County 3 Boston United 2 : ( Conference North) 13 September 2014
Some of you may recall that a season or so ago, I started a report with an account of the exploits of an eternal underdog....` The Great Hamster of Alsace`.
This unfortunate black bellied rodent ( cricetus cricetus),after years of being poisoned to the brink of extinction( world pop 400)by French farmers ,who simultaneously sponsored mass culls.........fought back!
You might be tempted to think that the furry creature`s chances of survival were slim, especially when big business turned up on its doorstep and threatened to turn 120 hectares of hamster habitat into a business park, but you would be wrong!
Enter the E.U. with a threat of their own namely a fine of some 17million euro`s should the project go ahead (and the hamsters be exterminated).
Thus the plans of the major corporations hit the buffers, held up by a ten inch long rodent that spends 80% of its existence sleeping!
Boston United despite sitting second in the Conference North table, and scoring for fun, by no means suggest` Major Corporation’ to County`s furry rodent, but after 40 odd games last season that saw us miscast in the big guy role, I was anxious for us to reclaim, not our underdog status.....but the underdog attitude that prevailed in the late 90`s and early noughty`s, and then turn it all on its head by thrashing the Lincolnshire side. After all....County had already ended a clutch of unbeaten records this season...so one more....would that be such a big deal?
Well.....yes....it rather would actually, as ...although A.L had definitely got something stirring with the boys, something of a reorganisation was necessary due the forced absence of Tunji Moses ( through injury) and captain Jamie Milligan, who had been sent off for not fouling his opponent at Staly Vegas. County had settled into playing Lordy`s` 5 at the back plus 2’ bit rather well, but the 2 were pretty much central to how things fared in my view, so a bit of an uphill task faced County with second placed Boston in SK3 with eyes on doing well.
Boston wanted this one badly.....so badly indeed that they recruited a new goal keeper overnight( Lincoln`s Paul Farman) and he was in the starting line up.
In the event it did them no good at all because Lordy’s boys bossed the show big time, winning 3-2 in the end, but this did not truly reflect the way things went, only the brief flicker of hope Boston perceived upon being gifted a goal by Tom Nield the referee late on.
The gift was not enough though, and goals by Jack Ryan and Kristian Dennis(2) were enough to see County home. It had been a good showing as well......another cracking team performance. Dennis got the sponsors M.O.M award, but it quite easily could have gone to Lees, who followed a massively tight first half at RB with an equally ebullient showing in midfield after Baker had gone off. Others shone as well....much was expected of Churchman and Lofthouse ,and both rose to the occasion brilliantly and will be well pleased! Then there was Jack Ryan, and what a player this lad is going to be soon.....he was 90 minutes of all out action.......Roy of the Rovers stuff.....down the left....right.....in the middle...back tackling at RB.....fantastic!
Back to 3 o`clock then, and I was not alone amongst the 2600 crowd to be busy trying to work out how A.L. had squared the circle with the reduced numbers at his disposal. I could see it was back to 4 at the back( Lees, Gregson, O` Halloran, Duxbury)with a fluid 4 in front of those consisting of Churchman, Baker, Lofthouse and Ryan, with Dennis and Spencer a notional 2 up front, although with Ryan in the mix this was 3 more often than not, and more sometimes with Baker, Lofthouse and Churchman adding their two pennyworth!
I do not think anyone doubted that this was a big ask for County`s re-shuffled pack, but perhaps if they went at it in the right frame of mind...........and it was quickly apparent that they would do just that, as the `oooo`s resonated around SK3 with the sight of a Spencer shot, as early as the 2nd minute, whizzed a yard wide, having been set up nicely by O`Halloran.
It went on in the same vein with Lofthouse bellying his lack of years with some silky smooth play that sent Ryan darting clear. Spencer couldn`t make anything of the final ball, but nevertheless this was a good start, and it almost got better as another Spencer effort narrowly missed out a minute later, after Boston had been forced to concede a corner!
This was a very bright start indeed, and it was good to see it underpinned by tight work at the back as Lees ushered the lively Jamie McGee out of the danger zone.
A couple of minutes later and the action switched to the other flank where Kaine Felix made light work of getting beyond Duxbury and pinging a cross over. It was tailor made for McGee, if drifting somewhat wide, but the shot that followed only sent it wider still, much to the enjoyment of the wags in the Cheadle End.
Felix looked as lively as had McGee, and Churchman did well to cut him off as he again looked to make mischief on the break.
Ten minutes had gone now.....then 11 ......and County were beginning to look very assured on the ball, none more so than Baker, and he sent a beaut of a ball into the box for Dennis to run onto, and it looked curtains for Farman and company, as the ex Ashton striker bore down on goal, but the Pop Side liners flag was up and Boston were saved.
On it went with County looking good, but Boston getting forward now and again testing the blue resolve. Gregson told me that the resolve was 100% intact and his header did for the first of many long throws from Zak Mills, but when Duxbury conceded a corner , there was no one on hand in blue to hinder ex Hatter Carl Piergianni as he thundered in to head over the bar.
A warning perhaps....in fact definitely, but with Lofthouse and Baker linking up to good effect next, I forgot negative thoughts, as I watched the pair pass the ball on to Dennis in what was a neat move. Unfortunately the final ball from this proved too strong for Ryan and it stayed 0-0.
Breaks came Boston`s way next....first via Dayle Southwell who failed to test Hurst with a shot of little power, and then Mills ,who was only stopped by dint of some excellent work from Gregson, who keeps impressing me with his quietly confident play!
County replied quickly after that last action forcing a series of corners. The pressure was on for some minutes now and more so as a peach of a ball by Dennis sent Duxbury scurrying clear down the left, to win a corner. This was a real belter from Lofthouse, who was doing really well thus far, and it was time to go AS as Ryan met it at the back post powering a wonderful header into the net!
Within a minute of this Ryan was within an ace of adding another after Lofthouse and Baker had turned it on. It was not to be, and I suppose we were greedy.....but why not?
Meanwhile Boston were struggling to put anything coherent together in response , but that said ....Mc Gee did bring the very best out of Lees with a tricky run – thankfully Lees best was plenty good enough and it stayed 1-0.
Not long after I was in rant mode though as an elbow thudded into O`Halloran forcing him off his feet. It was disappointing, if not surprising, to see the referee ignore this incident and allow play to continue. This is one element of this division that I manifestly do not like!
County continued to play with energy and some nous....Lofthouse going close with a shot.....and oodles of good challenges going in all over the place as Churchman and Lofthouse continued to harry hither and thither, as Lees played `long stop`. Hurst too looked in pretty good nick and I noted 4 or 5 bits of crucially confident sweeping done throughout the game from him.
Central defender Scott Garner put one over the bar at one point, after a McGee effort had been blocked by O`Halloran, but again it was predominantly County doing the good stuff, and something of a shock to see Baker have to be substituted after 36 minutes, with a leg injury, forcing A.L. to make another shuffle of his pack, bringing Belezika on.
Belezika slotted straight in at RB, as Lees pushed on up the park where he put himself impressively about for the following 54 + minutes.
Four minutes on from this, and County almost increased their lead thanks to a calamitous error by Mills who let Dennis sneak clear in the last third. It was a lulu alright, and Dennis was off and running, and so was Spencer , but when the ball headed his way, keeper Farman flung himself forward to snaffle the pill off the toes of the County man!
That was a really crucial save from Boston`s view point, and probably galvanised them into action that saw Hurst dive to brilliantly tip a shot from Southwell around the post for a corner. If we thought that this was where the danger ended, we were wrong as, with County`s back line in doze mode, Piergianni stole in to send an imperious header thundering into the net.
Bugger.....there were less than 4 minutes remaining of the half, and the scores were level!
Both teams had a go after this....Dennis seeing a shot saved by Farman, and Southwell heading over when set up by Felix.
The first half looked to be ending in typically depressing fashion, and I had just scribbled the legend `45 minutes up’ on my notes, when , after a period of County pressure they won a free kick, which saw Dennis force the ball home from close in. I wondered about offside for a moment, but it wasn`t and it was 2-1 and just about the last action of the half.
The restart saw Dennis go close again after Spencer had been dumped on the deck by Felix.
McGee replied for Boston, but his shot climbed up and over the bar after a shot by Southwell had been charged down.
As before though....County looked the side most likely to.....and Lofthouse was disappointed to see his shot hit Piergianni and go for a corner. Disappointment did not linger long thankfully, although initially County`s efforts from the flag kick seemed to have petered out, and then Churchman chanced along and lifted a neat one into the box where it looked like Farman would grab it. Did he hesitate? Not sure, but Dennis certainly didn`t and his run saw him in the keeper`s face in an instant and in another he had the ball which he then despatched into the net! That was an impish example of the striker`s art, and it was 3-1 to boot!!
It was very nearly 4-1 soon after following a Duxbury run ....a Spencer shot, and a corner, but despite a spill by Farman, the Boston defence held out and it stayed 3-1.
At this point Lofthouse had to be replaced by Woolfe, to stir the pot again for any doubters in our midst.
It started to get a bit `end to end’ after this......Piergianni thundering in again like some crazed bull, onto another Mills exocet. The header went wide, but it was close, as was Woolfe`s effort not long after at the other end that had Farman diving to make the save following good work by the persevering Spencer.
County soaked a bit of pressure after this, then went in search of a game killing fourth again , and they nearly got it as Ryan ghosted in at the back post to head inches over the angle of bar and post!
It wasn`t a bad game at all now and some of County`s defending was excellent as O`Halloran , Duxbury and Gregson saw move after Boston move off.
At the other end Spencer worked on for that fourth without so much as a scintilla of luck in return, and Renee Steer did well to keep a Woolfe ball from Dennis with that very same fourth a begging!
On....on it went...with Belezika joining in ......winning the ball energetically before sending Spencer clear. It was a good break but somehow Piergianni blocked the shot ( with his hand some unkind souls said- me I think!).It was only a corner, and then another as Garner did enough to deny the goal hungry Ryan.
Spencer had one last go....again being unlucky on the end of another mighty cross from Churchman, before he was substituted, leaving the field to a well deserved ovation from the home specs!
Sharp was now on for the last 14 minutes or so, and it was not long before we looked up to see a shot from him whiz inches wide from Woolfe`s pass. I like Sharp, and looked forward to more of the same in the minutes that remained, but it was a shot from Duxbury that had Farman scurrying anxiously for his far post next- it missed out but by that proverbial whisker again!
The points seemed ours now, with 6 minutes to go, but with 5 left the referee had one of his little turns and somehow conjured up a free kick for the visitors just outside the box. It was a nice gift I must say and Boston took full advantage of the largess, as with Hurst unable to deal with the incoming kick...and Piergianni crashing another header goal ward.....Southwell emerged on the line to force the ball home to make it 3-2 , before sprinting with the ball back to the centre circle.
Bugger......again.....once again a re-run of the siege of Mafeking was signalled. We always used to lose these in years gone by, but this season, we have turned that practise on its head and emerged with the points, and we did it again today to the eternal credit of everyone in blue!
Sharp went close......Dennis threatened only to be mugged by Steer on the edge of the box. Felix`s felony quickly paled into insignificance next as ex Hatter Piergianni ( who had been conspicuously nursing some unspecified grievance all afternoon) went AS once too often launching a monstrous assault on Sharp. It was an abysmal challenge, and the red card that followed was no surprise, nor the ridicule that greeted the Bostonian ever present as he slunk off the park!
Some excellent defensive work followed from County as the 10 men of Boston fought on bravely to get that point that they thought was theirs for the taking, but it wasn`t to be, indeed Dennis was unlucky to see Farman pull out an amazing save to deny him as his best shot so far headed for the net!
It was great stuff , and a great moment of celebration when a blast of the referees whistle brought the action to a conclusion.
Well done County......most excellent stuff, see you Tuesday for a repeat against Worcester.
Oh........OK.....alright...if you insist...here`s a pic of the Great Hamster of Alsace( Cricetus/ Cricetus) .......
County line up;
Hurst , Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury , Churchman, Lofthouse ( Woolfe 58), Baker ( Belezika 36), Ryan, Spencer ( Sharp 76), Dennis.
Substitutes not used;
Boston United line up;
Farman, Mills, Steer, Dowie, Garner, Piergianni, McGee, Galinski, Southwell, Felix, Meadows.
Marshall, Vince, Barlow, Hollingsworth,Fallah.
Review of Today`s Conference North Games + League Table courtesy of Ian Watts
After another home win moved County into a position to potentially claim a top four place with their game in hand, the only higher placed team that County were looking to catch that maintained their advantage over the Hatters was Oxford City. Adi Yussuf (13) and Javier Rodriguez (90) ensured a 2-0 victory to move them up to 5th in the table and they have a game at Bradford on Monday that could move them even higher.
In North Wales North Ferriby United registered a goalless draw which meant they stayed a point ahead of County, whilst their hosts Colwyn Bay dropped to 12th position. County's victory meant they climbed above the other 3 clubs they needed to catch to move up the table.
Leamington suffered a 2-1 defeat at Barrow, who kept in touch with new leaders AFC Fylde. Former County man Danny Pilkington (22) levelled the scores with his third of the season after Danny Newton (19) had given Leamington the lead. A Jason Walker (78) penalty with just over 10 minutes left meant a 2-1 win for the Holker Park side.
Previous league leaders Chorley suffered their second defeat of the season with a 0-2 defeat at the side who visit EP on Tuesday might. Ellis Deeney (31) put Worcester City in front and Tristan Dunkley wrapped up the points on 86 minutes.
Despite their defeat at County Boston still show up as the best away side in the division but new league leaders AFC Fylde are now on their tails in that category. Tom Hannigan scored twice in six minutes to register yet another Fylde win away from home.
County's next away opponents are Solihull Moors - the side formed when Solihull Borough and Moor Green merged. They had a very good day on their travels on Saturday and the points were all wrapped up by half time as Darryl Knights (14), Darren Byfield (23) and Ryan Beswick (45) scored. By then the home side were down to 10 men after midfielder Simon Lenighan had been sent off on the half hour. In the second half Omar Bogie (70) got his 8th of the season to go top of the Conference North goal scorers list and complete a 4-0 away win.
after coming on for Tom Peers.
In the lower reaches Hyde went 5 points adrift by losing 2-0 at fellow strugglers Brackley Town. Brackley won at home thanks to Ryan Rowe's penalty on the half hour. Brackley also have a game in hand despite lying one place above the side relegated from the Conference National at the end of last season.
Stalybridge Celtic avoided dropping into the relegation zone by recording a 3-1 victory over Tamworth. The Staffordshire took an early lead through Shane Clarke (1), but another ex-County man to score on Saturday, Paul Ennis, leveled eight minutes later. Celtic wrapped up the points at Bower Fold in the first half through Ben McKenna (18) and James Cadman (26).
In the final game Norfolk side Lowestoft recorded the same victory margin as County in their game against Bradford PA. A Chris Henderson (14 59) double was the basis of the win. Visitors Avenue had come from behind to lead thanks to Bradley Barraclough (51) and Ryan Qualter (53). The home side responded quickly with Andy Fisk (54) levelling the scores before Henderson got the winner five minutes later.
Firstly some from Andrew Moxon , from the posh seats......
And a couple more....one of Cheadle End LT....
And one of the away fans......