Chorley 1 Stockport County 0 ( Vanarama National League North) 15 September 2015








County slumped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat against a lively Chorley side, in front of a crowd of over 1500, at the Victory Park Stadium last night.
Chorley were out of the blocks altogether quicker than County and….as a result…by the time the blues had their game organised a tad better, our hosts had already taken the lead, via a lethal strike from their best player the excellent Darren Stephenson.
Sam Ashton in the home goal had the easiest of first half’s- Max Hazeldine, in for a first start, had made himself available more than once, but the supply to him was almost none existent, and the threat generally from County much the same. County did get forward to greater effect later in the second half, but it was much too late to change the result, and despite going close several times near the end, it was difficult not to conclude that the points went in the correct direction at the close.
Hazeldine for Gonzales was the only change at 7.45 as County took the field to a decent reception from the large body of travelling fans, which spread themselves out on all sides of the ground.



Some of the County following( courtesy of Keith Lee)

Chorley started as though they wanted to win this one, and as early as the second minute, County were in difficulties when Marcus Carver won a free kick from referee Mr Hart, as the forward and O’Hanlon, who was already earning his corn conspicuously, tangled just out side the box. Andy Bond took the kick slipping it neatly beyond the wall, only for Hurst to spoil his day by smothering the ball expertly a yard out.
O’Hanlon was doing well ,as I have said, but so was Ledsham, who despite his red last time out, did not flinch from going for the ball in difficult situations, of which there were one or two in the early minutes.
On it went with O’Hanlon continuing to shine, keeping Stephenson’s neat cross from Carver who lurked menacingly in the box.

Morton gives Stephenson his attention.

For a moment after the last action, I was tempted to brighten up, when Hazeldine treated us to a nippy bit of work down the right flank, but the feeling was only temporary, as…..when the move eventually broke down, Chorley promptly hit us on the break….and there was an altogether more lethal look about their work in comparison to that coming back at them from County. From a break by Bond and Stephenson a decent cross followed which Josh Hine seized on with alacrity. In a flash he decided on a shot….and in another had executed it. There was power to spare in the shot but County breathed easily again as the ball cleared the bar by a whisker.
The Chorley hegemony continued and only good work by Montrose and Connolly, in combination, prevented an opening goal as Carver threatened through the middle.
County did push Chorley back albeit briefly, and they did have a couple of crosses from the flanks to deal with, but they did this without undue problems, and the 15 minute mark was reached with the sight of Stephenson cutting inside  to shoot narrowly wide. We had been warned!
The 17th minute did usher in a response from County. It started with Ledsham winning possession….continued with Montrose who spread play up the park in the approximate direction of where Hazeldine was. Hazeldine did well to get to it and even better to win a free kick, but despite keeper Ashton having to punch clear under pressure from this, and a shout for `handball’ from the County faithful and half the team in the melee that followed, the raid eventually fizzled out disappointingly.

 
County under pressure.
Back came Chorley…winning a free kick themselves which Montrose did well to keep from captain Andy Teague in the box. A similar situation at the other end of the park did not require a defensive reaction from the home side, the kick from Kirby doing no damage at all.
The damage was in danger of occurring at the other end where Montrose did well to break up a lively link up twixt Stephenson and Whitham, and Hurst did even better having to throw himself at the feet of the advancing Andy Bond to prevent a near certain goal. It was a corner instead from which Whitham saw a shot charged down by O’Hanlon, who was there to eventually clean up and clear into the far distance.
Past half way in the first half, and still at 0-0 was not a bad situation to be in, but this happy state of affairs took a turn for the worst, and a mere 4 minutes later, when County took their time in mopping up and clearing their lines, allowing Stephenson the luxury of a free pot at goal, which he promptly dispatched beyond Hurst’s dive into the net with not a little power.
That was a bummer and no mistake, and more of the same threatened to follow quickly on from this and Montrose did well to stick out a leg and keep a dangerous cross by Hine from a clutch of black/white striped shirts awaiting its arrival. County’s travails were not done either as Roberts lost possession to Hine who put the cat amongst the County pigeons with another tasty cross that had Bond’s name imprinted in large letters on it. Thankfully for the blues Connolly was alert to the situation and deflected the ball away from goal.

 
Stephenson....lurks menacingly !
County had started with 5 at the back( Morton, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Thorniley and Roberts)- a 5 that it was intended to morph into a 3 as play allowed the wing backs to get forward. But Morton had sustained a knock part way through the half and, 31 minutes in, NY replaced him with Micah Evans, thus reverting to a back four with Connolly wide right.
This switch did not change much however and O’Hanlon was called on twice  to stop the rot as Stephenson and then Carver gnawed at the blues entrails as a ravenous hyena would a rancid corpse. Stephenson was a really lively customer, and one that did not take every opportunity to dive to earth like many I could name at this level, but for now I was content to shelve the praise aimed at him, and instead laud Thorniley who did mightily well to deny him with 2-0 looking on the cards.
We needed something from County, and Evans tried to provide it, on 34 minutes, winning a corner with some energetic work down the right, but this came to nought when Odejayi’s header failed to test Ashton, instead flying harmlessly over the bar.
Bugger…that was disappointing…..but there was no time to mope  about and ponder life’s cruelties, as that man Stephenson was busy hitting us on the break again. Again he made decent progress before drifting inside to get his shot off. It climbed up and over the bar…..but……..
The referee was to the fore later in the half….penalising Montrose rather unfairly in my view, with the Chorley attacking revving up a notch or two and not needing the added encouragement. Nothing came of this fortunately…or the next situation when Ledsham’s outstretched leg prompted an almost universal Chorley appeal for a penalty ( they had read their County v Brackley match reports had Chorley!). The referee did well to wave the somewhat optimistic appeals away.      
Chorley were by no means done though, and I fancied that County would welcome the half time break rather more than would our hosts whose angst was stoked up a notch with the sight of a shot from Mark Ross going close. This impression persisted as a loose ball allowed Whitham to send Stephenson away again forcing a good save from Hurst.
That was not quite the last action of the half, County did fancy their chances for a brief moment or two largely because Ashton made a bit of a dogs dinner of holding a high ball to the near post from Connolly. The corner that followed notionally offered County an opening, but all options disappeared when the kick was sent tamely into the keeper’s hands to end the half.
County opened the second half relatively strongly, largely via Hazeldine who was unlucky to see Ashton make a diving save to keep his intelligent finish out, and frustrated again not long after when Kieran Charnock did enough to deny the young County forward on the end of a free kick at the back post. For me….Hazeldine’s instincts all look correct, but he needs someone to play off….a provider, do we have one?

 
Max Hazeldine.

Well someone provided a neat through ball, on 55 minutes, and Hazeldine looked very tasty indeed dashing through onto it, being only just kept out by some excellent work by Ashton at the extreme limit of his box.
Chorley for their part kept plugging away in the sure knowledge that , although the one goal they had might be enough…another one surely would sort matters, but not yet as Whitham’s header flew into the safe hands of Hurst, and several probing runs down the right by Hine went totally un-rewarded.
County were leaking free kicks now, and I was fast losing count of the yellow cards they were incurring. This all added to the pressure they had to combat, and it was awkward viewing watching County bravely place bodies in front of shots from one or other home forwards at this point.
The pressure on the blues back line was quite intense for a time, only interrupted by Kirby’s shot that drifted wide, and a rather better chance that fell to Evans whose hesitation when well set saw the opening scurry away!
We needed any chances….half chances…to be taken, and the result of them not being was more pressure and Hurst did well to keep a powerful downward header by Whitham out, with 20 minutes left to play, but could do nothing with a second effort 3 minutes later- it flew inches wide, and did absolutely nothing for my BP.
Gonzales came on for Ledsham with 12 minutes left, as County at last pushed Chorley onto the back foot via a couple of free kicks. Then a series of corners gave us hope, but despite Hazeldine’s attentions, Chorley somehow managed to keep County out- both Hazeldine and Odejayi unable to force a subsequent loose ball home from close in.

 
A frustrating night for Odejayi.

County were belatedly having a real go now, but I was dismayed to see Evans’ honesty prevent him from going down in the box under pressure at one point, and frustrated to see Hazeldine’s effort from a flick on from Odejayi blocked.
We were into 5 minutes added time now and still the blues were pressing for that elusive equaliser.
Stephenson did take time out to warn us that he was still around, but Thorniley did well to stop Whitham making anything out of the neat through ball from the number 11.




I have been fairly kind to Mr Hart, the referee, in this report, but that does not mean I was wholly impressed, he let an awful lot go from Chorley and did the usual with ourselves and I was particularly unimpressed with his decision to do nowt when an elbow did for Odejayi deep into added time!

 
County press...........
I was still fuming as Evans won us a corner with a run down the left with time running out. The corner put the skids under Ashton and company and I was by no means convinced that his hurried punched clearance was in fact under the bar rather than behind the line, but somehow the ball stayed out apparently despite another corner having to be conceded in extremis by the home side.


 
County pile it on......

Cue the referees whistle…..game over….match lost!
We have a home match next in which to put things right….find some fire power from somewhere. For me Lamin Colley would possibly be able to provide this, but he needs to be playing to be able to do this, and I guess he is not far off suspension now. One for NY to sort….see you all Saturday!

Chorley line up:

Ashton, Ross, Doyle( Dodd 76), Teague, Charnock, Cottrell, Hine, Whitham, Carver( Dean 88), Bond, Stephenson.

Subs not used:

Guy, Sheridan, Jarvis.

County line up:

Hurst, Morton( Evans 31), Roberts, Thorniley, O’Hanlon, Connolly( Garvin 51), Kirby, Montrose, Odejayi, Hazeldine, Ledsham( Gonzales 78).

Subs not used :

Ormson, Colley.

Attendance: 1530

Ian Brown
   

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