It was a bit cooler at Edgeley Park last night, but ….on the pitch the football was as hot and watchable as ever as County overcame another pre-season hurdle in the shape of Championship club Wigan Athletic’s Under 21 side.
Wigan sent a decent squad to hopefully see off the blues, and they looked a side that could play a bit at times. Kesi Omolokun did his level best to stem the County tide throughout the game, and was the visitors’ top man along with keeper Nicholls, spending virtually the whole of his time deep in the Lancashire clubs territory fending off the efforts of the likes of Danny Lloyd, Scott Duxbury and Courtney Meppen-Walter all of whom were in rampant form. Lloyd was in Wigan faces from the first minute until the 63rd when he was substituted.
|Kesi Omolokun- top performer with Nicholls for Wigan!|
His absence thereafter did not reduce the threat factor however as Duxbury just increased the revs some more down the left, powering his way into the opposition half. Scott’s all round game really is back to its best, and his energy and skill finally won the game for County, as he laid a neat pass into Glenn Rule’s path – it was job done as the County substitute smacked the ball home!
This was just reward for County’s organisational nous that had bamboozled a decent Wigan side, much of the time. Meppen-Walter bossed the midfield majestically , providing authoritative cover to a back four that ,as a result, was seldom threatened, and going forward he was unlucky a couple of times with thumping drives.
|Meppen-Walter in top form.|
If this report reads pretty much as the previous one did I make no apology….it is a reflection of how Jim’s got County playing on the park…..they all know what is required…..do it…and seem comfortable doing it. This is particularly evident at times when you might reasonably expect cohesion to go to the dogs, namely as the substitutes begin to appear in numbers . Again however…last night….. those that came on merely added something extra to the mix whilst keeping the shape largely intact. I have spoken of Minihan before and he was a shining example of this again – a constant threat down the right, and I continue to like Craig Carney who seems to fit our requirements to a tee!
There was another reasonable pre-season crowd on board in the Danny Bergara Stand ( 412 and 1 piglet I am told- more on that later) as the game got underway with County on the attack with Meppen-Walter all over the visitors back line as keeper Lee Nicholls dived to push his early effort around the post. Within a minute though the ex City man was back again forcing another diving save from the keeper who tipped the shot over the bar in spectacular style.
The first 5 minutes or so were all County it must be said, and Wigan…..looking to hit County on the break……found Duxbury in immaculate form …his tackle stopping James Boyd’s run in its tracks.
On it went much in the same vein…..Meppen-Walter again unlucky to see his latest effort whistle a foot or so wide.
It began to look like the blues would see this challenge off in peremptory fashion , as Danny Lloyd had spent much of the first 10 minutes linking up with Meppen-Walter, Duxbury and Marsden to terrorise their opponents. It was working …………as the otherwise excellent Omolokun hauled Lloyd down on the edge of the box! This ushered in a free kick and a definite scoring opportunity, but although Marsden hit the target ,he found Nicholls again in tip top nick between the sticks ,and it stayed 0-0 as he clutched the ball to his chest under pressure!
|The free kick......|
|....the save !|
Nicholls was playing a blinder, and only the bravest of dives from him did for another Lloyd run a minute or so later, after more good work by Meppen-Walter, but County had to be wary of Wigan’s liking for hitting us on the break, and it again surfaced next through the ample frame of forward Sam Cosgrove who was only stopped by the timeliest of tackles from Chris Smalley, who had Michael Clarke alongside him on this occasion at the centre of County’s defence.
|At the centre, at the back, for County!|
Wigan were seemingly energised by that last sortie , and County had to defend a couple of corners in quick succession before resuming their preferred attacking mode via Lloyd who , after good work from Gary Stopforth, missed out by inches with a decent strike.
The County charge was on again then, and it took the combined talents of Adam Anson and Alex Lingard to subdue Marsden as he darted clear into the box. That was good work from the Wigan twosome….what followed was less so from captain Josh Gregory who was moved to attempt an early shirt exchange with Danny Lloyd as he burst clear for the umpteenth time. The foul went unseen by the officials and probably served its purpose as Lloyd’s shot went the wrong side of Nicholls left upright.
On…..on …it went with Lloyd narrowly kept from a tasty ball from Stopforth by the excellent Omolokun. There was some quality work coming from County now and a cooperation twixt Amis and Lloyd , at this point, deserved better.
Yes…..it was still very much County in control, but there was still that need to watch out for those pesky Wigan breaks , and 23rd minute saw another, and it was a relief to see Cosgrove stretch vainly to get to Boyd’s cross. Again the action prompted more from the visitors and Ormson did well to deal as Wigan did their best to capitalise on a rare free kick.
Twice after this …with County pushing forward relentlessly…..Wigan were indebted to Omolokun who cleared under pressure as Duxbury pinged decent crosses over. Lloyd and Meppen-Walter were in the mix too, Lloyd once more tantalisingly close with a shot.
Wigan kept trying…..Boyd just unable to reach a cross from Anthony Plant, but in the main it was County in the van- Meppen-Walter a fag papers width away with a drive of colossal force.
A quick drink for Lloyd as a Wigan player was tended to by their trainer, and the briefest of words from JG, and it was nearly 1-0 as he was inches away from close in.
A couple of minutes passed, with the County pressure building and building, before at last County squared that circle with a goal. It came via a corner on the left which Josh Amiss put away with unerring aplomb in the crowded box!
That was good stuff, and it almost got better straight away ,and via Amis again. Duxbury had just forced another corner with his latest lung burster down the left. Wigan , when given time on the ball, looked well able to use it, but in defending the corner they paid the penalty of dwelling overlong in possession and Amis, now on fire, robbed them of it. Goal number 2!? It might have been because Amis then leathered a belter goal ward….but it wasn’t as Nicholls again excelled himself- his dive seeing the shot round the post at the last gasp!
|Amis lets another rip !|
Wigan were under the cosh now big time and Omolokun did well to see that Lloyd did not get to Marsden’s ball at the sharp end, as the pressure mounted on the Lancashire side as Lloyd, Meppen-Walter, Marsden and Amis all took turns at piercing the visitors defensive armour.
The 41st minute saw Ormson make his second good save of the night following a free kick when Duxbury was adjudged to have fouled Callum Lang. The save was a belter and deserved the applause it received from the crowd.
|Top stop by Ian Ormson !|
The last few minutes saw Omolokun in the van stopping a wave of County attacking. He must have been exhausted….but his efforts were worthwhile I guess as it ensured his side went in at the break just 1-0 down.
OK …what about that piglet then?
Well…….`Only at County’ as they say,and the half time whistle signalled the arrival pitch side of County’s Special Adviser to the Board , Steve Bellis, who this time had said piglet in his arms with just about everyone clamouring for a photo. Here’s mine……
|Mr Bellis....a piglet...and a devoted County animal lover !|
Back to the football then, and it seemed a more even game for a time after the break, but County again went closest to adding to the score line when Marsden was thwarted by Omolokun after Nicholls had been harried into uncharacteristic error by Amis.
County were looking good again as Duxbury and Stopforth both saw shots climb over the bar.
Minihan had replaced Ross shortly after the break, and Wigan looked distinctly ruffled as County continued to press.
|Minihan- always impresses !|
A great run from Lloyd promised much, only for that man Omolokun to intervene at the last moment to thwart Marsden in the act of shooting. Seconds later and Lloyd was there again…bursting clear down the left, and again the pass on was excellent and a goal looked on , but Amis was just unable to force the ball home from a yard out.
|Lloyd on the charge !|
That was disappointing but not as much as what followed , as a quick break saw Cosgrove home alone in front of goal where he was able to lob Ormson and make it 1-1.
Wigan must have fancied they had a chance or two after that last action, and a foul by Meppen-Walter on Lang, added grist momentarily to this particular mill. But when the kick hit the County wall, and Duxbury ferried the ball clear, it signalled a return to offensive duty for County, but not before JG had shuffled his pack somewhat.
|Amis, did well...scored !|
On came Odejayi, Spencer and Carney at the expense of Lloyd, Marsden, and Amis- a complete change in offensive personnel!
|That Wigan free kick.|
Twice after this, Meppen-Walter drew applause from the County crowd. First off via a neat bit of work at the back to nullify Cosgrove and Plant’s efforts to score again, and then at the other end where a really wicked drive from him fizzed its way inches wide!
County continued to push on, none the worse for the changes, and with about 15 minutes left, they got their reward. Inevitably perhaps it was a left wing run by Duxbury that laid it on.
|Goal winning cross coming......|
He had company as he burst clear and headed for the by-line, but he made light of this putting a great ball into the box where Rule and one or two others in blue lurked. Perhaps Omolokun might have dealt with the threat….but he didn’t and Rule did the rest sending a lethal strike into the net to give County the lead.
|Rule tested the keeper a time or two !|
The last 15 minutes saw County do anything but sit on their lead, as they sought a third goal . Meppen-Walter was to the fore in this respect and not far away again with a late effort set up by neat work from Rule and Duxbury.
It went on….County pressing….Nicholls pulling off yet another top notch save to deny Rule at the death, on the end of a Carney cross.
A blast of the Referees whistle eventually told us it was `game over’, and it had been a good one….another testing tie, nicely negotiated by County.
I am suitably enthused ahead of the new season and before it Saturday’s game at Macclesfield.
Dare you miss that? I do not think so….see you there!
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Ross( Minihan 50), Duxbury, Meppen-Walter, Clarke, Smalley, Stopforth( Rule 72), Montrose, Amis( Odejayi 63), Marsden( Spencer 63), Lloyd( Carney 63).
Subs not used;
Wigan Athletic Under 21’s line up:
Nicholls, Plant( Donaghey 89), Lingard, Omolokun, Anson( Stubbs 72), Taylor, Boyd, Gregory, Cosgrove, Randall, Lang( Powell 89).
Subs not used:
Attendance 412( + 1 piglet)