Brackley Town 0 County 1 ( Conference North ) 28 February 2015
County delighted their following at St James` Park, with a well crafted performance that saw them come away with all the points against a Brackley Town team containing Frank Sinclair.....someone not unknown to County fans!
The score line, at 1-0, probably hints at a close run thing, but concluding that would be an error, as County controlled matters pretty much throughout- reverting to five at the back with noticeable success. For the blues, Lees and O`Halloran ,were joined by Connor Hancock in a back three, with Jacobs and Todd pushed slightly forward on the flanks, and back in a 5, when required. With Hancock continuing his impressive form when called on for a first team game, and Lees and O`Halloran as solid as ever , a good basis for survival at least was established. Add to this, lively showings from the two wing backs, especially Jacobs, who looked 100% restored to form and fitness, and County were quids in, especially once the goal went in, and Town started to press the panic button rather more than once.
Ryan`s goal was a curious affair, but as the man said....` a goal is a goal....is a goal...’, and Glover was unlucky not to get one himself late on, denied only by heroics by keeper Dean Snedker, and the cross bar. All this was particularly gratifying as within the County following, was the oldest surviving County player, 99 year old George Haigh, who was enjoying seeing his beloved team again, after recovering from a recent operation to replace his hip.
It was a joy to see him there, and Brackley are to be thanked for hosting George`s day so generously!
The start saw 2 changes in the County line up as Connor Hancock and Kyle Jacobs came in for Duxbury and Lofthouse. Todd switched flanks taking up position on the left flank, and it was from that wing that County`s first push came.....from O`Halloran.....it was blocked via good work by Roddy Collins, but it was an encouraging start!
Brackley`s response to this was to push on themselves, largely through Ebby Nelson-Addy, who for me was Town`s danger man throughout. Thankfully however Toddy stuck with him tenaciously, doing well, but on this occasion, with throw becoming corner, it was Hurst to the fore with a confident catch.
Both teams were trying to play football in the early minutes, but it was noticeable that Town were conceding a rash of free kicks, the latest one, at the 13 minute mark, sent Brackley Manager John Brady AS. He need not have got so upset......his keeper did well and claimed the ball as the kick bounced over Sinclair`s head.
If both Brackley and County were working hard, it was all of 22 minutes before any real excitement came about. Before this David Moyo had a shot charged down, and Hancock had tidied up nicely as Sinclair tried unsuccessfully to apply a finish to Nelson-Addy`s free kick. The aforesaid 22nd minute saw County gain another free kick. I failed to note the demeanour of the home Manager at this point, but he cannot have been 100% delighted to see Glover carve a hole in his side`s defences before blasting a decent effort no more than an inch or two over the bar!
Brackley were clearly struggling to hold County, who were equally clearly making an effort to see that passes went to blue shirts today, thus the number of free kicks the home team inevitably gave away under the cosh, only served to increase their angst. Town did look like they might be able to hit us on the break, and in this respect Nelson-Addy was their best bet, but although Todd tracked him diligently as he darted clear, it took a decisive intervention by Lees to eventually stop the rot on this occasion. More followed from Town.....Hancock doing well to see the danger off as Ryan Rowe darted clear through the middle, and Hurst in position to grab the ball when a free kick to Brackley came his way.
I was beginning to get slightly alarmed however.....suddenly passes started going astray....Wilkinson twice feeding men in red/ white shirts – this was just not what was required! Todd, by way of contrast, showed us what was- his energetic run being only just snuffed out by an excellent sliding tackle from Collins.
That was inspirational stuff, and within a couple of minutes County had the lead , and what a curious goal it was ! It started with the ball finding its way to Wilkinson wide on the left, where he promptly checked back before lifting the ball across to just outside the box where Jack Ryan lurked with a defender for company.
Immediately....... as the ball bounced in front of him, Ryan swung a foot at it, the result being that the ball spiralled upwards, coming down in front of goal where Glover and the keeper were stationed. Both these moved to get a touch....both failed.....thus the ball bounced on into the net beating a defender on the line on the way. There was no contact whatsoever twixt Glover and Snedker, and no obstruction, thus it was a valid goal in every respect, but my paranoia told me ` the b****y ref will rule it out!’....I was wrong, and County did indeed have the lead, and suddenly everyone in the vicinity was smiling broadly!
Rowe won a corner after this for Brackley, and Sinclair missed out with a header, but generally the home side looked to be struggling more and more- Sam Whittall being booked for a heavy tackle on Glover. Lees and Sinclair went head to head when the kick came over, but the referee had seen `something’ and gave Town the lifeline of a free kick. That said.....Brackley did have something approaching a chance, with 4 minutes left of the half. It was set up by Nelson-Addy who glided inside beyond Todd, to slip the ball to Moyo, who really should have done better than lifting it high into the crowd!
Jacobs was unlucky not to reach Ryan as he pulled the ball back from the by-line - Sinclair instead.....conceded a corner with danger in evidence, and the ball was quickly in the net from this as Baker whipped the ball home from 10 yards out. “ Goal” thinks I.......it wasn`t and the kick was taken again –Ryan and Glover doing their best to force the ball home, but being denied by good work from Whittall.
It went on with Baker a whisker away from getting to Todd`s ball in the box, then Brackley hit back through Moyo, who found Lees too good for him. The Town momentum, for a moment or so, looked to be building, until an intervention from Hancock curtailed the attack. Hancock then turned defence to attack with a lovely ball for Ryan to chase, but the young forward hesitated, possibly thinking he was offside...he wasn`t, but when he realised this.....it was too late , and the chance was gone.
The second half opened with Brackley winning a couple of fairly cheap free kicks, but both were wasted as the ball was lifted high into the box. As the half developed, Town who had looked to play it about a bit, elected more and more for the ` lift it’ option, and with Hancock, Lees and O`Halloran in imperious form this always looked and eventually was proved to be, a losing strategy, with County`s forwards getting ever bolder. Glover was typical of this boldness, giving Ryan Austin nightmares, forcing him to test his own keeper severely with a back pass under pressure! This was encouraging, as was the response of Hancock and Jacobs who were quick to react when faced with a break by Rowe moments later.
To their credit, Brackley kept plugging away, and whilst the blue back line never looked in trouble, neither could they fully relax- a fact underlined with jingly brass knobs on when Nelson-Addy fell to earth completely unaided just outside the box. `Free-kick’ the liner`s flag told us, but I was not alone in treating this decision to a hearty belly laugh! Glover did good defensive work to see the kick off, and a subsequent corner, but I could have done without the liner induced tension that had gone before!
A neat catch from Hurst, and it was back onto the front foot for County next as Glover, Baker and Churchman took turns trying to prise open the home defences. At one point it began to look like they had, as Sinclair laid Austin out in his attempts to clear his lines. Mayhem was abroad in the home penalty box, but Ryan sent his effort inches wide to end the angst a tad.
If Brackley were still in it, as technically we were on Tuesday against Barrow, being only one down, as the game progressed, County moves started to get cooler and more measured than before, and this ,to some extent was down to Jacobs who looked back to his best with some probing runs and teasing passes. Substitute Will Green did get one chance , with about 15 minutes left, but his hurried effort sailed harmlessly over the bar ,to again bolster the thought that today was County`s day!
Jacobs won possession before sending Ryan clear ,shortly after, but the shot was charged down, as was a County free kick that followed not long after, ushering in a rally from Town that saw Hurst in action keeping a decent shot by Moyo out. That was a good....probably vital save, and was a clear warning against complacency!
County re-doubled their attacking efforts after this – urged on by Jacobs who was still firing on all cylinders into the last 5 minutes. The raid needed Sinclair`s head to be on the right way around for it to fail, and despite looking pressured, it was, and he managed somehow to keep it at 1-0.
It looked likely to stay so to the end, as we reached the 90 minute mark, but Glover had other ideas ,surging through heading towards the box. He had Austin for company and twice.... three times he tugged at Glovers shirt....shorts...arm, but the County man couldn`t be stopped instead he turned to see a fierce shot beaten out by the keeper. Still Glover wasn`t done, and another shot followed, this one smashing into the bar with Snedker a helpless spectator! That was so....so...unlucky!
Brackley kept plugging away, but it was a losing battle- Hurst getting a burst of applause for a fine catch right at the death.
A blast of the referee`s whistle, and the game was over, and the points were ours.....all ours.... a nice feeling after recent results.
Well done County, onward and upwards!
The next away game is the long journey to Lowestoft on 14 March.
The Flyer will get you there, and Lou has asked me to say that he has 23 booked on so far. The coach picks up at the Telescope Shop on Mercian Way at 07.30, moving on promptly to pick up at the Fingerpost. Please ring Lou on 0789 6536757 to book.
County line up:
Hurst, Jacobs, Lees, Hancock, O`Halloran, Todd, Churchman, Baker, Ryan, Glover, Wilkinson.
Subs not used;
Ormson, Russell, Moses, Sharp Spencer.
Brackley Town line up:
Snedker, Collins( Built 80), Carruthers, Odhiambo, Sinclair, Austin, Nelson-Addy, Whittall, Rowe, Moyo, Mendes( Turley 45).
Subs not used:
Sharpe, Pierpoint, Green.
Attendance : 395.