County 2 Academica FC 0 ; Development Squad Under 19 Match

I needed a boost had been a trying day. I had been seduced by a large apple crumble in Morrisons and neglected to note, until the point of proposed consumption, that the use by date was 22.7.2014.It was binned!
In  need of a lift then  ,  I took myself to Edgeley Park where Stockport County`s Development Squad were playing crack Portuguese side Academica FC, and boy did I get one as AL`s boys gave us a brilliant  display of silky football skills, that delighted a crowd of around 200.
County`s side consisted of Matthew Todd, who is already signed, and 15 other young players with club experience elsewhere who had caught AL`s eye. Their task looked daunting to me, as Academica came to us with form, so the prospects of the County team gelling, quickly, and avoiding a thrashing, were probably close to zero- at least that was my pre-match take on it.

Academica pre start huddle !
But Lordy doesn`t do random , and was working to  a plan, and already had the team set up in the Lancashire League (West) for the season, which is a massive advance on what has gone before. If there are any gems about, and I can confidently say there were a number tonight.....they will be adequately tested in a  proper competitive environment, prior to any first team outings.
This method showed on the pitch as well , although again initial impressions were misleading. Pre-match the Portuguese played intensive ball work, whereas the lads in blue ran about and stretched in the main, so it was a massive surprise to see County emerge at the first blast of the referees whistle and outplay their European opponents for long periods.

Elliott Dickson and S Tiago battle for the ball.
First to show for County was Michael Hampson, who latched onto a fine through ball from Matthew Todd to fire a shot narrowly wide.
The opening few minutes saw County in good nick , pushing their opponents back on their heels, and the visitors keeper L.Tiago, did well to deny the lively Hampson, going down at the forward`s feet to snatch the ball bravely.

Josh Powell

That was a good start, but the Portuguese broke up field forcing County`s keeper Josh Powell to make an impressive save to keep S Tiago out. A bit of a melee then ensued ending when Todd tracked across to head a goal bound effort out!
That was a real test for the blue back four ,and more were to follow and Leon O`Malley, Mitchell Clayton, Elliott Dickson and Matthew  Todd all did excellent work throughout the game along with Callum Cooke who combined some artfully skilful attacking play with some gritty defending particularly after the break.
For now though Cooke was in attacking mode and took a neat pass from O`Malley before speeding it inside to Joe Noblett, who was a real threat all game long. Noblett was past the defender in a trice and facing goal- Tiago looked transfixed as the shot came in , but it flashed beyond the far post and it stayed 0-0.
Jondad put some pressure on County down the left next , and looked good about it, until  Leon O`Malley`s resolve won the encounter for the lad in blue. Academica persisted though but S Tiago just couldn`t reach the through ball sent his way by Citro.

County win corner leading to the first goal.

That was 16 minutes in, another two minutes and  we had a goal to celebrate. Disappointment seemed on the cards at first as a fierce drive from Michael Hampson was pushed around the post by the diving Tiago. Over came the corner and Tiago went up for it with Matthew Todd. 

Long shot of the first goal.
There was a fearsome clash of bodies but Toddy got his head to it crucially forcing the ball into the net.
Academica continued to work at hitting on the break, but having won a corner they would invariably waste it by over elaborating.

Callum Cooke on the ball.

There was plenty of skill, meanwhile, but precious little over elaboration about County`s work and they were desperately unlucky, on the half hour, to see a terrific strike by Noblett rattle the post, with the keeper a spectator.

L Tiago, Academica keeper.

That last action seemed to momentarily spur Academica on ,and both Jondad and S Tiargo went close for them. Tiargo was particularly persistent , but so were Todd and Clayton, sufficiently so to see the threat off!
Play continued with County shading it with some really decent controlled football, and with the visitors back line in doze mode, County doubled their lead as Conor Gaul sneaked clear ....drifted to the left....then slotted a near perfect finish home!
Twice after this Citro made headway into County territory , but both times the blue back line held, and Sandro ruined a strong break by giving Jondad too much to do with the final ball.
Josh Powell made a firm punch out to deny the visitors best corner to date , but the half ended with County back in a groove as Kieran Crossthwaite combined first with Cooke and then Noblett to cause Academica problems. The Portuguese held out and it stayed 2-0 at the break.

First half action..

Both teams rang the changes , but it was noticeable that the blue back line pretty much stayed as, which proved a match winning strategy as the Portuguese side came back at the blues after the re-start.

Jordan Rogers( top)George Blackwell attack Academica.

The opening action saw David save his side by clearing a shot off the line as County pressed, but Academica soon went on the attack,and Josh Powell did well to stop Lagua who had powered clear!. Quintella then headed wide and Carlos rather wasted a half decent chance by snatching at it and ballooning his shot into the empty Cheadle End.
After a period of pressure from Academica the pendulum swung and County were distinctly unlucky to see the liners flag up as George Blackwell darted clear. He looked on for the third goal but Jordan Rogers was penalised for coming back from an offside position, although he was not receiving the ball or directly affecting the action! Joe Noblett was less unlucky minutes later - leaning back to lift his shot wide, but at least this relieved the pressure that Academica were intent on putting on County.

Keiran Crossthwaite vies for possession.

The County revival, if that was what it was, continued and again luck deserted them this time it was Jordan Rogers who was clear down the left. He was met by the combined force of keeper Tiago and fullback Beato, and there was more than a hint of naughtiness about the way the two defenders came away with the ball, but the referee was unconcerned, and referees are always right, are they not!
On it went with a silky smooth County move ending with Conor Thompson away and clear. He was in....but the liners flag was up and County were dished!

Second half action.

A fair bit of pressure followed from Academica, but County`s back line did splendidly in reply. Yes....there was the odd scare.....yes.....the excellent Callum Cooke had to head one off the line, but it was not all Academica , and there was plenty enough time for Conor Thompson to again be flagged offside when played through, and send a viciously curling shot inches wide shortly after, and for keeper Tiago to deny Michael Hampson with a fine diving save.
It had been an excellent game and a thoroughly good win for County.
Way back in August 2013, this blog carried an article under News/Views entitled `Alan Lord`s Pro Football Academy- the Future Beckons' I think we saw a glimpse of that possible future tonight...... and  it looked a bit special.
Do not be tempted to miss the next Development Squad game, and get there early!

IO County 

County line up;

Powell, O`Malley, Clayton, Brewster, Todd, Dickson, Cooke , Russell, Hampson, Noblett, Gaul.
Thompson, Hartley, Blackwell, Rogers, Crossthwaite.

Academica starting line up.

L Tiago, Beato, David, Carlos, Assis, Citro, Lagua,Quintela, Jondad, S Tiago, Sandro.

Ian Brown

Additional Gallery;

Leon O`Malley in possession.

Jondad attacks ,first half.

Late Academica pressure.
Throw by Mitchell Clayton
Ref rather got in way of this Joe Noblett effort.


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