County Development Squad 3 Ashton Athletic 0 ( Lancashire League West) 15 October 2014

It was a grim of those nights when a certain type of pro- footballer might be tempted to hide! I am no footballer either, but have hidden away on rain lashed Cringle Fields more than once in my `footballing’ past, way back when ( around the Napoleonic Wars as I remember), but I saw no one on either side hiding last night as the rain bucketed down on SK3, where County`s Development Squad secured 3 points at the expense of Ashton Athletic thanks to goals from Connor Thompson, substitute Will Hartley, and George Blackwell.

Thompson in action watched by Woolfe.
It was a nicely crafted win, one grounded in first principals- namely` get the defence right and the rest will surely follow’, plus decent football. Set up with a back three of Leon O`Malley, Glenn Belezika and Connor Hancock, County had indeed got it right with all three putting in top notch shifts, contributing hugely to a 3-0 shut- out, which is doubly praiseworthy bearing in mind County`s second 45 minutes saw Centre Forward and goal scorer Connor Thompson between the sticks, Ian Ormson having gone off ill at the break. Others to shine for County were the hard working George Blackwell, Jordan Lazenbury who made a fair few intuitive passes over the 90 minutes, and Will Hartley who was the pick of 3 excellent second half substitutes for the blues!

Early action.
It was a lively start by both teams as Belezika opened his account by ushering Chris Webster out of the danger zone, and Sam Gibson missed the target with an early effort for the visitors, whilst Nathan Woolfe and Joe Mswaile pecked away at Ashton down the left and through the middle without causing keeper Patrick Loughin to be troubled.

Joe Mswaile
County`s midfield diamond( if that was what it was) had Charlie Russell  and Jordan Lazenbury in central roles with Jordan Young and George Blackwell in wider positions. On the whole  this worked well and denied Ashton the oxygen of too much possession, but....that said the 11th minute Ian Ormson had to pull off an instinctive one handed save to deny Ashton after Darrell Hyde and Chris Webster had sneaked clear.
The first of a series of neat moves followed from County and Ashton did well to keep them at bay after good work from Mswalie had allowed Blackwell to set Thompson up with a fine cross. Thompson swerved beyond his man nicely, but the weight of numbers eventually did for him and Loughlin`s goal remained intact.

Connor Thompson
Mswaile and Woolfe were getting forward to good effect at this stage , and when the impressive Leon O`Malley joined the duo , and a brilliant cross field ball from him teed Mswaile up for a cross nicely- it seemed to be game on for the blues, but Woolfe hurried his shot and lifted it over the bar.
Twice after this, Lazenbury saw decent passes not get picked up. Hancock fared better picking Thompson out with excellent precision only to see the far liner`s flag waving in the dank evening air- offside apparently, which rather failed to address the overly robust tackle by Adam Ahmed in the build up!
County were warming to their task now, and Ashton did well to keep them out as Lazenbury`s free kick whizzed wide after Mswalie`s run had won his side a corner. On it went with a  neat one/ two twixt Lazenbury and Woolfe setting the latter up for a pot at goal, but the keeper kept this out and somehow the follow up was scrambled clear when the opening goal looked on!

More and more of the ball was coming County`s way , but thus far nothing was materialising at the sharp end where Woolfe wasted a good chance when a loose ball came his way in the box with Loughlin exposed. Add a Lazenbury cross that found no one in blue on the end of it, and I was tempted to worry somewhat, especially as Mswalie lost the ball to Paul Watson who set Ashton off on the charge. Corner became a scramble on the line after this but County survived , and did so again shortly after when Hancock kept his cool to deny a move initiated by Reece Broadhurst and Darrell Hale.
For a time after this Ashton looked capable of causing an upset, and might have had Hancock not been on top of his game, and he had to be as Hale again burst through after Russell had lost the ball. Applause rang out from the small crowd as Hancock`s work ended with a corner which Ormson gobbled hungrily under the bar!
Eventually though County restored their grip going into the lead with 5 minutes remaining of the half ,thanks to a lovely through ball from Lazenbury that had Thompson`s name written all over it. Young Connor duly obliged  slamming a lethal finish past Loughin into the net.
After this....Lazenbury was unlucky with an effort after Blackwell had kept a move alive with some excellent work, but the half ended with Ormson in action saving bravely with his legs as Gibson threatened to spoil the party for the blues. The follow up shot from Watson went wide, but there was perhaps something for County to think about for the second half, certainly there was no room for complacency despite the 1-0 score line.       

On come Will Hartley and Jordan Rogers...
The re-start saw changes in County`s line up. First off Ian Ormson was ill, and  with no substitute keeper named, County were forced to put Connor Thompson in goal. In addition Mswalie had picked up a groin problem bringing Will Hartley on, along with Jordan Rogers.
Quickly County`s new line up got into gear, only for Woolfe to latch onto a Lazenbury pass but shoot wide. That was Woolfe`s final contribution of the evening as Kieron Crosthwaite came on to replace him 5 minutes into the half.
Have I said that County were now getting into gear? Well.....they were, and a characteristic `dash from the back’ by Belezika set things nicely on the move and Will Hartley was only stopped by a foul by Webster who was seen to hobble off shortly after.
Hartley`s throw.......
The free kick from the last action was defended well by Ashton, but County came back via Kieron Crosthwaite, and it took Loughin two goes to hold Kieron`s shot , and an almighty scramble ensued as Will Hartley tried to force the loose ball home. Somehow Ashton managed to settle for a corner, when far worse threatened, but far worse quickly came back to bite them when the corner pinged over and the visitors couldn`t handle it. County particular Will Hartley who nipped in and slotted County`s second home!

2nd half action.....
That was excellent, but it also seemed to sting Ashton into action and the plucky substitute keeper Thompson did well to keep a shot by Watson out, and O`Malley did even better to deny Ashton again by clearing the follow up effort off the line!
About 5 minutes of solid effort followed from Ashton, but without reward, before County eventually reasserted themselves as a great one/ two between Hartley and Young saw the latter denied by a decent save from the Ashton keeper. Hartley and Young were getting forward well, and with just over 20 minutes left Young`s forward run drew a foul from a defender, and another save by Loughlin to keep Lazenbury`s free kick out.
Four times though Ashton might have pulled one back after this...on each  occasion Gibson was in the van......first off being denied by a good save from Thompson, and then twice by determined work from Belezika at the heart of the blue defence, and finally via brilliant work by O`Malley who combined with Lazenbury to deny the visitors number ten.

Thompson between the sticks......
Add to this another save by Thompson that kept a strike by Hale out, and one from a hospital type back pass, and  you could see that Ashton wanted something out of this game as all barring Loughlin piled forward for a corner that ended with Watson`s header carrying the bar!
Slowly ...with time ebbing away, County applied the brake to Ashton`s efforts, but there were no takers as Blackwell`s cross pinged over from wide. County kept at it however through Young and Blackwell who bamboozled the opposing defenders with some neat sleight of foot which saw Young in on goal but brought down! It was smack in front but centimetres outside the box, and we have all seen these missed haven`t we! Not this time George Blackwell stepped up to drill an excellent kick into the net!
It was 3-0 and might just have been 4, next as Lazenbury slung a decent ball into the path of Will Hartley. Will seemed to hesitate, thinking he was offside, but he was not and before he could react the chance was gone. 

Late push by County

The game was ending with County in top gear again and a foul on Jordan Rogers ushered in Lazenbury`s free kick that sent Hartley clear again. In an instant he was to the by-line and Loughin had advanced to meet him doing just enough to keep the forward`s delicate chip out.
Hartley headed over from the corner, and Russell went close on the end of a pass from Hancock and that was that, County had secured a decent victory.

County line up:

Ian Ormson( Jordan Rogers 45), Leon O`Malley, Glenn Belezika, Connor Hancock, Charlie Russell, Jordan Young, George Blackwell, Joe Mswaile( Will Hartley 45), Jordan Lazenbury, Connor Thompson, Nathan Woolfe ( Kieron Crosthwaite 50).

Ashton Athletic line up;

Patrick Loughin, Reece Broadhurst, Adam Ahmed, Matthew Rochford, Phillip Curran, Dave Norbury, Paul Watson, Chris Webster, Darrell Hale , Sam Gibson, Lewis Walker.


Louis Mc Grath, Kyle Ross,Mark Kelly, Paul Bramhall.

Upcoming Dev  Squad Fixtures:

Thursday         23 October        Hyde FC             away   7.45 (at Abbey Hey)
Wednesday    29 October        FCUM                 home  7.45
Wednesday     5 November   Curzon Ashton    home 7.45 ( League Cup QF)
Thursday        13  November   Ashton Athletic  away    7.45
 Wednesday  19 November    Colne FC       home     7.45
Saturday         29 November   FCUM         away    2.00  

Ian Brown


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