Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Hat is Back .....and heading for Hednesford !

My first stop-over trip following County this season, combined with my never-ending search for great real ale, is rapidly approaching.

Hednesford hear I come!

As you know, you can find all of the pubs I try on the excellent CAMRA website

This season, I’ll be submitting a preview ahead of each trip, outlining my plans.

Also, following feedback from my mentor & boss, Hedgegrower, this season I will actually be wearing a hat!

I’ve also been instructed to get pictures of the Blue Army on the march, so you have been warned!

Other than that, my general approach will be the same as last season, namely, trying not to get lost too often, trying as much real ale as possible, & searching out the Blue Army.

I’ve already been on good form this season. After the game at Stalybridge, I confidently marched a select band of the genuine hardcore down to a boozer on the canal called the Millpond, only to find it boarded up!

I hastily exited stage left.

The Plan

Only one Hednesford pub is listed in the 2014 Good Beer Guide, the Cross Keys Hotel. But, this lone boozer offers everything that any self-respecting travelling County Supporter & paid-up CAMRA Member could possibly wish for.

It is very close to the ground & easy to find (we’ll just see about that!). It offers accommodation (£27), has 8 real ales of offer, & dates back to Dick Turpin’s days.

Dick Turpin

Apparently Dick stopped for a swift half during his legendary ride from London to York (190 miles in 15 hours) on his trusty steed, Black Bess, in order to establish an alibi for a robbery he committed.

I know what you’re thinking, “hold on, wasn’t that John “Swift Nick” Nevison, a highwayman of far greater ill-repute than measly old Dick?” Well, you’re right, & rest assured I’ll be putting the records straight during my visit.

Swift Nick Nevison

But there’s more, not only was the Cross Keys local CAMRA pub of the year 2011 & 2012, the landlord is also a former Hednesford player & current assistant manager. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

Inside the Cross Keys

Other real ale opportunities in Hednesford look a bit limited, so the plan is to stay over at the Cross Keys Saturday night & explore other lesser venues after the game.

The Trafalgar Inn Hednesford

In fact, it appears that there are only 2 other definites, in terms of getting some real ale, namely the Trafalgar & the Hen House. The rest will all have to be researched there & then, with details passed on to the Cannock branch of CAMRA. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it!

The Hen House.

The Cross Keys has been recommended in this Blog’s Away Guide (which also mentions there’ll be no pies!), so I shouldn’t have too much trouble in tracking down the Blue Army to get the pictures I need.

I’ll be catching the 09:43 from Stockport Station, which, following changes at Stoke & Rugeley Trent Valley, should get me to Hednesford at 11:23.

As there is no Wetherspoons in Hednesford, I expect the 09:43 to be a popular choice with the Blue Army, & as the Cross Keys does not open until 12:00, I hope to be checked in & sat there with a pint (& a smug look on my face), by the time non-residents are let in.

See you there!

Man in a Hat.

County 3 Lowestoft Town 0 ( Conference North) 30 August 2014

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

OK.......perhaps today at Edgeley Park was not quite Balaclava 1854 revisited, and neither Mick Chapman nor Ady Gallagher are as dumb, in the leadership department, as was Lord Cardigon back then. It might just be appropriate to add also that as for bravery, the  600 far outstripped a very disappointing Lowestoft team that came to Edgeley Park unbeaten and left it shell shocked and well and truly thumped, by a County team who had too much zest and fire power for them.
For County it was another chance to make up lost ground, and they did that with some assurance, their 3-0 win sending them up to ninth spot in the division.
The match was a very low octane affair for the most part, with Lowestoft struggling to make any headway against a determined County side who looked confident on the ball. superb form!
Yes.....there was much to admire in this County all good showings, it was rooted in solid defence and the central defensive three of Lees, Gregson and O`Halloran were superb....none more so than Gregson, who was pushing Baker for that M.O.M award for me. It was a back 5 again, with Belezika getting 85 minutes to shine this time on the right, with Duxbury on the left- there was just no way through with those five on song and willing and able to get forward too!
 In front of the back line, we had skipper Jamie Milligan, who had another belter linking up nicely between defence and attack, and he got valuable support from Chris Churchman, who was pressed into service at the expense of Nathan Woolfe.

Lowestoft supporters hoist their flags!
That was the only change from Stalybridge on Monday, which meant hot shot Kristian Dennis and the steadily improving Chris Sharp were on the bench, as County kicked off with their backs to the Cheadle End.
Within a couple of minutes we got a taste of things to come as the Town back line went into doze mode allowing Richie Baker in on goal. It was a chance, but a bobble did for him in the act of shooting and the shot climbed into the very nearly empty Railway End as a result.

First Half action.
It took another 3 or 4 minutes for Lowestoft to reply, and when they did Jack Ainsley`s cross found no one in white to apply a finish.
The game meandered on ...County trying to keep the ball down and play it about....whilst Lowestoft were apparently content to lump it into the August greyness overhead and hope. 

The excellent Ashlee Jones !
Their keeper however...the rather good Ashley Jones.... had us all talking ....indeed shouting at the referee, as he grabbed the ball whilst his body was entirely outside the box. It was mean spirited of us to shout for his dismissal, but ( with  memories  of our Jones at Birmingham ,when Bruce was refereeing the game, way back when, and other similar calumnies!) we did, but referee Peter Wright, who had a reasonable game, would have none of it.        
Lowestoft ,through Ainsley, fashioned a rare break next, but the forward`s run was neatly cut short by excellent work from O`Halloran, as a result of which Ainsley went to ground. Again ...the referee was on the spot.....and again was having none of it , which sent Ainsley into something of a lather for a while, which was not greatly improved when his next run was halted by Duxbury who won a goal kick to boot.
Ainsley was livid, but I was not alone in enjoying the theatre as it played out before my eyes, and the excellence of the defending!

Duxbury- good tight performance !
I brightened up further next with the sight of Glenn Belezika storming in on goal, and only just missing out with a high octane header!
Sam Gaughran then had to go off for Lowestoft due to injury, but if this thought encouraged County ( he was a central defender) this encouragement was immediately tempered with the knowledge that his replacement was the gangling, massively travelled, forward Jefferson Louis. Indeed Louis promptly won a free kick that forced Hurst to punch clear under pressure, the move only ending when Curtis Haynes- Brown`s cross was ignored by a clutch of white shirted forwards.

Jefferson Louis to the fore......
Haynes- Brown, along with Jones, was Lowestoft`s stand out performer, for me, but he was to work hard but in vain throughout the game to light a flame on the seemingly well damp Town Tinder Box.
Already it was possible to say that Lowestoft were a disappointment, but they did well enough to keep Belezika out as another of his leggy runs stretched them to bursting down the right, from O`Halloran`s splendid cross field pass. It was a throw to County then, and this saw Milligan battle his way into the box before passing to Spencer who promptly went to earth. It was a corner however....not a penalty, and again the referee was probably correct, but any disappointment for County quickly dissipated when Baker stole in to force the ball home from close range from the resultant kick. That was excellent, but then so was the Baker celebration.....a joyous cartwheel executed at speed in front of the Pop Side!

First Half action.
This seemed to buoy County no end......Churchman missing out with a poor shot, and a neat move involving Milligan, Baker, Ryan and Belezika, similarly fated!
This state of affairs continued with County playing it about with ease and comfort, but they were watchful at the back as well for the occasional sortie from Town, and one such, on 31 minutes by Jefferson Louis looked fairly interesting until Baker and Belezika combined to dish the lanky forward.
Mainly was the blues on the ball, as a plethora of free kicks came their way, pushing Town further and further back. Spencer harassed a throw out of nothing near the corner flag and then sent Ryan scurrying along the by-line causing alarm and despondency in the visitors defence- they held out though, but only just.
A free kick to Lowestoft threatened for a moment to turn the tide somewhat, as Hurst had to react quickly and punch the ball for a corner as a result.

Hayles goes close.
 From this Robert Hayles headed over the bar, which was good from a County view point....what wasn`t good was that he had had a free header!
No matter.......half time was approaching, and that last action wasn`t representative at all, of the first half. Indeed a long kick from Hurst almost saw Baker in for a second goal........then Ryan was similarly unlucky this time from Belezika`s  prompt.

County were warming up nicely ,with the break getting ever closer, and a lovely cannon off referee Wright ,again almost set us up to double our lead, with Belezika bearing down like an avenging angel on the hard pressed Town back line. Hard pressed or not.....they managed to hold out, and Haynes- Brown even managed to ping another decent cross over ,on the break, but once more there were no takers, and it stayed 1-0 to County as the teams trouped off at half time.

View of  Away End ( top) Cheadle End ( below)
Lowestoft opened at a frenetic pace in the second half , Gregson and Hurst doing well to deal with Louis...twice.....the second time via a decent ball in from the right by Chris Henderson, but despite clearly bursting to get a shot off.....thanks to Gregson’s diligence, they totally failed to do!

Spencer in the thick of it......
Gradually County reasserted themselves, and Ryan was unlucky to see a blatant dive by the highly irritating Ainsley, gain the visitors a free kick and thus thwart a promising County raid.
Straight off after this, County came back at their opponents again, through Spencer who was played through brilliantly by Churchman. In a trice Spencer was beyond Ainsley and inside the box, and in another he had sent a shot of tremendous power heading for goal. No was 2-0....but not so...because Jones twisted in mid air and stuck his right arm aloft to somehow push the ball up and over the bar. The corner was 100% an anti-climax, as Hayles headed it clear at the near post!

Spencer clear......
That was Spencer`s last contribution as he was replaced, on the hour, by Sharp in a double substitution that saw Dennis on for Ryan as well.
Louis tested Hurst with a shot after he had taken the pill to the by-line, but with captain Dan Gleeson substituted ,there was clearly trouble brewing for Town, and it did not take long to surface!

County press.
A mere 3 minutes in fact, as Sharp burst clear and headed for goal. Jones started to advance off his line, but Sharp reacted quickly by blasting a shot of enormous power towards goal. 

Sharp bursts clear....

It was going in but Jones managed to beat it out magnificently. Chance gone then!......except no.....because the ball was with Duxbury and he crossed it back into the box where Dennis met it with his head sending a beautifully judged glancer into the far corner of the net!

An absolute rocket shot from Sharp sets up goal....

That was excellent....and it was also 2-0 to County....great stuff!
Sharp was on fire now and it took a terrific last ditcher by Haynes-Brown to stop his next run just a couple of minutes later. There was no keeping Sharp quiet and , shortly after , thanks to a brilliant ball from Gregson, he was clear again.  It looked curtains for Jones and his team as Sharp advanced on goal and more so as another cannon ball shot headed for the was belter, but so was the Jones response, and the keeper again denied Sharp with the bravest of fine saves. Again...the chance appeared to have gone, but I had reckoned without the resilient and resourceful Baker and he snaffled the available trifle, forcing the ball into the net!
It was 3-0 now, and a decent win was on the cards for the resurgent blues, despite the efforts of Ross Jarvis to start WW3  after the slightest of brushes with Churchman. 
Churchman and Jarvis get acquainted.....
Thankfully the referee was on hand to quell hostilities and disappoint Jarvis.
Lowestoft tried to get something from the game after this, but twice Baker broke up prospective raids, and the most that Hurst had to deal with was long balls from Jones aimed at no one in particular, and these were no problem at all.
With 5 minutes left, and all hope lost for Lowestoft, Ainsley went beyond irritating to try his hand at a bit of common assault. As such it was perfectly executed and O`Halloran as a result was pole-axed. All hell broke loose as a result with everyone bar Hurst involved- handbags flying about all over the place! In the end order was restored and Ainsley got his yellow. Many thought he might have got red, but again I thought the referee did well.

WW3?...thankfully not !
If the aim was to ruffle County feathers, particularly those of the younger ones, it did not declare a dividend, because County came back at Lowestoft , forcing Jones to make a vital catch to keep a Lofthouse cross from Sharp and Dennis!
It went on with Dennis thwarted at the last gasp by Haynes- Brown, as County queued to be the one to force that fourth goal in.
It was not to be, but it didn`t matter a jot did it, the game was won and the  points were ours!

Well done County!

See you all at Hednesford next Saturday!

County line up;

Hurst , Belezika ( Lofthouse 85), Lees, Gregson , O`Halloran, Duxbury, Milligan, Churchman, Baker, Spencer( Sharp 60),Ryan ( Dennis 60).

Subs not used:  Ormson, Murray.

Lowestoft line up:

Jones, Hayles, Haynes-Brown, Fisk, Gleeson, Gaughran, Ainsley, Jarvis, Bammant, Henderson, Eagle.


Louis, Jessop, Smith, Okay, Radomski.

Attendance ;  2169       

Ian Brown

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Help the Hatters Update 43

It`s a week or two since last you had an Update to flick through, and I hope this one proves of interest.
With the Close season Working Party`s behind us, and with the warm glow of achievement from 14 excellent efforts , we have turned our minds to other things ,hoping for sunnier times on the playing front.

Car Boot.

Angela Moore kept at it,  and set about organising another Car Boot at Booth Street. As you know these are doughty fund raising affairs but are pretty labour intensive.
In the event Angela charmed over 90 booters onto the Booth Street site, she and her excellent team ensuring a decent income for Help the Hatters ( and ultimately the Club), and earning our congratulations as well for a job well done!

Playing Budget Fund.

This has been pretty well covered publicity-wise and is now up and running. In the region of £3k has been raised thus far( equivalent of £1.5k shares to the Supporters Coop).
Supporters wanting to donate should note that the donate buttons on this blog, the Help the Hatters  and Supporters Cooperative web sites all feed into the fund as does the central info site


Traffic is steadily increasing on this blog, so, with total hits almost at 127000, I thank everyone for their continued support, and hope that you all keep visiting and enjoying what you read.
In the pipeline are a mix of first team match reports( every game)and all the Development Squad matches, certainly at home and where possible away.
I recently spent some time at the Wellspring in Harvey Street Stockport- the wonderful charity that tends to the needs of Stockport`s homeless so magnificently.

An article about the Wellspring is up coming in the next 7 days or so, meanwhile if you care to donate a quid to this worthy cause you can do so  with by texting

SCFC14£1           to   70070

A Man in a Hat

 I am constantly being asked, when Man In a Hat is going to darken our doors, or more accurately ,the doors of hamlets and villages hither and definitely thither!
Well...wonder no longer Hatter....the next away game at Hednesford sees him on his travels once again, and a full report , resplendent with the usual gruesome pics, will appear not long after on the blog.`s a pic of said wanderer....without hat!

Feel free to send in a suitable caption if the mood takes hold!
It`s a chicken balti pie, by the way !

Stockport County Supporters Cooperative.

Help the Hatters continue to work closely with the Supporters Cooperative in the interests of County supporters generally, and would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Coop have a stall EVERY MATCH DAY, at the top of the stairs.....Cheadle End...near Connor`s Bar ( or whatever it`s called just now) .

If you are not yet a member ( 600 others are) then why not pick up a form from the stall and join?

IO County

Ian Brown