I suppose you might expect `Black Saturday’ to follow swiftly on after `Black Friday' ,but really this was a desperately bad performance by County and one that deservedly saw them depart the F.A. Trophy at the first hurdle at the hands of Nantwich Town of the Evo Stik Premier League.
Edgeley Park was a cold….cold place today, and not a spot to be in if you were a long suffering County fan, as Nantwich ran out convincing 2-0 winners , brushing aside the lamentably poor attempts by County to see them off, and give the home support something to cheer. In reality we were never in it with a decent shout throughout the 90 odd minutes, Kristian Burzynski the Dabbers’ keeper was hardly tested all afternoon, as NY’s re-shuffled pack struggled for coherence from first kick to last!
County made 5 changes, but the result was far from satisfactory….OK…the schoolboy goal keeping errors were cut out, and I thought Arestidou did pretty well, but having said that and subtracted Garvin’s energy, and the quiet command of Connolly and O’Hanlon ,and you’ve said all the good things you possible could about the performance. Morton worked hard and got more than one vital last ditcher in, especially early on, and Baggie tried intermittently to do a bit, but going forward out of defence we were a mess for the most part….. we needed all 11 to be in attendance and firing on all cylinders, instead….the midfield, with Tonge covering ground in front of the back four, was almost totally unable to get a grip on proceedings, whilst the forwards…..were as insipid a bunch as I have seen in blue this term. As a result the Dabbers bided their time before hitting us where it hurt when it was becoming too late to do anything about it. The late penalty surprised me a bit…..but being in the Cheadle End maybe my view was not the best, anyway the referee gave it and Shotton duly buried the kick in match winning style to seal what was a deserved victory for Phil Parkinson’s side.
Back to 3 o’clock and I took my seat to see County kick off with Garvin at LB and the returning Morton….. RB, and Danny was soon called into action hooking a dangerous ball from Steve Jones out from under the bar. New keeper Andreus Arestidou was busy too, making a good stop to keep an effort from Lewis Short out. Short was there again within minutes and again Morton did well to ensure that County’s new keeper was spared embarrassment.
|Arestidou out to grab the ball....|
Nantwich looked lively and the sharper of the two sides and it took 15 minutes for County to offer anything up in the way of a response , through a run by Morton, but this was dealt with well by Kristian Burzynski ,just beyond his near post and that brief flicker from the blues ended disappointingly.
It has to be said that the game was not 100% the best game I had ever watched , in fact it was a touch soporific at times, but I was disappointed in wishing for something from County to rectify matters, as it was the Dabbers who next showed some fire, and it took a decent double save from Arestidou to keep it at 0-0, as shots from Short and Hall came at him through the crowded box.
Arestidou repeated the recipe in dealing with a shot from distance by Darren Thornton, and we were now well past half way in the first half with precious little from County to point to as worthwhile.
Margetts had a chance to put things to rights, on 25 minutes, but he totally fluffed it sending the weakest of efforts straight to the keeper from Baggie’s neat prompt. For a time after this County maintained some pressure on Town, only for pretty much the identical outcome to emerge from more work by Baggie, as Margetts again failed to apply the required finish.
It was high time that County asserted themselves, and pushed on, but there was no sign so far of this happening at all, indeed the Dabbers were the one’s on the front foot mostly, and Jones’ cross induced an error from Morton, who thankfully managed to recover sufficiently to concede a corner rather than anything more lethal. This resulted in a second when Hall’s shot ricocheted over the bar off Connolly. A tense moment followed for the blues, but one rapidly put to bed by Arestidou who did well when the kick came over!
I had just finished applauding County’s latest keeper when he was there again ,doing really well to keep Shotton from a dangerous ball from Thornton smack in front of goal.
We were past the 30 minute mark now, and so far I had been quietly impressed by Baggie, who was at least trying to create something , but I also wondered how long this might continue as his best efforts were invariably spurned by his colleagues, as did another cross that went entirely unattended by forward or defender, after Abs had built on good defensive work from Connolly.
Play got a touch lively after this for a time….Jones scuttling to the by-line before seeing his cross snaffled by Arestidou who looked completely at home between the sticks for the blues. County responded through Baggie ….and for a time…Burzynski was under pressure as County forwards laid siege to his goal, and the best effort from County of the entire match came in this period as a bit of a bomb from Margetts thundered out off a defender after good work by Garvin.
We were heading for the break now….and I was tempted to start getting all optimistic again, and I inched forward in my seat as Garvin pinged over another pretty decent cross in to the box. OK….it was a belter…..and tailor made for Ledsham to apply the required finish….but…horror of horrors….he heads the ball away from goal and what had seemed a good chance had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived!
County were pushed back on the defensive after this by a series of corners, and it was a bit of a struggle to hold out …but they did….and….having made the final block at one end…Morton was in position at the other to launch a break. It did look good did this one, but only until the cross came in and it went behind the advancing Margetts and again the chance was gone.
That was it for the first half too, and Nantwich would feel happy with their performance I guess, whereas County perhaps would look to NY for inspiration for the second half.
County tried to up the tempo somewhat as play re-started….Baggie missing out narrowly with a shot that drifted just wide …….. Ledsham went one on one with the keeper at one point, and a promising cooperation between Odejayi and Baggie was curtailed by excellent work from Matt Bell.
Yes….I was allowing myself to think positive thoughts again…..as, with Evans now on for Odejayi, Bell had again to pull out all the stops to thwart Margetts’ efforts to reach a Baggie cross. Ledsham and Baggie both had follow up efforts dealt with by the Nantwich back line, which was doing extremely well under the circumstances.
Rule had two efforts miss out narrowly, and Evans found the route to goal cut off by ex Hatters Matt Bailey, who was looking settled in his central defensive role.
Add a Garvin cross to which there were no takers….a brief display of Baggie magic sadly without the added sparkle of someone to add something lethal to it.. and frustration was beginning to overtake my optimism, thus….. when the keeper fumbled Rule’s shot and Magretts was first onto the ball a yard out, I thought we were in Redemption City, but alas……not so…..it was time to don the wire underwear as the Tranmere man contrived not to force the ball home, allowing the defender to recover and block his shot…..an awful, possibly match turning, miss!
Well I think that Nantwich took heart from that escape, and County were fortunate to survive intact almost immediately as no one could finish off Jones’ good work after he had scooted up the park on the break. The Dabbers actually had the ball in the net, with less than 20 minutes left, but the flag had gone up long before and no one really showed any surprise at that outcome, except possibly the 145 from Nantwich folk corralled into the far corner of the Pop Side. They gave lively support to their team all afternoon and just might have thought that their chance had just gone!
Into the last 15 minutes we went, and with the sight of Burzynski smothering a Ledsham shot, and Baggie spoiling a promising run by shooting straight at the keeper….a drizzly dank Tuesday replay at their place began to look a distinct possibility!
Hmmm…maybe….but Nantwich were showing every indication of not wanting to bother with another tilt on Tuesday…they wanted a win today and County did well for a time to keep them out.
There was time for a response from the blues, for sure, and if Baggie’s finish to Garvin’s latest cross was disappointing…..the same could not be said of a shot shortly after from Evans ,and it took an excellent save from Burzynski to keep him out- the keeper spreading himself magnificently to make the save with his legs!
Baggie was replaced by Colley with 8 minutes left to play, and within a minute we were one down!
I had just asked myself `which of the two teams wanted this most?’ when I got an answer of sorts from Andy White who cut inside from the right to unleash an unstoppable drive past the County keeper’s dive into the net.
145 travelling Dabbers went wild in the Pop Side, and who could blame them, their team now had a lead and we were within sniffing distance of the end of the game!
County did try to reply, but Rule found Bailey and Hall too quick for him, and Thornton did well to nullify the threat from Evans as he attempted to link up with Margetts.
As in too many games of recent days, good approach play was being nullified by lack of quality at the sharp end.
Nantwich…meanwhile…..kept working at hitting us on the break and Bell was not that far away with one strike with barely a minute of normal time remaining to play.
Ledsham saw a shot fly up and over the bar smack on 90 minutes, but the more lethal stuff continued to come at the other end where I looked on in disbelief to see Shotton thoroughly fillet County’s defensive cover before shooting against the post when it looked easier to score. When a clutch of forwards tried…and failed to put the follow up away….perhaps….I thought….this was County’s lifeline!
Well……………it wasn`t…..indeed with time ticking away…deep into 4 minutes added ……Nantwich made the game safe with a second. As I said earlier I was unclear as to the validity of the penalty award, but Arestidou dived full stretch to rob Shotton of the ball, and down he went….but……anyway…the referee pointed to the spot, and a Tuesday night at the Weaver’s in the cold and wet was avoided, when Shotton resumed the vertical and thumped the ball down the centre of the goal into the net to make it 2-0 to the Dabbers.
Not long after it was `game over’…a game which Nantwich thoroughly deserved to win. We wish the Dabbers every success in the competition and for the rest of the season!
For County it’s back to that drawing board again, in the hope that this faltering season can be somehow turned around!
Stockport County line up:
Arestidou, Tonge, Ledsham, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Rule, Baggie( Collie 82), Morton, Odejayi( Evans 57), Margetts, Garvin.
Subs not used:
O’Hara, Joyce, Ellison.
Nantwich Town line up:
Burzynski, White, Thornton, Moran, Bailey, Osbourne( Cooke 78), Jones(Gordon 68), Hall, Shotton, Bell, Short( Hancock 48).
Subs not used: