County 4 Vauxhall Motors 1 ; Conference North
Gees.............. Hurricane Herbert continues to lash the UK....... massive apocalyptic floods rage on....Saturdays continue as barren caricatures of their past selves with game after game being called off......negotiations continue to drag on( or so the uninitiated have to surmise) regarding fresh investment/ ownership of the Club, and........................however briefly....... to top it all, there was a threat to the continued existence of the much maligned but nevertheless excellent Marionsboard........so...I really did not need the additional trauma of word that Sale were casting their scabrous eyes on EP once again, but that`s what they would have us believe!
Thus, with sanity saved only by a quick blast of the `You Tube’ dissertation by Philomena Cunk on `Time`...... I set off for Edgeley Park and the re-arranged encounter with Vauxhall Motors, who had put us to the sword earlier this term at their place. Rather like 1400 or so others braving the elements at EP last night ... I was in sore need of a pick me up!
Did we get one? You bet we did....as County, again reduced to 10 late on, completely outclassed their Merseyside opponents, to run out resounding 4-1 winners, and thus consolidate their recent run of good form and results.
The departure of Rhys Turner to Third Division Oldham meant that , as AL had moved quickly in response, County had 2 new faces on show , and it was entirely appropriate in view of the abysmal weather, that one of them was named Oates....Rhys Oates...... brought in on loan along with Christian Dibble from Barnsley.
Oates had shown up well against us playing for Gainsborough Trinity earlier in the season, and scored 2 in 5 whilst turning out for the Holy Blues on loan. As for Dibble....if he turns out half as well as ex Hatter dad Andy did, he should do for us, and the 90 minutes we saw last night told me that he was a decent keeper- a chip off the old block! Oates came on latish, and worked hard without achieving that much, indeed he missed a sitter, but I am guessing that he too will prove an asset as we try to push on up the league.
It was another fine all round team performance, and whilst I would not argue that much with Jevons getting the M.O.M award, I would have given it to Duxbury who was outstanding bordering on brilliant throughout, with Lees a close second after his best showing so far. I nit-pick though it was the points that counted most of all and there was never a scintilla of doubt from first minute to last that all 3 were heading our way......fantastic!
Back to 7.45 then, and it was something of a surprise to hear that Christian Dibble was between the sticks in place of the stunningly in form Ian Ormson, but we were told he had hurt his foot, so that perhaps explained it, but not why Ormson was doing the goal keeper warm up stuff with Dibs and co beforehand! That was the only change which meant that Oates awaited his debut on the bench.
The weather was brutish with a sprinkling of the wet stuff intermingling with the mountainous winds- it would be a real test of both keepers and that was sure, and Dibble proved likely to be up to the task as early as the first minute as his quick reactions saw him speed out to take the ball off the toes of Shaun Took as he sped onto a through ball! Dibble already looked well schooled in the modern sweeper style goal keeping role, and that`s precisely how it racked up over the full 90.
|Dibble punches out confidently.|
Early work from Jacobs almost declared a dividend when the visitors defence opened up obligingly in front of him, but although the ball on to Dennis was spot on, the recipient`s header drifted wide to rather spoil the moment.
Another half chance presented itself a minute or so later when Dennis got in behind the Motors back line. Again the cross caused problems for the Merseysiders, but Moke could not turn it in at the far post and it stayed 0-0.
Corners came and went for both teams shortly after, Dennis going closest ,for County, with a shot that hit the side netting, but the Pop Side liner`s flag was up so it would not have counted had it gone in.
|Lees in early action.|
The quietly effective Lees then got into his stride by cutting out a cross from Mullin, and then sorting Karl Clair out as he juggled the ball into the box with head and the odd shoulder. It looked as though Lees had gained a goal kick also, but I had reckoned without the curse of the MSL as it was a corner which Dibble dealt with via a firm punch.
Platt meanwhile looked busy, and he picked Moke out nicely with a neat pass, and Adi`s run saw him beat his man and get his cross over, but this was over hit and the move ended. Then Platt failed by the odd inch to reach Fagbola, smack in front of goal, with a free kick so although it was still 0-0, and 17 minutes had gone, I allowed myself the odd smile- things looked promising and, to be candid, Motors did not!
This last point was succinctly borne out a couple of minutes later when the slackest of balls across the back of the visitors defence saw Moke dart clear. In a flash he was in the box, and in another he was sprawling on the deck having been sandwiched twixt two defenders. Penalty?.............well...I ,perhaps unsurprisingly, would have given it but Dan Meeson the referee did not, and he gave us a nice mime as confirmation.
Things were warming up now quite a bit on the pitch as County surged forward and Howard saw his shot charged down. The ball ran on to Dennis who was un-marked and clear, but Zac Jones ,who it must be said ,two brilliant saves apart, had an indifferent game, kept the shot out at the near post.
The 24th minute saw a breakthrough and it started with Moke who caused something akin to panic with a run down the right. The cross was again not the greatest but the ball drifted out to Howard on the other flank, so the move was still live. A cross whizzed in from the left but Moke could not force the ball home from the far post, but it ran to Dennis and he could and it was 1-0!
I thought that Vauxhall looked as poor a team as I had seen in these parts, and even a miss hit /wind affected effort from Jacobs caused them difficulties.
Mr Meeson then gifted Motors a cheap free kick , but this was dealt with first by a punched clearance from the confident Dibble, and then a `foot through ball’ up field punt by Dennis.
As I say, Vauxhall did not look a threat, despite a period where the officials looked to be reprising the vaudevillian output of their recent predecessors, and I was again reassured to see Jacobs time a tackle to perfection in stopping Steve Wainwright who had darted clear!
It went on with Dennis an inch or so off reaching a loose ball in the box, and Fagbola and Lees offering more reassurance with some good work in containing Took as he went for a through ball.
Throughout all this Duxbury was in prime form, dealing quickly with anything coming his way at the back, before turning defence into attack with some aplomb, that , for me, marked him out as the next one taking the Turner route to better things before too long. Let`s hope we can get a season or so from him, then a fee!
Jevons had a couple of efforts that failed to test, the very testable Jones, as the visitors looked to find touch with regularity as the pressure mounted!
It was mounting as well.....Jacobs not that far away with a shot, and Howard just unable to read a deft ball from Jevons as County set up shop in the last third of the visitors territory. Then Moke saw a shot held by Jones, but the half ended with a small out of season panto as Clair laboured long over the cheapest of free kicks awarded by the referee for what looked a perfectly good tackle from Jacobs. The wind was his problem but not Dibble`s and he snaffled what turned out to be a poor kick, with calm assurance.
|Dibble snaffles poor free kick.|
One nil....half time......good enough!
There were 3 substitutes on the park for Vauxhall as they took the field for the second half, which opened with the sweetest of tackles by Lees denying Took the oxygen of possession! A Platt/ Jevons move went unrewarded before things took a turn for the better, and once again it started with Moke.....sped on via Platt to Dennis who picked out Howard wide left nicely. There was much to do as Jones blocked Howards route to goal at the near post, but a sublime finish from the ex Diva Stadium man left the keeper groping helplessly as the ball flew beyond him into the net.
|Howard rounds on goal.|
County`s lead had doubled now, and more looked on the cards as they continued to push forward – Churchman somehow managing to avoid the crudest of `tackles` from behind en-route to slotting a fine ball into the box! This narrowly eluded Dennis, so it remained 2-0, but for how long?
|Dennis through on goal!|
After Jevons had lifted a free kick tamely over the bar, our answer came with a third goal this time started by Duxbury who won possession in improbable circumstances before holding his man off again and slipping the most beautiful of balls into the path of Dennis, who beat the offside trap to slot the third goal home!
Motors looked shell shocked now and their clearances got more and more erratic, nevertheless Jones got himself sufficiently together to deny Howard in virtually an exact reprise of County`s move for the second goal.
|Another shot on the way from County!|
Yes.....County were looking good, none more so than Duxbury who fed the blue front line with another couple of incisive balls- neither Jevons nor Dennis could apply the finish, but at 3-0 did we care much? Well.....yes....we wanted and needed a fourth to put the game to bed, and a brilliant ball from Jevons gave us some chance of getting it, but Dennis`s shot was charged down, and the Jevons follow up had Row R ducking quickly.
|Jevons lines up a free kick.|
That was Dennis`s last part in the action, as he was replaced by Oates , leaving the field to a generous round of applause.
For a time after this County were down to 10 ,as Duxbury went off for treatment and a change of shirt....and then 9 as Moke was poleaxed by a bit of off the ball naughtiness from someone in yellow/green. Moke lay there for an age before the referee deemed it time to acknowledge the fact and bid RW onto the field. In total we were reduced in numbers for about 4 minutes during which they held out without any problem.
Paradoxically it was with County back to full compliment that Vauxhall worked themselves a rare moment in the none existent sun, as Wray found himself clear with only Dibble to beat- he shot hopelessly wide which rather summed up the visitors for me.
Moke then narrowly missed putting Howard through before setting Jacobs up for a shot that whistled the proverbial inch wide of goal, and that was his evening over ,leaving the field to a good reception, being replaced by Lofthouse.
County continued to press, and it paid off as a lay off by Oates allowed Jacobs to force a corner. In it came via Lofthouse to Jevons who buried his finish way past Jones` dive to make it 4-0.
That was excellent and again the moves flowed from the blues, and Oates was unlucky trying to head Howard`s cross in with a brave dive, as were Fagbola and Platt at the near post when the resultant corner whizzed in!
|Diving header by Oates misses out.|
Yes.....it looked pretty good, but my uncharacteristic feeling of well being was threatened with the sight of Lees being booked for a perfectly good tackle. The initial free kick was blocked but the ball screamed back into the box from someone in yellow/green. As I say.....the shot was travelling some and Fagbola was in its way and it apparently hit him on the arm. It seemed plain enough –it was a penalty, but despite Fagbola not having a snowball`s chance in hell of avoiding the shot ( i.e : there was no intent...it was not hand to ball) the referee showed young Jordan a straight red. This was a decision consistent with many we have received of late, and Fagbola trudged off to sympathetic applause from the crowd, with County facing the last 15 minutes down to 10 men.
They also faced a penalty...or Dibble did......he got close to Ellam`s kick as well, but it sneaked past him and it was 4-1.
It might have been tempting now to expect a surge of excitement as Vauxhall Motors battered us for all they were worth, but it was not panning out like that at all...instead County rounded on their opponents with something akin to avenging zeal- sweeping Motors` ineffectual challenges aside . It was awesome to see it as a neat move saw Lofthouse on the ball whereupon a thunderous volley headed for goal. It was 5-1 surely.....but...no somehow Jones, with a spectacular dive to his left, kept it out! The ball was still in play however and what`s more Churchman had it and an almost identical goal bound volley followed, which again the keeper kept out brilliantly! Wow.....those were special moments....special efforts, but credit to Jones...he had kept his game together and finally produced the goods for his team!
With Cowen on, in place of Platt, to plug the notional gap at the back, County pressed on with Jones reverting to his previous ineffectual mode as Oates proceeded to harass him into error. County did not look a team down to 10, indeed the attacks continued, as did the penalty appeals as Oates went down in the box after contact with the keeper. The referee was unimpressed and he was probably correct this time.
We headed for the final whistle with things not improving much for Motors or Jones, who with Oates confronting him managed to spill the ball at the forward`s feet. The goal gaped....Jones was shot, but the element of surprise did for Oates who just stabbed the ball back to the hapless keeper who grabbed it greedily.
The blues kept pushing forward way into added time, before a blast of Mr Meeson`s whistle told us it was at an end and the points were ours!
A standing ovation followed as the team left the field, and the hardy 1400 prepared to face the elements and trudge off home.
That was a comfortable win, and confirms the improvement in County`s play.
At the risk of boring you though.....I have to repeat that we need action off the park now to secure the future, in as much as it can be, and by that I do not mean a quick leap back into bed with Sale Sharks or a desperate dash to oblivion at Woodley !
County line up:
Dibble, Jacobs, Fagbola, Lees, Duxbury, Platt( Cowen 82), Churchman, Moke ( Lofthouse 73), Jevons, Dennis ( Oates 65), Howard.
Subs not used; O`Halloran, Dickinson.
Vauxhall Motors line up;
Jones, Fearnehough, Barnes, Wainwright, Nicholas, Noone, Wray, Clair, Took, Ellams, Mullin.