County 0 Guiseley 3 ( Conference North) 6 December 2014
The last month or so has been packed with games against teams that are right up there jostling with County to exit the Conference North at the earliest opportunity! By far the most difficult of these games was always going to be today`s with, for me, the best side I have seen this season, Guiseley who were in SK3 to dispute matters with the blues!
Our last encounter, when County were barely warmed up, on 12 August at their place, resulted in a resounding 0-3 defeat for County at the hands of the Yorkshire side, who were distinctly unlucky not to reach the Conference Premier via the play offs last season, and this one went as the first had, with the visitors taking all the points courtesy of a thoroughly professional performance, crowned by a superlative showing by ex Hatter Oli Johnson. Johnson was totally unmanageable for County the whole 90 odd minutes he was on the pitch! Guiseley going down to 10, when Shane Killock went over the ball to Stephen O`Halloran and got a red for his pains, did nothing to impair the Yorkshire sides impetus either, and after a short period gathering their wits and reorganising they proceeded to hit County very successfully on the break running out eventually with another 3-0 score line, which I am hard pressed to describe as anything other than just about right!
There were a few bright spots for County- Lees was superb again, and O`Halloran alert and attentive until the end, but add an industrious 90 minutes from Baker and Spencer, and the rest was fairly average, with miss placed passes and unforced errors abounding, although I again point in mitigation to the excellence of the opposition who got in County faces early doors and stayed there! I expect us to come back from this fairly rapidly in the games to come, but for now it hurts!
There were two jolts to my confidence at kickoff time, firstly Dennis was neither starting nor on the bench, presumably due to injury, and secondly we were kicking towards the Cheadle End- always a wretched prospect, and more angst followed quickly on from this when Gregson gave possession away just inside the blue half, forcing the excellent Lees to track back and do the biz as Gary Rothery looked to take advantage of County`s largess!
|Sharp & Stevenson in discussion mode.|
Sharp had an interesting run cut short by a somewhat dubious offside flag next, in a fairly lively start that also saw a Spencer shot fail to test keeper Steve Drench, after a neat link up with Stevenson.
So far....so good for County....I was quite pleased with the way it was going, and more followed via O`Halloran who`s immaculate pass saw Spencer on the charge again. On it went to Baker, but his shot was deflected for a corner, which the Guiseley defence saw off with little difficulty.
As I say......not a bad start.....but there was simply no room for complacency or lax application, and Chris Churchman showed us the latter, gifting possession to Oli Johnson in abject fashion. Johnson was away and at the by-line in a trice, in another he had slipped the ball across the box where Nicky Boshell met it ,beating Hurst with a finish of consummate assurance!
Twelve minutes gone......already one down.....County`s feet were again on that familiar upward slope, but there was still time for this situation to be reversed!
Yes......there was.....but County needed to tighten up, instead Milligan lost the ball to Rotherby, who was kept out by another of those `take one for the team’ efforts from Gregson. Surprisingly he wasn`t booked, but we had a free kick to defend, and we looked on anxiously as Killock slipped the kick sideways to Rotherby who`s shot drifted wide having taken a deflection.
County did get forward after this, as Spencer sent Sharp clear on the left. But although Sharp`s cross was a good one, the defensive cover did for Stevenson`s attempts to reach it a yard or so out! Overall though ...there seemed an element of tension in County`s play, and this manifested itself in a rash of unforced errors, as well as a good few of the forced variety. But.....again....fair do`s.....County were trying, and did win a corner, after 20 minutes, which saw Drench punch clear under a bit of pressure, sadly however the key missing element in the County equation, was finishing, and this was epitomised in full a minute later when O`Halloran did mightily well to break up a Guiseley raid and pick out Spencer with a deliciously decent ball, only for the forward to send the tamest of shots Drench`s way.
There was another problem too, for County.....every time a County raid collapsed.....the Lions would hit us on the break with a lethality not that frequently witnessed at this level, and one such happening saw us leak a corner forcing Owens to welly the pill clear from under the bar! In response....Lees, Sharp and Stevenson linked up neatly to again force the visitors onto the back foot, but as before there was nothing on the end of it all in the way of a finish.
This fact only served to set up another counter from Guiseley, usually via Oli Johnson, who looked to be in inspired form, and he was played clear neatly next with the County defence expecting an offside flag. One never came, thus Johnson was now inside the box and a shot would not long be delayed, but when it did come there was relief for County as the ball flew across goal going harmlessly out of play. That was an escape and no mistake....could County capitalise on it?.......learn from it ?
Well.....again.....they did try, and Stevenson`s link up with Lees managed to win a corner for County, which Drench went for and missed. Unfortunately so did every available County forward, thus when Ryan Toulson`s involuntary stab of the foot conceded a second corner, Drench had recovered sufficiently to make a confident catch and end his teams angst.
Twice after this, Sharp saw efforts ushered away by Killock, and a third shot carried the bar after Owens and Stevenson had cooperated in the build up. Whilst all this continued to lack a finish, County`s problems persisted, and Johnson persisted in keeping it so, covering acres of ground and causing havoc every yard of the way.
Hopefully though, Guiseley would prove less adept finishing than they had in August, and this fanciful notion of mine was briefly leant credence as Nicky Boshell lifted a shot wide ruining what had been a decent break by the Yorkshire side. But....add a goal line clearance by O` Halloran......and a gift pass from Sharp to Johnson ,and any optimism was rapidly being forced through the prism of reality, as Johnson and Adam Boyes bore down on goal. It looked a lost cause for a moment, but somehow Owens managed to make another goal line clearance to keep it at 0-1.
A foul by Rotherby on Stevenson, gave County some respite, via the free kick, but Drench kept this out with a decent save, and almost immediately alarm bells were ringing for County as Gregson gave the ball away to Johnson who was off and away as a result! It looked decidedly dicy at this juncture, and was only prevented from getting worse by a good stop by Hurst as Johnson leathered one goal ward.
Then the bells rang out again as Churchman spilled possession to Rothery, who really should have done better than he did- snatching at the chance and shooting too early, and missing as a consequence.
The half ended, with County attacking and winning a free kick, and then allowing Johnson a free run on the break again directly from it. But for the continued excellence of Mark Lees it must surely have been 0-2 at this point, but it wasn`t as his brilliant intervention saw Johnson off and sent County in at the break just one goal down!
There was a big ....big task now facing County as the game re-started, with County attacking.
Owens.....Baker.....Sharp...all did their best to get that equalising goal, but Drench did not look overly worried throughout it all, and it was disconcerting to see the County pressure end with Johnson again running at us at speed. Lees did enough once again to see him off.......but.......
The pattern repeated itself......Sharp and Stevenson launched a raid, which was eventually terminated, ushering in a response from Guiseley through Boyes , that Hurst and Gregson saw off, without exhibiting an air of great solidity!
About 5 minutes into the half, County produced their best move so far, through Churchman who picked out the busy Baker neatly. Spencer took it on, but was fouled, ushering in a free kick that Baker took only just failing to beat Drench with a fine effort- the keeper ‘s dive enabling him to push the ball to safety!
Not long after this the hangbags were out as Shane Killock gave O`Halloran`s thighs a thorough raking with his studs.
As I say it was time for the thespian in Killock to come to the fore and he promptly adopted the now familiar `near death mode’ on the ground, whilst his colleagues and those of O`Halloran reached for the fashion accessories and went for it. Theatricals apart, It was a fairly straightforward situation....a foul had been committed, and the perpetrator was shamelessly claiming victimhood! Credit to the referee, Mr Sharp, he saw through the fog of deceit and flourished an appropriate red card in Killock`s direction, as O`Halloran obtained himself a fresh pair of shorts!
Down to 10, surely this would dent Guiseley`s confidence and bolster that of County!
For sure...it doesn`t always work out like that, although Sharp ( shot) and Gregson ( header) tried to make it so, and County`s confidence did seem to get a boost of sorts., albeit that all the neat football still lacked that cutting edge to round it all off! That said Baker had a shot hurried off the line by a defender, and put another shot wide when well placed ....had either gone in.......
But neither did.....and what followed was a real bummer!
It started iffily, with Rothery scurrying up the park with the ball, before momentarily improving with the sight of Lees putting his own immaculate imprint on proceedings with a beautiful intervention. The danger was gone.....and then it wasn`t as County let possession slip again allowing Ben Parker time on the ball down the left. Rather too much actually as Parker was booked. County should have taken their cue from Lees, but instead the possession was given away again and in no time at all Johnson slipped the ball to Boyes who beat Hurst with a routine finish.
Bugger.....that was bad, but worse almost followed directly on from it, as Milligan gave the ball away ,giving Johnson and Parker a free hand to run at the thoroughly stretched blue back line. It might easily have now been 0-3 as a consequence, but it wasn`t, but only due to terrifically good work by O`Halloran, who was on hand at the last gasp to dish Boyes in the act of shooting!
Owens and Woolfe( on for Churchman) saw efforts kept out one way or another, but these efforts counted for nothing as Johnson dispossessed Sharp to dart clear and bury the ball in the back of Hurst`s net, to make it 0-3. It was noticeable that Johnson made no attempt to celebrate this goal- turning to return to the centre circle without demonstrating at all! Nice one Oli!
A rout was maybe signalled now with Johnson and Boyes running riot and cutting a swathe at will through an increasingly threadbare blue defence.
Fagbola was on for Sharp late on which allowed Owens to push on up front, but the action was increasingly at Hurst`s end of the field ,as substitute Andy Holdsworth joined Johnson and Boyes in leading County a less than merry dance!
Baker did well to stop a run from Rothery, as we went into added time with Fagbola and Lees having a go at the sharp end. Just that final ball was missing......and despite Owens winning a free kick and Woolfe getting in a snap shot there seemed no prospect at all of County dinting the Yorkshire sides confidence, indeed at one point a fourth goal for the visitors began to look a distinct possibility with a 3 man break ( Johnson, Boyes and Holdsworth) threatening mayhem. Thankfully this was stopped successfully, and the game ended in unexpected fashion, with M.O.M Mark Lees warming Drench`s hands with a neat shot, and Spencer rattling the underside of the bar with an effort right at the death.
It was not to be however.....3-0 to Guiseley it stayed and that was not an unfair reflection of how things went in my view.
Nuff said...see you at Ramsbottam !
County line up:
Hurst, Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Owens, Churchman( Woolfe 59), Milligan, Baker, Stevenson, Spencer, Sharp ( Fagbola 79).
Subs not used:
Ormson, Belezika, Russell.
Guiseley line up:
Drench, Toulson, Parker, Killock , Ellis( Stockdill 90), Lawlor, Boshell N( Holdsworth 53), Boshell D, Boyes, Johnson O,Rotherby.
Subs not used:
Dickinson, Porritt, Johnson A.
Attendance : 2546