with the older of the two, but I am not willing to put up with that kind of rubbish, thus …with regret I am  going to cease covering County matches . I will cover the two Salford games and then that is it- I will of course continue to support County home and away!

Ian Brown

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Curzon Ashton 1 Stockport County 2 ( Vanarama National League- North) 24 September 2016

County left it late today, but came away with all the points at the Tameside Stadium against a Curzon Ashton side that probably could not believe their luck when they somehow snatched the lead late on.

The white shirted blues had dominated play from the first whistle, and to let one slip took the wind out of their sails for a while during which time, marshalled by Alex Brown, and sustained by a series of rib ticklers from Andy Watson the home side started to look a tad better than they had done previously.

But once again JG’s substitutions were right on the money …

JG...on the money again with subs ( Andrew Machin )

….enter substitute Sam Minihan ….and a brilliant diving header from him made it 1-1. Into added time and with County striving for that win….it came when Michael Clarke served up another `goal of the season’ effort that threatened to remove the netting from its moorings, after a prodigious effort from Glen Rule, a half time substitute for Ball, had kept County moving forward!

Clarke in the thick.....

That was simply brilliant, and no more than County deserved, and sent the large County following home happy.

M.O.M ?   I gave this to Scott Duxbury for a terrific all action performance that supplemented the drive and energy of Danny Lloyd magnificently.
Duxbury defends( Andrew Machin ).......

 For the rest…County’s defence were hardly tested before the Curzon Ashton goal went in. The midfield and forwards worked hard pretty much throughout but despite some good work from all the forwards…..  0-0 …….for a long/ long time looked likely to be the outcome yet again….until that frenetic ending!
Amis works hard......

 At this point I must mention Josh Amis, and I saw some evidence today that James’ determination to ignore the `sounds off’ about him and opt to continue to nurture a young talent were working. Some definite signs today…and the goals will come eventually!

Back to 3 o’clock and it was good to see that CA had learnt from last season’s match. This time around there was a larger burger van….and there was access, before the game, to the bar for County fans- a neat bit of PR by the Tameside Club!
Marsden - a welcome return !

There were 4 changes in the County starting line up too …out went Minihan, Meppen-Walter, Odejayi and Spencer, with Smalley, Stopforth, Amis and Marsden replacing them.
Straight off Duxbury was in the mix and a cross from him was inches from Ball at the back post.
The build up to that last action had seen County on the front foot, with Marsden and Lloyd buzzing around the CA box like a couple of oversized hornets! 
Lloyd dazzles.....

It was early days, but the pressure was building on our hosts who were conceding rather more free kicks in the process of defending the persistent County raids than you would reckon to be healthy. One County free kick saw Chris Rowney settle for conceding a corner, but the 5th minute came and went with Stopforth’s shot crashing into a defender before being hooked clear.

Stopforth & lloyd press......

Smalley and Montrose did well as Curzon briefly threatened, but it was soon back to Marsden and Lloyd pushing on…putting their opponents in difficulties.

Andrew Machin catches Montrose in good defensive action !

 The up-shot of this was that Lloyd made it to the by-line before delivering a neat ball inside to Ball, who was unlucky to see his effort charged down.
Lloyd in full flight !

Rowney then did for a run by Lloyd…and Smalley returned the complement when Luke Clark tried his luck on the break for CA.

For a short while County’s opponents had a go, but Hinchliffe was not tested at all by Jordan Wright’s finish after Smalley had stopped the initial thrust from Romney.

Wright was possibly miffed by that last ending to what had been a briefly promising move, but in seeking recompense, his blatant dive failed to impress the eminently impressionable Paul Marsden the referee. Mr M waved play on…and rightly so!
To be fair to Mr Marsden though( who I thought had a good first half )  he was in position to award County a free kick after Romney laid Lloyd out shortly after. The kick was pinged in by Lloyd only for the referee to spot something and relieve the home side’s angst with the oxygen of a free kick.

Lloyd fouled ( Andrew Machin )

It went on with County still on the front foot, and Lloyd earning applause with his latest run. CA were in a tizz next as Lloyd’s pass  was enhanced by Amis’s header on  that saw keeper Hakan Burton in difficulties as a hurried back header from Watson came his way, with Marsden sniffing for scraps. 
OOps....nearly !

It went on….Ball going close….County winning a corner which the keeper dealt with calmly. The keeper was on his toes again within a minute as a header from Ball looked to be goal bound, after a neat lay off from Amis had ushered Lloyd’s cross onward.
On…..and a header from Amis deserved better after good work from Duxbury in the build up.

Amis mixes it with Hunt.

Curzon Ashton were pinned back on the defensive for long periods of the game and only really good defending from Jonathan Hunt  and  series of distinctly iffy challenges from other home defenders kept the score line blank.
Lloyd a none stop menace !

Lloyd was in terrific form and was not far away more than once. Amis too was inches away from opening the County account, following the neatest of moves involving himself …..Marsden and Lloyd.
Marsden watched by Watson .....

`Surely a County goal would not be long delayed’, but no sooner had that bromide entered my head than Clark did his best to give me mental indigestion with a run that took him clear of County’s midfield. Fortunately for County however…Duxbury spotted the situation and forced his man towards the corner flag where he expertly robbed him of the pill and delivered it up field.

County resumed the attacking posture from earlier after that brief scare, Ross doing good work to win a corner. Once more County went close, but without reward.
Burton saves.....

and saves again.......

Amis’s reward for a leggy run a minute later was a limb threatener from Hunt that saw him chewing mud yards from the bulk of the County following who were now going ever so slightly AS at Mr Marsden who satisfied himself with the briefest of chats with the miscreant – his cards nowhere to be seen(cue unworthy thoughts in my head of 2014/15 at Gainsborough when Mr M’s cards were never in his pockets when he reduced us to 9 for not fouling our opponents)!    
Mr Marsden ( Image by Andrew Machin )
Ho hum….I quickly  remembered my new season promise to be nice to officials, and  watched glumly as Amis’s header went a foot wide from the kick.
Close call for CA( Andrew Machin) _

County were building a head of steam nicely now be it via a Montrose/ Lloyd combo  that saw Ball narrowly beaten to the ball by Burton, or a lovely  Marsden through ball  that oh so nearly saw Duxbury in……
We needed one…just one of these promising moves to be converted to a goal, instead the 41 st minute saw Ross in urgent action ushering Hall out of the danger zone  on a rare CA raid.
Well…..County kept pegging away at it…..and Amis did well applying just enough to the Duxbury throw that headed his way to see it on to Marsden who was inches from scoring with Burton beaten.

Countys open terrace and seated fans( hedgeie above/ Andrew Machin below)
That was that for the first half, and when the teams returned Glen Rule was on for Ball as County set about winning a game they had bossed throughout!
Stopforth brought a save from the keeper within a minute of the re-start and I was instantly galvanised!

Early shot from Stopforth.

This feeling persisted as County pushed on, and Curzon Ashton looked about to wilt in response. A mighty push from the men in white and a goal looked on with the ball bouncing about in the box, and an almighty cry of `handball’ went up as  Clark caressed the ball with his hand prior to dispatching it up the park. Mr Marsden was about 5 yards away but gave nothing …..thus our hosts were gifted a lifeline and we were dished!
County press

I was not happy with that last action and even less so 3 minutes on, as Watson  scythed Marsden down 5 yards outside the box- again the referee contented himself with a free kick- an abysmally bad call in my view, and my mood was not improved when Lloyd’s kick sailed off over the bar.

County were undaunted….and so was Watson who launched himself at Montrose who was breaking at speed from deep. It was another appalling foul and this time the referee was moved to book the guilty party. But that should have been his second yellow, so I was not placated!
Amis booked...

Nothing came of the free kick, but the referee was moved to book Amis as he and the obnoxious Watson came together( marginally ) a yard outside the box. My lack of regard for the referee was underlined when…after allowing the physio on to treat Watson….the player was allowed to resume playing without leaving the field of play- he was making the rules up as he went along……..AGAIN! 

It was revving up no end now   as Rowney clattered Lloyd to earn a card( who needs Fury v Klichko with Curzon Ashton abroad?) The free kick again came to nothing , and with the hour mark upon us thoughts of another 0-0 finish were in the air!
Duxbury was busy doing his best to move matters on and a decent run from him was the prelude to shots from Ross and Rule that were charged down midst a flurry of attacking play from County.
County put CA under pressure....

A cheap free kick offered County’s opponents relief, which was brief because Niall Cummings brought us back to Fury/ Klichko stuff again by laying Stopforth out in front of the main stand. Duxbury was flying from the subsequent free kick and a corner followed, and then a shot from Lloyd but this missed the angle of bar and post by the merest margin and it stayed 0-0.
Amis off/ Big K on ( Andrew Machin )

Odejayi replaced Amis next, leaving the field to applause, and more applause followed quickly on as brilliant play by Duxbury opened the home defence as I would a can of baked beans!  Imagine the thoughts that abounded then in the minds of County fans present when the referee gave Curzon Ashton a most valuable free kick!
Odejayi and company....

I was still mumbling discontentedly into my none existent beard when Stopforth’s excellent through ball saw Marsden thwarted by Watson’s last gasper. Duxbury would not let the momentum die however and Burton did really well to keep the full back’s shot out as it fizzed its way goal ward!


County had battered Curzon Ashton for almost 70 minutes….no goal…but a bit of a battering none the less, but Hall gave us a warning 69 minutes in bringing a good save from Hinchliffe on the break.

Ross lines up a shot watched by Andrew Machin.

We had been warned……but   things got worse thanks to substitute Alex Brown who from central midfield spread play wide left to Hampson whose first time cross was headed home from close in by Cummins!

Almost unbelievably….we were 1-0 down, but within 5 minutes JG had responded swapping Minihan for Montrose.

This change did not immediately declare a dividend, indeed , with Ashton finding space and time on the ball easier to come by now I was somewhat relieved to see Brown lift his shot high and wide when relatively well set.
Montrose & Clarke....

When Clarke had to look sharp to end a likely looking run from Wright, it began to look like we needed to act quickly if the game was to be salvaged- in short County had to regain the initiative they had briefly but ominously let slip!

Marsden was doing his best, and a couple of good runs from him gave Burton urgent work to do.
Marsden tests Curzon.....

It looked that County were building a head of steam again, with Minihan in the van, his initial run with 8 minutes left repulsed by one of a bevy of outstretched defenders legs. Back came Minihan, but again he saw his shot charged down, and it looked for all the world that the move was en-route to being dead. Enter Glen Rule who latched onto the ball and surged on into the box simply refusing to release it until he saw Marsden then the pass was on….but there was still work to do as Odejayi beat Watson to the punch and played the ball back to  Minihan who threw himself forward to head it home in brilliant fashion!
Fan…tas….tic….it was 1 -1 , and the result was that the spark was suddenly back in County’s play.

Curzon Ashton in response stuck to their game plan and Minihan felt its full effects next as Hampson fouled him as he ran by at speed. The free kick was better than today’s average and set Lloyd up for a snap shot that whistled  past the far post with keeper Burton watching helplessly.

Marsden again !

Could County get the winner? A draw looked the more likely outcome as we headed for added time with Hinchliffe saving from Howard.
We were deep into added time and County did not care what was most likely…they wanted the points….all of them….and great work down the right by Marsden gave this possibility wings that were only briefly clipped  when Watson swung a meaty leg at the ball and lumped it clear. 

shot blocked.....

 Briefly…because Smalley was on hand to usher it back- his effort blocked  by a line of increasingly distraught defenders. The angst continued and went into overdrive for the home side when the ball reached Clarke on the edge of the box and he smashed it straight back from whence it came…past Burton and a clutch of players into the net- a truly sensational goal, and a worthy match winner too!
1goal/ 2 views ( Andrew Machin above/ Simon George below.

In the time that remained Curzon Ashton tried to get back into it but this was one circle that was unquestionably un-squareable!

It stayed 2-1 ….the points were all County’s and rightly so!

County just do not know when they are beaten, especially on their travels, which is heartening for the tests to come. We just need some of the chances to be put away, and we will be flying!

See you all at Edgeley Park on Tuesday for Fylde and thereafter Saturday for the first instalment of County / Salford.

Curzon Ashton line up:

Burton, Tomsett( Brown 61), Rowney, Hunt, Watson( Ennis 94), Hampson, Howard, Clark, Cummins, Hall, Wright.

Subs not used: Mason, Baillie, Gorman.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Smalley, Clarke, Duxbury, Montrose( Minihan 75), Ball( Rule 45), Stopforth, Amis( Odijayi 65), Marsden, Lloyd
Subs not used : Ormson, Meppen-Walter.


Ian Brown.