Stockport County 0 Stalybridge Celtic 3 ( Vanarama National League North) 29 August 2015
This was one of those days……you know the ones where to have stayed in bed instead of venturing out, would have turned out to be a great idea. Yes….a bumper crowd at Edgeley Park witnessed County surrender their unbeaten record to local rivals Stalybridge Celtic, when all in SK3 and around rather fancied a fairly easy County victory pre-kick-off.
The score line of 0-3 was depressing enough, but the manner of the reverse was several degrees worse, County having been reduced to 9 men in a 5 minute spell in the first half perhaps best forgotten!
Firstly we saw power house figure Glenn Rule done studs up by Aaron Chambers, and get a red for his perceived indiscretions in response. The tackle by Chambers was an abysmal one, and deserved a red, and….if…..and I say if…..Rule`s response was an illegal one, then he too must get a red, but…despite County getting the free kick, it was Rule who walked and the felonious `tackler’ who got shown a feeble yellow.
It only needed a brain dead moment from Danny Hurst 5 minutes later to see him off for an early bath, after handling stupidly outside the box, and County were down to 9.
I had no argument with that one, but plenty with the way the referee had handled the build up to the two game changing incidents. He was on the spot physically but mentally elsewhere apparently when Abs Baggie was assaulted on three occasions, indeed one of these was immediately prior to the first sending off ,and had Chambers been penalised upon fouling Baggie smack in front, the game might have taken an altogether different path.
But….it didn’t…….. indeed referee Scott Oldham went AWOL too many times for County’s comfort, particularly in the first half, and reduced in numbers to 9 ,it was never ever going to be anything other than a massively uphill struggle from there on out.
County defended heroically…..O`Hanlon , Thorniley and new man Paul Connolly doing particularly well, but NY`s changes seemed to leave County looking disjointed and lacking their usual drive and coherence. Instead we saw laboured passing and too many hopeful balls to the willing Sefton Gonzales who was the 1 in the blues 4/3/2/1.
Not a good day at the office then…..but it all started so well…so hopefully , with the Bung full to the rafters again to see Neil Young receive a cheque for £5000 from the supporters for the Players Fund.
I was slightly bemused to see that both Roberts and Morton were absent from the County line up, but this gave new man Paul Connolly a start on the right and Joe Garvin on the other flank,
so maybe they could add something vital to the mix. I felt sure that Baggie could, and he was given a start along with Andy Robinson, with Sefton Gonzales ploughing a lonely furrow at the sharp end.
With Ellison, Odejayi, Colley, and Ledsham on the bench along with Jake Kirby, there seemed plenty of fire power to spare should push come to pull.
So…off we went and quickly the communal rant mode was set in motion as Baggie was sent crashing to the ground, quite illegally, right under the referees nose. Free kick then…….but no….play was allowed to carry on with Baggie left to pick himself up off the ground.
Good work from Connolly stopped a Celtic raid next, followed by a crisp effort by Dan Wisdom, but Hurst dealt with this without undue problems.
The early minutes saw Celtic very much on the front foot and Thorniley, more than once, impressed me with his cool…classy handling of situations.
County`s first visit to Calamity City came on 5 minutes when Andy Robinson had to be substituted…Jake Kirby coming on for his County debut.
A fumble from Hurst then ushered in a corner, and a momentary flurry of excitement, but County’s cover held and it stayed 0-0, as it did a minute later when the myopic Mr Oldham allowed the grossly annoying Chris Simm to win a corner despite his foul en route. Good work from Hurst and Gonzales saw the corner cleared, but already the laxity cum partiality of the referee was beginning to irk more than somewhat.
Ten minutes passed with very little of note coming from County, whose play seemed to lack the cohesion of previous games this term.
|Montrose & Rule keep Johnson quiet.|
That said…..they were absolutely fine at the back where ( twice) O`Hanlon made decent blocks to thwart the visitors .
At this point I gave credit to the referee for finally penalising Simm for the latest in a running series of shoves….pushes and other infractions, but no sooner had I warmed to the hopeless man in black than he reverted to his Panto Villain mode, and looked on contentedly as Chambers sent Baggie crashing to earth for the second time!
We were 25 minutes into proceedings before County produced anything remotely of note-Kirby winning a corner before, with Baggies support, seeing his follow up shot charged down.
County then turned attack into defence as they allowed Celtic to break through Adam Farrell, who was arguably their most effective player. His run though was halted just before the box, by Baggie, whereupon the referee somehow fashioned a free kick to the visitors from a pretty decent position. The situation was distinctly iffy ,and the EP faithful were now not that well disposed to Mr Oldham and his team, but the mood lightened upon seeing Farrell’s well struck kick thud into the angle of bar and post before being cleared.
|.....thuds into the angle of bar & post !|
Hmm…..that was an escape for sure, and Wisdom did his best to usher in another moment of misery for the blues, almost immediately, only for his shot to clear the bar narrowly.
Thirty minutes had now gone, and still County looked second best….disjointed…unable to muster their usual quota of serviceable moves, and it was both depressing and reassuring to see Hurst dive to push yet another free kick from Farrell out at the very last gasp!
More reassurance followed as Baggie and Connolly combined to thwart Aidan Chippendale and Farrell who were looking to make waves down the left.
Two minutes on from the last action and there was more anguish for County as again Chambers did for Baggie smack in front , with the referee showing no interest.
That was diabolical, and things rapidly went from bad to worse for County as ,almost straight away WW3 broke out in the far distance in front of the Danny Bergara Stand. I saw Chambers launch himself, in studs up mode, making substantial contact with Glenn Rule’s person. Rule reacted to what was a truly abysmal non –tackle, and …..despite the obnoxiousness of the original foul( for which County got the free kick !) it was Rule who got the red and Chambers the yellow.
County were down to ten…..and then nine as…..Hurst had a moment to forget electing to handle the ball a yard or so outside his box. It was an unaccountably bad decision on Hurst’s part and this time the referee had no option but to send him off!
With no keeper on the bench, Karl Ledsham, who moments before had come on for Baggie, went in goal. He had a free kick to face straight away as well, but Farrell sent this one our way in Row R and the stand in County keeper’s goal remained intact.
Credit to County…they tried to make a fight of it….Gonzales and Garvin doing well down the left for a time, but the half ended with Celtic on the front foot.
Chippendale volleyed wide , being rewarded with a corner via another hallucinatory moment on the referee’s part. The EP faithful were incandescent with rage ( again) at this, but County held out OK, thanks to good work from Gonzales and Montrose .
Simm did his best to snatch something for Celtic in the minutes that remained of the first half, being thwarted firstly by O`Hanlon’s fine blocking tackle, and then by his own indifferent shooting which saw the ball head off towards Row R yet again!
Still…..it remained 0-0, and did so until the break, which under the circumstances was not a bad effort by the slimmed down blue line up!
I indulged myself a bit at half time…asking myself just where Mr Oldham figured in the annals of great vaudevillian acts….somewhere twixt `the Mysterious Werth’( Banana Skin & Stone Manipulator) and Kardomah ( He Fills the Stage with Flags) I would guess, but there was serious stuff afoot, and County had to face another 45 minutes…..and the dreadful Mr O…. 2 short!
Celtic went 3 at the back on the re-start whilst for County it was backs to the wall time with every hand to the tiller, and again Connolly did well a couple of times early on. Dyson tried to lighten the defensive load a tad with a raid that saw him sneak to the by-line, but despite some alarm in the visitors’ ranks it stayed 0-0.
Meanwhile Simms propensity to irritate went into overdrive with a wondrous swallow dive that brought his side another tasty free kick. The County wall dealt with this, and Ledsham earned applause in dealing with the follow up from substitute Ben McKenna.
With Ellison on for Garvin ,County set about denying Celtic that vital first goal, none more so than Ledsham who pulled off another neat save to keep Farrell’s effort out.
A foul…and a yellow for Chippendale then threatened to tip the County following’s patience over the safety line next, but Chambers, who might reasonably now be suited and watching the game from the stand, just managed to keep Kirby`s cross cum shot from causing mayhem.
We were now past the hour mark…County were doing OK…..they were still in it…but surely it was only a matter of time………
Bohan Dixon did offer us a crumb of comfort with a truly awful shot that threatened the already threadbare flags at the back of the Railway End, and Farrell’s glancing header a minute or so later faired no better.
Ooooo…err….there was even a moment not long after when County almost found a way through. Connolly and Gonzales set it up with some intelligent lively play, but Gonzales delayed his onward pass to the craftily positioned Connolly and the moment was lost, and within the blinking of an eye ….Celtic broke clear….won a corner….. and were one up as Jack Higgins forced the ball home from close in!
County kept trying …..Connolly and Ellison getting forward to supplement the hard work of Gonzales, who was unlucky to see Hughes cut out his incisive ball before Dyson could latch onto it in the box.
But…..inevitably the pressure mounted on County, and despite brave work from Ledsham …an unlucky ricochet and the odd misplaced pass saw Celtic double their lead via McKenna who lashed the ball in from distance.
County had much pressure to absorb after this, but it was not all Celtic, and the visitors were relieved to see Chambers in position to hook the ball clear from Ellison’s cross.
For a moment or two there was a touch of panic abroad in the Celtic ranks, relieved again when Dyson’s shot went wide.
County were still defending like the proverbial lions, but …inevitably numbers counted and …again inevitably …eventually a pass or passes would go astray and the pressure would be on us again.
Montrose shot wide with less than 10 minutes left, as a rather dismal 1 man pitch invasion fizzled out at the Cheadle End. I am not sure what this individual hoped to achieve except perhaps a hefty fine( or points deduction) for County, meanwhile I hope he was ushered from the premises forthwith!
Praise be……the excellent Tony McMillan had to dash out and deny Gonzales who had sneaked clear down the right- it was a close call, and the County support rose to the County number nine shortly after as another run from him failed narrowly!
Praise indeed, and Dyson joined in seeing Hughes look to locate Reservoir 1 with the young Everton loan man threatening! From the throw that followed there was more angst coming County’s way as Ellison’s run into the box was ended when his effort came out off Jack Higgins arm. Not so according to you know who though, and Celtic had escaped again.
More pressure next from Celtic….another save from Ledsham denied them in response, but again County’s luck ran out ,with a couple of minutes left…the ball reaching Farrell who headed home unchallenged to make it 0-3.
That was the killer I suppose, but Ledsham was in great heart it seemed and a terrific diving save kept one from Dixon out, when the lanky number 7 at last found his range.
Time for McMillan to somehow keep Ellison’s effort out on the line …….for McKenna to be thwarted by another glorious finger tip save from Ledsham…..for Hughes to lay Ellison out for which he got a yellow, and for a Montrose sizzler to fizz inches over, and that was that, barring another witless attempt by Hughes to re- start WW3 which thankfully came to nought.
Game over…..match and points lost!
Lessons learnt? Well let’s hope so as we have AFC Fylde to face on Monday at theirs!
County line up:
Hurst, Connelly, Garvin( Ellison 53), O`Hanlon, Thorniley, Rule, Baggie( Ledsham 35), Montrose, Gonzales, Robinson( Kirby 5), Dyson.
Subs not used:
Stalybridge Celtic line up:
McMillan, Wylie( Mc Kenna 46), Chippendale, Hughes, Higgins, Chambers, Dixon, Farrell, Simm( Wright 65), Johnson, Wisdom( Crowley 78).
Subs not used:
Attendance : 3628
Additional Gallery ,with thanks to Andrew Machin......