Nantwich Town 0 County 0 ; Pre season Friendly 16 July 2014
Well......I have had a sleep , and it`s now some 12 hours since County`s pre season game against Evo Stickers Nantwich Town, and I still do not quite know what to make of it.
The game ended 0-0, which is decidedly better than the 0-1 reverse that Ian B`s outfit managed last term, at the same venue. That loss came via a dubious penalty, and this was a second clean sheet in two, but after saying that I am struggling for many positives.
It`s far.... far too early for rush judgements , and I am absolutely certain that AL will sort chaff from wheat and get us buzzing before the season starts, but....hey...as a match this one was pretty much a none event, particularly after the break where a host of changes ruined any flow there was.
County fielded another mix of established first teamers and new signings with the odd complete stranger in for added interest.
The complete stranger, in this instance was bean-pole Vinny Mukendi, who put himself about a bit in the first half until he was replaced by another new face Kurt Willoughby on the hour. We will probably want to see more of Vinny, whilst I am not sure about Willoughby and Jay Barraclough who similarly appeared for the first time in the second half.
The back four at the start had Jordan Fagbola at right back and Scott Duxbury left. Duxbury tackled everything that moved and covered every inch of available green, whilst Jordan`s game was the usual curates egg, and he looked better when left to roam up the park looking for trifles rather than when defending, although he was never really in difficulties.
Central defence was covered by Glenn Belezika and Danny Gregson in the first half and there were no alarms to report at all really. The dual between Gregson and Jordan Johnson was an interesting diversion as the pair disputed matters, but Gregson had the forward pretty much in his pocket from early doors having welcomed him on the park with a clutch of limb warmers. Johnson did respond in kind but only managed to concede free kicks in doing so, so bragging rights went to Danny!
Stephen O` Halloran played the first half in front of the back four, before reverting to central defence after the break, where he looked at home, as you would expect, so competition for the CB places is going to be hot and there is no mistake in that, although I would expect Belezika to slot in at RB when things get serious, although I admit that this is only based on my view of his game at Flixton, and this one.
There were starts for Jordan Lazenbury, an interesting addition and neat performer from Saturday, and Danny Murray. Both did nothing wrong, and will no doubt feature prominently in AL`s plans for the season, whilst up front I felt that Kristian Dennis and Scott Spencer worked hard ,albeit without conspicuous reward, in Dennis`s case for pretty much 90 minutes again! I was eagerly awaiting Chris Sharp`s appearance, but he got no change from the home back line, despite trying hard when he came on.
Both County keepers were never really troubled although when the Dabbers clicked into gear late on there was the odd scare or two to point to, and the odd worry, but County held out and move on to other challenges.
Harry Clayton forced an early corner in the first minute of the game, but Scott Spencer went closest at the other end, seeing keeper Steve Phillips, push his free kick around the post.
Nantwich continued to get forward, but Belezika twice did for them with decisive work.
Mukendi and Dennis combined nicely, and if this work came to nought, an energetic piece of opportunism by Dennis almost snaffled one from nothing as he nearly bamboozled Phillips to turn indecision into calamity! The shot went wide, but it was already clear that Dennis fully appreciated the need to fight for a place in the team!
Gregson meanwhile was taking no prisoners as a series of strong interventions meant that Jordan Johnson was constantly picking himself up off the deck!
If Spencer was emerging as free kick taker of choice, his luck was not improving however, and his second effort , following a foul by Steve Jones, was comfortably saved by Phillips, and the home keeper shone again shortly after this to prevent Mukendi, who had stormed into the box, from scoring.
Clayton was seeming to be Town`s preferred option down the right, but whilst he made some progress, and it took a foul at one point by Duxbury to stop him, he was ultimately thwarted by O`Halloran who tracked back to put in a massively good tackle that earned him a goal kick and applause!
Back came County though as Murray slipped a pass to Mukendi . The lanky forward surged past 2 defenders with consummate ease, only to slam his drive a yard wide.
Still......we were attacking, and perhaps something of note would emerge sooner rather than later, at least I was encouraged to think so as the next action saw the lively Dennis do great work to keep a seemingly dead ball in play. On it went instantly to Spencer, and he was one on one with the keeper, but Phillips kept the County forward`s shot out at the near post and it stayed 0-0.
Dennis and Spencer continued to look good together, but despite the pair working well and winning a couple of corners, that was the sum of their reward, as Phillips continued to deny County, doing particularly well to deal with Spencer`s intended chip , after Jordan Lazenbury had set him up nicely.
County continued to press, but that lethal finish was missing unfortunately, and I groaned to see Adam Pepper on the line to head clear as County pinged the corners over.
The half ended with a chance at each end......
Pepper brought a save from Ormson, after Duxbury had fouled Clayton just outside the box, but the better chance came at Phillips`s end, where a neat dummy by Dennis teed Spencer notionally up with a chance. Spencer hit the target, but Phillips was equal to the situation and made the save.
A plethora of changes then ensued with Churchman, Hurst, Sharp, Lofthouse and Barraclough all on for Ormson, Lazenbury, Belezika, Spencer and Murray.
My initial fears that things would get all meaningless and shapeless, were not immediately reinforced as Mukendi put pressure on the Dabbers with a couple of efforts, but for Town, there was early disappointment too as ,having been put through by Steve Jones, Andy White lifted his shot over the bar when reasonably placed.
This encouraged the home side to keep trying to get forward, but two almightily meaty tackles by O`Halloran did more than a bit to make them reconsider!
Fagbola then almost snatched one as he harried the keeper into nearly spilling a lulu of an opener his way. The keeper won out eventually, but this only served to encourage me in my long held contention ( indulge me dear reader.....and.....no .....no...I have not been at the hallucinogenic substances!) that Jordan would be worth trying as an old fashioned barn storming centre forward. I think he would be a storm at it- he scored a belter, away at Southport I think a bit back and I think he fancies the spot too. Before you dismiss this out of hand and point to his apparent diffidence and lack of bite, think back to Billy Haydock in the 1960`s. Billy came to us as an inside forward and he pussied his way about the park no end for his first few matches –winning nothing, until he was converted to full back and became the fastest/ hardest thing on two legs down the right! Improbable switches sometimes work.....I rest my case, whilst expecting no one to agree with me!
After the hour Lees came on for Mukendi, and Willoughby for Gregson, as a through ball by Peter Green allowed Danny Hurst to confirm he was fully functioning.
At the other end things stirred a bit as Fagbola sent a decent cross over that Sharp met with a flick of the head sending the ball inches wide!
If that was good, the next bit wasn`t as Green`s extravagant dive in the box failed to earn him a penalty!
Willoughby had a shot saved by the keeper, as slowly but surely the pressure started to increase on County as Town put together some neat play switching positions in a nippy fashion that was now eluding County.
Thankfully Duxbury was in prime form at this juncture and County needed him to be as the Dabbers surged forward, forcing O`Halloran to head clear off the line.
It was slightly worrying to see how neatly and swiftly substitutes Green and Cohan Bramall made headway, and more so when the latter`s shot flashed inches wide! Bramall looked very lively indeed and he was joined by Louis Callaghan whose run to the by-line put County in difficulties with time running out.
The final minutes continued with County trying to hit their opponents on the break, but coming under increasing pressure, but the referees whistle ended the angst, and we could all go home!
County line up;
Ormson, Fagbola, Duxbury, Lazenbury, Gregson, Belezika , Dennis, O`Halloran, Spencer, Murray, Mukendi.
Hurst, Lees, Lofthouse, Barraclough, Churchman, Willoughby, Sharp.
Nantwich Town line up:
Phillips, Lycett, White, M Jones, A Jones, Bailey, Clayton, Blake, Johnson, Pepper, S Jones.
Wilson, Meaney, Harrop, Clarkson, Green, Bramall, Callaghan, McLennan, Smith.
Attendance ; 237