Harrogate Town 2 County1 ( Conference North) 1 November 2014
County did their best to claw their way back from a 2 goal deficit today, and amazingly with just a few minutes left found themselves still in the match, in fact very much so, with the score 2-1 to hosts Harrogate Town.
This was something of an achievement as from the off we had been chasing the game having set off at 3 o`clock with 3 centre backs and nothing in the way of cover on the flanks. Belezika and Fagbola were on the bench, but the only out and out defenders on show for County were Lees, Gregson and O`Halloran. Even if Harrogate persisted with the aimless route one game they used in the FA Cup game against us, this line up looked distinctly iffy to me, and in the event, Town`s tactics were altogether different to those employed against us last time, and as a consequence County struggled to make headway against them.
An injury to keeper Danny Hurst( picked up when being bundled into the net by James Walshaw for Town`s first goal) did nothing to improve matters, reducing AL`s options with Ian Ormson on for Hurst before half time. .A.L. acted by bringing Belezika on for Churchman, offering us the notional if belated stability of 4 at the back, but this did not prevent a second Town goal doubling the home team`s advantage and County`s woes, when they abjectly failed to clear the ball when that action was urgently required.
County pulled one back via a poachers effort from Dennis, and the experienced Phil Barnes made more than one vital save, but it was not enough to square this particular circle, and it stayed 2-1 , much to the disappointment of the large County following that made up the bulk of the crowd of almost 1000.
If the absence of wing backs caused a flutter prior to kick off, matters were not improved by the news that the appointed officials for the game were from Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Hull. I know that the government were trying to establish an entirely new approach to transparency and honesty( think Butler Sloss/ Ms Woolfe and the Child Abuse Enquiry), but really I expected better from the suits at Conference North!
No matter....head in an angst induced fuzz.... I peered into the North Yorkshire gloom to see County defending , and Hurst needing 2 attempts to deprive Walshaw of the ball at the back post. Already it was fairly obvious that Town were embarked on an entirely different journey to the one they were on earlier in the year against us. The ball was being played around on the deck and they were keeping it and causing us problems.
That said.....the best move early on came from County, and Barnes only just kept Dennis out after Spencer had teed Stevenson up to put a dangerous cross over. County kept the pressure on, and my personal fuzz was suddenly accompanied by red mist as Dennis was hauled down in the box with near side liner and referee unconcerned. The raid was then ended abruptly, not long after, when the same liner flagged one or other of the County forward`s offside!
If County were playing some neat football at times.....they were also getting themselves into bother allowing home forward`s to snatch possession , and Lees did well to cut Craig Nelthorpe`s gallop short after he had sneaked clear from what had looked to be a promising County attack. This pattern continued – Walshaw wasting a decent chance by heading wide from a corner, after a last gasper by Hurst had stopped the rot for County.
It was not looking good for County at this stage, and Walshaw was again gifted possession in oodles of space. He appeared to have made good use of this with a neat ball across the box, but when the ball reached Adam Nowakowski , again in masses of space beyond the back post, he sent his header wide!
That was worrying, but not quite as much as seeing the referee hold up play to allow Dave McGurk to tie his shoe laces- the same referee who would , not long after, allow play to flow with Hurst on the floor and clearly struggling, but, as I say, that was yet to come!
Regretably..... that moment was upon us as a ball in from the right had Hurst struggling to get it.....with Walshaw waiting on the line the struggle became an impossible one and the ball was in the net along with Hurst as the Town number ten bundled the lot over the line, giving the hosts the lead.
Baker and Dennis went close next as County tried to respond, but they kept making gifts of possession to their opponents and I was pleased to see the far side liners flag stopping Walshaw in his tracks – it was offside, but County were fortunate to have escaped.
Then.....the angst ridden clouds hinted at dispersing as Stevenson steamed forward past man after man, but his drive took the slightest of deflections en route and crashed into the angle of bar and post with Barnes a helpless spectator!
Four or five minutes of pressure followed from County, and I was telling myself that perhaps ....maybe... all was not lost....only to have a relapse into deep gloom with the sight of Hurst having to go off. It was not any concern over his replacement ,Ian Ormson, but a realisation that this would restrict A.L.`s options as the game progressed.
For now County had some defending to do and a route one ball from Barnes threatened to undo them as Jake Speight and Walshaw got in behind our back line. Somehow a shot did not materialise and County survived, but it was not pretty, and within a minute or so O`Halloran was called on to save the day as Speight again darted clear. For sure...we needed County to be tighter with their passing and quicker to the ball, but instead a loose ball from Gregson saw Nelthorpe scoot clear. Fortunately for County he chose to pass rather than shoot, and even better the man he passed to, Lewis Turner, lifted the poorest of shots way wide.
The period to half time, with Belezika now on for Churchman....
................ saw both teams have a go....a Dennis shot being deflected narrowly wide, and one from Baker saved neatly by Barnes at one end, whilst a shot from Speight thudded into the ad hoardings fronting the new covered terrace with the goal gaping.
So....that was that for the first half, and after a 5 minute delay for net repairs ( no Mumbles Mambo this time sadly!), the game resumed with Ormson in action plucking a cross by Nelthorpe from the cool afternoon air. That was the prelude to a period of County attacking pressure though as first off O`Halloran was unlucky not to add a finish to a neat ball from Moses.
Dennis quickly joined the club being just thwarted by Barnes after a Spencer run had caused Town an anxious moment or two. Yes.....things looked now to be taking shape better for County a fact seemingly underlined as Baker saw an effort charged down from another Spencer run.
A Milligan free kick just seemed to emphasise this more, but when Matt Bloomer cleared this, Harrogate broke swiftly down the left where the cross saw Ormson punch out. Danger over then.....except it wasn`t.....any one of two or three white shirted defenders might have applied boot to ball and saved the day....but no one did and Lloyd Kerry took full advantage of this by smashing a shot past Ormson into the net. There were still well over 30 minutes left, but there was now a fairly steep mountain to climb for County, who now needed a goal....... fast..... to have any chance at all!
Well....they tried...piling forward in numbers....Stevenson seeing a shot charged down.....Barnes making a diving save to deny Dennis from a Baker pass, and Spencer narrowly wide with a shot on the end of a rather lethal long ball from Ormson, who was to treat us to a few more before the end!
On it went with Belezika in full flow powering forward...teeing Dennis up for another effort that somehow McGurk managed to block. Throws...corners..all contributed to pushing Town back, but that goal just would not come, instead Stevenson`s latest shot thudded into Barnes` gloves with concussive force!
It was inevitable that eventually Harrogate would reply, and Gregson earned himself a booking for a foul at one stage as the home side shaped to break clear. Belezika conceded a corner and somehow County survived this, as I looked to my right to see that Nathan Woolfe was making ready to come on. Gregson then took a knock .....and Jordan Fagbola immediately sprang to his feet and started to warm up, and when Gregson had to come off, I assumed AL would go `like for like’ and opt for Fagbola, but I was wrong he went for the bold option and stuck with Woolfe, leaving County with Belezika, Lees and O`Halloran as County`s last line of defence.
This was a bold move, as I say, and it was not immediately clear that it was likely to be a winning one, as I looked up to see a shot from Walshaw flash past the post.
But......what`s this?.........O`Halloran had the ball and then sent a beaut of a pass half the length of the pitch to Dennis who was central and well set to prosper, but the prolific strikers control let him down and he couldn`t get a shot off......Spencer on the other hand could, but with the net gaping he sent his effort inches wide!
Another Dennis run petered out when no one was on hand to apply a finish to his cross.....then O`Halloran again came to the fore picking Spencer out with an achingly good pass, only to see Spencer`s header fly wide! This was unsettling Harrogate and Bloomer did well to concede a corner with a sliced attempted clearance that might just as easily have ended up in Barnes` net. Nowakowski headed the kick out, and a posse of black/ yellow shirts did for the efforts of Spencer and Belezika to follow up.
We were into the last 10 minutes now and Barnes gave us his show stopper next with County piling the pressure on. First diving to his left to somehow keep a header from Dennis out from a Stevenson cross. Milligan was on hand at the far post to do ` a Walshaw’ and force the ball home. But ....despite the range Barnes managed to beat Milligan`s shot out- a simply stunning double whammy from the Harrogate keeper!
County`s disappointment was short lived however as soon after ...the very next attack actually.....a melee in front of goal finished with Dennis latching onto the ball and slotting it neatly home!
It was 2-1 now and game on, but try as they might, County couldn’t add another, and they certainly tried.....Dennis and Spencer both going close.....Milligan pushing Town further and further back with a couple of free kicks. Belezika joined in with a decent strike from outside the box, but Barnes was the equal of this too and a diving save brought forth more applause from the home specs.
Even 5 minutes added time couldn`t sort it for County, and the points were Harrogate`s, and bearing in mind how much of a start we had given Harrogate, it was hard to be too churlish about it!
Two home games to follow now, and all to play for, so get down to Edgeley Park for the first of these against Brackley on the 8th!
County line up;
Hurst ( Ormson 30), Lees, Gregson ( Woolfe 75), O`Halloran, Churchman ( Belezika 40), Milligan, Moses, Stevenson, Baker, Spencer, Dennis.
Substitutes not used;
Harrogate Town line uip;
Barnes, Turner, Meynell, Nowakowski, Bloomer, McGurk, Kerry, Lenighan, Speight( Rowe 66/Killock 85 ), Walshaw, Nelthorpe.
Substitutes not used:
Kendall, Crook, Metcalfe, .
Attendance ; 927.
|Fingerpost Flyer pre pick up at TS.|
|The Brothers Lee tuck in....|
|Andy and Dave Plant......|
|Northern Ireland Hatter Jackson Massey.|
|Andrew Moxon- Harrogate Hatter.|