County 1 Brighouse Town 0 ; FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Well ....County are still in the F.A Cup, but only just after an almighty tussle against Brighouse Town of the Northern Counties East League( Premier Division) who proved very worthy opponents indeed  in front of over 1700 at Edgeley Park today.
They won it 1-0 in the end , but without ever looking convincing , indeed the convincing stuff kept coming from the West Yorkshire side who could have been 3 or four up by half time had their finishing matched their approach play!
Did County underestimate the task in hand......maybe........but great credit needs to go to the visitors who even in the last minute could have taken us all back to St Giles Road for a replay, as County defended grimly hanging on for a narrow but welcome win in the end!
At 3 o’clock I felt that much depended on the blues mental approach to the game, and Alan Lord`s ability to get the best out of them! For sure we knew that Brighouse would be up for it, and would be roared on by a reported 200 or so travelling fans, so if their 20 goal strike partnership of Tom Matthew and Ryan Hall could hit a groove we might just have a battle on our hands!

                                                 Brighouse Town supporters pre match!

Lofthouse for Gosset, and Howard for Dennis were the only changes for the blues, but there was no Moke on the bench this time, so County needed to get it right from the start with not having that much fire power in reserve.

                                                Teams take the field circa 3 pm

That.......was the plan I guess, but after Hall nipped in for an early sniff of things in the County box, and Howard had seen a shot blocked in response, I was alarmed to see County stand off allowing Ernest Boafo to burst clear. The game was less than 2 minutes old and already we were peering around for the brown trousers as Boafo fed Danny Naidole with a near perfect ball. It was a belter ,as I say, and we should have been one down ,but Naidole dragged his shot wide of Ormson`s far post with the keeper very much a spectator!
Did this let off sting would hope so wouldn`t you, but at the other end Jevons watched as keeper Jacob Giles, who got a decent welcome from the Cheadle End at the start, comfortably dealt with his header.
Jagger did well next – managing to locate Reservoir 1 when threatened via Howard. He had enough about him to deal with a potentially dangerous throw after this, and keep Turner from capitalising down the right.
One scare apart...I guess County might just have been satisfied at this stage with it still 0-0, but this satisfaction looked in danger of tipping over into complacency as some loose play saw Hall again dart through at the sharp end. Ormson just did for him....but it was close!
We needed something in reply from County but after good build up play from Jevons and Howard had set Jacobs up, he looked on to see his shot whistle out an inch or so above the angle of bar and post.
That was promising and a neat link- up between Jevons  and Fagbola threatened more, within a couple of minutes, but after beating Ben Small and getting to the by-line, Turner blazed a disappointing shot high over the bar. Jevons did better shortly after, missing by mere inches, after Jacobs and Turner had played provider for him , but we needed someone to test the keeper......hit the target....score even, but I told myself that only 15 minutes had gone and there was plenty of time for County to impose themselves!
Hmmm...................there was no sign so far of that happening, indeed the visitors were more than holding their own, and there was no noticeable difference between the teams thus far.
I have already said that County were fortunate not to be a goal down, and they were again, on 17 minutes, as Halls again cut a swath through the County back line who again seemed intent on not overly alarming our visitors with anything as grossly obnoxious as a tackle. Halls thrived as a result and it really should have been 1-0 to his team when he picked Joe Thornton out with a neat pass as he stormed in to his right. Not sure what Ormson could have done in response, but it didn`t matter in the end because Thornton`s shot drifted out inches beyond the far post, and County had escaped once again!

                                              Hall on the ball attacking the Railway End
                                                    containing the Brighouse fans!

That ...latest trauma digested......things looked on to improve as County sneaked themselves a cheeky corner, but Town defended this well ,and when County allowed Boafo to keep an improbable ball in play, and he set a break up......another heart in mouth moment presented itself to our horror, as the ball reached Small who was well placed. It was chance......another chance......but Small snatched at it sending his shot drifting off wide of Ormson`s far post!
It could have been 2 or 3 nil to Brighouse, had they taken their chances, but County were no better in reply totally failing to punish a poor clearance from Leon Henry. Twenty minutes had was still 0-0, and no one around me was anything but relieved!
There were signs of improvement on the horizon next as Howard won himself a cheap free kick. Tunnicliffe went for it in the box only to see the ball cannon out for a corner off Small. The central defender did better next getting a firm header in when the kick came over, but Giles dealt with it confidently. For a time however Town found difficulty in working the ball up field and it took a magnificent slider from Jagger to stop Howard albeit at the cost of another corner. Lofthouse curled this one wickedly into the box where Giles missed it allowing Henry to swing a boot at it and clear it off the line.

                                             Giles marshalls his defence as County
                                                 attack in the first half.

That was better.....much better, and the defending followed suit as well as, when Naidole  beevered his way clear and set Halls up- Jacobs tracked back and cut him off with complete ease!
County were less at ease not long after, as a foul on Halls brought Town a free kick in a decent position. The position may have been decent but the kick was anything but and Naidole`s inswinger  
went way...way beyond his forwards much to County`s relief.
Then Tunnicliffe was caught out and lost possession to Boafo who was inside the box in a trice. He was joined by 2 or three others in red but try as they might they could not get a shot off and another notional chance had drifted away.
Thornton then tested Ormson with a curling high one, which the County keeper dealt with well, but he was left completely helpless by the next action which started with a mind numbing display of poor passing from the blues. First Fagbola spilled possession. Moses rescued this situation only to play it back to Fagbola who promptly lost it again , doing his occasional `lets watch the ball drift slowly out and hope none of the opposition thinks of getting it’ trick. It was unsuccessful yet again as Halls did think and snaffled the ball near the corner flag before delivering it up to Naidole on a plate.  I could feel my late Gran twitching in Gorton Cemetary at the sight of this sitter- she would have murdered it, but Naidole just lifted the ball over the bar into the Railway End much to the disappointment of its occupants!
That was another one that County were lucky to have got away with- maybe it was County`s lucky day?
Well.....maybe, but not yet as Giles did well to smother a shot from Howard, albeit at the second attempt.
Pressure followed from Brighouse ,forcing County back , and when the blues managed to get it on the break there was a distinct lack of snap about what followed and Jagger was able to ,twice, deal with matters without raising too much of a sweat in the process.
Half time was nearing now, and it was still not looking all that great from County`s view point, and it took a fine last ditcher from Tunnicliffe to keep it at 0-0 as Small bore down on goal. With pressure mounting, Jacobs headed an effort off the line, and Ormson did well to deny Matthew as the Yorkshire side strove for that opening goal.
They kept at it...none more so than the impressive Hall, who got on the end of a long ball nicely, only to be thwarted by the liner`s flag.
Shots by Moses and Howard kept the home specs interested, but an almighty scramble almost did for County as again just the finish was missing for their opponents who just could not force the ball home.
The half ended with County winning a late corner, but time ran out before it could be taken and the break was upon us with honours even!       
The re-start saw Verma on in place of the disappointing Fagbola, which meant that Jacobs filled the right back position vacated by Fagbola.
County were back on their heels from the off as Charnock found touch twice with Town sniffing with intent on the edge of the box. Then....when Naidole went down winning his team a free kick just outside the box, it was game on until Verma headed clear from under the bar.
Eventually, County worked some possession for themselves but there was nothing at all on the end of it as first Turner then Lofthouse missed the target with a bit to spare.
Throughout all this one constant remained- Halls` consistent threat and another run from him ruffled a few County feathers with the half barely 7 minutes old.
The feathers got a bit more than a ruffling next as Boafo did for Charnock with a tasty bit of work. County couldn`t clear it, and Town just refused to go away and when Boafo went crashing down inside the box over Charnock`s leg, I thought that for sure we were dished. I have seen `em given, as they say, but the referee didn`t, and I felt that we had escaped lightly once again!
County at last responded through Turner who did well down the left, but when the cross picked Lofthouse out, his reactions were far too slow and Town survived!
Lofthouse did get a shot off a minute later  but this failed to test Giles , and when Moses lost possession and tried to retrieve the situation , he was booked for his pains as Small tried his best to pick himself up off the ground!
A period of attacking play from Town came next and Ormson did well to stop Matthew getting to a fine ball from Hall smack in front. County seemingly just could not stop themselves from giving the ball away, thus any pressure just increased- as the mother of all scrambles ended with County conceding another corner, which saw substitute James Hurtley fire a shot just wide.

                                             County under 2nd half pressure.

We were 62 minutes into proceedings now and ironic cheers were beginning to offend the ears as Lofthouse got a shot on target, but without troubling keeper Giles.
That was Lofthouse`s last contribution as he was replaced by Windsor a couple of minutes later.
Things looked not to be improving as Verma and Charnock got themselves entwined in a rare old tangle involving them...the ball( somewhere in the mix).....Hall and Hurtley- a rather fortunate County free kick resulted from this small pre Xmas panto, and County had survived again.
That was 66 minutes in......another 60 seconds and the irony was forgotten and a small celebration was called for as County went ahead. Verma started it with a pacy run that took him down the left to the by-line. His cross picked out Jevons but his shot came back out off a defender. Eventually it reached Jacobs who seemed to be nearer the High Street in Cheadle than goal when he let fly, but it was a corker and didn`t dip or rise an inch as it crashed into the back of the net. It was a fantastic goal, worthy of winning any match, but this match was far from won, as I was sure that County knew!
It went end to end for a time after the goal....Jevons heading wide at one end.....Matthew unlucky to see a close in strike carry the bar at the other. But then County inched their way nearer and nearer to Giles` goal forcing Town to defend ever deeper, Giles did really well.....brilliantly even, to react as he did and tip Windsor`s header over the bar at the very last gasp. It was a terrific save, but he gave us another one just like it minutes later this time from another Jacobs rocket- his finger tips just deflecting the goal bound effort over the top!

                                             County enjoying the sun at the Railway End.

You will have noted that these two fine saves would have seen 2 corners accrue to County, but County made nothing of either, instead allowing themselves to be bullied off the ball each time, and they were fortunate not to concede on the second occasion –  a fate avoided thanks to good work by Verma!
A  Jevons free kick...a Howard shot ...both came to nought as County sought to put the game beyond Brighouse, but some really scruffy play spoilt the decent stuff and the blues were again fortunate to see another Hall inspired goal mouth scramble come to nothing also!
It was getting late now and there were about 5 minutes of normal time left when an excellent tackle from the much improved Tunnicliffe did for a run by substitute Brown.
County found themselves pushed back now as free kicks and shots pinged in on them as Naidole went close with a shot and the irrepressible Hall closer still with another  that again brought the best out of Ormson.
We were more or less smack on 90 minutes now as a poor decision from the referee compounded County`s discomfort pinning them once again back inside their last third as another free kick whizzed their way! Only Giles and one other weren`t in the County box to receive it- Halls certainly was and he was a whisker away from spoiling Ormson`s day!  
We were into added time now and there was no sign of any let up from the West Yorkshire side as Jagger headed wide , ushering in another beast of a decision from the referee who signalled a corner!
Even Giles was up for this one as Duxbury got his head to the ball putting it over the bar for yet another flag kick, which Jagger sent wide.
Play continued with 1600 or so whistling for time, but the referee was oblivious and Town were intent on spoiling County`s day as they piled into the attack in impressive numbers. It was heart stopping stuff again as Henry ran at us making light of the cover down County`s right flank. It came over to Hall...he missed his ran on to Gibson....he didn`t but he lifted his shot over the bar, and eventually the referee blew for time and the win was County`s, but massive credit is due to Brighouse Town for an excellent performance. Their supporters must be proud of them
For County....a a a win, we`ll take it in our current parlous state.

County line up:

Ormson, Fagbola ( Verma 45),Tunnicliffe, Charnock, Duxbury, Jacobs, Moses, Lofthouse ( Windsor 64), Jevons, Turner, Howard.

Subs not used:     Jones, O`Halloran, Bateman.

Brighouse Town line up:

Giles, Thornton, Henry, Jagger, Hewitt, Mitchell,Naidole, Small, Boafo, Matthew, Hall.

Attendance;   1704 

Ian Brown


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