Hednesford Town 1 County 1 ; ( Conference North) 6 September 2014

County came away with a point at Hednesford today battling back from 0-1 down to rally strongly for the draw that sends them up to seventh in the division.
It was an odd game....one dominated for the first 30 minutes by County who only lacked a goal to confirm their hegemony, but it never came, at least not for County, and Sods Law dictates that in those circumstances, when the embattled side at last attacks.....they score ,and that`s precisely what Hednesford did. One shot on goal.....one goal....an excellent return for the home side, but not so for County, but thankfully A.L`s shuffled pack applied themselves well in the second half, claiming the point with a cracking header from Jack Ryan, who had put in a shift of rare effort and drive. He had been teed up by another excellent set piece from Milligan, who was top man for me for County throughout, forever sending decent balls into dangerous areas. It was a good all round team performance though, one that would have been even better had Dennis put away a gilt edger late on....or had the referee awarded a penalty when James Hurst unaccountably caught the ball in the box under pressure from Sharp, even more unaccountably ...the ref awarded Hednesford a free kick, and he also only issued a yellow instead of marching orders to Ben Bailey, when he violently elbowed Dennis in the face within feet of us and the referee! All grist I suppose to the mill of those wishing to feel badly done to, but in the end, a point is a decent return from a difficult assignment such as Hednesford, and compared to last season`s result( a 1-3 reverse)-it`s pure luxury!Oh.....and we are now seventh, so I will take that!
Back at 3 o`clock I was not greatly surprised to see A.L. stick with the same starting 11 as last time, even though for me Sharp and Dennis, played together, offer more than the available alternatives just now in terms of fire power.

Minutes Silence !

 I was slightly miffed however to see County come out wearing yellow shirts against a side playing in white. It was a blatant case for us to wear our primary colour....blue....in my view.....the colour that 90 odd percent of the 200 or so travelling fans were wearing! Not the first time this has happened ,or the first time I have sounded off in response, but maybe someone somewhere might give the matter some thought!
It was a rather tranquil opening for the first minute or so, marked only by a comfortable catch by the County Hurst as Alex Melbourne lifted one into the box.

Hurst on the ball......

The 3rd minute saw a change and it was Milligan who initiated it with a cracking corner that gave Jack Ryan a shooting chance, but unfortunately his first time effort missed the target to rather spoil the moment.
Another 60 seconds after this and the red mist started to form before my eyes as the far liner`s flag stayed rooted to his side as Jamey Osbourne received the ball, at least 2 yards offside! He was .....he was.....but the flag stayed down! Thankfully the chance set up by this was spurned by a home attack that, at this point, did not give the impression of being all that lethal.
This impression continued to linger as ineffectual raid after ineffectual raid foundered ...first on a Lees/ Belezika combined op, and then one beautifully crafted by Lees and O`Halloran.

First half action.

Eventually County responded as Ryan and Baker combined to push Hednesford back. Baker was almost in, and so was Spencer, and it took a desperate last ditcher by Chris Westwood to keep the now rather shaky Hednesford craft afloat.
The corner was cleared and after a brief break from Hednesford that saw Marvin Robinson force Belezika to concede a corner, Spencer went close again, this time lifting his shot over the bar.

Lees to the fore !

County settled into a decent rhythm after this, albeit one occasionally broken up by a quick break by the home side, but these did not give the impression of being overly troublesome for County, so nobody, at this point, in the 200 or so County contingent looked at all worried. And......why should they indeed.....as the 25th minute saw Milligan`s deep cross into the box tee Baker up nicely. It was a chance and Baker appeared to have taken it, until his firm header smacked into the bar and came out, with keeper Dan Crane well and truly beaten! Seconds later and Baker went close to scoring again, but not close enough- it stayed 0-0!

Milligan preparing a free kick.

The pressure was on Hednesford now, and they could only foul Spencer next ,to keep him out. Milligan`s kick from this was a beauty again, but O`Halloran`s effort missed out by inches. County piled it on now, and again it took a foul, on Milligan this time, to stop them. This time Milligan`s kick disappointed- hitting the wall, and when it ran sideways to O`Halloran a poor effort from him missed the target by a bit!
Yes.....Hednesford were thoroughly stretched......attack followed attack from County, with Crane out of his area to head clear as Spencer ran onto Gregson`s pass. As I say.....it was pressure.....pressure.......all pressure on the team in white, but it all suddenly went pear shaped for A.L.`s side as their opponents slung one clear from deep defence and caught County napping. Tom Peers nipped clear down the left before cutting inside unchallenged. Only Hurst stood between him and a lead for Hednesford, and the County keeper managed to get to the shot and keep it out. Great.......except it wasn`t, as Danny couldn`t hold onto it, and the ball ran clear to Danny Glover who jogged in to slot the softest of goals home!
It went on with County probably shell shocked by the sheer absurdity of it all, but they had to take it on the chin...re-group and set about putting it right in the second half if they could make it to the break without conceding any further goals.

County defend....

This just might be harder to achieve than I had thought, as Hednesford seemed somewhat enlivened by their good fortune. Suddenly they got onto the front foot more, but Jamey Osbourne was lucky only to get a yellow for one fairly rustic challenge at one point. At another point Hurst had to save with his legs with Alex Melbourne bearing down on him at speed.....and another saw Lees stop Glover as he attempted to sneak clear, with a lovely bit of work. This had the home specs yelling “ handball”, but I saw nothing of the kind in Lees` work!

Belezika blocks Glover`s cross.

In the end Lees had to produce the goods again as County just couldn`t stop being caught on the break, but they made it to half time without further loses, and I looked forward to the re-start with County attacking the away end.

Ryan on the charge !

Dennis was on for Spencer after the break, and play was again not that sparkling early on, but it livened up big time when  Ryan crossed the ball into the box where James Hurst emulated his County namesake, by clutching the ball to his chest in the box. It looked the clearest penalty you could wish to see( and I think I said as much to the ref), but he was clearly mentally cruising somewhere above the radiation rings over Planet Zog at the time, and a blast of his whistle signalled a free kick for Hednesford!
Encouraged, Hednesford pressed forward forcing Gregson and Hurst to make decisive interventions.

Sharpdisptes possession.

For County, Ryan went close, before A.L. rang the changes again bringing Sharp on for Belezika, and within 4 minutes the move had paid off when County grabbed one back! Substitute James McQuilkin had just stopped a lung bursting run by Jack Ryan after he had cut inside after sweeping past Melbourne on the flank. It was a corner.....a Milligan corner, and it was a belter too, and so was Ryan`s header that fairly burst the netting as it sped past Crane.

Ryan shoots (  top) & is out of pic as hes header flies in ( below)

That was a marvellous effort, and the County following, who were pretty noisy at times, were buoyed by it, but disappointed minutes later to see Ryan just miss out on the end of another prompt from Milligan.
It was at this point that the red mist formed again with the sight of Ben Bailey, not 2 yards away from us and a similar distance from the referee, connect with a swing of an elbow to Dennis`s face as he threatened to dart clear. As a professional wrestling move it might just have been alright, but on the football field it deserved an adequate response, but the clucking of chickens could be heard not 3 or4 yards away as the official waved a yellow in the perpetrators direction!
Crane clears for Town.

County pressed and pressed after this, queuing up to shoot.....Baker one moment....Sharp, then Dennis the next, but the home back line were organised well and those hoped for shots failed to materialise. Then I thought that the circle had been squared as a lovely through ball from ( didn`t see who.... sorry) had Dennis away and clear with only Crane to beat. Nine times out of ten I would have expected Dennis to put this definite chance away, but this was the tenth and he snatched at it giving Crane little difficulty in seeing it off.

Bailey & Dennis ( top) Ryan / Westwood ( below)

County were certainly giving their all, and the unfortunate Bailey had to foul Dennis ( again) to prevent his side leaking another goal. The free kick picked Ryan out nicely, but he found Westwood on his case and the chance was gone.
On it went with Ryan seemingly still bursting with energy, running at County`s opponents with a will. By-passing James Hurst` attempts to stop him, Ryan pinged a cross in that had Dennis`s name on it, only for Bailey to step in and stop it reaching him!
It was getting interesting now, and more so as Dennis beat Crane to the ball forcing it back to Sharp who blasted it goal ward with little delay. It was a decent effort but so was Crane`s and he rose off the ground to fling himself to his left and clutch the pill hungrily!

Ryan again.

The County offensive rather tapered off after the last action, and Hurst did well at one point to tip a shot from McQuilkin around the post at the last gasp. We simply did not need County conceding a late /late goal after working so hard, but there was much additional work now for Gregson and co to do to keep it at 1-1, as County began to try and get by on a diet of long and hopeful balls from deep as the minutes ticked away, with the home specs urging their team on to greater and better deeds.
It seemed to work as well because Osbourne found plenty of space to carve a hole in County down the left, before heading off along the by-line- he was eventually stopped, but it was not that pretty to behold.
Sharp did have a decent run down the right, halted by Bailey. There was a doubt about the legality of the defenders work, but this fact did not at all trouble the referee, and Sharp was dished.

Late County throw.

The 90 minutes were up, and 2 minutes added time was announced as a shot by Glover was deflected for a corner. If this was a crisis moment for County it soon passed however, as a foul by McQuilkin did for the move.
Both sides had a go in the games dying embers, but I suppose 1-1 was a fair reflection of how things went, and I found few in the Blue Army too despondent about the result, which was a whole lot better than last seasons at this venue!

Oh...and I must say that the stewards at Hednesford were very friendly and most helpful- I was well impressed!

See you at Edgeley Park next Saturday then, for County v Boston United. It should be a cracker!

County line up:
Hurst, Belezika ( Sharp 56), Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Churchman, Milligan, Baker( Woolfe 89),Spencer ( Dennis 45), Ryan.
Substitutes not used: Ormson, Lofthouse.

Hednesford line up:
Crane, Melbourne, Campion, Bailey, Westwood, Thorley, Osbourne, Hurst, Glover, Robinson, Peers.
Substitutes: Ashmore, Melvin, McCone, McQuilkin, Sullivan.

Attendance: 958

Ian Brown

Additional Review of  Other Conference North  games today( this by Ian Watts):

I think it can fairly be described as a lively day's football on Saturday as far as the Conference North was concerned.

Pride of place goes to Dave Challinor's AFC Fylde team, who scored 6 first half goals at Oxford City. Ritchie Allen (14 & 19 minutes) got the first two, before the home side pulled a goal back through Darren Pond (27). This was only a minor hiccup in Fylde's dominance as four minutes later Josh Green put though his own goal. With further goals on 39 (through ex-County man Danny L Rowe) 41 (Michael Potts) and Michael Barnes in injury time, Fylde had the points wrapped up before their cuppa. It was a quieter second half with just two more goals as Rowe (61) and Barnes (69) added to their tally. The result was comfortably the biggest win in the League this season, bettering Fylde's Bank Holiday 5-0 win at Colwyn Bay.

Another impressive away performance saw Chorley record a 3-0 win at Tamworth; although they were aided by Shane Clarke being sent off around the half hour mark. To add to the Lambs problems Paul Green joined him for an early bath in first half injury time. Josh Hine scored Chorley's first on 40 minutes, with James Dean scoring four minutes later.  It was virtually time before Chorley took advantage of their superior numbers through Jack Dorney (86). Chorley joined Boston in joint second spot with equal points, goal difference and goals scored.

Barrow  increased their advantage at the top of the table with a 1-0 home win against Worcester City. Andy Cooke scored the only goal, his 7th of the season. The result meant they went 2 points clear at the top as North Ferriby failed to gain any points in their home game. The Humberside team fell foul of Omar Bogie who put the visitors ahead with a penalty on 39 minutes and added a second from open play after 52, taking his season's tally to 7. Although Russell Fry pulled a goal back 14 minutes later Darryl Knights (74) clinched the points.

That still leaves two more sides scoring a trio of away goals, one being the side next up for County. Like the Hatters Boston United were trailing at half time thanks to Bradford PA's recent signing Billy Priestley who scored on 28 minutes.  Boston levelled things via Dayle Southwell's penalty shortly after the hour mark and quickly established an unscalable lead with Zac Mills (67) and Southwell's second (69) to claim second spot in the table. Guiseley got back on form with a clean sheet at Brackley taking the points thanks to Adam Boyes  (24), Jake Lawlor (60) and an injury time first of the season for ex-County man Oli Johnson.

Best home performance of the day - and the only side other than Barrow to record a home win - came from Colwyn Bay.  On the North Wales coast it was a first half Obi Anoruo double (7 & 44) that set Bay on their way. He was to complete his hat-trick on 62 minutes by which time Marc Williams had made it 3-0. Paul Beesley pulled a goal back for Gainsborough Trinity with around 10 minutes to go. .

The matches at Gloucester, Lowestoft and Stalybridge were all goalless at half time and in the case of Lowestoft v Harrogate Town that scoreline did not change.  Early in the second half Leamington claimed the points at Bower Fold through Jordan Goddard's goal on 54 minutes. Meanwhile at Gloucester City bottom club Hyde claimed their second point of the season. Josh Brizell had given the Ewen Fields side the lead a couple of minutes after the break but Charlie Griffin (71) ended hopes of a first win of the season.

The results mean County climbed two places to 7th on goal difference ahead of five other teams also on 10 points. That could well soon change as County are one of just four Conference North teams who are not in action on Tuesday night.



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