Thursday, 29 January 2015

Boston with Pride by Man in a Hat !

2 stop-over County trips in the same Month - this is the life! Boston here I come! And I’m going to be helping Jon on Pure FM again.

Proud to be County

I’ve made plenty of mistakes during my life, but deciding to follow County when I moved into the area isn’t one of them.

Editors Timely Intervention; No hat...a definite mistake!

1 minute I’m getting taken to my first game. A quarter of a century, a couple of tattoos & 4 top hats later, I’m trying to find somewhere to stay in Lowestoft in March. What happened?

Well it’s your fault, you County Supporters.

County Supporters all have something in common. The well-heeled, the less fortunate, the old, the young & everyone in-between.

You all decided that following some soulless corporate brand masquerading as a football club wasn’t for you.

Despite being bullied into conforming, & following a big team being far easier & a lot less stressful, you wanted something different, something more intense than mere recreational entertainment.

You wanted to be part of something special, something meaningful.

When you talk about County, you use the word “we”, because it is about “we”.

Whenever I hear the fan of a big club use the word “we”, I sometimes say “what makes you say we?” “What’s the difference between watching that & watching Coronation Street?” “What makes you think you’re anything other than a source of income?” “Are you saying you’re part of a trademark?”

“You should be saying them, not we!”

I recently saw a hilarious piece on Sky Sports News in a pub (moi?) featuring the CEO of the Premiership bemoaning the recent demise of one of the big clubs (I think they hadn’t qualified for Europe or something?) being bad for the Premiership brand. Well, boo hoo!

Anyway, back to us, the unbrandable County.

Travelling with County

It’s no coincidence that when County have been most successful, you couldn’t see the join between the Club & the Supporters.

Players regularly attended Supporter events. There was a genuine bond. An “us against the world” mentality. This led to County having an away record that was the envy of many a global, characterless, money-making device.

When you look at County’s recent away form, you realise that there is often a disconnect between the effort Supporters put in to getting to away games & the effort they witness on the pitch upon arrival.

If player-attended events could once more become the norm, I’m convinced that it would help players “get it” & assist them in recreating the away form of their fore-bears, i.e. the performances Supporters deserve.

In fact, let’s go further. Imagine if players had experienced travelling to an away game with the late Lee Bennett. Surely, directly witnessing the efforts that Lee had to put in to get to an away game, would inspire them?

The County Family

Attending an event like the funeral & wake of Lee Bennett, you can’t help but be taken aback by the sheer diversity of the Blue Army.

By the way, I doubt that anyone participating in singing Arthur Brownlow at Lee’s wake will forget that in a hurry.

Blue Army? No. That suggests discipline, organisation & a common purpose.

The County Family would be a better description. Sometimes family members aren’t very nice to each other, & can even be down-right cruel. But there is always an underlying mutual love, a fundamental unity.

When you follow County away from home, this is felt far more keenly of course, because it takes real effort & sacrifice to get to some of these games.

Absence from work has to be booked, other commitments have to be reorganised, relationships have to be managed. Financial sacrifices have to be made, transport & accommodation has to be arranged.

At Lee’s wake, someone commented to me that all of the best stories relate to away games. But I think that ALL County stories seem to involve travelling away from EP.

Firm friendships have been forged through following County. Many Supporters regularly socialise with people they first met through following County, without there even being a game to attend.

I am no different & I’m proud to be considered as one of the County Family, albeit I probably see myself more as an adopted son.

Anyway, I’m rambling again, so what’s the plan.

Boston - at last, the plan

For reasons that I won’t go into here, I probably won’t arrive in Boston until about 8pm Friday, so what with that & being the summariser on Pure FM again, I’ll barely have the chance for a beer.

However, I will be in the area until mid-afternoon Sunday, so you never know, I may squeeze some touristy things like the Pilgrim Fathers’ Memorial, Hussey Tower, the Stump & perhaps even the Maud Foster Windmill.

Mandatory real ale sampling must be undertaken at the Eagle, the Golden Lion & the Indian Queen & Three Kings (one pub that is, what’s the story there?).

I’m also staying at a real ale pub, the Kings Arms, so if you’re familiar with my historical adventures, e.g. Telford, Hednesford etc., you know that is a recipe for disaster.

Other real ale options include the Moon Under the Water (the local Wetherspoons), Ropers Arms, Coach & Horses, Robin Hood, Ship Tavern, Waterfront, Goodbarns Yard, Carpenters Arms, Duke of York & the Britannia.

So, if you want to discover whether I survive another stop-over County trip, don’t forget to read my blog, when I’ll try to answer the questions like who was Maud Foster & why did she need such a big drain?

I’m also going to naughty on Pure FM again, so if you’re tuning in, see how long it takes you to identify my “list”. All I’ll say is, it won’t be styles of hat this time.

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

Remember, I’ll be wearing my Top Hat & trying to get as many photos of the Blue Army County Family on the march, so don’t let me down.

See you there!

Man in a Hat.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Alsager Town 0 County 2 ; ( Cheshire Senior Cup- R2) 27 January 2015

County`s run in the Cheshire Senior Cup continued when they overcame a spirited second half showing by Alsager Town to take the spoils with a 2-0 win at Woodpark Stadium, last night.
The blues fielded a fairly strong team, and clearly took the tie seriously, taking the lead via well taken goals from Baker and Dennis fairly early on. Two nil to County at half time looked a fair return for 45 minutes work and was perhaps an indicator of even better things to come thereafter, but this never quite materialised thanks to a decent fight back by the home side after the break.
Ormson in the County goal was never really troubled however, and this was largely due to the grip that the County back four of Jacobs, Fagbola, Hancock and Duxbury had on the Town forwards. It could easily have also been put down to how affective the midfield was as well, and in this respect Russell, Baker and Lofthouse, worked really hard throughout.
Alsager made a fight of it in the second half as I say, but never really looked at all likely to make inroads in the County lead, despite a lively 90 minute performance from Ryan Wintle, who I made the top man for the Bullets. In the end frustration overcame our hosts, and the game threatened to descend into farce late on, as everyone piled into everyone else in a grand old post Xmas display of handbaggery, that did absolutely no one any credit especially the invertebrate referee!
County  surged forward in the first eight or nine minutes, urged on by Russell, who gave us one cross field ball at one point fit to grace any match anywhere, and Baker who was constantly in there searching for openings. Up front Dennis and Sharp were the sniffers, and both are admirably suited to the task in their entirely different, but equally valid ways, but we were 9 minutes in before County`s first effort of substance materialised, but this....a shot from Sharp fizzed half a yard wide.  
It was another minute before Ormson got his first touch of the ball, and no alarm bells rang at all as he gobbled the effort by Brandon Moore up. The passage of a further 60 seconds saw a dramatic change in the respective fortunes of the two teams however. It started with a County raid that had Town back on their heels, so much so that Jacobs found the time to push forward to the edge of the box where he sent a powerful shot goal ward. Steve Dryson, the Town keeper, stopped it, but couldn`t hold onto it, allowing Baker to follow up and force the ball home, giving the blues the lead.
The next 3 or 4 minutes saw Sharp narrowly miss out with another shot at one end, whilst at the other Jordan Elcock stung Ian Ormson`s hands with a snap effort.
Gradually though, County were gaining the upper hand as another Baker effort went inches wide of the target.
Sharp wins a corner.
 Sharp followed this with a tasty run that took him deep into Bullet territory where he forced a corner. This saw all men back for Town, and a neat cooperation between Keith Lee and Ryan Wintle saw the threat nullified.
This pattern continued however , and a run by Dennis scattered the Bullet`s cover , enabling a fine lay off by Sharp to tee Russell up for shot on goal that went just wide.

County attack.......
A momentary glimmer of hope surfaced for Town on 24 minutes via a free kick by Callum Houghton, that Lee headed on to Moore at the sharp end, but the forward`s volley cleared Ormson`s bar, and the very next action saw that hope almost totally extinguished, when County doubled their advantage! 
 I didn`t see who laid the chance on, but there was an emphatic response from Dennis when the ball bounced his way just inside the box, and the unequal contest twixt him and Dryson, was underlined again as the Stockport striker lifted a neat lob over the keeper`s head into the net! Great stuff!...... and, at 2-0 County probably now had a tasty meeting with Runcorn Town, in the next round, sewn up.

Keeper Dryden.
The blues showed no inclination to relax, despite the relative comfort of their current situation in the match, thus.....with the solid Fagbola/ Hancock spine underpinning progress, they pushed on- Baker being unluckily flagged offside just before the half hour mark. It went on......a Sharp run.....a Woolfe cross......some neat work from Russell, but all without further addition to the score.
Alsager did work themselves one half chance, but this came and went when Mike Blundell lifted his shot high over the bar.

County corner on the way !
The better chances were always likely to come at the other end however and Hancock was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with one effort from a Charlie Russell corner. Keeper Dryden was the unlucky one next however as a sudden attack of myopia on the referee`s part allowed him to award County another corner despite the evidence of mine and just about everyone else`s eyes telling us that Dennis`s shot had been watched around the post by Dryden without even the merest hint of a touch! Ho hum......County tried to take advantage of the gift, but Town defended well and any chance was gone.

Alsager under pressure !
The next attack saw Russell have two goes at forcing a shot home in the crowded box, but his luck was out, and it stayed 2-0 as the teams left the field at half time.
There was a somewhat quiet opening to the second half and it was not until the 51st minute that anything of real substance occurred at either end. A foul on Woolfe was the impetus for this, but despite Fagbola joining in the raid, there was no addition to the score.
It was apparent though that Alsager were intent on not going down without a fight, and Fagbola had to look to his actual job to ensure that a move involving Moore and Dave Harry came to nought.
After this......Duxbury.....Baker......Dennis all put pressure on Alsager, but without looking ever likely to add a third goal. A foul on Jacobs( and the foul count was beginning to rise along with the tally of free kicks against our hosts)set  County`s best chance of the half so far up, but although Lofthouse picked out Dennis nicely with the kick, the resultant header was dealt with confidently by Dryden.

Lofthouse and Baker ponder a free kick.
A really decent County move came next as Jacobs again found time and space to push on through the middle. Releasing a nicely weighted pass into Lofthouse`s path, there seemed a good chance of the blues getting somewhere, but Dryden had little trouble in dealing with Lofthouse`s effort as he reached the by-line.
For a time after this, with Wintle looking more and more `the part’ for Town, County were pushed back, and Fagbola did well to keep Blundell out after he had been put through by Wintle. Substitute Griggs had a shot charged down by Duxbury, and another effort from Blundell drifted wide, when perhaps better was on the cards.
County weathered the storm, and Sharp worked himself a really good chance ,with just over 20 minutes left, with a powerful run. Cutting inside and delaying his shot until in the best position to shoot, he then lifted his shot over the bar, which was a massive disappointment. If that had gone in the game would have been hadn`t......and it wasn`t, so County had to keep working!

Figure this one out if you can !
There was a fair bit of work for them to do as well, and Hancock did well to usher Pete Heler`s effort out, as did Jacobs not long after, who was in position to clear a shot by Elcock off the line! All of a sudden this was a contest!
Brilliant work by Duxbury stopped all this action from Town getting out of hand, and he then set Dennis and Baker up with a sniff at goal.....both found the weight of Town numbers too much for them, but it showed willing.
We were into the last 10 minutes or so now, and it was slightly disconcerting to see a small fracas break out after Griggs felled Jacobs from behind. The handbags were out only briefly at this point, but I did not see the referee book anyone directly for this outbreak of unrest, and the small panto passed off without any further casualties. Not so a couple of minutes later, and the fashion accessories were well to the fore again ,after a tackle of brain dead awfulness by Ledwards on Lofthouse laid the County man out!
Suddenly ....all 20 outfield players were in there giving it some....absolutely everyone for miles around was having a go- I think I remember having my six pennyworth as well, which was odd as I was on the far side of the pitch! The only one who wasn`t participating, was the very someone who should have been.....the referee , but instead Rigour Mortis appeared to be setting in with him, and it was astonishing to see the only booking after the most impressive WW2 Re-enactment  I have seen, was Ledwards- for the original `tackle’. Absolutely none of the post tackle combatants apparently warranted admonishment!
The following pic is not great, but neither is the on-field action, so I thought I should show it.....

Handbags !
The tackling from Town did not improve much after this, which was sad really as they had fought back well after the break, and Charlie Russell was subbed with 5 minutes left, after a particularly hefty lunge had laid him out.
So....with Todd on for Jacobs, and Joe Noblett, another product of Lordy`s excellent Development Squad( have the Club confirmed that this squad will continue next season yet?) on the park for Russell, County set about ignoring the rough stuff and getting on with the job of winning the Cup Tie.
Noblett`s first contribution to this end was a snap shot from outside the box, and it took Dryden two goes to control it!
After all the late excitement.....barring a shot from Heler, that was nicely dealt with by Hancock, the game petered out to a conclusion without further incident.
County had progressed in the competition, and a tasty trip to Runcorn beckoned- what`s not to like!

County line up;

Ormson, Jacobs ( Todd 85), Fagbola, Hancock, Duxbury, Russell ( Noblett 88), Lofthouse, Baker, Dennis, Sharp, Woolfe.

Subs not used.

Powell, Hughes.

Alsager Town line up:

Dryson, Dansk( Reaney 45), Ledwards, Houghton,Lee, Wintle, Heler, Moore( Griggs 60), Harry, Blundell, Elcock.

Subs not used:

Hood, Jones, Ratcliffe.

Attendance ; 141  

Ian Brown      


Saturday, 24 January 2015

County 4 Leamington 2 ; ( Conference North) 24 January 2015

What a week!

What with the Domesday Clock`s minute hand edging its way perilously close to Armageddon time- reaching 11.57 for the first time since the US and the Ruskies were at loggerheads  in `83.......and the Tony Bliar induced delays in dear old Lord C`s enquiry, I was not a happy bunny.....only the news from Germany  on Thursday that a court in Dusseldorf had ruled that,  after all the doubt surrounding the subject, men categorically had the right to pee standing up, saved me from going into pre-match angst melt down!

Some of the Brakes support in the Bung.....
I was relieved.......and made my way to Edgeley Park, via the Bung, for our latest battle for 3 points, this time against Leamington.

120 gave decent support too.
 I felt that a win was on the cards for County, and in the event, County survived a second half wobble to make it so, eventually securing 3 valuable points by the relatively secure margin of 4-2. For a time in the second half though, the game was in the balance....County...who had sailed into a handsome first half lead of 2-0, thereafter wilted alarmingly after the break conceding 2 goals in rapid succession after previously never looking remotely likely to!

Kyle Jacobs returns to E.P.
 Everyone in blue had looked comfortable on the ball.....the back four had it all nailed tightly down.....Wilkinson  looked a class above everyone on the park, even the hugely impressive County duo of Lees and O`Halloran. I say things promptly went pear shaped for a time, but County eventually regained the initiative and with it the points thanks to quality goals from Greg Wilkinson( my M.O.M) and Chris Sharp.
Back to kick off time then, and Alan Lord had named a pretty strong side to face Leamington, who were languishing in 19th position in the Conference North. Tunji Moses was about the only addition I would have liked to make to the starting eleven, and injury clearly ruled that out! Kick off was seemingly ruled out also for a time, as County`s very own `ooops moment’ saw the corner flags missing with the teams ready to go.

Straight off, things looked on the up for County as Baker was inches away from applying a finish to a quality Wilkinson ball, after Wilks and O`Halloran had led Leamington a rare old dance down the left flank.
It kept going in the same vein with Ryan`s strength seeing him burst into the box. He passed instead of shooting, which was about right, but keeper Ross Atkins beat the intended recipient, Glover, to the ball, and any chance was gone.
It had been a lively start, and all at the right end too, but things threatened to swing the Brakes way next via fashion icon Lee Chilton, who was kitted out in a natty pair of woollen gloves. It was plain that the not very hardy forward fancied his chances with this one, but it was but a delusion, and he dragged his under powered effort wide of Hurst`s far post.

Chilton v Jacobs.
Leamington kept at it however, and Hurst had to react quickly to mop up when Dan Newton threatened in the box. Newton looked as lively as anyone in yellow- joining Chilton to probe for a weakness down the left. There did not appear to be one.....Jacobs looked in control, and he rescued County ,some 8 minutes in, when Newton and Hicks combined to good effect on the break. Hicks kept the pressure on, winning a corner off Churchman, but County defended this well, and a further couple as the visitors flexed their muscles deep inside the blue half!

Churchman defends for County.
That was 11 minutes gone......the 12th saw the game change course......from being end to end team snatched the initiative ,and the lead, and it was County! It looked an innocuous situation, and something of an afterthought on Dennis`s part, as he decided to have a crack at goal. He was just outside the box and chose to hit it with his right, but not with that much power, as far as I could see, but instead of holding the shot.....Adams spilled it into the path of Ryan who promptly sneaked in to force the ball home and give the blues a priceless 1-0 lead.
Leamington replied through Jordan Goddard, but O`Halloran kept his cross out, and Jacobs eventually hooked the ball clear from the first of many long throws from Dom Langdon.
The County back line looked in good nick despite all Leamington could muster in the way of hostilities, and it was County who counted themselves unfortunate, within a minute, as a intuitive through ball from Wilkinson to Dennis, was cut off at the very last gasp! Wilkinson looked in prime nick, and he has seemingly oodles of time....all of the time.....and another terrific ball from him forced Atkins into making another frantic charge from his line to ensure the predatory Ryan didn`t get the ball- it was close was that one!

Wilkinson to the fore.....
Things looked to be on the up again for the blues, and some quite watchable football was laid out before us for a time, with Dennis  the proverbial whisker`s width away from yet another pearler from Wilkinson, and disappointed again shortly after to see Atkins positioned correctly to keep his shot out
Twenty five.....twenty six minutes had gone, with it still 1-0, but the 27th saw it change for the better. It didn`t look to be about to pan out like that, as I had just allowed myself a preliminary loosening snarl in the referee`s direction thanks to his hallucinatory lapse, which saw Lees denied a goal kick, whilst the Brakes luxuriated in a corner. 

Mark Lees.
My mini fumathon simmered gently as the kick sailed in from my right, subsiding rapidly as Hurst saw the kick off. It got better as well, and quickly, as Dennis found himself on the end of a glorious ball from Danny Glover. He was also in the box, and clear and with only the keeper to beat....that`s what he did! It was 2-0 to the blues and our play-off push was back on!
County pushed on after the last action and Ryan was unlucky not to latch onto Wilkinson`s latest tempter, with the Brakes defence caught out- only a tad too much oomph in the pass did for its effectiveness! The Wilkinson master class went on apace- Ryan a ace from getting past two men in the box- he managed the first, but not the second!
Credit to Leamington.....they had not thrown the towel in by any manner of means, indeed...... once...twice...three times O`Halloran had to looked lively to keep Hicks out......then Lees joined in seeing Chilton off with some neat play.
That was all so very encouraging, and might have been even better had Dennis`s shot on the turn not soared over the bar, from Baker`s pass, but it did and that was that.        
County approached the break pushing forward......Ryan and Glover going close as Wilkinson and Baker set about creating moves of quality from nothing.

County press.....
There was much defending for the Brakes to do , but with 5 minutes remaining of the half Churchman did well to block Hicks who had stolen a march on County who were hell bent on a third goal! The fumathon was briefly back on again as a free kick of dubious parentage came Leamington`s way, and this found its way into the box where Joe Magunda`s downward header seemed destined for the net! It did it really did.....but somehow Hurst got down and managed to get a touch pushing the ball around the post. 

That was probably a pivotal moment in the game- a goal to the visitors then....... and a whole new complexion would take over the game! didn`t, and when the kick came over- O`Halloran saw it to safety to great applause from the Cheadle End.

Much to do for Hurst ( & the ground staff)
Ryan then found the route to goal blocked by Magunda, after Dennis had worked wonders to keep the ball in play near the corner flag, and a late corner was wasted by Duxbury, before the half time whistle went and the teams left the field to a burst of applause.
One or two on the Pop Side

That had been a good half....a decent showing by County.....could they give us a repeat in the next 45 minutes though?

Duxbury run.....
 A couple of runs, after the re-start, from Duxbury , and another by Wilkinson, seemed to hint at maybe.....just maybe......they could, and Glover`s header added to this likelihood,  but all these efforts came to nought, so a certain nagging doubt was in the mind mix somewhere! But I told myself that this was so much defeatist crap, especially as some excellent football by the blues saw O`Halloran an inch or two away from scoring from one of a number of corners.

O`Halloran.....almost !

Yes.....County were on song.....still on song, and again Glover gave me more grist for that particular mill being the narrowest of margins away from getting to a neat ball by Ryan.  
There was quite simply no forewarning of the juxta positioning of fortunes that came about next, not even when a Brakes break brought good reactions first from Churchman and then O`Halloran. It`s true that the visitors were clearly wanting to get back into the game, but the form of the team in blue seemed to discount this possibility.....until the hour mark that is, when from out of nowhere  a speculative shot by Newton found its way past Hurst into the net. There was a slight deflection, but Hurst hardly moved for it and it was 2-1, and game on!
A swap of Sharp for Ryan came almost immediately after the goal, but already a seed change had taken place on the park and it was Leamington who were suddenly playing the ball about with ease and comfort. That said..... a neat move involving Sharp , Baker and Dennis offered a glimpse of better things again, but Dennis`s shot missed out narrowly , as did a corner shortly after won via a run down the left by Sharp. Added to this Atkins only just managed to keep the ball from crossing the line ,under pressure from Sharp from a corner, so it was still a shock when County leaked another goal!
The danger seemed marginal to none existent at first ....until a parry by Hurst allowed Newton in to snatch his second and his sides equalising goal.
 A familiar despondency  seemed to seep into the bones of 2700 odd of those present at this point.....encouraged by the sight of 2 goal Newton twice deep into County faces in their last third, looking for his third! Corners came and went, thankfully without the Brakes getting  what they wanted, and then it happened.....County hit back......
Dennis set it up nicely- laying the ball off sweetly to Wilkinson who leathered it past Atkins into the net. That was a veritable cracker.......but the blues had 15 to hold that lead or improve upon it!
Well the first part of A.L`s method to achieve this saw Russell on for Baker- his third outing in three games!
I was still giving Leamington full credit at this point for a decent showing, as they defended way up the park- they were definitely trying, and it was not good to see Hurst spill a shot from Newton at one point.
County were getting the chances  ,possibly due to this high defensive line, but Churchman`s neat pass saw Wilkinson`s effort charged down. Moments later, things seemed to improve, when Sharp was played in by Wilkinson. But ....with  only  Atkins to beat......he took his time about it, but then hit the keeper with his shot, and the chance was gone.

Sharp cuts inside, prior to Atkins save...
We were into the last 8 or 9 minutes now and Leamington were still wanting that equalising goal, but with free kicks, corners and long throws pinging over, County managed to keep it at 3-2. It was beginning to get slightly un-pretty at times as well as 2...3....4....5..... yellow shirted forwards piled into County`s box after the ball- it was a considerable relief to see one of the five fail to keep the ball in play!   
Still....Leamington searched for that game saving goal....and still County resisted them. The next action was probably inevitable, as County broke clear allowing Dennis to pass to Sharp who sent a blistering shot into the back of the net. That was a real cracker.....and it was 4-2 ,and possibly game over!

Well.....not quite.....there was time for Hurst to take two goes to keep a late free kick out.......for substitute Matt Dodd to thwart Duxbury`s run ( this had been Duxbury`s best game since his return for me), and for Dennis to sweep the ball home on the end of a lightning raid involving him....Wilkinson and Sharp. The liners flag was did not count....but I did not care a jot...the game was won, and the points were ours!

County line up;

Hurst, Jacobs, Duxbury, Lees , O`Halloran, Churchman, Baker( Russell 75), Glover( Lofthouse 82), Ryan( Sharp 60), Dennis, Wilkinson.

Subs not used:

Ormson, Fagbola.

Leamington line up:

Atkins, Mace, Morley, Magunda, Gordon, Langdon, Goddard, Fry( Dodd 82), Newton, Hicks( Moore 67), Chilton( Forsdick 82).

Subs not used:

Fenney, Edwards.

Attendance: 2884

Ian Brown