County 1 Gainsborough Trinity 3 : ( Conference North) 11 April 2005
County make it ever so difficult to keep up the positivity at the moment, it must be said. Over 2500 turned out to urge them on in a game of no great interest, other than to the anorak in some of us. Both teams had no interest in either promotion or relegation at this point, so a somewhat meaningless end of season game was all the brave 2500 could have reasonably looked forward to. It was sad therefore to report that County produced another insipid performance in response, capitulating, for the second time this season, 3-1 this time ,to a Gainsborough side that looked no better than useful. What Trinity did have however, was excellent spatial awareness- their players fanned out around the pitch and played to feet pretty much constantly, and they had the best player on the park( by a mile) in Chris Hamilton, who was in dazzling form, his two goals being scant reward for 90 odd particularly good minutes from him.
By way of contrast, County stumbled about, game long, hardly ever stringing two consecutive decent passes together. To be sure…..Hamilton had something to do with all this, but there was a certain element of self destruct in play from County, that contributed too, and it mattered not whether in 4/2/4 formation( first half), or 4/4/2 for much of the second, the result was the same, and in the end 3-1 was something of a let off for the blues, which was massively disappointing after what we endured at their place some while ago!
Back to 3 o’clock, and I was simply gagging for County to put one over on what I regarded at that point as a bunch of vaudevillians in football boots, following our travails in the previous game between the two sides.
It did not take long however, for thoughts other than those seeking redress or revenge, to take the place of my earlier less than charitable ones, as Chris Hamilton twice had a crafty nibble at County`s extremities! So far so good though…..on both occasions he was repulsed either by O`Halloran or Lees, and Duxbury joined in with good work to nullify Josh Lacey`s efforts to capitalise on Hamilton`s work.
County did get a crumb of comfort in the form of a free kick for a somewhat perfunctory challenge by Pickton on Spencer. It should have prompted pressure and a period of stability for County, but instead Lees had to come to County`s rescue after Jacobs had frittered possession away allowing Hamilton to burst clear on the break.
Lees earned applause for that bit of work, but the linesman to my left had County hackles raised next as Hamilton scooted clear again although a yard or so offside. From Hamilton it went inside to Lacey, and Hurst did well to get something on the shot and tip the ball over the bar! Danny Forrest put the pressure back on from the kick that followed, but Jacobs made up for his earlier blooper by clearing his lines nicely!
Ten minutes had now gone, and it had pretty much been Gainsborough all the way, and it continued with Hurst having to work hard to keep Jamie Yates` effort out at his near post , under loads of pressure from the lively Hamilton.
The eleventh minute offered the likes of me, a tantalising glimpse of just what might be possible, as Churchman threaded a beautiful ball into the box for Dennis. The Stockport number nine was on it alright, and quickly lined up a shot with his left peg, but his execution was off, and although the shot beat the keeper ,it drifted a foot or so wide of goal!
|Churchman fights for possession.|
That was a real chance, and we needed it to have been put away. Glover tried his best to make up for this, but his shot on the turn was easily dealt with by keeper Rory Watson.
County did exert some pressure after that last action, via a free kick and a series of corners – the last of which Watson eventually managed to sort, by grabbing the ball, without looking overly confident whilst doing so.
This slightly purple patch from County, faded a tad around the 20 minute mark, and O`Halloran earned fulsome applause with some excellent defending as Hamilton and Brogan threatened to take advantage of some lax work from the blues. County`s problem seemed to be that they only had Churchman and Moses in midfield , and they were having to work overtime to avoid shipping water, thus the pressure was constantly on the blue back line.
It was slightly irritating to see Forrest allowed to take the ball out onto Hardcastle Road and beyond to Mersian Way, before pinging a cross over, at one point. It came to nought, but these constant liner rest periods are getting a bit much!
Meanwhile Spencer brought a save out of Watson with a shot, but this proved to be but a prelude to more angst inducing work from Hamilton that required all O`Halloran`s best attention to nullify.
|Watson reacts well to County pressure.|
But….credit where it`s due…..County replied again, this time through Glover, whose cross was headed on by Spencer to Dennis. Dennis propelled another header goal ward, but Watson`s dive saw him keep it out at the last gasp!
It went on….Spencer almost reaching Dennis again in the box, thwarted by Cliff Byrne, who just moments before had gone right through Spencer from behind, to the mildest of rebukes from the referee. County were definitely trying to work their way out of their difficulties, but the execution was not that great….Glover seeing two shots charged down……Dennis missing badly with two really poor efforts – his first touch letting him down with a third after Spencer had played him clear.
Gainsborough probably knew that they just had to be patient and wait for County to give the ball away, and that`s just what they did- Brogan looking positively apoplectic with the sight of the liner`s flag fluttering in the cool spring air, as he darted clear. An escape then…… and another swiftly followed as Yates dragged his shot woefully wide with the goal at his mercy, but there was simply no escape , with 5 minutes remaining of the half, as Hamilton sped clear yet again …..deep into County territory. County`s defence stood off him , allowing him to head into the box, where it was left to O`Halloran to bravely intervene, and he seemed to have done his job well as his tackle blocked Hamilton`s shot nicely…..except the ball spiralled upwards and over Hurst`s head into the net to give Gainsborough the lead!
That was not wholly surprising, but disappointing none the less, and County`s passing was all over the place after this, Lees doing well to keep his team afloat faced with another determined raid engineered by Hamilton. Gainsborough were getting cocky now, and the half ended with a shot from Brogan whistling just past the post, with Hurst watching anxiously!
Into the second half then, and it opened with Watson making a real meal of a less than ferocious shot from Spencer.
Then County got the rudest of awakenings as a Trinity break saw the ball cannon into a post before coming out to Brogan who, faced with the easiest of chances, fluffed it by sending his shot wide!
Now….. as escapes go…..that was a lulu…..we needed County to take advantage of this lucky break, but would they?
Well…..yes…..and one of the stand out moments of the game came next as Dennis reached the deadest of balls near the corner flag, hitting the best of crosses first time into the box where Ryan went for it with Byrne. Ryan got first touch…with his head….but Byrne got something on it too and it was just enough to ensure a corner followed and not a goal. Err…..what did I just say?…..Well….for once County made their opponents pay for their poor finishing , as Spencer turned in the box to beat the keeper with another of those text book finishes. It was a belter…..it was 1/1……and game on!
The first strains of `The Scarf’ soon followed as the County following stirred at last, and got behind their team, but Watson did better minutes later, clawing a shot from Dennis out of danger as the County man attempted to hit the visitors on the break.
That was good to see, and therefore particularly disappointing to see County go behind again within a matter of a few minutes. That spatial awareness I mentioned came into play as Hamilton and Simon Russell combined to push County back. Switching play wide left Trinity had Yates perfectly positioned to plant a cross firmly across the goal to where Forrest lurked beyond the far post. He had a free header, and duly obliged by hitting the back of the net with it!
Duxbury and Dennis did try to get back at Gainsborough, but Watson was not unduly troubled, and the pressure was thus back on the blues as Russell took advantage of a lapse by O`Halloran to pick out Hamilton. Now….this was another gilt edger, and Hamilton perhaps should have put it away, but he didn`t, missing the target with the goal gaping!
Undeterred by this set back, Hamilton again went for the jugular, forcing Lees into error. Somehow Hurst kept the subsequent shot out, and the comedy of errors that followed served County well, as Brogan just fell down when sending a shot into a largely unguarded goal was much….much easier!
County were living dangerously, and A.L. moved to bolster mid field bringing Russell on for Spencer just after the hour.
It was 4/4/2 then now for County, but the traffic flow still headed Hurst`s way, orchestrated by Hamilton who was in imperious form, assisted more and more by Simon Russell. The pair took turns to torment County, as corner after corner pinned them back.
With 18 minutes left, Hamilton was away again, this time down the right. He had Lees for company but despite my appreciation of the County captain`s ability, I rather thought Hamilton had this one in his locker. So too I think did Lees, and he took his man out with a blatant body check. A booking followed of course, and a free kick, but despite Byrne`s best efforts at the back post, this came to nought, so Lees had saved his team again!
The County corpse twitched a bit next as a screamer from Moses whizzed a foot past Watson`s right hand post. Then Duxbury won possession before sending Ryan clear. This came to nothing, and Trinity were able to gather themselves for another assault on the home citadel, and County were in disarray as Hamilton ran at them …a bewildering mix of pace …skill and exquisite balance.
After 80 minutes , A.L. played his final two cards, bringing Sharp and Lofthouse on for Ryan and Churchman, but Hurst was immediately in action thereafter keeping a header from Darryn Stamp, who had been on for less than a minute, out.
With minutes left a neat pass from Sharp allowed Dennis to win a corner that , saw Sharp unlucky with a header that flew inches over the top.
|Sharp heads just over the bar.....|
Lofthouse and Jacobs both probed for an opening for County, but once more the really impressive work was enacted at the other end where Hamilton slid smoothly past Duxbury and beyond O`Halloran into the box- only the relative inadequacies of his team mates did for the forward`s ambition.
Soon enough we were in added time, and before long up to our gills in the brown stuff once more as another effort from Hamilton headed goal ward. It looked all over a goal, but Lees introduced an element of doubt by tracking back to hurriedly hook the ball clear from under the bar, but County`s relief was short lived, as the Pop Side liner signalled a goal, and 3-1 it was!
Surely that was the end of the misery!
Well…..maybe, but not an end to Hamilton`s magic, and I watched in amazement to see him instantly control a ball slung at him and arriving with him over his shoulder as he ran for goal. To instant control at speed Hamilton added power and the shot thudded into Hurst`s chest – the County keeper stopping Russell`s follow up effort as well as an encore.
That was brilliant from both Hamilton and Hurst, what followed after was not, and an unedefying melee in front of the Pop Side did nothing for anyone. Luckily for County neither the referee or linesman apparently saw what went on….an elbow flashed in there at one point, but as I say, the officials didn`t see it…..the game soon resumed….then finished, and County had lost again.
Off to Hyde next for a repeat of `The Game that Never Was’, and I along with you no doubt, will be in Cheltenham and at E.P. for the Harrogate finale too.
See you there !
County line up:
Hurst, Jacobs, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Moses, Churchman( Lofthouse 80), Glover, Dennis, Spencer( Russell 64),Ryan( Sharp 80).
Subs not used:
Gainsborough Trinity line up:
Watson, Roma, Lacey, Binns, Byrne, Pickton, Russell, Forrest( Stamp 81), Brogan( Davis 74), Hamilton, Yates.
Subs not used:
Davie, Beesley, Martin.
Attendance ; 2504