County duly earned their place in Round 1 of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Bishop Auckland of the Northern League, at Edgeley Park today.
|Bishop Auckland fans raring to go !|
Two corking strikes from the consistently excellent Danny Lloyd were enough to see County through in a game that simmered but never quite came close to boiling.
|Danny Lloyd ( Andrew Machin )|
County’s 2-0 half time lead maybe, in some minds, was the prelude to a hat full of County second half goals, but this, due to some fine defensive work from the visitors, never quite materialised. In this respect Ross Colquhoon and Scott Martindale, at the heart of the Bishops defence, were superb, keeping the blue strike force at bay with top notch performances, and Andrew Bennett along with Mike Hoganson were not far behind in the kudos stakes - both pushed on down the flanks urging their colleagues to make in roads in the County lead.
County pushed on too, but were never really able to close the game off- and the afore mentioned defenders ( and an alert performance from keeper Edward Wilczynski) were the primary reasons!
|Edward Wilczynski- in good form !|
For County….Lloyd was Lloyd and might have had a couple more with a touch more luck. Cartwright got his first start, on the left at the back, and this enabled Minihan to switch flanks and take up his more accustomed position in front of Ross.
|Ross & Minihan working well off each other!|
Ross and Minihan preceded to make hay down the right, but with the diminutive Hoganson in good form, the duo had to work extra hard for anything in the way of chances. No one let County down today though….all in blue applied themselves well to the tasks in hand and can be well satisfied with the result of their efforts- a place in Round 1 Proper! For Bishop Auckland it’s back to Northern League fare, and there is no doubting that they will again be in there pushing for top spot on today’s evidence!
At 3 o’clock a crowd approaching 3000 took up their positions pending what was likely to be a decent football match in my view.
|A fair cop ?|
For some reason however , others felt something altogether different was in the air as a ridiculously large phalanx of police ( appropriately decked out in Bishop Auckland yellow) occupied strategic points of the Railway End- four even made it into the Cheadle End, but to what end I am not sure!
There was a nice touch before the off as the two captains exchanged pennants – a nice tilt of the hat towards a gentler…less thrusting age , in direct contrast to the impression the police presence made!
|Clarke- in control !|
Clarke was in early action ushering Ian Ward out of harms way on the end of the first of many crosses from Hoganson. `Foot up’ by Alex Francis brought County their first free kick, but this came back out again as the Bishops’ defence got themselves organised.
|Lloyd's free kick ( Andrew Machin )|
They needed to as well because Lloyd looked to be super charged and only the finest of saves ( with his legs)by Edward Wilczynski kept him out, from Amis’s pass!
|Wilczynski saves with lesgs ( Andrew Machin )|
Stopforth’s follow up was charged down, and a foul on Amis gave County a chance , from the free kick, to make a bit of early FA Cup hay, but although going close the blues could not claim the cigar.
|Ball free kick.|
Both teams applied themselves after this without either of them creating a chance, but despite a couple of free kicks, County could not snatch the lead they craved.
Fifteen…sixteen minutes had gone, and whilst County for the most part were on the attack, it was still 0-0, and thus should the Bishops prove sharp enough to catch us on the break, we could be toast!
As you may already gather…I was in my now customary `apocalypse coming’ mode again , oblivious to the general good vibes that abounded to the right left and centre of me. This mood was not helped by keeper Wilczynski who again put his finger in the visitors threatened dyke, advancing bravely to keep Amis from the ball beyond the box.
The throw that followed saw Lloyd go close ,prompted by Ross, but with almost 20 minutes gone it was still 0-0.
|Smalley/ Montrose push on......|
Bishop Auckland , made their first concerted attacking move next, thanks to Bennett whose run down the right won his side a corner, but despite fancying it at the back post, Andy Johnson was denied by clinical defending from Clarke. Dylan Elliott did manage to get a shot off a minute or so later, but this went wide, and failed to trouble Hinchliffe at all.
Stopforth ( and me) thought he had won a corner shortly after, but apparently not…..and the consequence was that the Bishops were able to put a move or two together . Clarke again stepped up to block the first of these, denying Francis the opportunity to get a shot off from a Bennett pass. Jeff Smith did better, but found Hinchliffe’s dive sufficient to deny him. It was that rarity…a shot on target however…so no doubt the visitors took heart from that!
County won a corner via Minihan’s energy, but Clarke found his way to goal blocked by 3 men and any chance was gone.
We were now beyond the 30 minute mark, and although County definitely looked the stronger team, Bishops were undeniably doing well- Hoganson particularly so …seeing a shot charged down, and Montrose had to pull out all the stops to keep Johnson quiet as he emerged with the ball.
|Bishops raid in progress.|
It was still 0-0…..and then it wasn’t as Ross pinged a neat cross field ball over on the end of a nice bit of pressure play from County, and up popped Danny Lloyd to rifle home the sweetest of drives from the edge of the box! That was a terrific finish, and County had that vital first goal, could they build on it?
Montrose was taking some stick it must be said and again his frame took an unceremonious clattering courtesy of Elliott, who got a yellow for his pains( or more accurately…...............
|1 Foul/ 2 Views ( Above-hedgie/ below- Andrew Machin.)|
......Montrose’s).County got the free kick but nothing more, and what’s more they were hit on the break by Johnson. Clarke probably did enough to instil an element of doubt in the forward’s mind as he got his shot off.....
..... but Hinchliffe added the killer in the form of a neat…neat save -
|Hinchliffe make the save ( Andrew Machin )|
- adding an encore by catching the incoming kick with consummate ease.
|Hinchliffe again !|
Hinchliffe was slightly discomforted next though, in so far as he could only parry Ward’s shot, offering the rapidly advancing Elliott the glimpse of a chance. But it was snatched away almost instantly as the County keeper quickly claimed the pill much to Elliott’s chagrin!
That was perhaps a crucial moment in the game as…within a minute, County had doubled their lead thanks to another fantastic finish from Lloyd after great approach play from Stopforth.
|Goal coming up as Stopforth breaks ( Andrew Machin )|
That was enough to see us in at the break. Two nil was a decent enough lead, and I was fully angst free now…..honest!
|Greetings from Bishop Auckland fans ( Andrew Machin )|
The second half started at full pelt and Danny Lloyd almost had his hat trick – straight away-his snap shot just inches from going in!
Ball then stung the keeper’s hands with a shot, from an Amis prompt, but it stayed 2-0.
Ross was busy at both ends of the park…..keeping Bennett’s cross from Ward at one end….and then pinging throws and crosses himself over at the other. County kept getting a steady flow of corners and free kicks but without converting any of them.
|Ross free kick.|
Amis, who had come close at one point running onto a Ball ball(sorry about that !!!!) was clattered by Martindale, who was doing a reasonably good job of keeping tabs on young Josh.
|Martindale & Amis tangle....|
County were wanting that possibly deciding third goal, but Wilczynski was adamant they would not get it, and did really well to stop the predatory Clarke with his goal threatened.
Carney came on for Ball just before the hour mark, and I thought that was a good move on JG’s part, but there was little time to ponder the why’s and wherefores of that as Hoganson was still working hard at inspiring his colleagues in to salvaging the game!
|2 Views again ( hedgie top/ Andrew Machin below)|
It was to no avail as County’s defence looked to not be overly disturbed, indeed Clarke had time to wander up the field and come within a fag paper’s width of forcing the ball home after Minihan and Amis had taken liberties with the Auckland left flank.
|Wilczynski to the fore...|
The visitors were under the cosh somewhat now, but a small touch of good fortune helped them out, with 20 minutes left. It started with a break by Amis, and a fine tackle by Colquhoon that put a stop to it. Ross revived County’s forward push with his throw, and it took a cool bit of work from Wilcyznski whose catch ended much angst for his team after an attempted clearance by Hoganson had hit Minihan and ricocheted goal wards at a rate of knots!
|Keeper Wilczynski again !|
It went on…..Amis seeing a shot deflected for a corner…..Colquhoon keeping a Stopforth cross from Amis….and Amis forcing the keeper to drop the ball over the line ( it was a free kick to Bishop’s, to no one’s surprise)
|That man again !|
On…on…..Amis header from a Carney cross flies over the bar and Bennett worked wonders in stopping Ross’s pass from reaching Stopforth at the sharp end.
Midst all this…..the Bishops continued to try and play some football, and when they could, work at putting a raid or two together themselves via Bennett or Hoganson.
Free kicks and corners continued to mount for County, but despite Amis’s best efforts he found Colquhoon too smart for him at times, and it stayed 2-0, although there was some evidence now that one or two of the visiting defenders were cramping up now- could they stay the trip with all the BA subs now out on the park?
|Amis late on....|
Nothing much was coming back at Hinchliffe as the game entered the last 10 minutes. County now had Meppen-Walter and Marsden on in place of Minihan and Lloyd, both of whom left to ear splitting ovations!
|Lloyd, so good again today !|
Smith did get an opportunity via a late free kick but this only served to give the County keeper catching practise, and it looked like another clean sheet on the way for the County keeper.
|Smith's late free kick.|
It was not long before County summoned their resources again and went after that third goal, but….much as before Lady Luck was looking the other way again as Smalley stabbed a shot wide. As for Wilcczynski…he was in his element….getting down well to smother a strike from close in by Meppen-Walter. He followed this with another fine stop from a Carney header- it was now very much on the cards that Bishop Auckland would not concede again, and that would be reward for a fighting performance!
There was time for another long Amis run onto another Carney through ball, that at last seemed likely to lead to a third goal. But although Amis reached the by-line….and his ball back inside was good….Colquhoon had the last laugh by getting to it before Marsden who was approaching at speed.
That was pretty much that, for a pretty decent game.
County well and truly deserved this result and the Round 1 opportunity it brings with it, whilst Bishop Aukland can be well pleased with their performance that belied their status a couple of divisions below us.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Cartwright, Minihan( Meppen-Walter 83), Stopforth, Montrose, Amis, Ball( Carney 58), Lloyd( Marsden 83).
Subs not used:
Smith, Rule, Odejayi, Spencer.
Bishop Auckland line up:
Wilczynski, Bennett, Hoganson, Colquhoon, Martindale, Francis( Winn 66), Griffiths( Orritt 61), Smith, Johnson, Ward, Elliott( Nicholls 58) .
Subs not used;
Thompson, Jury, Madden, Pocklington.