Saturday, 10 December 2016

Stockport County 3 Marine FC 2 ( FA Trophy Round 1) 10 December 2016

County duly took their place in Round 2 of the FA Trophy with a 3-2 win against Marine FC of the Evo Stik Premier League, at Edgeley Park today. 

The Away Support.

The action was book ended twixt a couple of penalties- one for each side. Marine’s came first, within 7 minutes of the start, and was distinctly debatable, whilst County’s came at the death after Lloyd’s latest run had been ended by a peremptory challenge in the box. 

Between the two pens there was not a lot to write home about. Marine came to defend…did so in numbers,  but their play was also crassly negative at times and  laced with little scams to waste time, which varied from taking a couple of minutes over a throw to indulging in theatricals that would have earned applause at the Garrick, but only attracted derision at this venue.

 They must have been gobsmacked to get an early Xmas gift from Mr Copeland in the form of a penalty, that Mitchley put away with the minimum of fuss.
Big K- big influence....

County equalised via a splendid header from Odejayi, late in the first half, only to go behind again to another gift on the stroke of half time. Mitchley was well offside( precise measure later)  when he received the ball, but neither liner nor referee thought this point to be valid enough reason to not award a goal, when the number nine put his shot away. OK…the referee seemed to be not too sure, and consulted his liner, only to trust his judgement in the end. 

County stayed 2-1 down until the last 5 minutes when, with Marine down to 10( they had 7 men booked and 1 red carded) , Lloyd stepped up to win the tie with a late brace- both net bursting crackers!

Marine came to Edgeley Park on the crest of a wave, having beaten Darlington on Tuesday after trouncing Halesowen 4-0 just 7 days ago. That said, notwithstanding the visitors form, my thoughts were that whilst County might have work to do, they should have enough about them to see off the Lancastrians challenge.

The team sheet indicated that JG was not taking anything for granted and a strong line up showed an attacking intent, with Felix and Marsden recalled to a front line that also contained Kayode Odejayi and the formidable Danny Lloyd.

The attacking possibilities this line up offered, were showcased early doors, but Adam Hughes did exceptionally well to block Lloyd ‘s efforts to get on the end of the first of many glorious balls from Odejayi.
Odejayi -again in top nick!

 Marsden looked interested and alert early on, but his radar was off- his shot climbing over the bar with 3 minutes gone after good work by Duxbury.

Lloyd, Odejayi, Montrose in amongst Marine defence.

Marsden was in the mix again, within a minute, setting Lloyd up with a neat pass, but the ex Fylde ace found too many bodies between goal and himself to make any progress.

Incoming for County defence....

We got a slight warning of what might be about to befall us, 6 minutes in, as James Short made it into County’s last third with a run, but this was cut off by Clarke who put the ball out for a throw. 

Clarke watches Mitchley/ Stopforth tussle.

Well…..this took an age to take, and the home specs were going AS by the time the set piece was actioned. There did not seem too much trouble afoot when eventually said throw materialised, but when Stopforth’s challenge on Short saw him go down, the referee instantly pointed to the spot. 

This looked a poor call to me, but it got worse as Mitchley sent his kick to Hinchliffe’s right as he dived left and Marine had the lead!

Free kicks came and went for both sides next in 5 minutes or so of really frustrating play. Frustrating……. because for much of the time one or other of the visitors would go to ground when little or nothing had happened to justify same, wasting time and tempting the referee to buy into the cunning stunt.
County defend.

The referee appeared to acquiesce in this nonsense, but it was County’s job to ignore this, if they were wise, and take what chances came their way, but after Marsden had been hacked at by 3 or 4 players en route to the box, when a free kick eventually County’s way, it was wasted, as Lloyd lifted the kick into the empty Railway End.
Marsden was still having a go, and must have been irritated to see keeper Calvin Hare save his shot with his legs some 17 minutes into proceedings.

That Lloyd free kick.

By the 20th minute we were being richly entertained, as Marine were giving us the full RADA treatment ,Bill Smart showcasing his undoubted talents to the full – launching himself to ground seconds after the referee had spotted his gruesome foul on Montrose. 

Montrose  still standing !

The ruse was a crude one…but it worked a treat….the referee was suitably distracted from waving a card in his direction. . County tried to make something of the free kick, but although Minihan and Marsden worked at it, the latter again saw his shot blocked.
Frustration mounted, when Montrose was booked for a `dive’ after numerous examples of the genuine article( perped by Marine) had thus far gone un punished.


Ho…hum….it was ever thus- I tried to cheer up as Marsden fashioned a shot, with 26 minutes gone, only to be in deep despond once again as someone stuck out a leg and kept it out.


The Pop Side at this point were making a very decent noise indeed in support of County.........................
Top Pop Side support !

..................... but the home contingent were given a slight shock ,30 minutes in, as Hinchliffe’s busy dive just kept  Mitchley’s snap shot out. Clarke saw the corner off, but County were none too precise with some of their passes from the back, and this offered a rather modest Marine outfit the oxygen of possession, which was definitely not good, particularly with us still 0-1 down.
County defend.

County were trying to square this particular circle, none more so than Lloyd whose latest run saw him chewing mud in the box. “ Penalty” I playfully mused, but it wasn’t, and it stayed at 0-1.
Not for long though, and  more good work from Lloyd saw him cross the ball into the box where Odejayi( who was again having a fine game) met it, heading home to resounding cheers from the Blue & White Army.

The equaliser came with 3 minutes left of the first half, and although we were now in 3 minutes added time and thus into the `Trilight Zone’ I was not fully cognisant of the danger- Odejayi’s goal having dulled my sense of impending doom!
More work for County defence.

That was unfortunate, because the very next attack from Marine saw us wading in the brown stuff! The angst started with another free-be from Mr Copeland to Marine in the form of a ludicrous free kick. I had given up wondering just why it had been awarded when County cleared the ball up the park, but it came back…route one….and Mitchley was on the end of it! He was also 6 or 7 yards offside, but the liner’s flag stayed down as he struggled to rev up enough pace to get up with play! Mitchley meanwhile was ahead of everybody…..literally……and he made light work of beating Hinchliffe as he advanced from his line!

It was 2-1 to Marine, and within a minute or so it was half time also! 

County opened the second half brightly- Minihan winning a corner which Hare did well to smother. Lloyd joined in, dining hungrily off some great work from Odejayi, but Lloyd’s final ball to Marsden saw him lift his effort over the bar.
Hare grabs ball u/p.

On it went with a run from Stopforth severely stretching the Marine defences. The visitors were sitting back and inviting County on, and Lloyd did just that receiving from Stopforth, but seeing Hare in position to save with his legs at the last gasp.
As Marine sat back….so County piled forward, but Lloyd’s next effort cleared the bar, and Clarke watched his header fly past the upright not long after.

County go close again.

The hour mark was heralded by Josh Brizell taking Marsden’s legs…arms..the lot…with a truly brutal challenge. Yes….it was a bad one…and thankfully the referee saw it as such issuing a straight red to the miscreant! County played the free kick wide to Duxbury, who pinged the ball over, but this only provided catching practise for Hare
` It wasn't us guv...honest!'
By this stage the referee was beginning to suss the Marine approach out and as a result their card count was steadily rising- but some off the ball stuff from Short on Lloyd was totally missed by the officials, and would have seen him off had they been more alert.

With barely 15 minutes left to play , at last Hare got his….as the referee waved a card his way following some elaborate indulgencies whilst taking a goal kick- it was awesome stuff , and thoroughly deserving of a card.
Ooh....arr...Hare again !

County were still doing the bulk of the attacking but without ever looking likely to equalise- I would not actually say that I would take a Tuesday night replay at Marine’s place…….but…….
By this time, Ball and Amis were on for Felix and Odejayi as County set about getting that equaliser- Lloyd lifting one over the top, and Marsden forcing Hughes to locate Hardcastle Road in extremis.

Amis on for Big K....

Close but…..seemed to be the order of County’s afternoon as Amis headed inches wide.
The outstretched leg of substitute Zac Thompson on Marsden, gave County a free kick and almost that equalising goal, as having been played sideways to Clarke, the ball then went to Amis who was unlucky to see Hare go full stretch to push his effort around the post.

Corners followed …Stopforth saw a shot charged down, and another run from him saw Hare grab the ball to foil Lloyd with County queuing to shoot.  
County press......

There were 5 minutes left now , and County were still pushing on, but Ball’s run ended abruptly when Denzel Williams handled the ball on the edge of the box. County had a free kick and it was pretty much central. I fancied that Ball might take it, but I was wrong and how….as Lloyd slammed a thunderous drive home to thunderous applause and cheers!

It was 2-2, but time was running out and that Tuesday replay at their place still offered itself up as a possibility! Hmm……enter Danny Lloyd with a terrific run that took him to the by-line and then past 2 men into the box where a third brought him down.
The referee pointed to the spot, and Lloyd did the rest slamming another sizzler beyond Hare’s dive into the net.

Best I could do in the excitement....

It was 3-2 …but not yet game over!
Lloyd kept running…….. running…… in the 5 minutes of added time we had to endure, but  with Meppen-Walter on for Marsden  County were well able to resist anything Marine could throw at them.

It was a good effort in the end, and another business like showing from JG’s boys- `a typical James Gannon team performance ‘  I heard it described, and I cannot demur on that one!

Great stuff!

No report unfortunately next week folks as I am under the knife on Friday next.
I hope to be back for Harrogate on the 26th .

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Minihan, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Montrose, Stopforth, Felix( Ball 74), Odejayi ( Amis 74), Marsden( Meppen-Walter 90), Lloyd.

Subs not used; Ormson, Ross.

Marine FC line up:

Hre, Field, Short, Brizell, Foley( Thompson 67), Hughes, Monaghan, Smart, ,Mitchley, Anoruo( Williams 62), Bellew( Horgan 84).

Subs not used: Richards, Porter.

Attendance : 1411

Ian Brown


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Away Ground Guide- Harrogate Town (Monday 26 December 2016)

Club Name: Harrogate Town
Nickname: Town
Founded:    1914

Ground Name: Wetherby Road
Ground Capacity:  3800( 500 seated)

Admission Prices 2016/17:    Adults:            £13 Standing/ £14 Seated                              
Concessions :  £8  & £9
Under 18:   £3 & £4


Wetherby Road( or the CNG Stadium, as the suits around those parts would have it) is a neat spot to visit. It’s also one that is constantly in a state of change these days. Our  visit in 2014/15 saw one end covered ( now renamed the Henderson Stand), but last  time around the Wetherby Road terrace now had a smart roof over it and a very serviceable revamped flooring to go with it! Add access to Thompson’s Tea Bar and anyone’s visit to this spot is complete!

This was provided by those excellent purveyors of food and drink Thompsons Tea Bar and they were every bit as terrific as I always recall them being!

 The menu was inviting( see photo) although the removal of the odd decimal point here and there by some wag did cause a flutter or two. I found no one unhappy with the food, and I was overjoyed to consume a pastie that tasted freshly baked and flavoursome, and also went for the homemade soup ( vegetable) which had more body than a Ford Car Plants Assembly-line. Potatoes …carrots offered surprise after surprise as I attempted to consume the glorious liquid! Wonderful stuff!


1.     M60 Ring Rd (E&N)
2.     At junction 18 , at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto the M62 ramp to Leeds/Halifax/Huddersfield
3.     M62
4.     M621 (signs for Leeds/M62/Batley)
5.     At junction 2, take the A643 exit to Wetherby/A58/Harrogate/A61/A64/York
6.     At the roundabout, take the 1st exit ontoA643
7.     At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Wellington Rd/A58
8.     Continue onto A58(M) (signs for Skipton/A660/Wetherby/A58/Harrogate/A61/York/A64)
9.     Take the A58 exit toward Wetherby/Harrogate/A61/Sheepscar/Meanwood
10.                        Turn left onto Clay Pit Ln/A58
11.                        Continue onto Sheepscar St N/A61
12.                        Continue to follow A61 Going through 7 roundabouts
13.                        Turn right onto Hookstone Rd
14.                        Turn left onto Wetherby Rd/A661

Estimated Journey Time  -  1 Hour 30 Minutes

Post Code for Sat Nav :  HG2 7SA

Nearest Real Ale pubs ;

0.4m   Empress on the Stray   ,  on Church Square.
The beer selection is a bit limited, warned... this spot has struggled to cope with County numbers in the past.


0.6m   Woodlands Hotel  ,  110 Wetherby Road
Is the best location-wise.....but......

Helpful Note:.....
The Swan on the Stray is a short walk up the Skipton Road from the big island near the Empress. The Swan has 8 hand pumped cask ales on and real cider.

Opens 11a.m, and is the best pub according to a Man in a Hat!

 Finally... if you want to save the hassle of parking, details are listed of the Fingerpost Flyer

Details ....

Departs Finger 11.45 / Picks up Mersian Way: 12.00

Adults £15  / Under 16's £10

Coach is now full.

Ian Brown

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Gloucester City 0 Stockport County 1( Vanarama National League-North) 3 December 2016

An assured performance saw County come away from a decidedly chilly Whaddon Road with 3 well merited points today against a feisty Gloucester City side.

It was a performance built on solid defensive foundations with both Smalley and Clarke putting in monumentally impressive shifts. Ross and Duxbury were not far behind in the merit marks stakes, and when the ball was worked out of defensive positions the blues had Minihan and Lloyd providing power and pace  aplenty down the flanks.

Solid County Defence.

As usual Odejayi’s hold up play was excellent, but it was not until the 74th minute, when Ross's throw gave him the ball, that Big K’s work declared a dividend, and Felix ( on the park for only 3 minutes ) slammed a corker home to stun the home specs.

Odejayi- excellent.

At this point I must mention the enormously poor display from referee Declan Bourne. 
He offered County no protection at all throughout a game in which elbows, upraised studs and iffy tackles flew in with regularity from our hosts. In addition we had 2 penalty claims turned down( 1 cast iron solid/ 1 not quite so), whilst obliging Gloucester with 1 in the early minutes of the game, that had not Hinchliffe been in disobliging mood and saved it, would have given them a massive boost. As it was …the boost was County’s and the 90 minutes of none stop application that followed thoroughly merited the full haul of points it ultimately generated! 
Ross for Felix, Duxbury for Cartwright and Ball for Marsden were the changes in County’s line up as the game commenced shortly after 3 o’clock, following a beautifully observed minutes silence in honour of the Brazilian club Chapecoense .

Beautifully observed salute to Chapecoense !

Home keeper Jasbir Singh had early action to contend with as Danny Lloyd surged into the box and in his face.

Danny Lloyd- trouble for Singh !

Luke Hopper offered home specs something to cheer, if briefly, as he scooted clear, hell bent on hitting County on the break. That was an altogether laudable intent, but the delivery failed to match it as the ball headed out of the ground at the far end!
County replied almost immediately, and Danny Greenslade did well to keep Lloyd’s ball from Minihan.

Five minutes had gone, and the score was still 0-0, but another couple of minutes and the home support was heard crowing in anticipation of an opening goal for their side as Hopper went to ground in the box under pressure from Clarke. Referee Bourne wasted no time in pointing to the spot. Parker took up position now to take the kick. Up he stepped sending the ball to Hinchliffe’s right, but……the County keeper was already heading that way and grabbed the ball at the foot of the post to send the sizeable County following slightly AS!

The penalty.....
The aftermath.
County looked suitably buoyed by that last action, and Ross made good ground down the right winning a corner. Lloyd took the kick, but Smalley sent his header wide to keep it at 0-0.
Close !

The pressure on City continued, and there was a sharp intake of breath from 200 or so souls behind the away end goal when Odejayi’s header was saved by Singh. There was an altogether sharper intake of breath within seconds however as County piled in after the ball only for Lloyd to be felled right under the referees nose. It was a nailed down penalty but the referee waved play on cravenly, whilst the near side liner’s flag never left his side for a second sealing our fate.
County press.

Undaunted…County pushed on ….corners…free kicks adding momentum, but there was always the possibility of being caught out on the break , and it was good to see Clarke and Smalley combine to see off  Joe Parker’s run as he broke from a deep defensive position.

Breaks seemed about City’s best chance , as County were on the front foot most of the time- Lloyd’s runs causing the home defence no end of issues- Smalley again not far away with a header , and Ball inches from glory not long after with a shot.
Lloyd was in terrific nick –turning his man inside out but having to be content, time after time, with a corner.
Lloyd in control !

 Replying….City got back in numbers and defended doggedly…and when they couldn`t….Mr Bourne  again obliged with a free kick here and there to relieve the home side’s angst.

Hopper seemed to be the nearest to a danger-man in the home ranks , but with Clarke and Smalley in tip top form, chances available to the number 9 were  in short supply, and City were largely limited to shots from distance and Ed Williams sent his, 25 minutes in, pretty much where Hopper had sent his early on.
Ball had a decent first half.

That last action was by no means typical of play and Ball brought us back to reality with a powerful run into the box. Unfortunately he could not add finish to power and Singh was not troubled by the shot that followed.

Mr Bourne had writing to do next as Joe Hanks sent Lloyd crashing into the barriers with a wreckage of a challenge.
`Tackle' coming Lloyd's way !

 Mullins cleared the ball as the kick pinged over, but this only encouraged the irrepressible Lloyd to run at the beleaguered home back line again. Keiran Thomas did really well to stop Lloyd , and we all thought `oh well…’s a corner anyway’. …but it wasn’t… Mr B saw it as a GK!
We all want it !

Some good work by Clarke followed, before County went looking for a goal again, and Jack Deaman had to pull out all the stops to prevent another probing Lloyd ball sending MinIhan clear. The ball just could not make its way up the park into the County half, and an almighty melee resulted during which Thomas, under pressure from Lloyd had a `hand to ball’ moment in the box.
Not a pen ............

 Arguably….there was no intent…..but there was contact hand/ ball….but when Lewis Hall hacked the ball clear and it ran loose, the referee looked away and again no penalty resulted.

County press......

Have I mentioned how Mr Bourne had a propensity for coming up with helpful free kicks to aid the home side at times of great stress? Well…....minute 36 saw just such happen again. A shot from Lloyd had just crashed into and rebounded from the chest of keeper Singh, signalling much panic in the home ranks. 

Pressurised defending from Gloucester....

Somehow….from somewhere however, and much to the ire of County and their following …Mr Bourne saw `something’ and eased the home side’s angst with the balm of a free kick.

Gloucester u/p...

We entered the `Twilight Zone’ ( that period immediately prior to the break when ,by tradition almost, County become prone to goal leakage)with City having a go, but finding Stopforth and Smalley in top trim in response. That said…Parker did seem to have the drop on us on the stroke of half time, but good work from Ross saved the day for his team , keeping it at 0-0 as the teams went in at the break!   

The home specs are in there somewhere !
The second half opened with a series of Gloucester free kicks of varying validity , but none made any impact on a solid County back line at all, and eventually…having weathered what storm there was, County then set about pushing City back.
Ball 7 Stopforth await incoming.....

Duxbury did this in excellent style, his run winning County another corner .Gloucester were again back in numbers and defending well , thus despite conceding another corner, they did not leak a goal which was good work from their view point.

Duxbury- back and in good form !

It was all County, just that crucial clinical finish was missing- Lloyd went close twice- forcing Singh to punch out less than confidently with one effort, but it was now beyond the hour mark ,and still 0-0.

Lloyd & Odejayi  on the prowl.

Briefly….County were pushed back by a free kick but a Stopforth/ Clarke combo sorted that one , enabling Ross and Odejayi to work at opening up their opponents left flank. Lloyd went close again from this action, but it was noticeable that County were leaking free kicks at a growing rate, and that Odejayi/ Ross link up was seen working small wonders at the back as the pressure mounted.
The 70th minute saw JG’s first personnel change, as he brought Felix on for the fast fading Ball. This was another JG master stroke, but we had to wait a  couple of minutes for evidence of this!

Stopforth, Duxbury 7 Montrose at the ready.

First off we saw Stopforth shoot over from Minihan’s run, and Ross head out as a cross by Zack Kotwica came over.

Minihan- flying today....again !

That’s the 2 minutes up….as  Ross's throw saw the ball with  Odejayi  and he  did the rest as his deft header on had the clutch of defenders that surrounded him transfixed. The ball reached  Felix who surged on before slamming a ferocious drive past Singh into the net!

The away end went AS gain and rightly so, and it was oh so nearly 2-0 in a trice shortly after – Stopforth just wide with an effort after Minihan had shredded the home cover comprehensively!

Into the last 10 minutes we went with City on a rare raid- but Hinchliffe positioned himself well to keep a snap shot from Mullings out!

Amis was now on for Odejayi, who left to a good ovation from both sets of supporters.
The near side liner meanwhile was not earning applause, in fact he had the away end up in arms as he allowed Kotwica to take the ball out of play before crossing the ball- County cleared comfortably enough…..but…….

County then turned defence into classic attack, and a lovely move ensued as a Minihan/ Felix break set Lloyd on a run that took him almost to the by-line. The home defence was at sixes/ sevens as Lloyd delivered a fine cross into the box. It was the best of moves and deserved the best of finishes, but having made up much ground and despite having the goal at his mercy, Amis sliced a horror strike way wide of goal. He had only just come on….but……

Would County rue that miss?

Well …Hinchliffe did have to pull off a very decent save to keep Craig Read’s shot out with 6 minutes left.

Pressure mounted from the home side, but with Meppen-Walter on to boulster the defence late on County  were looking set to meet the challenge.

And…..they did…Stopforth denying Kotwica with some great work  …Ross heading clear under pressure….Clarke…Duxbury….and Clarke again all doing really good work  when it was needed.
Duxbury & Smalley organised !

The home shooting in this period, and we were now into an unbelievable 5 minutes added time, was abysmal- Dinsley and Parker failing to hit the target when reasonably set.

The naughty stuff was going in now apace and Mr Bourne was missing it all….the terrible challenge that laid Duxbury out ,forcing Minihan to come over and cover the left flank with young Scott limping. Then there was the elbow on Meppen-Walter…all `missed’ by the officials!
Treatment for Duxbury !!!

In the end none of this counted and County’s solid showing won out!

The points were all ours and it was time to celebrate and team and players duly did!

Great stuff…well done County, here’s to more of the same next Saturday in the FA Trophy!

Oh...and there was time before setting off back to Stockport to sing `Happy Birthday' to Lou Spalding, the driving force behind the Fingerpost Flyer- 

`Happy Birthday Lou !

Gloucester City line up:

Singh, Thomas, Hall( Kotwica 67), Deaman, Avery, Mullings, Hanks( Dinsley 45), Greenslade, Hopper, Parker, Williams( Reid 83).

Subs not used:

Richards ,  Fitzgibbon.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe. Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Montrose, Minihan, Stopforth, Odejayi( Amis 80), Ball( Felix 70), Lloyd( Meppen-Walter86) .

Subs not used:

Ormson, Marsden.

Attendance: 539

Ian Brown