County 1 Leamington 1 : Conference North 14.9.2013
(pic by Bill Shone)
After the excitement and renewed hope engendered by County`s workmanlike performance last week in taking all the points off Gainsborough, it was perhaps inevitable that the game immediately following that would be something of a disappointment. Nevertheless, like me, I suspect that most County supporters rather fancied a blue win this week against a side that has struggled every bit as much as County have this season.
They were to be disappointed, and it took less than 3 minutes for the visitors to take the lead thanks to an abysmal bit of work from Charnock who presented the chance on a plate to Leamington.
Chasing the game seems to have been the way of it for us this season , but although they have had loads of practise in that respect, there is little sign so far that they know just how best to go about it. It`s not that they don’t have the skills- they do......but whilst they play the ball about nicely at times, and the annoying habit of constantly playing square balls along the back line seems to have largely been eradicated, too often County ruin good stuff with a poor pass.....a doze moment ( see Charnock 3 minutes in), or a lazy long ball that inevitably comes back their way.
They have the players too I think, but it`s no use if the best of them spends the bulk of his time sitting on the bench instead of on the park ( refer Moke in the second half- he would have been my M.O.M for his first 20 minutes alone).
“Why the moaning?” I hear you cry, and you are right to protest, because despite the continuing soap opera that is Stockport County off the field, Alan Lord is showing distinct signs of getting to grips and it is early days is it not! Yes......quite so, and his introduction of the massively accomplished Tunji Moses proves the first point for me. Moses looked the part when introduced after the break alongside Moke who goaded, probed and generally ran the visiting back line ragged. In Moke and Turner County have a potentially potent attacking force, which along with the busy Dennis and the infuriatingly mercurial Jevons surely will come good soon, and some Conference North defences will surely suffer as a consequence. Not today though as County had to make do with a goal from Jevons that gave them a share of the points. It was a good goal...crafted by Jacobs and put away expertly by Jevons, but Leamington`s argument that they were worth a point is hard to challenge.
Back to 3 o`clock then, and it was good to see about 150 travelling fans grouped in clusters around the Railway End ,backed by a fine display of flags that covered the fine HtH paint work at the back of the uncovered stand. They made a fair bit of noise too and I rated them top visiting support so far this Conference North this season.
made a good fist of it!
( pic by Bill Shone )
That`s the polite stuff out of the way, now on with the game which opened with the towering Liam Daly looking for Row Z ( there isn`t one!) on the Pop Side as a County throw put early pressure on the Warwickshire side.
Yes....................it was looking a bit encouraging – sure Howard`s cross was headed out and clear by Josh Green, but we were defending in their half and that was good. What followed wasn`t.......as from nowhere Leamington had themselves a goal.......or rather .....County presented them with one.
As I intimated......nothing was remotely on for Leamington as Charnock prepared to launch the ball up field whilst completely unchallenged. That might have been the intent but somehow Charnock managed instead to send a perfectly weighted pass straight to the feet of Ricky Johnson. `Gift’ does not quite do it justice and Johnson wasted no time in capitalising on it, beating Ormson comfortably with a neat finish.
Two minutes in......one down.....not good!
Jacobs and Jevons did try to fashion an immediate response, but keeper Tony Breeden was untroubled by the end product of the cooperation.
Five....six minutes went by with no addition to the score, although Fagbola did well to hook clear after Daly had headed goal ward at the back post after Howard had conceded a free kick.
County responded through Dennis and Howard whose good work forced Joe Magunda to find touch. Dennis then had a shot blocked and O`Halloran found no takers for a cross- the score remained 1-0 to Leamington , and County needed to address that, but instead they gave another free kick away ( Jacobs this time) and Ormson did well to deal with a wicked dipper from Lee Chilton on the left.
Leamington even at this early stage did not look the most accomplished side I had ever seen, but they seemed to be an outfit that did the basics well ...kept it simple, and did not overreach themselves. The basics include corners in my view, but when County got one, 10 minutes in, it was cruelly wasted as again Breeden went untroubled.
Breeden just might have been troubled ,a minute or so later, as Matt Dodd struggled to contain Dennis as he went for a high bouncing ball in the box. Although Dodd initially did well and got a decent blocking tackle in, Dennis still looked interested, until the liner`s flag ended his interest ruling that the forward was offside.
That was encouraging and, following something of an optimistic effort from Stephen Morley which flew way wide, more followed as Jacobs picked Dennis out with an outrageously good ball. He was smack in front......it was a chance but the ex Curzon Ashton goal machine, fluffed it, and County remained one down.
O`Halloran followed the last action up by pinging one in from the other flank , and for a time Turner looked on to capitalise upon it, but the bounce beat him and another notional opportunity had gone begging, whilst we really needed County to make the most of what came their way!
Leamington meanwhile persisted with keeping things simple, which was rather worrying because County seemed to momentarily switch off in response, and the 17th minute saw Morley allowed to get a cross over from the left to Johnson whose free header flew just wide of the target!
That was a clear warning, but no sooner had it been issued than County trod the same path again as Paul McCone this time was allowed to ping his cross in from the right flank. It was a decent effort and again no real challenge came in as Sandy chested the ball down to Jamie Towers in the box. Fagbola managed to block the effort but it really should have been cut out long before that point.
Any anxiety I felt was only multiplied next as Charnock got himself dreadfully tangled up trying to stop Johnson. He failed and the visiting number nine was away and in on goal with only Ormson to beat. It was a decisive moment in the game......a game changing moment maybe, certainly a game saving one for County as a second goal conceded at that point would have hard to pull back. It looked all over 2-0 , but Ormson came out undaunted by this thought ,or the studs showing stance adopted by Johnson, and snaffled the ball brilliantly off the forward`s toes( studs). Great stuff then from the much maligned County keeper- forgettable moment for Charnock who seems to be making a habit of them particularly early on in a game!
( pic by Bill Shone)
It was high time that County raised the EP decibel count with some attacking football. Turner and Jevons linked to good effect trying to do just that but Leamington defended well and were able to clear their lines. This only brought Turner back on their case again, this time with Jacobs in tow, and the young, Help the Hatter funded, forward was unlucky to see his shot cleared off the line. Following up, Howard was less so, he maybe should have buried the shot, but instead fired it limply into the side netting much to the disappointment of the County faithful.
In between all this attacking activity ,County continued...infuriatingly.....to give the ball away with impunity...Gossett one minute....Verma the next and they were not alone! Free kicks continued to be conceded and, by no means all of them, were due to refereeing ineptitude.
The 28th minute saw O`Halloran upend Dodd, giving the talented vaudevillian the opportunity to entertain us with a prodigiously precocious dive- it was a lulu, but did nothing to endear him to the locals hereabouts. County however had a free kick to defend, but they appeared to be comatose as
Morley whipped the ball neatly to the back of the box where the ever available Daly lurked. It was an iffy moment as Daly headed the ball back across to Josh Green, only eased when the resultant unchallenged header flew over the bar!
This was not at all good to watch, and got no better when Ormson relieved the pressure by sending it long. It started OK from there as Howard ushered the ball inside to Jevons, but immediately went pear shaped when the striker lifted his shot high into the Railway End.
As I say......not a great deal of good stuff was going down from County ,who continued to live dangerously at the other end where Chilton was allowed to get a shot off without a defender offering a challenge. OK......it was outside the box, and maybe a tad optimistic, but we have seen similar go in have we not. In the event it ended happily , but only just, as Ormson watched the ball whiz out inches above the angle of bar and post.
Where were the decent moves in response from the blues? Jacobs did combine nicely with Jevons not long after, and the refugee from Ewen Fields did get a decent strike away, but this flew across the face of goal before going out.
Have I said that Charnock was struggling? Well he was and Johnson did him comprehensively again , on 38 minutes, before setting Chilton up with a fair chance. It was ...really....but the diminutive number eleven, who seemed to be the focus of much of Leamington`s work, fluffed it sending his shot wide!
( pic by Bill Shone)
On towards half time and we witnessed a booking for Fagbola along with another beautiful dive from Dodd and of course another free kick. This enabled Morley to pick out Towers, but Ormson was positioned well enough to see the effort off.
This was disappointing stuff and did not improve even though Verma spread play brilliantly with a delightful cross field ball. It was tailor made for the arriving O`Halloran .......a shoo in possibly, but he could not put head to ball and then it wasn`t!
The half ended with Leamington on the attack and Morley just missing out with his strike, after a series of indifferent pseudo tackles had failed to stop Magunda.
That was a poor 45 minutes and I was not sorry it was over!
The re-start offered the prospect of something better as Moke was on for Howard and Moses for Verma.
Moke went left, whilst Moses settled in, in front of the back four- I was suitably reassured!
Straight away Moke was in Leamington faces, 2 runs from him causing some distress to the visitors. It remained 1-0 but there was more hope now particularly when Moke got on the end of a neat flick on from Dennis and headed for goal. He shot this time and it carried the bar, but already the Cheadle End were issuing murmurings of satisfaction along with small ripples of applause aimed at the likeable wide man.
Good work from Fagbola thwarted Dodd after he had got past O`Halloran, ushering in further attacks from the steadily improving County. Turner`s pace saw him get behind the visitors back line and a decent cross followed that picked out Gosset ,but he sent his effort wide of goal.
Then Moke set about Leamington again – charging onto a deft chip from Dennis. Some more Moke magic followed as he somehow kept the ball in play at the by-line when all around him considered it dead. It was terrific stuff, but when the ball reached Jevons and he went to ground, referee Andy Scragg looked away and Leamington were able to clear their lines.
On it went with Turner unlucky with another run, and Moke less so seeing his shot deflected for a corner after Jevons had fed him with a neat pass. A small measure of controversy came next when the kick came over ,as when Daly headed the ball out the ball hit Sandy-“ handball “said all around me, but I could not be 100% sure- anyway the referee was and no penalty was awarded.
County were much improved and Daly did well to clear his lines after Moses had sent Moke clear once again.
( pic by Bill Shone)
Another minute on from this and another Moke run earned applause without reward, but County were finding the breaks engineered here and there by Leamington difficult to deal with- they definitely needed someone....Moke most likely, to work a small attacking miracle, and he very nearly did picking Turner out with an excellent cross field pass. The young Hatter was away, his speed taking him clear in an instant. He then fashioned a lovely cross that landed in front of Gosset, but the air shot that followed impressed no one and another chance had gone!
The pressure continued from County.....Jacobs lifting the ball into the box for McCone to head clear.....Gossett improving on his previous effort but sending the shot high over the bar.
It was disappointing that none of this play resulted in a goal , and more disappointment threatened as Jevons failed to control a pass from Moke sending Leamington away on the break. The final ball to the back post picked Daly out with precision, but he sent his header wide of the target, thus keeping the blues in the game.
Lots of energy was coming via Turner, Jevons and Jacobs. Dennis joined in, winning a corner, but when this was delivered to order at the back post, O`Halloran`s header flew over the top.
I was just musing on how sometimes County were capable of very neat football indeed and at others some indifferent stuff too, when Jacobs latched onto the ball way out and proceeded to caress it into the air and on into the box where Jevons pounced on it. In a trice he had it and then he hadn`t as his turn had allowed him to slam the ball past the keeper into the net!
It was 1-1 and what a relief that was!
County were off and running now, and Moses did brilliantly well to send Turner clear with a peach of a ball! Off he darted and a goal looked on, but Turner disappointed by lifting his shot over the bar- he just needs one of these near misses to go in and he really will be off and running, but not this time!
Both teams had a go in the last 10 minutes exerting pressure on their opponents, without marked success.
County`s passing at times lapsed a bit under pressure, but they went close a time or two as well.....Turner once with a blinding burst of speed that took him past one man and ( almost) the next who cut him off at the knees earning himself a booking. That might have been that career changing moment for Turner had the foul not intervened, instead County`s free kick was dealt with well by Breeden and any chance was one......Dennis was blocked only by excellent work from McCone and Daly, and Jevons just short of getting to a Dennis flick on after O`Halloran and Moke had done the hard graft.
A late misjudgement from Fagbola let Chilton through down the left but he failed to hit the target and that was that...the points were shared and that was just about right in my view.
the Danny Bergara Main Stand
( pic by Bill Shone)
Not sure where that leaves us in the table, but for sure a draw is not the end of the world. There`s room for improvement definitely and hopefully it will come at Vauxhall Motors on Tuesday.
County line up ;
Ormson, Jacobs, Fagbola, Charnock, O`Halloran, Turner, Verma ( Moses 45), Gosset, Howard ( Moke 45 ), Dennis, Jevons.
Subs not used; Jones, Tunnicliffe, Lofthouse.
Leamington line up:
Breedon, McCone, Morley, Magunda, Daly, Green, Dodd, Sandy, Johnson, Tower, Chilton.