Alsager Town 0 County 2 ; ( Cheshire Senior Cup- R2) 27 January 2015
County`s run in the Cheshire Senior Cup continued when they overcame a spirited second half showing by Alsager Town to take the spoils with a 2-0 win at Woodpark Stadium, last night.
The blues fielded a fairly strong team, and clearly took the tie seriously, taking the lead via well taken goals from Baker and Dennis fairly early on. Two nil to County at half time looked a fair return for 45 minutes work and was perhaps an indicator of even better things to come thereafter, but this never quite materialised thanks to a decent fight back by the home side after the break.
Ormson in the County goal was never really troubled however, and this was largely due to the grip that the County back four of Jacobs, Fagbola, Hancock and Duxbury had on the Town forwards. It could easily have also been put down to how affective the midfield was as well, and in this respect Russell, Baker and Lofthouse, worked really hard throughout.
Alsager made a fight of it in the second half as I say, but never really looked at all likely to make inroads in the County lead, despite a lively 90 minute performance from Ryan Wintle, who I made the top man for the Bullets. In the end frustration overcame our hosts, and the game threatened to descend into farce late on, as everyone piled into everyone else in a grand old post Xmas display of handbaggery, that did absolutely no one any credit especially the invertebrate referee!
County surged forward in the first eight or nine minutes, urged on by Russell, who gave us one cross field ball at one point fit to grace any match anywhere, and Baker who was constantly in there searching for openings. Up front Dennis and Sharp were the sniffers, and both are admirably suited to the task in their entirely different, but equally valid ways, but we were 9 minutes in before County`s first effort of substance materialised, but this....a shot from Sharp fizzed half a yard wide.
It was another minute before Ormson got his first touch of the ball, and no alarm bells rang at all as he gobbled the effort by Brandon Moore up. The passage of a further 60 seconds saw a dramatic change in the respective fortunes of the two teams however. It started with a County raid that had Town back on their heels, so much so that Jacobs found the time to push forward to the edge of the box where he sent a powerful shot goal ward. Steve Dryson, the Town keeper, stopped it, but couldn`t hold onto it, allowing Baker to follow up and force the ball home, giving the blues the lead.
The next 3 or 4 minutes saw Sharp narrowly miss out with another shot at one end, whilst at the other Jordan Elcock stung Ian Ormson`s hands with a snap effort.
Gradually though, County were gaining the upper hand as another Baker effort went inches wide of the target.
Sharp followed this with a tasty run that took him deep into Bullet territory where he forced a corner. This saw all men back for Town, and a neat cooperation between Keith Lee and Ryan Wintle saw the threat nullified.
This pattern continued however , and a run by Dennis scattered the Bullet`s cover , enabling a fine lay off by Sharp to tee Russell up for shot on goal that went just wide.
A momentary glimmer of hope surfaced for Town on 24 minutes via a free kick by Callum Houghton, that Lee headed on to Moore at the sharp end, but the forward`s volley cleared Ormson`s bar, and the very next action saw that hope almost totally extinguished, when County doubled their advantage!
I didn`t see who laid the chance on, but there was an emphatic response from Dennis when the ball bounced his way just inside the box, and the unequal contest twixt him and Dryson, was underlined again as the Stockport striker lifted a neat lob over the keeper`s head into the net! Great stuff!...... and, at 2-0 County probably now had a tasty meeting with Runcorn Town, in the next round, sewn up.
The blues showed no inclination to relax, despite the relative comfort of their current situation in the match, thus.....with the solid Fagbola/ Hancock spine underpinning progress, they pushed on- Baker being unluckily flagged offside just before the half hour mark. It went on......a Sharp run.....a Woolfe cross......some neat work from Russell, but all without further addition to the score.
Alsager did work themselves one half chance, but this came and went when Mike Blundell lifted his shot high over the bar.
The better chances were always likely to come at the other end however and Hancock was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with one effort from a Charlie Russell corner. Keeper Dryden was the unlucky one next however as a sudden attack of myopia on the referee`s part allowed him to award County another corner despite the evidence of mine and just about everyone else`s eyes telling us that Dennis`s shot had been watched around the post by Dryden without even the merest hint of a touch! Ho hum......County tried to take advantage of the gift, but Town defended well and any chance was gone.
The next attack saw Russell have two goes at forcing a shot home in the crowded box, but his luck was out, and it stayed 2-0 as the teams left the field at half time.
There was a somewhat quiet opening to the second half and it was not until the 51st minute that anything of real substance occurred at either end. A foul on Woolfe was the impetus for this, but despite Fagbola joining in the raid, there was no addition to the score.
It was apparent though that Alsager were intent on not going down without a fight, and Fagbola had to look to his actual job to ensure that a move involving Moore and Dave Harry came to nought.
After this......Duxbury.....Baker......Dennis all put pressure on Alsager, but without looking ever likely to add a third goal. A foul on Jacobs( and the foul count was beginning to rise along with the tally of free kicks against our hosts)set County`s best chance of the half so far up, but although Lofthouse picked out Dennis nicely with the kick, the resultant header was dealt with confidently by Dryden.
A really decent County move came next as Jacobs again found time and space to push on through the middle. Releasing a nicely weighted pass into Lofthouse`s path, there seemed a good chance of the blues getting somewhere, but Dryden had little trouble in dealing with Lofthouse`s effort as he reached the by-line.
For a time after this, with Wintle looking more and more `the part’ for Town, County were pushed back, and Fagbola did well to keep Blundell out after he had been put through by Wintle. Substitute Griggs had a shot charged down by Duxbury, and another effort from Blundell drifted wide, when perhaps better was on the cards.
County weathered the storm, and Sharp worked himself a really good chance ,with just over 20 minutes left, with a powerful run. Cutting inside and delaying his shot until in the best position to shoot, he then lifted his shot over the bar, which was a massive disappointment. If that had gone in the game would have been over.....it hadn`t......and it wasn`t, so County had to keep working!
There was a fair bit of work for them to do as well, and Hancock did well to usher Pete Heler`s effort out, as did Jacobs not long after, who was in position to clear a shot by Elcock off the line! All of a sudden this was a contest!
Brilliant work by Duxbury stopped all this action from Town getting out of hand, and he then set Dennis and Baker up with a sniff at goal.....both found the weight of Town numbers too much for them, but it showed willing.
We were into the last 10 minutes or so now, and it was slightly disconcerting to see a small fracas break out after Griggs felled Jacobs from behind. The handbags were out only briefly at this point, but I did not see the referee book anyone directly for this outbreak of unrest, and the small panto passed off without any further casualties. Not so a couple of minutes later, and the fashion accessories were well to the fore again ,after a tackle of brain dead awfulness by Ledwards on Lofthouse laid the County man out!
Suddenly ....all 20 outfield players were in there giving it some....absolutely everyone for miles around was having a go- I think I remember having my six pennyworth as well, which was odd as I was on the far side of the pitch! The only one who wasn`t participating, was the very someone who should have been.....the referee , but instead Rigour Mortis appeared to be setting in with him, and it was astonishing to see the only booking after the most impressive WW2 Re-enactment I have seen, was Ledwards- for the original `tackle’. Absolutely none of the post tackle combatants apparently warranted admonishment!
The following pic is not great, but neither is the on-field action, so I thought I should show it.....
The tackling from Town did not improve much after this, which was sad really as they had fought back well after the break, and Charlie Russell was subbed with 5 minutes left, after a particularly hefty lunge had laid him out.
So....with Todd on for Jacobs, and Joe Noblett, another product of Lordy`s excellent Development Squad( have the Club confirmed that this squad will continue next season yet?) on the park for Russell, County set about ignoring the rough stuff and getting on with the job of winning the Cup Tie.
Noblett`s first contribution to this end was a snap shot from outside the box, and it took Dryden two goes to control it!
After all the late excitement.....barring a shot from Heler, that was nicely dealt with by Hancock, the game petered out to a conclusion without further incident.
County had progressed in the competition, and a tasty trip to Runcorn beckoned- what`s not to like!
County line up;
Ormson, Jacobs ( Todd 85), Fagbola, Hancock, Duxbury, Russell ( Noblett 88), Lofthouse, Baker, Dennis, Sharp, Woolfe.
Subs not used.
Alsager Town line up:
Dryson, Dansk( Reaney 45), Ledwards, Houghton,Lee, Wintle, Heler, Moore( Griggs 60), Harry, Blundell, Elcock.
Subs not used:
Hood, Jones, Ratcliffe.
Attendance ; 141