County 2 Chester FC 4 ( FA Cup 4QR) 25 October 2014
County exited the FA Cup today, losing 4-2 to Conference Premier Chester FC watched by a bumper Edgeley Park crowd of nearly 5000.
|Railway End- Full for a change!|
After a first 45 minutes best forgotten, in which Chester came and went at will ,scoring a couple of goals that on another day County might have been expected to prevent, the blues gave the crowd a second half to remember with a fighting comeback, Dennis and Spencer scoring twice in as many minutes immediately after the break. It couldn`t last however, and with tempers fraying all over the place( County`s Dennis and Chester`s Mike Kay getting red cards), Chester scored again through McConville and Henaghan to put the tie to bed, despite a brave effort from County.
The tone of proceedings was set early on and a feisty match looked in prospect as both teams tested the referee`s resolve- Spencer with one of his trademark dives ( no free kick given) as former Hatter Kieran Charnock came within sniffing distance of him ,and Chester via Craig Mahon who launched himself a touch over combatively into Hurst who was about to gather and in no position to give back like for like.
It went on with another ex blue, Craig Hobson, who was to be a real handful all afternoon for Gregson, appearing to elbow the County number five- a circumstance that resulted in a free kick to Chester thanks to some overheated theatricals from Hobson. More antics better suited to the Old Vic than E.P. followed as Hurst did a good job in beating Charnock and Ben Heneghan to a dangerous ball, only for the latter to adopt a near death posture on the goal line! This was not a pretty sight to behold, and did not augur well for the rest of the afternoon! We needed County to concentrate on what they do best and not get side tracked by their opponents antics, but instead County took a blow when Matt Hughes scraped his studs down Toddy`s Achilles as the Stockport lad got the drop on him.
No free kick followed, but Todd had to be substituted, being replaced by Glenn Belezika, which was not a great start.
County did try to fashion a response but when it came, Dennis`s through ball aimed at Spencer was altogether too strong to give him any realistic chance, and from the resultant goal kick, there was a `beach ball moment’ reminiscent of the Liverpool/ Pepe Reina incident some while back, as a cross from Heneghan arrived with Hurst at the precise time that a beach ball did. Hurst was momentarily distracted, but managed to grab the correct pill in the end!
A shot apiece came next.....Hobson for Chester......Dennis for County...both causing few problems for the respective keepers, but 14 minutes in and County appeared to have been holed amidships as Hobson treated a long ball with more seriousness than did County`s defenders, and the slightest of touches from him saw the ball bounce into the County net. That was an awful moment ,but rescue was at hand in the form of the lady liner who had her flag up-raised to indicate offside presumably, and no one around me was about to argue with that!
Chester were enjoying a lot of possession, but their finishing was not at all accurate ,and I was tempted to laugh as Jack Rooney, Ben Heneghan, and Craig Mahon all lifted efforts into our midst in the Cheadle End. Instead .....I bellowed in rage to see the same player who had gone to work on Toddy`s Achilles( Matt Hughes )...attempt to do the same to Lees – this was so annoying and there was no sign of retribution in the form of a card!
A minute on from this and there were other things to get all angst ridden about , most notably loose play just outside the box by County that allowed Mahon to send McConville surging clear, whereupon he took great pleasure I am sure, in slotting the ball home! Unfortunately this unloved social loafer then took himself off in the direction of the Cheadle End on a `gloat fest’ that thoroughly got up the noses of the County crowd- earning the Chester player a well deserved booking.
The goal was a real blow, but not totally unexpected based on the run of play, and County were thankful to Belezika who did just enough next to deny Mahon room enough to shoot or pass as he jinked his way into the box!
We needed a response from County.....any response.....but despite good collaborative work by Dennis and Spencer, Churchman`s shot drifted wide of Jon Worsnop`s goal.
After that brief interruption in the flow, Chester resumed attacking, and a cross by Heneghan saw Hurst get only the slightest of touches on the ball as Hobson hurried in at speed. Thankfully Hurst recovered well, and was able to grab the ball before Hobson could force it home....but it was close!
The attacking play continued from Chester, with Hobson looking the man most likely to......but when the next goal came it came from another source, namely Matt Hughes. Hughes was allowed ample time to cut inside from the left and traverse the edge of the box, before rifling home a shot that came at and past Hurst through a forest of assorted legs! It was 2-0 to Chester and probably `game over’.
That said.......a couple of minutes later....a foul on Dennis by Kay, ushered in a Milligan free kick, but when the loose ball fell at Churchman`s feet ,his shot again was well wide.
Once more...that last action was but a brief interruption in the regular flow of play, and Chester soon resumed attacking, and it was alarming to see Belezika left on his own to deal with the dual threat of Hughes and Roberts.
Rooney`s eventual shot went wide, but understandably Belezika made his thoughts on the subject known to his team mates! Belezika had more work to do shortly after, and he coped really well....better than others in fact, who seemed content to allow a queue of Chester forwards to form on the edge of the box looking for a scoring position.
Once.....twice....Belezika was the man on the spot, and both times he did the biz- the second occasion being a real chance as Hobson was clear smack in front of goal.
The last 5 minutes of the half were a procession of Chester attacks........Mahon foiled by Churchman`s timely slider......McConville by a Hurst catch, and Rooney first by Belezika ,and then a vital last ditcher from Fagbola.
The half ended with County 2 down and probably slightly relieved about that!
The resumption saw Woolfe on in place of Baker, as I confirmed to Darren on Row Q that it was `game over’ really.
Well....that`s what I thought, but within a couple of minutes there was some word eating going on in Row R as County pulled one back.
It started with a fair old blocking tackle by O`Halloran on Mahon which in an instant turned defence to attack! From O`Halloran ...in no time the ball found its way to Woolfe, and seconds later it was in the net as Woolfe`s pass had picked Dennis out precisely and he had fired a cool finish past Worsnop into the net.
Wow......did the County faithful like that, and a mighty roar threatened the peace of Hardcastle Road and around as suddenly the whiff of a chance surfaced!
I had barely time to scribble the legend `game on’, and add the obvious? before the stadium erupted as County scored a second and it was a real belter! County, urged on by a rejuvenated crowd, had just threatened again, and Charnock had had to hurriedly find touch with alarm bells ringing.
If Chester thought that the subsequent throw would be the end of it....they were 100% wrong, as Dennis`s pass picked Spencer out and he thrashed a drive of fearsome power past the keeper into the net to make it 2-2!
If that was simply excellent.....more and better almost followed it- thwarted ....alas.....by a brilliant diving save from Worsnop, who somehow managed to tip Woolfe`s goal bound shot onto the bar and away! Yes......County were at last playing with real determination, and in response Chester`s play was becoming ragged!
That said....the 54th minute saw the Railway End go up to a man/woman to acclaim a goal as a shot from Roberts came in, but it had struck the side netting and they were disappointed!
A hurried punch out by Hurst that laid Belezika out for a while, and a close thing involving Spencer....Dennis and Worsnop, emphasised that despite everything it was anyone`s game now!
Nevertheless....at this point, County were doing OK...... a slight rub of the green and perhaps......... but it was not to be and the 66th minute they went behind again when Mahon fired a cross in from the right for McConville to force his side`s third goal home from close in.
That was a bummer, and almost got worse as Mahon skipped inside past O`Halloran before welting another shot narrowly wide of the target! To their credit though, County kept plugging away –a Spencer break forcing a corner, and much good work from Belezika coming ultimately to nothing.
I had begun to lose count now of the number of cards but I noted that Charnock had earned his with about 20 minutes left, but overall he was doing better than I had thought that he would! Then it kind of all fell apart for County as another Chester raid seemed to have ended with another Chester corner. But the kick was well placed, and County`s man to man marking wasn`t, and Heneghan had the simple task of heading home from a yard or so out making it 4-2 to the visitors.
It was nip and tuck for much of the time after this, both teams having a go, and County were unlucky , with 10 minutes left, to see a Milligan free kick skid out of play, off Charnock`s head rather than finish up in the net. What followed on from this was not at all edifying....the pressure was on Chester, who were forced to concede another corner in the face of the County threat. This came to the near post where McColville and Dennis went for it. McConville went down, and there was definite contact with Dennis involved. It was unclear as to whether any foul , on either part, had been perpetrated, but any doubt was removed pretty swiftly when Dennis followed through a second time. In a trice McConville was down and in another Dennis was walking, and we will miss him in some vital matches, which is doubly disappointing! Meanwhile WW3 had broken out with Belezika and Kay the central figures, which ended with a yellow for the Stockport man and red for Kay.
So....both sides were now down to 10 men....County attacked gamely via Belezika....then Woolfe, but in both cases the finish lacked the aplomb of the approach work.
Added time came in with a bang as a thunderous shot from Woolfe brought another amazing( one handed ) diving save from Worsnop . The follow up from Spencer seemed to strike Charnock`s hand, but the referee thought otherwise and that was that.
Substitute Jamie Menagh did get a late/late yellow for his `dying swan’ bit as Hurst dived to make a save....
..... O`Halloran saw a shot charged down, and Belezika showed us more excellence in stopping Rooney who was clean through and set fair to add a fifth until the Stockport substitute arrived to thwart him!
Good stuff.....a decent effort by County, at least in the second half, and the crowd were content to applaud them off at the end before leaving for home.
I am just sad about Dennis getting sent off and thus missing games, and then there`s the policing bill which will no doubt mean we make precisely nowt from this encounter!
We are still very much in the promotion hunt with chances however, so I for one will head off for Harrogate next Saturday bearing that in mind( and looking forward to the catering!)
County line up:
Hurst, Todd ( Belezika 9), Lees, Gregson, Fagbola( Moses 87), O`Halloran, Milligan, Churchman, Baker ( Woolfe 45), Spencer, Dennis.
Substitutes not used:
Ormson, Lofthouse, Lazenbury, Hancock.
Chester FC line up;
Worsnop, Heneghan, Roberts G, James, Charnock, Kay, Mahon, McConville, Hobson, Rooney, Hughes.
Touray, Winn, Brown, Harrison, Roberts C, Menagh, Hall.