Saturday, 30 April 2016

Stockport County 0 Curzon Ashton 0 ( Vanarama National League-North) 30 April 2016

Well…the sun shone ridiculously brightly circa 4.45,as a bumper Edgeley Park crowd made their way home,  but what had gone before , after Tuesday’s Cheshire Senior Cup excitement, was a lack lustre affair……end of season fare in every respect. It was not that the teams showed any lack of desire to get a grip on matters, it was just that neither County nor visitors Curzon Ashton looked capable of scoring. Of the two…..County’s opponents looked the likeliest, but not by that much of a margin. They were certainly the tidier of the two sides, but when they showed up with anything resembling a chance, they either totally fluffed their lines, or found Dean Henderson in tip top form twixt the sticks for County in possibly his last game for us.     
I am not sure that JG will at this stage have any questions left unanswered as far as personnel issues, thus this match will have had little impact on his thinking I guess, and the ensuing weeks will reveal all in that respect.
As for today…..Henderson and Wilson for Ormson and Rule were the only changes, although the bench offered a surprise or two with no sign of Brodie  but a place for the highly promising youngster Adam Etches offering up a glimpse of the future maybe.

Adam Etches.
Straight from the kick off, Curzon Ashton showed that they had not come to make the numbers up, and O’Hanlon was in early action denying Mat Warburton possession in the box.

Cross coming.......
 A corner resulted, but Henderson dealt with this calmly and well, but already there seemed a certain lethargy in County’s play , and that allowed Warburton to get a shot in that struck a defender a yard out going out for another corner. 

County under pressure ( Andrew Machin )

Again nothing came of this, but there was no sign of County increasing the revs, and again Henderson had to work to see off a cross ,this time from Ryan Brooke.
The first ten minutes ended with Mathew Flynn straining to reach a ball from Warburton after the number eleven had broke clear dangerously. 
Shot coming....but wide....( Andrew Machin )
The final ball from the Tameside outfit, again did not match the quality of the approach play , and that at least was reassuring from a County view point!
Garvin and Wilson did try shots, but neither needed saves from Ashton keeper Hakano Burton.

Garvin has a go !
Slowly…..County were beginning to stir themselves, and Morton earned applause for breaking up an attack spearheaded by Joe Guest. Things might have taken an altogether brighter turn next , as a foul on Odejayi offered us a chance of sorts with the free kick smack in front, but Burton excelled when push came to pull and his feathers remained largely unruffled by County’s efforts to beat him.

Two views County FK ( Hedgie above/ Andrew Machin below)

It was slightly worrying that Ashton still looked to be doing more than County in terms of attacking play, and their passing was neat and tidy also…..just the finishing was lacking, and County were indebted to Wilson who got in a vital block to foil Guest in the act of shooting.

Wilson and Odejayi......

Another minute……and Henderson had to dash out and snuff out a break by Brooke. The sight of Guest being flagged offside when clear,  just a minute later, cheered me up a bit…..but not that much…..County were very definitely second best so far and needed to address this.
They tried….Marsden was  not that far away from following up an effort from Odejayi, but this proved only to be the prelude to more angst for County as Brooke and Noel Cummings forced their way through down the County left flank. It perhaps should have seen Ashton take the lead but instead Cummins looked on aghast as his shot drifted a foot wide of Henderson’s right hand post with the keeper beaten.
On it went with a header by Brooke missing out by inches.
In reply for County…..Marsden’s tenacity earned his team a free kick, but Garvin could not make this count, ushering in another attack from the visitors that saw O’ Hanlon in action keeping Cummins from Brooke’s ball in the box. County were struggling to clear their lines and it was a relief when Chris Rowney ended the raid by hooking his shot just over the angle of bar and post.
O'Hanlon presides !
County were fortunate that Ashton’s finishing was of the quality it was, and we saw more evidence of this with 10 minutes left of the half, when an intuitive ball from Guest found no takers at the sharp end.
The best County could come up with at this stage in response was a shot from Marsden from a lay off by Odejayi, but this climbed and climbed over the bar clearing the ranks of the partying Ashton fans who seemed to be having a great time in the Railway End.

Odejayo battles/ Ellison waits ( Andrew Machin )
Warburton then Brooke did their best to add to County’s difficulties next. If Warburton  was some way away with his effort…..Brooke’s run almost did the trick for his team as he latched onto the latest ball from Guest. O’Hanlon just kept him out, and Cummins’ luck was out when the corner came his way.
So……County did not concede, but it was through no lack of trying from the visitors, and Ellison did well to deny Warburton, with 4 minutes left.
3…..2 minutes left and I looked on to see Henderson pull off a double save  to keep his team afloat – Brooke missing out with the final ball , and a minute later it was Connor Hampson having a go for the visitors although his effort proved no problem at all for the County keeper.
The half ended with a mild note of irritation as Connolly went into Referee Richard Wild’s book. Fortunately…..a foul by Cummins on O’Hanlon rather ruined the free kick that followed, and the teams left the park to modest applause from the largish crowd.
During the interval it was good to see Alan Lord’s young team parade their well deserved trophy and the supporters gave them a fine ovation! 

Surely the future is in safe hands with AL and JG at the helm!

The visitors were first onto the front foot upon the re-start, but that said…they seemed no nearer finding the back of the County net despite monopolising most of the chances.
Thankfully Henderson remained alert and he did well at one point to ensure Brooke made no headway  deep in the County half…..and yes….County were stirring again….and Marsden went close with one effort. Burton dealt with that OK but then made a wakes of his clearance sending the pill straight to Wilson. At last this looked to be something of substance that County could make something of…..but no….Wilson’s ball onward was altogether too strong and mis-directed for Marsden to catch it never mind do anything with it. Chance gone!

Andrew Machin sees County attack....
By this time Glenn Rule was on for County, replacing Connolly, and there did seem to be a greater urgency about County’s play, with Rule bestriding the mid field as he does. However….it also meant that Morton moved back to RB, and that was not necessarily his best position.

Rule in the mix......
County pressed on…winning a corner……not taking advantage of same…..Marsden seeing a shot rise over the bar…..this was better ….but not greatly.

Close for Marsden.......

At the other end of the park, Morton did well in his defensive role to charge down a shot from Dan Shaw, whilst Brooke again got in our faces but could not add to this by keeping his shot down when a chance came his way!
Ellison did well for County getting forward, as JG replaced Wilson with Menagh, but still it was predominantly Ashton doing the attacking, and Henderson had to pull off a decent save to deny Rowney after Morton had been beaten by Brooke on the edge of the box.
It was a massive bonus for County that their opponents were so apparently toothless….but were County any better? I posed the question and declined to answer 68 minutes in, as I ducked to avoid Glenn Rule’s shot in Row R. That was  a waste of a free kick reasonably placed just outside the box, and County needed better if they were to win this game, instead I looked up to see a long range dipper from Cummins just clear Henderson’s bar!
Bugger….this was getting a touch iffy now and there was no sign of relief any time soon either as Henderson again denied the visitors as Tomsett linked up to cause mayhem with Brooke. 

Big K relieves the pressure !

Much pressure ensued after this and it was a while before this was relieved by Odejayi , who set about fashioning a quick reply linking up nicely with Menagh. For a time it looked pretty promising this, and Marsden was nicely placed in the box to receive the final ball, but when it came in from Menagh ,it was Burton who reacted first ….emerging triumphantly with the ball much to County’s displeasure.
With 10 minutes left JG  brought on Adam Etches in place of Garvin and he was soon in the action as County won themselves a corner.

Etches in there.....
 Slowly….chances emerged for County…..Menagh’s free kick fizzing menacingly into the box where Marsden was inches from applying that vital finish, and Etches missed out with a half chance from a Menagh cross! 


The better chances though still continued to accrue at the other end where Mike Norton found Jon Hunt in the box, bringing another good save from Henderson!
That was really good from the young keeper, but within a minute he had to do it again. Rowney had just kept a Morton cross from Marsden, when County were hit on the break by Hunt forcing Henderson to dash out and make a `hearts in mouths’ last gasper to keep it at 0-0.
Another attack from the visitors….close but not close enough as a late header flew wide.
County did, even at this late stage have a go at snatching a cheeky win, and it would have been just that in my view, but it was not to be …and Burton was on hand to keep Marsden’s shot out with Odejayi running in at speed.

One save/ 2 views ( Hedgie top/ Andrew Machin below)

It went on for a little while after this…….just a minute of added time …and that was that for the season.

I doubt whether anyone present really expected a display or game as exciting as that on Tuesday, indeed there was plenty of applause at the end for the team, who paraded the Cheshire Senior Cup after the whistle which was good.

The Curzon Ashton team joined their fans, who had done a lively conga in the second half, on the Railway End ending their season on the right note too.

The Away End Celebrates ( Hedgies view top/ Andrew Machin below)
And that conga....

Thanks JG for stepping in again and giving us hope once more.
Here’s to County then and to a successful campaign in season 2016/17- I cannot wait!

Stockport County line up;

Henderson, Connolly( Rule 53), O’Hanlon, Smalley, Roberts, Morton, Ellison, Wilson( Menagh 64),Odejayi, Marsden, Garvin( Etches 80).    

Subs not used:  

Ormson, Anoruo.

Curzon Ashton line up:

Burton,Rowney, Guest, Hunt, Flynn, Shaw( Norton 53), Tomsett, Hampson, Cummins( Cockerlime 79), Brooke( Hughes 86), Warburton.

Subs not used:

Mason, Woodford.

Attendance :3876

Ian Brown


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Stockport County 2 Tranmere Rovers 1 ( Cheshire Senior Cup Final) 26 April 2016

Pic by David Wright.

County braved weather that would have made Shackleton wince at the Weaver Stadium in Nantwich last night to deservedly claim the Cheshire Senior Cup ,with a well merited and ruthlessly executed 2-1 victory after extra time, against Vanarama National side Tranmere Rovers.
The win was as dramatic as it was deserved, secured by  substitute Obi Anoruo scoring the winner in the last minute of extra time. But County were worthy winners having drilled shots against the woodwork time and again throughout the game. I counted 6 such efforts in the second half …add a similar number of last gaspers from the Tranmere keeper Luke Pilling ( by a country mile Rovers top performer),and you get a measure of just how much in control of the game County were.
In the first half, with Glenn Rule in prime form, County took the game to their opponents. 
Glenn Rule- firing on all cylinders!

Rule was just one of many County players to prang the woodwork as the blues queued for a shot at goal. None came… fact… took until 7 minutes into the second half for County to sort this issue out through Marsden, who got the travelling County fans singing his name with an opportunist effort as the Rovers defence got themselves in a tangle.

Marsden in the thick of it....
That should have signalled the first of many for the blues but it didn’t and within a couple of minutes of Rule being subbed, Rovers were level against the run of play.
It took a mighty team performance to re-ignite the flame after that unexpected reverse , but with the defence solid, and Ellison  joining the impressive Morton in an all out effort up front , County did it, setting up some really joyous scenes at the end as Jim Gannon’s team celebrated with the trophy!

An atrocious blizzard greeted the teams as they came out circa 7.45, but both teams ignored the conditions and got on with it …each probing the other diligently. The closest thing to a ripple of excitement in the first 10 minutes came when Odejayi went down in the box. We asked about a penalty but we did not get one, and that was probably a correct decision.
Odejayi has company.....
Enter Glenn Rule next, and he looked in prime form, which was good to see, but it was disappointing to see Morton’s shot rise over the bar from a neat pass from him.
 Jack Mackreth and Sam Ilesamni  took the game to County briefly, but replying for County, Roberts and the energetic Rule were on the spot to put matters to rights.

Roberts emerges from the back....
That was not typical of how play would pan out, and I looked on in anguish to see an effort from Marsden come back out off the angle of bar and post, from Odejayi’s deft lay off not long after. County’s foot remained down on the accelerator pedal but Rules follow up shot was charged down much to our angst.
Garvin & Marsden await the ball...

It went on with Marsden missing out on the end of a neat bit of work from Rule and Odejayi.
It was fully 15 minutes in before Morton treated us to one of his lung bursters, and it fell somewhat short of expectations, being blocked near the corner flag, as Jordan Hunter led a posse of 2 to head the County flyer off.
Tranmere replied but the anguish was their’s this time as Toluni Omotola shot over the bar from a lay off by Liam Davies.

Ellison & Garvin apply the pressure....

County re-doubled their efforts to get an opening goal next, and Marsden went close twice  in this period- Pilling doing well to deny Odejayi in addition as Garvin supplied ammunition from the left flank.

Odejayi foiled by Pilling !

The ball then flew between Odejayi and Marsden , only for keeper Pilling to spoil County’s fun with some good work. Smalley joined in, and a lovely high one from him, was sweetly dealt with by Odejayi who set Marsden up only for the shot to clear the bar.
The pressure was almost constant from County now, but still the ball would not nestle in the back of Pilling’s net…..instead Rule’s snap shot from outside the box smacked into the crossbar and stayed out!
With all this pressure it was almost inevitable that something might happen at the other end of the park, and it did…but Davies’ break was brilliantly curtailed by Ellison who then turned defence into attack  in fine style. 

Ellison bursts clear.
This was excellent and I thought we had squared the circle nicely when it went from Ellison to Roberts and on to Odejayi who headed home. It was not to be though as the liners flag was up and….astonishingly….. it was still 0-0.
The County forwards , urged on and primed by the excellent Glenn Rule and Ryan Ellison who was to have another crucially good game, were showing great cohesion, and looking good in the process, thus the result was this provoked a series of  poor fouls from their opponents ,which apart from the free kicks….  a few lectures and just one booking from a poor referee, largely went un-punished. 

Odejayi & Hogan get to grips.

Odejayi was the latest to chew mud courtesy of Rovers none too fussy approach, and our frustration continued with the sight of Pilling dealing with Ellison’ s effort with a degree of comfort on the end of Joe Garvin’s free kick.

Thirty two minutes had now passed and I had counted 10 free kicks  to County thus far and Liam Hogan treated us to the eleventh with an awesomely bad foul on Marsden right under the referees nose. OK….we again got the free kick….but…NO BOOKING for common assault with obvious intent!?

Hogan wags finger- ref bottles it !
I was trying to think nice thoughts  and forget the mindless `tackles’ but just when I thought I might  with the pleasing sight of Marsden helping out at the back , I went AS again when Matt Hill unceremoniously dumped Odejayi on his face, as he threatened with his control and presence. The fact that Ellison’s strike from Garvin’s free kick missed out, only served to increase my angst.

Pilling beats Marsden to the ball....

It was hard to imagine that County were playing a side one division higher than them , and one in the mix for promotion….but they were …and they were outplaying them by a distance at this point. I just hoped that at some point we could convert this supremacy to the gold of goals! That was a fervent wish , but one lacking fulfilment at this juncture thanks in no small degree to Luke Pilling who gave us the best of many good saves from him next to keep yet another Garvin free kick out!

Top save from Pilling again !
County kept the pressure up until the break….efforts from Rule and Smalley the closest  to sorting something, but it was 0-0 as the teams went in for a chat and a warm!

When play resumed  Tranmere looked on to make more of a game of it and with Omotola and Davies getting forward  supplemented by the efforts of Sam Ilesamni, I began to wonder whether we might be in for a disappointment after all. I was reassured as Ilesamni’s shot climbed up and over the bar and kept on going.
Yes…..Tranmere  were definitely showing up to the party now . Marsden did get one chance from Morton’s run , 5 minutes in, but the first 7 minutes or so were offering hope to the small Tranmere contingent in the crowd ( they covered the game for their fans  by video link though ),that their team would confirm their National League superiority!
Hmm…..that thought lingered only briefly as , in the 52nd minute Pilling, under pressure from Marsden, forgot his lines and the County man took full advantage pilfering possession in impudent fashion before dispatching the pill into the net to the deep joy of County’s big travelling contingent.

Pressure on Tranmere.

At last we were in front, but it took Rovers just 8 minutes to turn this around.
Understandably having put himself about so well for an hour, Rule was replaced by Brandon Wilson just before the hour mark, and within a couple of minutes of this Rovers sneaked one through Ilesamni who slotted home from close in  to level the scores.
This was disappointing, but anyone who imagined that County would buckle as a result, were in for a rude awakening as they piled forward forcing Rovers back like so much straw in a howling gale. Morton was in overdrive now his surging runs urging his team mates on to bigger and better things. Likewise Ellison, who simply refused to see any loose ball as un-winnable. The result was a constant stream of shots on goal from the blues…..Morton went close with a shot on the turn…..Garvin not so close with his effort……Marsden was again thwarted by the combined efforts of Pilling and Hill as he strained to reach the latest mighty morsel from Morton. 
Askew foils Marsden...
The best of these came from the feet of Marsden again – a veritable rocket that fizzed like an Exocet in my direction inches wide!

Marsden on the charge....
Did I say that was the best….well it was up until that point, whereupon Morton entered stage right to ping a shot into the woodwork from a Roberts throw. It was a massive effort by County, but we have seen teams in this sort of situation dished many times by a breakaway goal….would that be our fate tonight?
Ellison did his best to not make it so only just being kept out by Hunter as he went for Garvin’s latest free kick deep in the Merseyside clubs half.
On it went….there was simply no end to the pressure from County and this brought with it a plethora of free kicks – Lucy’s push on Odejayi setting us up once more as Smalley sent the kick thudding into the crossbar. Mayhem ensued as the ball came back into play, and the ball smacked into a post as O’Hanlon’s header beat the keeper.   
Ooo...arr...O'Hanlon  !
Still the ball was in play, but when Smalley latched onto it again he found Pilling on his toes keeping it out with another potentially match saving save!

This was agonising stuff …..County were so close… unlucky…..and the Blue Army were giving them good support……surely a goal would come soon?
Again Ellison tried to make it so but his shot was charged down , and he quickly had to double back and do some crucial defensive work as Lucy broke up the park with most of County’s troupes still in the Rovers half- thankfully he did this well!
That was a brief moments respite for Rovers who were back under the cosh again quickly- another County free kick ,by Smalley, being brilliantly saved by Pilling, and Marsden’s follow up was blocked on the line by one of a number of yellow shirts.
County continued to press in what remained of the 90 odd minutes…..and Tranmere worked themselves an unlikely opening( wasted profligately by Omotola) so it was still 1-1 as the teams went off to prepare for extra time!

County re-groupe at 90 minutes....

Both teams rang the changes for extra time- Tranmere  swapping Galloway and Williams for Hogan and Hill whilst County brought Menagh on for Garvin, and Anorou for Smalley. This showed an admirably attacking intent from JG and the County fans were `giving it some’ as play resumed.
Within seconds Anoruo went close following good work by Marsden.
County did have a corner to defend 4 minutes in ,but they did this well and mainly it was the sight of Marsden and Menagh combining to good effect on the left that entertained us, but still the ball would not go in again!

Anoruo....mustard straight away !
That Marsden/Menagh link up was working well though, and it took a crucially good slider from Hulley to stop Menagh’s run…..and an even more crucial on the line clearance by Mackreth to keep Tranmere’s ship afloat from the resultant corner.
Tranmere feeling the pressure.

But there were Kind Hearted County fans on hand to offer Pilling some advice!

Bugger…..minutes on….and Odejayi was inches from glory with a long range lob as Pilling scrambled back to his line……and Marsden faired no better seeing his effort deflected around the post by Lucy.
County were piling forward now…queuing for a shot, and whilst Wilson was less than accurate with two efforts in this period…. Anoruo was a fag papers width away from applying a glorious finish to Ellison’s cross.

O'Hanlon unlucky again.
Into the second half of extra time we went with the thought of penalties looming large now, but Ellison was still trying to make this ending unnecessary only to see his back post header somehow kept out!
Briefly……Omotola put hearts in mouths with a break, on 109 minutes, but Ormson did enough to see him off, drawing applause from the County contingent! Ilesamni was some distance away after this with his shot, but with County striving to re-assert their control  WW3 threatened briefly thanks to the crudest of assaults by Askew on Wilson. After  discussing hostilities with his liner the referee at last booked someone- I was waiting for him to make it someone in blue, but he didn`t…. Askew was the recipient and rightly so!
The free kick again pushed Rovers back and Ellison missed a chance to win the game for County having a `feet in treacle moment’  faced with an open goal, but he had done great work before this setting things up and was clearly bursting a gut in County’s cause. He was by no means alone in so doing….it was the 114th minute and Marsden still had the skill and energy to skin Hulley and round on goal. Now…..surely this was our moment….but no….Marsden hit his shot perfectly , only for Pilling to produce another belter to keep it out!

Foiled again- the blur on the line is Pilling!
That was exciting and dispiriting in equal measure and more of the same followed as the keeper repeated the process when Menagh’s cross enabled Anoruo to get another goal bound shot off. I had lost count now of how many shots on target County had mustered, as I looked down anxiously at my watch that told me there were barely 2 minutes twixt us and the awful agony of penalties!
A rare free kick to Tranmere ushered in a briefly alarming late melee in front of Ormson’s goal, but the angst abated with the sight of Roberts heading clear.
Eventually County worked the ball up the park again, and with the Blue Army still in fine voice, the circle was finally squared and justice done, but it did not immediately seem as though it would be- it seemed like the mixture as before until Marsden's cross was headed back by Wilson to Obi Anoruo who made no mistake with a  typically excellent finish that brooked no argument- it was 2-1 and the Cup was ours!
Well….not quite …there were 2 minutes plus one of added time to sort , but County did this without problems – cue emotional scenes as the team celebrated claiming the magnificent Cheshire Senior Cup after a gap of 50 years since Harry Bunner’s lads did it last!

The victory was a good one and well deserved and no less worthy for the last gasp nature of it!
Saturday at Edgeley Park will be some celebration….great stuff County!

Stockport County line up:

Ormson, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Smalley( Anoruo 91), Roberts, Ellison, Morton,  Rule( Wilson 58),Odejayi, Marsden, Garvin( Menagh 91).

Subs not used:

D Smith, Brodie.

Tranmere Rovers line up:

Pilling, Hulley, Hunter, Lucy, Hogan( Galloway 91), Hill( Williams 91), Mackreth, Askew, Omotola, Davies, Ilesamni.

Subs not used:

Ramsbottam, Medlen, Akpan.

Attendance 503

Ian Brown