County 2 Stalybridge Celtic 0 : Conference North
Scientists have recently established that Uranus and Neptune are likely to have oceans of liquid diamonds, possibly interspersed with an iceberg or two of solid bling!
I have news for them however.....they can save themselves the excessive mileage involved in whizzing off to one or other of said planets, and instead, they should just get down to Edgeley Park where a real gem is on show...a diamond even...I speak of Scott Duxbury who had yet another superb game, when faced with the wily Sean McConville against Stalybridge Celtic today. So brilliant was he.....so completely did the youngster, who was playing college football last year, have the unpopular ex Hatter in his pocket, that the forward lashed out at him bringing him down ,not for the first time in the game, and got sent off for his pains.
For County it was another thoroughly professional performance, built on solid teamwork and laced together by a plethora of outstanding individual showings. If Duxbury was at the apex of all this......another college student of last year Chris Churchman was not a long way behind with a composed exhibition of skills that saw him dominate midfield alongside the increasingly excellent Nick Platt, and the rest of the back four namely Mark Lees, Adam Cowen and Kyle Jacobs were always where they should be and on top of the job. I miss others out from the accolades, but only due to lack of column inches, as no one deserved less than fulsome praise – even substitutes Oates, Dickinson and Lofthouse did their bit in securing a reasonably comfortable 2-0 win.
Earlier in the day I could but dream of such things, as 09.00 arrived with sun peeping sheepishly out from behind a bank of cloud. The brightness continued until circa 13.30( when people in all parts were wondering “ should I .....shouldn`t I go........?)when the winds again built up to ridiculous proportions accompanied, as I made my way to EP, by the same swirling wetness that had tormented us on Tuesday.
No matter......kick off time arrived with only one change in County`s starting line up that of Cowen for Fagbola due to the latter`s suspension. But County were clearly kicking our way in the first half ( presumably a ploy by ex Hatter Keith Briggs), a fact that pleased few in and around Row R!
The game was underway however and Stalybridge were soon on the attack with two former County players in the van. Paul Ennis did well to thread a neat ball into Sean McConville`s path, and he kept things going by skipping past a couple of tackles to ping a shot in Dibble`s direction. It was on target OK, but lacked power and the County keeper only had to stand firm to see it off.
In truth...not a lot was happening in the early stages as both teams probed the other gingerly, but that said ...the second attempt on goal again came from Celtic and from yet another former blue, Keith Briggs, but this again failed to test Dibble, although it seemed to get the 100 or so Staly Vegas sorts mildly excited.
I allowed myself to be encouraged next as a flagrant dive by Adam Pepper, just outside the County box, was seen for what it was by the referee. Not for the first time in my life...I was to be proved wrong, but more of that later!
Duxbury had a run curtailed by weight of numbers, and then conceded a free kick( I felt unfairly), which McConville lifted into the box, where Jacobs headed out. Thus far it had been pretty much the visitors on the front foot but straight from Jacobs clearance, County showed us what they had up their sleeve, and Howard was in the act of beating 2 defenders on the edge of the box, when one of the two had a hand to ball moment. A free kick was County`s sole reward( note no booking- Fagbola must have been seething at seeing that!)but despite a great effort and header from Cowen, keeper Danny East held firm and came away with the ball.
|Howard`s free kick.|
A slider by Dibble tidied a Celtic break up nicely, and this sent County off on a run again as a Jacobs throw almost allowed Jevons to put Platt in the clear. Instead Josh Green got in the way and stopped the rot for our Tameside neighbours. Did I say stopped?......I think I did, but it was not for long as within a minute County went one up as the on-form Dennis slipped clear to go one on one with East. Not sure who was favourite, but Kristian made debate irrelevant by slipping the ball into the net with slide rule accuracy!
|Dennis rounds on goal.|
That was simply excellent, but my good humour lasted a mere 4 minutes after the last action, whereupon I went into seethe mode upon seeing an innocuous coming together twixt McConville and Duxbury end with the County man booked! I am guessing that the decision was influenced by the fact that the incident, such as it was, took place in the corner where the visiting fans were housed- but it was no excuse! However I was buoyed within seconds to see Duxbury in action, bravely winning possession off the increasingly belligerent McConville, right under the nose of the referee- top notch work!
County made good use of the possession after this, the best moment coming via Moke who scooted clear on a run down the right , before sending a decent cross in Howard`s direction smack in front. It was a nice moment but not for long as East snatched the ball off Howard`s head to keep it at 1-0.
|East in action.|
That was disappointing, but not as much as seeing the MSL `s flag down with Godwin Abadaki sneaking clear whilst palpably offside. The eventual shot drifted wide but......................but..............
Well I was still fuming a minute or so later, as County surged forward in numbers- stopped, or so it seemed, at the edge of the box by a row of white shirted defenders. But....wait up.....the ball had run out to Duxbury, and he would soon whip it back across for either Dennis or Jevons to dispatch lethally, wouldn`t he! Well ......no......and the place erupted in a wall of joyous sound as the lad lifted the deftest of lobs over the keeper into the net! Wow...that was a special finish and no mistake, and perhaps 2-0 was just the start!
Maybe so, but despite Jacobs urging them forward along with Duxbury ,and Cowen and Lees looking imperiously in control at the back, there was no sign of that third goal coming, in fact Stalybridge came back at County, aided by the referee who gave them a free kick just outside the box. Kristian Platt wasted this, but it was a chance none the less.
|K Platt foils Dennis.|
Dennis was unlucky with a run that had Matt Regan struggling and Jacobs more so when penalised for precious little at the other end. A series of corners came and went next being dealt with calmly enough by the blue back line, most notably Cowen and Jacobs. The pressure would not go away for a while however being compounded in no small measure by the officials allowing 2 blatant foul throws to go unpunished from Celtic. This was really annoying, but not as much as the spiteful kick that Mc Conville treated Duxbury to next! Thankfully this was spotted by the referee and Mc Conville was booked much to the delight of all bar 100 or so of the 3000 plus crowd.
The free kick saw Churchman blocked just outside the box, whereupon County were denied a clear corner- the goal kick forcing us onto the back foot again. Duxbury was on hand again though and excellent work from him made up a yard or two on McConville and set him up to rob him of the ball in remarkable fashion! This was brave too in view of the earlier booking!
We were beyond the 30 minute mark, and Celtic continued to annoy as Kristian Platt`s dive and subsequent theatricals( move over Branagh....Day Lewis, you have a rival!), and a gullible MSL, combined to get Dennis the benefit of a lecture from the referee.
It went on at the other end too as a run from Moke was stopped by a foul by Jeremy Thieri, which apparently merited not a word from the referee, despite the free kick being awarded. County pressed hard for that third goal from the kick, but Celtic defended well and denied them- Dennis getting another lecture from the referee and a bit of Marcell Marseau thrown in, after the Celtic Platt had again dived to good effect but to the complete consternation of the home specs!
|Moke downed by Thieri|
Despite the lack of further goals, there was still much to admire about County`s play as a Jevons / Dennis cooperation set Moke up for a go at goal.
He did not disappoint, but the shot missed out by inches. At the other end of the park there was Duxbury and he did brilliantly to stop McConville when he really should not have! The applause rang out....and then again as Jacobs executed the finest of tackles to stop another Celtic break. Jacobs is now timing his tackles to perfection time after time which is simply excellent!
Into added time we went with McConville scooting clear at speed intent on mayhem. He looked the man it must be said as he made for the by-line, but he had Duxbury for company, and he waited.......timed his moment to move.....tackled his man, and came away with the ball! Fantastic!
It was half time soon enough, but not before Abadaki had bundled the ball into the County net after Dibble had failed to hold a shot. The Pop Side liner had had his flag up for some time however and the effort was ruled out, so County went in for the break 2 up and looking good!
Within 5 minutes of the re-start County had to shuffle their pack as Dennis took a knock and had to be replaced by Oates.
Whilst briefly down to10, County had defensive work to do but they did it well...unsurprisingly via Duxbury, but also by Moke who did well to stop Abadaki on the end of a neat ball from Pepper. Meanwhile Briggs was working hard to try and instil some oomph into his forwards, but Ennis could only send his effort straight at Dibble.
|Second half action.|
A Jevons shot from Jacobs` pass put the pressure on Stalybridge, but the blues` forward impetus was stopped when Platt was booked for a foul on McConville. The free kick saw Abadaki in on goal but palpably a yard or so offside, but the flag stayed down and a goal looked distinctly likely until Duxbury saved the day with a superb tackle. It was a corner of course, but cheap at twice the price , and defended well by the blues as Cowen excelled himself under pressure. Abadaki excelled himself too but by diving, and another fulsome mime from the referee told us, thankfully, that his effort was in vain. The ball was with Duxbury and then not as it went from him up the park. The move was over therefore- annoying for sure for Celtic, but McConville reacted badly hacking Duxbury down with a truly gruesome assault! The MSL saw it and he was noticed by the referee and thus the errant social loafer walked- not sure if it was a straight red- it did not matter, he deserved to walk and he did...nuff said !
Oates did some excellent work keeping an improbable ball in play next, thus putting the pressure on Celtic for a further period, but they held out and eventually came back at County coaxing good play from Cowen and Churchman in response.
Duxbury too, was in the thick as usual, but Celtic were noticeably now sharing the burden of kicking lumps out of him as another ludicrous `tackle’ sent him sprawling.
The free kick was repulsed, but Jevons sent a rasping shot in that East could only parry, after some really neat build up play involving Duxbury, Churchman and Platt.
Dickinson was on for Moke next and, in short order, he was a whisker away from reaching Jacobs cross smack in front- forcing East to seek out Reservoir 1 not long after in extremis! We needed that third goal to put this game to bed, but still it would not come, and with the blue back four in tight control at the other end no further goals looked on the cards, with just over 10 minutes left.
County were trying though, and clearly in command, but Oates was agonisingly close to getting to another tempter from Jacobs with East a spectator. East then saved from Churchman , and stuck out a leg to again deny Oates from a great cross from Dickinson.
It all went very precious next...a touch panto (with East taking the Widow Twankie role). He was infuriated when the Pop Side liner gave County a corner and threw the mother of all tantrums in front of the empty Railway End( totally wasted effort Danny....it deserved a crowd did that performance).Nothing came from the corner or much of the pressure that followed as County in relaxed mode played it about calmly. So calmly that with 5 minutes left substitute Andy McWilliams stole clear and pinged a half decent shot in. Dibble dived but was happy to see the ball drift wide.... and happy once again shortly after when the same man sneaked clear and had a go! Hmm.....County needed to concentrate a touch and not let their opponents back into it!
Into added time we went with McWilliams still going for it – Lees doing well to block him on the end of a late free kick. The subsequent corner was also defended well, but Churchman was then booked and another free kick saw McWilliams onto the ball and in behind the County back line. He was clearly offside and the referee blew in good time, but the forward chose to slam a shot wide. Now.....I think that referees over react sometimes in this situation and book players....err....like...this one did earlier in the game, when Dennis did so. I am largely in favour of common sense prevailing and the card remaining in the pocket, but.....as I say he had booked Dennis so he had ,in the interest of fairness, to be consistent, but he wasn`t and McWilliams didn`t even get a glance from the man in charge!
No matter......soon enough the game was over and we had 3 more valuable points in the bag.
Fantastic result again, and thoroughly deserving of the standing ovation at the end.
Here`s to more of the same at Bradford on Monday...see you there!
County line up:
Dibble, Jacobs, Lees, Cowen, Duxbury, Platt( Lofthouse 83),Churchman, Moke( Dickinson 68), Jevons, Howard, Dennis ( Oates 51).
Subs not used; Charnock, O`Halloran.
Staybridge Celtic line up:
East, Bleau, Thieri, Platt K, Regan, Green, Pepper, Briggs, Abadaki, McConville, Ennis.