Stockport County 2 Bolton Wanderers 2 ( Pre Season Friendly) 22 July 2015




County came back from being 2-1 down against Championship side Bolton Wanderers at Edgeley Park last night, earning a draw via another sensational strike by the imperiously talented Abs Baggie.
 
The impressive Abs Baggie.


With County belaying their status with another impressive showing, in the end it was Bolton who were defending....hanging on....and County who might reasonably have been disappointed at not gaining a winner. That would have been the sole disappointment though, because again the team, despite NY giving just about everyone who turned up minutes on the park, gave us as decent a pre-season display as could reasonably have been expected.
For County....Garvin and Rule stood out in midfield, whilst Baggie continued in the same vein as in the 3 games before, giving a crowd pleasing exhibition of sublime skills, but the most impressive thing for me was the balance of the 11 men on the park at any one time...a balance that was not materially adversely effected by a multitude of second half changes in personnel.
Great stuff indeed, but first things first ...so back to 7.45 where......bag searched at the turnstile ( 3 games in 3).....pasty urgently consumed ( I found  carrots  under the soggy pastry, along with the potato and `meat' to my deep joy….a find that in my view ranks in significance with NASA`s discovery of mountains  and volcanoes on Pluto and Charon ).....containing my excitement ,I wolfed the soggily expensive morsel down, and  looked on as the game commenced, as the first 5 minutes passed with each team taking turns to test out the other with probing balls . Both defences had more than sufficient nous to see off these early advances, however, and it was 6 minutes before the first corner came when Gonzales put himself about near the left corner flag.

 
Gonzales goes close.

Evans and Roberts pushed Bolton back on their heels next, but...try as they might, County could not pierce the Lancastrians defences and Rob Holding emphasised why with a mighty tackle to stop Gonzales in his tracks.
Garvin and Rule were busy, working their respective socks off in front of the back four, but even so, by the 10th minute neither keeper had been called on to make a save.




 
Bolton under the cosh.

That said....Evans and Baggie were switching wings nicely, in search of an opening, and only good work by Alex Finney prevented the County number 11 from opening the scoring, on 15 minutes, as he ran onto a return pass from Odejayi, and within a couple of minutes Finney was there again doing exceedingly well to block Odejayi`s strike from close in.

 
Odejayi puts Bolton under pressure.

 Almost 20 minutes had now gone, and by this point County were warming to the task in hand nicely, and Odejayi was again unlucky to see his shot fly narrowly wide from Baggie’s intuitive pass, after good work from Roberts and Gonzales has set it up.
Yes…..it was looking pretty good from a blue perspective, and it took the combined attentions of Nial Mahr, Medo Kamara and Jordan Lussey to see Gonzales off- a concerted 5 minute spell of County attacking action ending with Rule`s shot climbing high into the Cheadle End…… Odejayi thwarted at the last gasp by keeper Ross Fitzsimmonds from a Baggie prompt, and Evans some way away with a snap shot.


 
Fitzsimmonds tested !

It was high time that Bolton replied, but whilst Jamie Thomas had great material, in the shape of a fine through ball from Lussey, to work with, he found Hurst in precisely the vein of good form he has thus far been this close season, and he opened his account for the evening with a neat diving save to deny the visitors.

 
Baggie......

Baggies persistence won County a corner shortly after, and Fitzsimmonds did well to get to an effort from O`Hanlon and keep it at 0-0.

 
....and again !

County did have an anxious moment or two with Jamie Thomas making ground down the left, but the blues defensive resolve held, and an opener for Bolton never really looked likely.
Back came County on the offensive – a flick on from Gonzales feeding Evans, but the resultant finish was poor and Fitzsimmonds was untroubled.
 
Gonzales searching for scraps.


On it went…with Baggie and Roberts in convincing combo down the left – the latter only denied by a terrific tackle at the death from the impressive Holding.
 More angst followed for Bolton via a poor clearance by the keeper  that resulted in him having to act fast to push a shot from the excellent Rule around the post, with just 4 minutes left of the half.

 
This one gets away.....

The referee `saw something’ when the corner came over, so nothing materialised for County from it, but it did from the next flag kick won by a magnificent run from Baggie that very nearly got him a penalty ( unsurprisingly perhaps…I would have given it !). It mattered not……over came the kick fashioned to a tee by set piece master Joe Garvin…..Fitzsimmonds watched it all the way but could only twitch helplessly as the ball eluded him but not O`Hanlon who met it brilliantly at the back post to head the opening goal home.


 
..this one doesn`t as O'Hanlon heads home from close in !


That was simply excellent and no more than County deserved. It was also pretty much all there was of the first half, and the teams left the field to warm applause from the crowd of just under 1000.
Almost straight from the re-start there was drama and controversy. The drama came as Camine Woolery’s pacy run took him past Morton into the box. The County man followed him, and the aforementioned controversy ensued as the forward went to ground under pressure from the full back. 

 
Penalty....

The referee pointed  to the spot without hesitation whereupon Thomas sent his kick past the diving Hurst to make it 1/1.


 
1-1

County held their own for a while after this set back, but just before the hour they were in arrears to what was a fine goal. At first the Bolton storm seemed to have been weathered, as a full stretch save by Hurst kept Filide Twarzik’s thunderous shot out. Twarzik then failed to force the loose ball home, which seemed to settle matters until Holding latched onto the ball and lifted a glorious effort over Hurst’s head into the far corner of the net!
60 minutes gone…..2-1 down……not deserved, taking the game as a whole, but Bolton were beginning to hint at something better. So maybe we were in for a drubbing?
Well….Andy Kellett and George Newell did carve something of a hole in County`s defences shortly after this, but with Colley on for Odejayi , County soon rallied-Ellison going close from another set piece from Garvin.
It was not long before County were back on parity with their opponents. A foul on Garvin looked to have maybe dished County`s chances on the break , but eschewing a free kick Baggie had the crowd on its feet as he sent a real belter fizzing into the net from somewhere on Mercian Way! It was a beaut….another beaut…and it was 2-2!
Bolton were clearly rattled now and they despatched the ball towards Reservoir 1 as Morton put the screws on with a pacy run and cross that had the visitors in difficulties.
It was not all blue action……Hurst had to make a really good stop  courtesy of the stand side liner’s off duty period that allowed Newel to sneak clear .  Finney fluffed the chance by shooting wide from the corner, but I was still fuming a minute or so later when Charlie Russell did for a break by Campbell with a trademark tackle.
Twice after this…Evans went close- the final ball just failing to set things up 100% as needed, and Garvin continued to ping in the free kicks with telling accuracy to increase the Bolton angst.

 
Late action.


County kept looking for a winner and it would not have been that surprising had they got it. Instead Colley was mere inches from getting to a first time ball into the box by Duxbury.
James Ball, a name new to me, did good work at this point, and indeed had contributed well in the second half after coming on as one of a plethora of substitutes.
The last 5 minutes of normal time, with Garvin now replaced by Bobby Lofthouse, saw Bolton try to square the circle in their favour and Kellet went down in the box with a theatrical relish not bettered by Olivier or Irvine in their long careers. The referee was suitably unimpressed and waved play on.
The pressure continued on County for a while…..Lees and Ellison getting good work done keeping the scores level, but almost on 90 minutes I began to fear for my sanity as I looked up in total disbelief to see the stand side liner again in doze mode with Jon Cebro legging it towards Hurst’s goal whilst some yards offside!  I was still seething when Hurst pulled of another brave save keeping the scores level.
Level they may have been, but County had enough in the tank to come back at their opponents again, Ball doing well to send Colley clear. Only a foul on Bolton`s part stopped young Lamin, and the free kick, that followed, in Garvin’s absence, was wasted.
Substitute keeper Campbell just beat Colley to another tasty ball from Duxbury after this, and seemed to have something of a charmed life as he somehow prevented Colley from snatching that winner deep in added time- Churchman, who had combined nicely with Colley, unable to force the loose ball home!
Bolton continued to be under the cosh right up to the whistle, which sounded to herald a burst of applause from the County faithful who had clearly enjoyed a decent game and another good team performance from County.           

County line up;

Hurst, Morton, Roberts( Duxbury 71), O`Hanlon( Lees 45), Ellison, Garvin( Lofthouse 85), Baggie, Rule( Russell 64), Odejayi( Colley 61), Gonzales( Ball 49), Evans( Churchman 79).

Subs not used;

Tyson, Holsgrove.

Bolton Wanderers line up:


Fitzsimmonds(H . Campbell 45), Mahr, Kellet, Holding, Finney, Kamara, Lussey, Twarzik( C Campbell 70), Woolery( Newel 50), Cebro, Thomas.

Subs not used:

Perry, Cvetko, Spooner,

Attendance : 834

Ian Brown

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