County 2 Wrexham FC 2 (FA Trophy Round 2) 10 January 2015

County put up a brave fight today , but against Wrexham`s team of Conference Premier full time pro`s , they had to settle for a replay at the Racecourse Ground , as the Welsh side came back from 0-2 down to force a 2-2 draw in a well contested FA Trophy tie at Edgeley Park. In truth the visitors looked well capable of winning this one- particularly in the second half when the pressure on County was almost none stop, after midfield prop Tunji Moses became County`s second forced change due to injury. The serially unlucky Richie Baker had previously been replaced before the break. There was just no `like for like’ sub available to A.L. for Moses, who was replaced by striker Kristian Dennis, and with ex Hatter Connor Jennings, and Jay Harris in prime form, for Wrexham, it was a really good performance by County in the end to come away all square, when much.....much worse threatened!
Back to their place then on Tuesday, which is possibly viewed as a disappointment by some, but at 3 o`clock it would have been a brave County fan who ventured to forecast a blue win. Greg Wilkinson and Danny Glover were both unable to play for us, as County went 5 at the back with Matthew Todd getting a rare outing alongside Belezika, Lees, Duxbury and O`Halloran  ,who was quite simply superb! I was happy with that line up and even more so with the strike force A.L. had opted for- Jack Ryan and Chris Sharp preferred in a front two, to Scott Spencer and Kristian Dennis who were both on the bench. Sharp had a really good game, working as hard as ever, and if Ryan faded somewhat after the break,  they both scored and will be well pleased with their performances.

Outside the Away End

There were over 2000 in the place for the start, with nearly 500 from Wrexham. Unfortunately there were upwards of about 30 policeman inside the stadium as well, and it was irksome to see them parade in front of the away specs immediately pre- kick off. I am not sure that deploying  several riot vans....umpteen mounted officers and a large force of policemen on foot, to deal with less than 500 men and women wanting to watch a football match , is either the best way of going about it or fair. But where does fairness come into the equation when football supporters generally are obliged to leave their human rights at the turnstiles?

Just under 500 good natured Wrexham supporters.

Rant over.....the game....... 

Ready for the off.....
With Connor Jennings to the fore, the first 5 minutes or so belonged almost exclusively to Wrexham, but at 3.03 the stadium erupted in a wall of sound as the home specs to a man rose to their feet to salute  Lee Bennett, the recently deceased  County supporter. 

Thoughts also strayed to  Karen Hargreaves, Dave Murphy and  Sandra Brotherton who also sadly  died in the last week, and it was particularly heart warming to see the Wrexham following rise to their feet and join in the ovation........magnificent stuff!
Whilst all the emotion was engulfing E.P......Wrexham continued on the attack- Jennings setting Andy Bishop up with a half chance with a neat flick-on, and Duxbury did well with a decent block that saw the danger off.
It was pretty much all Wrexham for the first 6 minutes, but the seventh brought a seed change in proceedings thanks to O`Halloran who seized onto a loose ball and proceeded to dribble his way out of defence up the park, where he unleashed the silkiest of passes smack in front of Jack Ryan who had no one on him. Ryan.....thinking he was offside.....hesitated.....but realising that he wasn`t ...went for it going one to one with the keeper before slipping a delightful finish under him into the net!
That was simply excellent and with O`Halloran seemingly in Franz Beckenbaur mode ( another block and run illuminated proceedings shortly after) –more looked on the cards!

O`Halloran on the charge........
One goal, is not a bad ratio from a County view point, whereas Wrexham must have been livid , as their best efforts continued to go unrewarded- Duxbury again doing well to stop full back Mark Carrington, who along with Neil Ashton on the other flank, would cause County major problems.     
A long kick from Hurst gave Ryan the sniff of a chance to double his goal tally , but Carrington did enough to see the threat off, keeping it at 1-0.
Harris produced a neat run next, followed by a fair old pass , which hinted at great things for Wes York on the break, but once more O`Halloran did the biz, cutting the pass off before York could pounce on it!

Hurst seeks distance.
O`Halloran was in top nick , there was no question about it, and a fine one/ two twixt him and Baker only just ended disappointingly , when the Irishman took the return pass  and sent his shot narrowly wide.
Elliott Durrell just failed to convert a pass from Jennings, who along with Harris and Bishop looked likely to cause County more than the odd spot of bother.

Lees tracks Jennings.
On it went, and County replied via a fairly decent free kick by Duxbury when Sharp was hauled down just outside the box. The young County back planted the kick towards the back of the box, where Sharp slid in the meet it- missing out by the smallest of margins! Add to this a neat bit of work from Churchman, who was only kept out by some very cool work from Carrington, and it was possible, at the mid way point in the first half to be rather pleased with how the blues were shaping. This feeling only increased in intensity, with O`Halloran   ghosting in at the back post ( yes....he was doing James G impressions now!) ,and unlucky not to score!
Lees anticipates `incoming'

Defensively O`Halloran was on the ball as well, as Carrington found to his cost on the end of a speculative through ball, but generally there was nothing at all speculative about Wrexham`s approach indeed some of their approach play looked impressive- it was clear that County would have to play well to keep them out for 90 odd minutes!
Attack being the best form of defence, County gave it a go through Sharp who`s cross won the blues a corner, which keeper Dan Rachmann went for and missed. It went straight out fortunately for him, but it was close!

A close call for Rachmann !
It got a bit hectic for a time after this, with a County free kick ushered clear one moment, and the next O`Halloran forced to produce the goods again with the redoubtable Jennings darting away on the break. O`Halloran looked to have done well, and won himself a goal kick as well as saving the situation, but the liner hallucinated awarding a corner instead. 

Belezika heads clear !

This was headed clear by Belezika, ushering in a County break, and Sharp was only just short of getting to Churchman`s final ball in the box!
Jennings twice had a go at denting the blues confidence......seeing Duxbury in position to cut him off firstly, and watching as his firmly struck drive climbed narrowly over the bar shortly after.

Duxbury on form.
This was all worrying stuff, but that said...County looked to be dealing with the threats well enough and without any sign of panic, and panic was just about the last thing on County`s mind next as Todd turned defence into dazzling attack with a brilliant ball that had Sharp`s name engraved on it. This was the type of ball that is tailor made for Sharp- delivered so that he can run onto it in a central position. With 2 defenders inside him and the keeper in front, this time Sharp drifted slightly wide, before turning and drilling the sweetest of strikes into the far corner of Rachmann`s net! It was 2-0 and County`s Premier Division opponents were on the ropes!
They were for a time as well- Sharp missing out with a header.....Ryan missing out with a run from a Duxbury pass, and Duxbury unlucky to be deprived of a sneaky third goal by the slightest of deflections off a defender.

Duxbury`s free kick.
County`s forward push was interrupted somewhat just before the break when A.L. was forced to replace Baker with young Bobby Lofthouse, and it required more excellent work by O`Halloran ( twice) and the fast improving Churchman to contain the side in red and black.
The last 5 minutes of the half saw Wrexham take the game to County....profit from another hallucinatory turn from the MS liner, and then waste the free kick, but return to the attack again via the excellent Jennings.

Off my Xmas Card List- the MS liner !
 Lees managed to block the strike that followed, and then deflect a shot by York for a corner. This put County under considerable pressure, but although Jennings won the ball he was forced to skirt the perimeter of the box as County blocked his route to goal. Jennings didn’t get a shot off......Durrell eventually did, only to see O`Halloran charge it down, forcing Jennings to resort to an extravagant scissors kick which missed by a distance!

County under late first half pressure.
That was about that for the first half then, and the teams left the field to warm applause!      
So good, but, could County keep it up? Wrexham did their level best to see this question answered in the negative, as they pushed forward impressively with backs Carrington and Ashton a constant driving force down the flanks, after the break. Corners came and went for the Welsh side without success. County defended well, and they had to, with crosses pinging in with increasing regularity.

County defend.

If County were defending well, they were finding the construction of moves in reply impossible to muster, thus the pressure on them continued to mount- Sharp doing particularly well at one point to stop York who threatened on the edge of the box. Twice O`Halloran headed clear , and Lees and Duxbury joined in with decent defensive work when sorely needed, as did Belezika whose last ditcher saved the day after Ashton`s mugging of Todd had gone unpunished. happened.....the game changer.......injury to Moses necessitated his replacement, but with striker Kristian Dennis this replacement, an opportunity now presented itself to the visitors! They realised this as well, and went at County with a will, forcing a series of last ditchers from a range of County players. For about 6 minutes County held out, and Sharp even managed to make Rachmann make a save at his near post on the break, but the Wrexham pressure finally paid off 68 minutes in. There was a touch of luck about it, but perhaps the Welsh side had earned a bit, as Jennings shot was deflected into the net off one of a clutch of blue shirted defenders thereabouts!
It was 2-1 and a tad disappointing, but within 3 minutes it got worse as Wrexham scored again , when substitute Louis Moult`s overhead kick made it 2-2.

Wrexham free kick.
Wrexham piled forward after this....queuing for a shot at goal – Harris, Moult and Smith, all having a go without succeeding. Evans went closest in this period, bringing a brilliant save from Hurst with a thunderous drive. He then followed up by rattling the net with a neat finish, but his and the away specs celebrations were cut short by the Pop Side liner who had his flag up, for some infringement or other!
Carrington and Ashton were getting forward at will now, and causing County much pain. County were stoically resisting as best they could, and it was heroic stuff really, and incredibly irritating to see a rare break, by Sharp, ended with a wave of the MS liners flag!

Throw from Belezika.
County were working incredibly hard, it was just that they could not turn defence into attack, resulting in the pressure increasing with every corner subsequently conceded, and there were a few. But Wrexham just could not find that elusive finish now, and began to get a touch jittery when the blues started to show signs of hitting them on the break.
To concede a goal now, in the game`s dying embers would be too bad for words....for either side, thus Wrexham looked to locate Hardcastle Road or concede a free kick rather than risk worse.
Sharp was beginning to find a way through now, but as he did so the fouls mounted as his markers resorted to basics to deny him. With 3 minutes left such a kick  saw Sharp`s effort charged down in improbable fashion by Evans- the ball running out to the left where Duxbury met it with a delicious lob that was centimetres away from success at the angle of bar and post!
One of a few late County free kicks.

Did I say that Sharp was warming up a bit? Well he was, and still the free kicks came County`s way as yet another foul stopped the Stockport number nine in his tracks. The kick was nicely positioned and within Dennis`s range, but he hit the wall and it stayed 2-2.

Late, late County pressure.
Dennis looked to be on for better next having latched onto a through ball, but despite having White and Ashton for company the MS liner flagged him offside!
There was defending for County to do into added time, with O`Halloran still to the fore with some excellent work to deny Smith. Hurst did even better ...diving to push a shot from Harris round the post!
It was a relief when the whistle went to end a decent game fought in a good spirit.
Fair result? Possibly!
We will be second favourites again on Tuesday, but I`ll be there...will you be?

County line up:

Hurst, Todd, Belezika, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Moses ( Dennis 61), Baker ( Lofthouse 38), Sharp, Churchman, Ryan.

Subs not used:

Ormson, Hancock, Spencer.

Wrexham line up:

Rachmann, Carrington, Ashton, Smith, Hudson( White 45) , Durrell, Harris, Bishop, Evans, York( Moult 61), Jennings.

Subs not used;

Clarke, Keates, Tomassen.

Attendance 2416. 

Ian Brown


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