County 2 Colwyn Bay FC 1 ; ( FA Trophy 3QR) 29 November 2014






County progressed to the first round proper in the FA Trophy with a 2-1 victory against Conference North rivals Colwyn Bay at Edgeley Park today.
For a time it looked a shoo-in with County 2 up before the break and Bay looking ragged and toothless. The break did the visitors the power of good however, and they then came out to play as a consequence, pulling one back and enjoying a volume of possession they could but dream of in the first half.
Having said that, County did defend well, and might have scored themselves once or twice more....in fact they looked to have done just that via a Sharp header , which I am still at a loss to understand just why it was ruled out! It was though, and a game possibly won became one possible to lose, but again County`s defensive qualities saw them through with O`Halloran fully justifying his M.O.M award, but Gregson and the increasingly impressive Lees were not that far behind in a team expertly marshalled by captain Jamie Milligan.
There was no Stevenson or Owens on show at 3 o`clock, although Owens did warm up with the team- both were ineligible due to the wishes of their parent clubs. There were 2 changes from last week- Moses and Owens giving way for Baker and Duxbury, who was making his first start for a while after injury.

A brief return for Scott Duxbury.

The early play was pretty mundane fare really, the only remarkable part being the rash of free kicks that the referee was awarding for very little indeed. Two came Colwyn Bay`s way in the first five minutes, neither of them succeeding in troubling the County defence, unlike the first one awarded to County which saw the cutest of kicks from Milligan land not far from Spencer ,who did no less than open the scoring with a cool/ cool finish!
Six minutes in.....and we were 1 up, and Milligan was already in charge, imposing himself on proceedings with an air of authoritative calm. O`Halloran looked on top of his game too, but a perfectly decent bit of defensive work, to block Obi Anoruo , by the ex Irish International earned him a lecture and Bay a free kick, which was doubly infuriating! 

 
Early action.
Thankfully , Bay had a couple of rib ticklers to throw our way  following this, firstly through Tom Buckley`s kick, which  was straight out of the `Bumper Book of Football Gaffes and Bloopers’  and had us in tucks laughing as the ball was effortlessly cleared by the blue back line. Almost immediately we were roaring with delight to see keeper Liam Sharpe venture forth and clutch a blatant back pass even more blatantly to his chest. I would have still been laughing now I think had Sharp not lifted his shot, from Milligan`s free kick, over the bar.
County were looking ever more comfortable on the ball, but the feeling of satisfaction took a bump on 11 minutes when it became clear that Duxbury would have to be substituted- Jordan Fagbola coming on in his place at left back. The short term effects of the reorganisation allowed Bay to get forward through Anoruo, but Gregson seemed to have his measure, until a 50/50 challenge again saw the visiting number eight hasten to the ground convincing the referee to award Bay a free kick.


 
Gregson/ Anoruo get acquainted.
 A rare bit of County looseness came next via Hurst who made a thorough mess of a routine catch- the situation saved only by O`Halloran`s quick work conceding a corner. There the County angst ended though, as Hurst`s equilibrium was confirmed as restored by a confident catch as the kick came in!

 
M.O.M Stephen O`Halloran, on the alert.
Twenty minutes had gone by now, and that last small flurry, was the sole moment of concern to the blues in an otherwise tranquil afternoons work so far, we just needed to maybe step it up a gear or two, but that was to be overly nit picking really!
 Great work at the back by O`Halloran-laid the groundwork for a raid in which Fagbola was unlucky to see his cross spurned by those in blue  in the vicinity. That was disappointing, but not nearly as much as watching a succession of dives from Anoruo and others force County to defend free kick after ludicrous free kick. Fortunately the comedy element to these was consistently maintained and absolutely no danger looked likely to hinder the blues progress. 

 
O`Halloran covers Anoruo.
That`s how it looked at this point anyway, but the kicks kept coming Bay`s way, the latest seeing Churchman booked by the referee! Call me biased if you will ,but I saw little going on there that merited a free kick never mind a booking, but that`s how it was and this time Wes Baynes did a better job with the kick , making Lees work overtime to get the ball clear. In the process of County clearing the ball up the park, Anoruo went to ground for the umpteenth time, and he was still in  near death mode, as the ball reached Spencer who was a whisker`s width away from making it 2-0 with a shot that drifted inches wide with the Bay Sharp a helpless spectator!
County started to increase the tempo after this.....Dennis unlucky to find Liam Sharpe in position to deny him as he burst onto a Lees pass in the box, after good work by O`Halloran and Churchman in the build up. More followed with Sharp ( left) and Lees ( right) pushing Bay back with incisive runs.

 
Chris Sharp- unlucky later !
It was not quite `all County’.....Hurst did have to punch out under pressure from a Louis Moss cross ,at one point, but it was clear that the  County blood was beginning to flow now, as both Sharp and Baker probed the visitors looking for a way through. Sharp was upended for his pains ushering in another Milligan free kick, and it was a real belter – Dennis missed out at the back post from this, but it was mighty close!
With less than 10 minutes left of the half, Bay forced a couple of corners, but crazily.....these did nothing to ratchet up the pressure on County, which seemed pretty much none existent- Rob Hopley adding grist to this particular mill by sending his header into our midst on Row R!
Into the last 5 minutes we went with Bay attacking through Buckley, but falling foul of Gregson, who promptly transferred the ball up the park, where it arrived at the feet of Dennis, who promptly took aim before blasting a rasper way past the keeper into the net. That was a cracker, and it was 2-0, if not game over for County!
Credit to Bay....they did try to show some steel in the minutes that remained of the half, but O`Halloran and Lees did just enough to put Anoruo off his shot, which as a result missed by a foot or so.

 
O`Halloran again!!
 It went on with Lees and Churchman combining neatly to end another Bay raid. The County defences looked sound, but those of Bay were not improving by much as a loose ball ushered in a chance for Sharp with less than a minute left to play. It was a chance, and might have ended Bay`s resistance had it gone in, but instead the shot went wide and it stayed 2-0.




County defend.

Sharp was not deterred ,indeed he applied himself again shortly after, winning a free kick just outside the box that Milligan sent teasingly into the danger zone, for Sharp ,Spencer and Dennis to salivate over. Again it looked a chance, but not for long as the liner`s flag was up and offside was the decision.
The half ended with a Baker shot missing the target by a yard, and with County kicking our way in the second half, the feeling was that maybe some goals were on the cards!       

 
Fitzy gets the message out!
The re-start saw County looking suitably up for it, but when Dennis surged clear onto Sharp`s through ball, it was frustrating to see the liner`s flag upraised, particularly as Dennis most definitely was not offside! The resultant kick saw Bay sweep forward and for a moment or two Danny Taylor seemed to have the drop on the blues, until Fagbola`s speed saw him track back and cut the danger out!
Liam Sharp hit Dennis with an attempted clearance next, but the keeper escaped further ignominy-settling gratefully for the goal kick that resulted!

 
Spencer to the by-line.

It was back to the theatricals after this as substitute Paulo Mendes treated us to the most glorious swallow dive on the end of an otherwise good looking run. A free kick duly resulted, but Baynes sent this over the bar, and Rob Hopley fared no better moments later, shooting wide when sent clear by a rare loose ball from Lees.
It had been mainly Bay attacking for the first 10 minutes or so of the half, but not exclusively...Sharp did probe the visitor`s defences a time or two during this period, if without success. It remained a sizeable irritant to me that the referee was duped by the   constant diving by Bay, and Mendes did it again forcing Hurst to punch clear under pressure from the kick.

 
County go close....
That was the first 10 minutes of the half..... during the next 5 or so County gradually started to apply the pressure again, and when Fagbola won us a corner, it looked like we had added to our lead, as Milligan`s expertly delivered kick was met by Sharp beyond the back post, and headed home- no question then......3-0....except it wasn`t because the referee and liner had ruled it out. I await the referee`s memoirs for the reason, until then, I will just gently seethe!
Four or five minutes of sustained pressure followed from Bay, but they continued not to look at all capable of rounding moves off- the closest  in this time coming from Hopley who screwed a shot wide with the goal gaping. Then County came back at Bay through Milligan who picked out Dennis with  a ludicrously good diagonal ball, teeing the Menace up for a shot on the turn that saw Sharpe stop but not hold it...the ball spinning backwards towards goal, before being retrieved!
Hmmm....that was encouraging....and more followed as a snap shot by Sharp came back out off a defender following good work from Fagbola keeping the ball in play.
Bay were showing much more initiative in this half, than they did earlier, and Anoruo  twice ran at County....shooting over the first time, and being thwarted by the excellent O`Halloran on the second occasion. O`Halloran was in unbelievably good nick now....in position again to dish Hopley .....and then cut out an incoming whiz bang from Moss!

 
....and again !
County did weather the storm however and ventured out to do some attacking themselves, but after Sharp had won a corner, and despite the almighty goalmouth scramble that then ensued, a third goal remained elusive, and we watched forlornly to see Baker`s strike clear the bar, with 12 minutes left to play!
Mendes and Anoruo got in County faces after this, provoking excellent defending from the likes of Lees and Gregson in response, but the best Anoruo could do was to spray his shot wildly into the empty Railway End. The visitors cause looked to be a lost one, and it might well have proved to be so immediately after had not Liam Sharpe spread himself whilst diving to his right to beat a strike from Baker out! Matches are turned......won.....lost on such moments....would this prove similarly crucial?
Well.....I began to wonder for sure as within a couple of minutes the Welsh side had sneaked one back, as County dozed off allowing Taylor to head home from close in after a shot had come out off a post.

 
Late...late stuff....
Cue a concerted effort from Colwyn Bay, to get that equaliser, but Baynes` radar was awry and his shot on the break flew wide. Anoruo`s aim was better, and his shot headed for goal, denied only by an excellent save from Hurst!
County brought Woolfe on for Spencer as the game went into added time, with Bay attacking still- Gregson doing well to block Anoruo`s latest effort.
A second yellow for Churchman upped the irritation factor in the 4 minutes of added time, but the sight of Hurst making a calm catch....then Sharp and Woolfe joining forces to force a corner and then trying to play `keep ball` eased this quite a bit, as did a decent late block by Fagbola that again did for Anoruo`s seemingly unquenchable ambitions.
Dennis still had ambitions too, but his shot in the game`s last gasp drifted wide, before a blast of the referee`s whistle told us the game was over and County were into Round 1!
The only thing now to be resolved was...would we play Fylde at E.P. on Tuesday, or would they have a replay to sort. The answer came soon enough.....there was no replay for Fylde and we would play them on Tuesday in the Conference North fixture!
See you there for that then!

County line up:

Hurst, Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury ( Fagbola 11), Milligan, Churchman, Baker, Dennis, Sharp, Spencer ( Woolfe 89).

Subs not used:

Ormson, Russell, Belezika.

Colwyn Bay FC line up;

Sharpe, Taylor, Moss, Srevens, Royle, Noone( Hodgson 66), Buckley( Mendes 45), Anoruo, Hopley, Hayword, Baynes.

Subs not used:

Ollerenshaw, Sinclair, Pilliner.

Attendance; 1452

Ian Brown
   
         

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