County 0 AFC Fylde 0 (Conference North) 2 November 2014
Same gray humdrum day,
work week begins
black dust billows all over;
what a mess, the room,
Already you can see that I am in pretentious prat mode just now, but I thought you might like the above poem. Forget the reference to a dress....I did not write it....honest !........no ...one Carmela Patterson did, and I rather like it....it seems to hit the Monday nail smack on the head! At least most Mondays.....what can you say about the Bluest Monday on record, Monday 1st December 2014, except that with County supporters coughing up a four figure sum in a matter of hours, to support Manager Alan Lord`s team, it was a real belter!
To follow that then, and out perform the previous day, was always a big ask for Tuesday 2nd! Indeed there will be those who will be more than disappointed at a 0-0 score line at Edgeley Park last night, but I am not one of them. We were after all up against Fylde, they of the most parsimonious defence in the division ( 12 let in /16 games),and with a positive goal difference of 24 to boot. In short ....a decent outfit! But we are a decent outfit too, and I thought that to come away unbeaten , a second time, against such worthy opponents was a good job, well done- just the type of good job that just might see us out and upwards sooner rather than later.
The game was very much a re-run of November22, as it ebbed and flowed....back and forth as both sides gnawed veraciously at the other each more in hope than expectation.
County had some doughty performers on board as well, and I thought that Mark Lees was stand out amongst these with yet another immaculate exhibition of the defenders art- it`s so so brilliant that we have him signed up for a longer stay, but I look forward to Stephen O`Halloran extending his stay too as he also again showed real class!
Although the midfield was hard pressed at times to hold Fylde, generally being content to concede ground and deal from deep, I gave top marks all round for tenacity and work rate, but I also thought that the hardest grafter was operating up the park- namely Scott Spencer, who went off to a tumultuous reception from the excellent cold Tuesday night crowd of over 2300.
Just one change then at kick off time, Owens for the injured Duxbury, but it was very nearly Wednesday when the game finally got underway at 8.03, with a largish crowd enveloped in multiple layers and huddled together like penguins at the pole for warmth!
Almost immediately some excitement offered itself up to us, as Spencer got amongst the Fylde back-line, assisted by the steadily improving Chris Churchman. Casper Hughes however is a fine defender and he knew enough and did enough to see this early threat off.
Within seconds O’Halloran was called on to act quickly as Hughes and others had organised a rapid break sending Jamie Allen surging clear. Stephen proved well up to the task and Allen looked suitably nonplussed in response.
A chance to see Owens ping over one of his long one`s came next, but the flurry of excitement this occasioned was curtailed disappointingly with the sight of referee Steve Copeland bending Chris Sharp`s ear with a long and from what I could see entirely superfluous lecture!
Richie Allen, who had been a threat at their place, darted onto a loose ball from O`Halloran after this, but the Irish International recovered quickly, and his surprising turn of speed did for Allen`s chances of making anything from it.
If both sides were intent on probing the other, the early action mostly saw County on the back foot, and O`Halloran and Baker did well to deny Jamie Allen space.
A foul on Dennis ushered in a County free kick, but no real respite, as Fylde hit us again on the break this time through Danny Lloyd-McGoldrick, who was allowed to run un-challenged into the box where thankfully another brave and brilliantly executed tackle by O`Halloran stopped the rot!
For sure County had a game on their hands, and needed to be on their toes, but Gregson spilled possession to the dangerous Michael Potts, and it was some relief to see the resultant shot climb up and over the bar!
It went on- a Sharp shot that was charged down on the edge of the box, the sole reply as Hughes, Potts and Richie Allen all took turns to chastise the blues with impish runs, but the County policy of restricting their opponents to shots from distance was thus far working, it was just that those annoying loose balls were in the mix too and geeing Fylde up no end. Another came as Milligan gifted possession to an opponent allowing Jamie Allen and Lloyd-McGoldrick to hit us on the break. It looked distinctly iffy did this, and even iffier when Gregson stopped the latter with a `back to basics’ intervention, that saw him booked. He did not complain, but he would be on the edge for the rest of the game!
County meanwhile were having to get by on scraps, and Ben Hinchliffe , the Fylde keeper, had little difficulty dealing with one such, a snap shot from Spencer mid-way into the half. Spencer was a busy lad and seemingly bursting with energy, but his fall in the box next failed to impress the referee, who promptly booked him. Whilst some might applaud Mr Copeland`s fine judgement and keen eye sight( Scott does enjoy a dive), where was it, I was tempted to ask, in the build up play when Hughes went straight through Sharp, without redress?!Thankfully Spencer`s light shone on un-diminished ,his neat cooperation shortly after with Dennis giving the keeper issues briefly!
Hughes got forward after this and Lees did tremendously well to dish Josh Wilson with the pressure mounting again from the visitors, after what had been a good period for the blues.
County were not done however and came back at Fylde again – Sharp was unlucky to see his header fly narrowly wide from a cross by Milligan, and another combo between Dennis and Spencer ended with Hinchliffe just the victor! This was getting better now from County who were seemingly building a head of steam in the half`s final minutes, and a fine run from Spencer threatened to undo Fylde, only for his shot to take a deflection and go for a corner, from which Spencer`s follow up header was somehow cleared off the line by one of a clutch of orange shirted defenders.
On it went with a flustered Fylde back line gifting us possession- Sharp a whisker away from getting to a Baker ball in the box! Spencer applied himself again and another run stretched Fylde to the limit, but again County were unfortunate in that Dennis`s shot took a deflection ushering in another corner. There seemed to be a foul on Sharp from the resultant kick, but this was ignored by the increasingly irritating Mr Copeland, enabling a Fylde break, and .....errr.....a free kick to the visitors as Lloyd- McGoldrick `s dive impressed the official. The free kick was a poor one and easily dealt with by Gregson and Milligan.
The half ended with a scare at each end......Spencer`s charge putting cats amongst Fylde`s pigeons, the effect only intensifying with an Owens throw, but Gregson`s header at the near post went un-rewarded, and the last action before the break involved Danny Hurst work small miracles with Jamie Allen and Lloyd-McGoldrick steaming in at him at speed. There was an offside flag in the mix there too, but Hurst was not to know that, and it did look distinctly hairy for a moment or two. No matter.....it stayed 0-0 as the teams trooped off ,and that was fine by me!
Twice on the re-start Baker was inches away from setting something up for County- Milligan particularly unlucky with the second one having got forward in the box.
But.....it was not long before the ebb and flow of the first 45 resumed with runs from Adam Sumner and Potts failing to puncture County`s resolve, and Lees emerging fast as a top performer.
Back came County, and Spencer might have chanced a shot, but instead he passed inside and a corner resulted rather than the desired goal- the keeper saving Dennis`s header at the near post from the kick. Spencer then went close...then Owens, and a sliced clearance by Hinchliffe signalled an increase in angst levels for the visitors, but it was County who quickly had the worry beads out next as Hughes broke from deep. Lees did excellent work to deny him, but that was a warning, and another came along soon after when Brad Barnes was allowed a shot at goal- it missed, but we needed to cut out freebies such as that!
Good stuff followed from Lees and Sharp, who fashioned a decent move, ended by a Spencer shot that Hinchliffe did well to keep out. County were definitely trying now none more so than Spencer who forced a corner, that saw Sharp kept from the ball by keen work from the visiting keeper.
Spencer`s work rate was admirable and the crowd were quick to acknowledge this on more than one occasion, but his luck was out, largely thanks to some demon defending from Dave Challinor`s finely drilled side! Fylde were fairly tasty going forward as well, lacking a finish I suppose, but they have scored 36 in 16 before this game, so they are no slouches within sight of goal usually!
The game continued its pinball progress as one side then the other got forward.......Hurst doing well to stop Lloyd-McGoldrick after Hughes had led County a rare old dance down the right......then Hinchliffe in desperate action keeping goal bound effort by Spencer and Owens out when at last a goal looked on! County persevered but Spencer knew that if he went for Dennis`s final ball on the next raid, the liner would flag him offside- he didn`t go for it ,and a nod and a wink from the liner seemed to indicate that Spencer`s judgement was correct!
Spencer departed the scene to good applause with less than 10 minutes left to play, replaced by Lee Stevenson, but I looked on anxiously to see Richie Allen in behind the blue backline. It looked dicey for sure, but Allen snatched at it stabbing a poor effort wide!
The nip /tuck resumed thereafter......a Milligan free kick skidding off Owens head forcing Fylde to find touch quickly........Hurst then had to dash way out of his box to deal with a long ball, and Gregson must have had thoughts of an impending second yellow as he tracked Danny Rowe as he darted clear. No tackle came in from the County man..... a shot did from Rowe, but it was a poor one and went wide.
On it went with Lees rescuing County after Wilson had latched onto a loose one by Churchman. It was clear that Fylde wanted all the points, but their finishing told us that they were increasingly unlikely to get them, Sumner failing to cap a neat run with anything like a decent finish.
Into added time we went with Fylde still trying, helped on by a free kick or two, not all of which were 100% kosher. Hurst had work to do right at the death- saving from a Rowe header, but it stayed 0-0, and I was not alone, I guess in thinking that that was both a fair result and a good one from County`s view point!
See you Saturday for another difficult game against my pick as the top side in the division....Guiseley ( I have not seen Barrow yet).
County line up:
Hurst, Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Owens, Chuchman, Milligan ( Woolfe 89),Baker,Dennis, Spencer( Stevenson 82), Sharp.
Subs not used:
Ormson, Belezika, Fagbola.
AFC Fylde line up:
Hinchliffe, Hughes, Sumner, Langley, Hannigan, Barnes, Potts( Booth 64), J Allen( Rowe 56), Lloyd- McGoldrick( Bent 89), Wilson, R Allen.
Subs not used: