Lancaster City 2 County Development Squad 2 ( Lancashire League West)18 September 2014

A really competitive match at the Giant Axe stadium saw County`s Development Squad draw 2-2 with Lancaster City last night. It was a decent game, if one littered a tad over much with free kicks which both sides were apt to concede.
“A fair result?” I hear you ask, and the answer is “arguably ....yes, on the balance of play”, but the game swung on an abysmal bit of refereeing ,and could...nay probably would have ended differently had a blatant foul, in extremis, by the home keeper on Michael Hampson not gone unpunished . County were 2-1 up at the time and the goal hungry Hampson was on for his hat trick before the foul. Sods Law dictates that in these circumstances, the opposition promptly score, and with County still angst ridden by the awfulness of the decision, Lancaster went up the park and did just that!
It was a pity for the game to be decided so, as both teams had worked hard to give us a very watchable match. County had sailed into a 2-0 lead thanks to excellent work by Hampson, only to be pulled back to 2-1, on the stroke of half time, by a superbly headed goal by Josh Wardle from a needlessly conceded free kick. The equaliser followed after the break, but much decent play had preceded it. For County I was particularly struck by full backs Matthew Todd and Jordan Fitton, who along with Connor Hancock and Wes Benjamin got through a mass of work whilst looking A1 doing it, whilst Josh Powell ,the County keeper, treated us to a clutch of brilliant saves to confirm that here is a glove donner with a future! Lancaster had their moments too, and key providers for them, for me, were Eamon Alzubaldi, Mambwe Chilufya, and Kane Winder who`s crosses and set pieces in the second half caused the blues real problems.    
The game got underway with County set up in a diamond formation in which Charlie Russell and George Blackwell were to feature prominently. Straight off County were under pressure when a free kick by Alzubaldi whizzed in, giving Josh Powell an early chance to shine.

If I was at all uneasy and irritated at this stage, it was nothing to do with play, but 100% about the noise that accompanied it, namely the cacophony of sound that assaulted the ear, game long, from the nearby Priory. I did my best to ignore it, and concentrate on the game......
Twice Alzumaldi ran at the left side of the County defence, and twice decent crosses pinged over, both seen off nicely by Wes Benjamin who was to get through a mountain of work along with Connor Hancock. Charlie Russell meanwhile, was intent on imposing himself on proceedings, combining nicely with Joe Noblett and Jordan Rodgers to set Michael Hampson up for a header that unfortunately was deflected wide.
County press.
As the game progressed Lancaster, urged on by the lively Alzubaldi, looked the livelier of the two sides , but thankfully Benjamin continued to stand firm and deal calmly with what came his way. It was apparent however that County were conceding too many free kicks that just increased the angst factor and the pressure. That said....Fitton relieved the pressure, winning a corner with a tasty run, but when this was cleared by Alzubaldi , Lancaster responded on the break and Tom Woods was disappointed to see his header flash by the post.
County thus far had had to work hard to stay level, but the 20th minute saw them take the lead , and it was a mix up at the back that sorted it for the blues, allowing the predatory Michael Hampson to nip in....dispossess the keeper....and slot the opener home!
Credit to Lancaster....their heads did not go down, indeed County were indebted to Toddy for some excellent work that saw him stop Reece Pearce as he surged into the box. Moments later Pearce was away again, courtesy of `Myopic Moment number 1’ from the referee as a   blatant foul on Hampson was ignored. Todd blocked the break, and from the resultant corner Josh Powell pulled off a brilliant save to deny Josh Wardle from getting the equaliser with a powerful header!

Josh Powell.
Back came County after this , with Todd urging them on, but a firm header from Hampson and a subsequent free kick from Todd found keeper Mick Dolan in good nick! Oh ......and those b****y bells continued to toll...they must have forearms and biceps bigger then Popeye in there( and ear plugs)!

No such luck here at the Giant Axe, but it didn`t matter, as another County attack saw Callum Cooke slip the ball sideways to Mike Hampson who smacked the second goal home!
That was really good, but Cooke was blocked nicely a minute or so later, by Wardle, who set Mambwe Chilufya off on the charge, and it took a fine saving tackle from Joe Noblett to sort things for the blues.

So....despite the constant cacophony of sound.....things looked good for County, but with seconds to go to the break they gave away a needless free kick just beyond half way, which Alzubaldi pinged over for Wardle to head home in glorious style.
It was 2-1 at the break then.....not bad....but........

During half time I found time to down my second coffee of the evening and a bacon barn from Dolly`s Diner, a decent eatery, but.......try as I did....I couldn`t get the recurring image of the Priory inmates re-enacting that Mars advert...constantly being pulled aloft holding the bells....out of my head!

The game resumed with Lancaster giving it a go again requiring a brave save by Powell to keep a shot from Aaron Hoyle out. Tom Woods joined in with a shot, and Chilufya drilled yet another free kick over the bar. It went on much in the same vein, and Hancock did extremely well to calmly despatch a challenge from Woods after shadowing him neatly on the break. Dan Syson was in the attacking mix too for City, but Russell proved his worth to deny him.
Lancaster looked not about to be denied however, and County`s propensity for giving needless free kicks away fed this like oxygen a flame, but then Lancaster gave a fair few away as well ,but Jordan Rodgers could not capitalise on this fact, heading over the top after Hampson had been fouled on the edge of the box.
Two goal Michael Hampson.

The home side continued to seek an equaliser , but County kept them largely restricted to up to the edge of the box....shots on goal were rationed thanks to Benjamin, and then Steven Wiggins, who had come on at the break for Cooke. Wiggins did well to block a run by Woods, as did Todd and Hancock, who with a neat cooperation sorted the latest sortie by the ever lively Chilufya.
Past the hour mark we went with Jordan Young and Will Hartley now on for County, but Lancaster were still hell bent on that equaliser as Josh Powell pulled off a marvellous save to claw a shot from Woods from off the line at the very last gasp!
That was excellent, but still the free kicks racked up ...County defended them well enough but..........
It went end to end for a time after this with Alzubaldi continuing to run at County with real purpose down the right, and Jordan Young having a shot saved by Donlan after a defensive blooper by City. Then Powell made another belting stop to keep Woods out on the end of neat through ball from Pearce.
It also got a tad iffy as well with some poor challenges flying in- Hampson was on the receiving end of quite a few of these, but so was Rodgers and Young, and the referee produced his book several times adding a clutch of City names to his collection.
There were just 13 minutes left of the game when the `game changer’ occurred. County were still 2-1 up and starting slowly to get back on the attack , so much so that Hampson was clear as he latched onto a loose ball . Only Donlan stood between him and a hat trick, and this seemed assured as he cut inside , but as he did so the keeper took him out sending the forward flying sideways away from goal. A less honest player would have gone to ground, but I guess Michael wanted his 3rd goal so tried to stay upright and get the ball, but this proved a none starter, and with Sods Law in motion, and the referees mind elsewhere,  Lancaster scooted clear  for Meeks to force that much sought after  equaliser home from close in.
From looking a nailed down 3-1 score line it was now 2-2, and County had to live with that. Powell did so.....punching clear under pressure not long after. Joe Noblett did so too, but Alzubaldi was still in top gear and he did enough to see him off before he could get a shot off.
For Lancaster ...Kane Winder came into his own at this point pinging a series of crosses and free kicks ( yes County were still conceding them) over . Thankfully County defended these well.

Jordan Fitton in action.
Fitton did well also getting a cross in for County but this was dealt with confidently by Donlan. He was less assured moments later as Hampson sent the ball whizzing across goal from the right, but no one was on hand to apply a finish and it stayed 2-2.
Good work from Young( breaking up a raid at the back) and a shot from Noblett on the end of a break by Rodgers, and that was that , and the points were shared.
It only remained for me to complement the referee on his performance before heading off into the night up the M6 past the seemingly endless lines of illuminated cones .
I had enjoyed ,by and large, my third visit to the Giant Axe ,and County`s young squad had done well, and a point away from home is not to be sniffed at!

County line up:

Josh Powell, Matthew Todd, Jordan Fitton, Charlie Russell, Connor Hancock, Wes Benjamin, Callum Cooke, Joe Noblett, Michael Hampson, Jordan Rodgers, George Blackwell.

Jordan Young, Will Hartley, Steven Wiggins.

Lancaster City line up:

Mick Donlan, Eamon Alzubaldi, Mambwe Chilufya, Phil Meeks, Lewis Plackett, Josh Wardle, Aaron Hoyle, Reece Pearce, Thomas Woods, Dan Syson, Dan Birch.

Adam Bee, Kane Harding, Kane Winder, Martin Grundy, Aaron Jones.

Ian Brown


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