County 4 Leamington 2 ; ( Conference North) 24 January 2015
What a week!
What with the Domesday Clock`s minute hand edging its way perilously close to Armageddon time- reaching 11.57 for the first time since the US and the Ruskies were at loggerheads in `83.......and the Tony Bliar induced delays in dear old Lord C`s enquiry, I was not a happy bunny.....only the news from Germany on Thursday that a court in Dusseldorf had ruled that, after all the doubt surrounding the subject, men categorically had the right to pee standing up, saved me from going into pre-match angst melt down!
I was relieved.......and made my way to Edgeley Park, via the Bung, for our latest battle for 3 points, this time against Leamington.
I felt that a win was on the cards for County, and in the event, County survived a second half wobble to make it so, eventually securing 3 valuable points by the relatively secure margin of 4-2. For a time in the second half though, the game was in the balance....County...who had sailed into a handsome first half lead of 2-0, thereafter wilted alarmingly after the break conceding 2 goals in rapid succession after previously never looking remotely likely to!
Everyone in blue had looked comfortable on the ball.....the back four had it all nailed tightly down.....Wilkinson looked a class above everyone on the park, even the hugely impressive County duo of Lees and O`Halloran. But....as I say things promptly went pear shaped for a time, but County eventually regained the initiative and with it the points thanks to quality goals from Greg Wilkinson( my M.O.M) and Chris Sharp.
Back to kick off time then, and Alan Lord had named a pretty strong side to face Leamington, who were languishing in 19th position in the Conference North. Tunji Moses was about the only addition I would have liked to make to the starting eleven, and injury clearly ruled that out! Kick off was seemingly ruled out also for a time, as County`s very own `ooops moment’ saw the corner flags missing with the teams ready to go.
Straight off, things looked on the up for County as Baker was inches away from applying a finish to a quality Wilkinson ball, after Wilks and O`Halloran had led Leamington a rare old dance down the left flank.
It kept going in the same vein with Ryan`s strength seeing him burst into the box. He passed instead of shooting, which was about right, but keeper Ross Atkins beat the intended recipient, Glover, to the ball, and any chance was gone.
It had been a lively start, and all at the right end too, but things threatened to swing the Brakes way next via fashion icon Lee Chilton, who was kitted out in a natty pair of woollen gloves. It was plain that the not very hardy forward fancied his chances with this one, but it was but a delusion, and he dragged his under powered effort wide of Hurst`s far post.
Leamington kept at it however, and Hurst had to react quickly to mop up when Dan Newton threatened in the box. Newton looked as lively as anyone in yellow- joining Chilton to probe for a weakness down the left. There did not appear to be one.....Jacobs looked in control, and he rescued County ,some 8 minutes in, when Newton and Hicks combined to good effect on the break. Hicks kept the pressure on, winning a corner off Churchman, but County defended this well, and a further couple as the visitors flexed their muscles deep inside the blue half!
That was 11 minutes gone......the 12th saw the game change course......from being end to end .....one team snatched the initiative ,and the lead, and it was County! It looked an innocuous situation, and something of an afterthought on Dennis`s part, as he decided to have a crack at goal. He was just outside the box and chose to hit it with his right, but not with that much power, as far as I could see, but instead of holding the shot.....Adams spilled it into the path of Ryan who promptly sneaked in to force the ball home and give the blues a priceless 1-0 lead.
Leamington replied through Jordan Goddard, but O`Halloran kept his cross out, and Jacobs eventually hooked the ball clear from the first of many long throws from Dom Langdon.
The County back line looked in good nick despite all Leamington could muster in the way of hostilities, and it was County who counted themselves unfortunate, within a minute, as a intuitive through ball from Wilkinson to Dennis, was cut off at the very last gasp! Wilkinson looked in prime nick, and he has seemingly oodles of time....all of the time.....and another terrific ball from him forced Atkins into making another frantic charge from his line to ensure the predatory Ryan didn`t get the ball- it was close was that one!
Things looked to be on the up again for the blues, and some quite watchable football was laid out before us for a time, with Dennis the proverbial whisker`s width away from yet another pearler from Wilkinson, and disappointed again shortly after to see Atkins positioned correctly to keep his shot out
Twenty five.....twenty six minutes had gone, with it still 1-0, but the 27th saw it change for the better. It didn`t look to be about to pan out like that, as I had just allowed myself a preliminary loosening snarl in the referee`s direction thanks to his hallucinatory lapse, which saw Lees denied a goal kick, whilst the Brakes luxuriated in a corner.
My mini fumathon simmered gently as the kick sailed in from my right, subsiding rapidly as Hurst saw the kick off. It got better as well, and quickly, as Dennis found himself on the end of a glorious ball from Danny Glover. He was also in the box, and clear and with only the keeper to beat....that`s what he did! It was 2-0 to the blues and our play-off push was back on!
County pushed on after the last action and Ryan was unlucky not to latch onto Wilkinson`s latest tempter, with the Brakes defence caught out- only a tad too much oomph in the pass did for its effectiveness! The Wilkinson master class went on apace- Ryan a ace from getting past two men in the box- he managed the first, but not the second!
Credit to Leamington.....they had not thrown the towel in by any manner of means, indeed...... once...twice...three times O`Halloran had to looked lively to keep Hicks out......then Lees joined in seeing Chilton off with some neat play.
That was all so very encouraging, and might have been even better had Dennis`s shot on the turn not soared over the bar, from Baker`s pass, but it did and that was that.
County approached the break pushing forward......Ryan and Glover going close as Wilkinson and Baker set about creating moves of quality from nothing.
There was much defending for the Brakes to do , but with 5 minutes remaining of the half Churchman did well to block Hicks who had stolen a march on County who were hell bent on a third goal! The fumathon was briefly back on again as a free kick of dubious parentage came Leamington`s way, and this found its way into the box where Joe Magunda`s downward header seemed destined for the net! It did it really did.....but somehow Hurst got down and managed to get a touch pushing the ball around the post.
That was probably a pivotal moment in the game- a goal to the visitors then....... and a whole new complexion would take over the game! But...it didn`t, and when the kick came over- O`Halloran saw it to safety to great applause from the Cheadle End.
Ryan then found the route to goal blocked by Magunda, after Dennis had worked wonders to keep the ball in play near the corner flag, and a late corner was wasted by Duxbury, before the half time whistle went and the teams left the field to a burst of applause.
That had been a good half....a decent showing by County.....could they give us a repeat in the next 45 minutes though?
A couple of runs, after the re-start, from Duxbury , and another by Wilkinson, seemed to hint at maybe.....just maybe......they could, and Glover`s header added to this likelihood, but all these efforts came to nought, so a certain nagging doubt was in the mind mix somewhere! But I told myself that this was so much defeatist crap, especially as some excellent football by the blues saw O`Halloran an inch or two away from scoring from one of a number of corners.
Yes.....County were on song.....still on song, and again Glover gave me more grist for that particular mill being the narrowest of margins away from getting to a neat ball by Ryan.
There was quite simply no forewarning of the juxta positioning of fortunes that came about next, not even when a Brakes break brought good reactions first from Churchman and then O`Halloran. It`s true that the visitors were clearly wanting to get back into the game, but the form of the team in blue seemed to discount this possibility.....until the hour mark that is, when from out of nowhere a speculative shot by Newton found its way past Hurst into the net. There was a slight deflection, but Hurst hardly moved for it and it was 2-1, and game on!
A swap of Sharp for Ryan came almost immediately after the goal, but already a seed change had taken place on the park and it was Leamington who were suddenly playing the ball about with ease and comfort. That said..... a neat move involving Sharp , Baker and Dennis offered a glimpse of better things again, but Dennis`s shot missed out narrowly , as did a corner shortly after won via a run down the left by Sharp. Added to this Atkins only just managed to keep the ball from crossing the line ,under pressure from Sharp from a corner, so it was still a shock when County leaked another goal!
The danger seemed marginal to none existent at first ....until a parry by Hurst allowed Newton in to snatch his second and his sides equalising goal.
A familiar despondency seemed to seep into the bones of 2700 odd of those present at this point.....encouraged by the sight of 2 goal Newton twice deep into County faces in their last third, looking for his third! Corners came and went, thankfully without the Brakes getting what they wanted, and then it happened.....County hit back......
Dennis set it up nicely- laying the ball off sweetly to Wilkinson who leathered it past Atkins into the net. That was a veritable cracker.......but the blues had 15 to hold that lead or improve upon it!
Well the first part of A.L`s method to achieve this saw Russell on for Baker- his third outing in three games!
I was still giving Leamington full credit at this point for a decent showing, as they defended way up the park- they were definitely trying, and it was not good to see Hurst spill a shot from Newton at one point.
County were getting the chances ,possibly due to this high defensive line, but Churchman`s neat pass saw Wilkinson`s effort charged down. Moments later, things seemed to improve, when Sharp was played in by Wilkinson. But ....with only Atkins to beat......he took his time about it, but then hit the keeper with his shot, and the chance was gone.
We were into the last 8 or 9 minutes now and Leamington were still wanting that equalising goal, but with free kicks, corners and long throws pinging over, County managed to keep it at 3-2. It was beginning to get slightly un-pretty at times as well as 2...3....4....5..... yellow shirted forwards piled into County`s box after the ball- it was a considerable relief to see one of the five fail to keep the ball in play!
Still....Leamington searched for that game saving goal....and still County resisted them. The next action was probably inevitable, as County broke clear allowing Dennis to pass to Sharp who sent a blistering shot into the back of the net. That was a real cracker.....and it was 4-2 ,and possibly game over!
Well.....not quite.....there was time for Hurst to take two goes to keep a late free kick out.......for substitute Matt Dodd to thwart Duxbury`s run ( this had been Duxbury`s best game since his return for me), and for Dennis to sweep the ball home on the end of a lightning raid involving him....Wilkinson and Sharp. The liners flag was up.....it did not count....but I did not care a jot...the game was won, and the points were ours!
County line up;
Hurst, Jacobs, Duxbury, Lees , O`Halloran, Churchman, Baker( Russell 75), Glover( Lofthouse 82), Ryan( Sharp 60), Dennis, Wilkinson.
Subs not used:
Leamington line up:
Atkins, Mace, Morley, Magunda, Gordon, Langdon, Goddard, Fry( Dodd 82), Newton, Hicks( Moore 67), Chilton( Forsdick 82).
Subs not used: