Stockport County 1 Alfreton Town 0 ( Vanarama National League North) 19 September 2015
County got back to winning ways today at Edgeley Park with a thoroughly well deserved 1-0 win against in form Alfreton Town, who came to SK3 in massively good nick having tonked a clutch of decent sides in a four game winning run. Chorley, Gainsborough,Worcester and Hednesford ,who they beat 4-0, got absolutely nothing from them, so County were viewed as potential whipping boys for the visitors, in some quarters, bearing in mind the relative dip in form the blues have experienced recently.
The visitors however, found County in altogether better shape than had Chorley just a few days earlier. Their movement was sharp, and the energy levels in the side were well up on Tuesday, the only surprise being that only one goal came their way. This was not due to any lack of effort, particularly from young Max Hazeldine ( my M.O.M) who ran about for 90 minutes offering real threat at times.
Ledsham worked hard too and walked off with the sponsors award, but he was not alone in the hard work stakes with the back four all contributing again particularly Ryan Ellison who slotted in seamlessly at right back, contributing a beaut of a winning goal as well, and it had to be of that order with ex Hatter Matt Duke between the sticks for Town.
So….plaudits all around then, but this was all but a pipe dream at 3 o’clock as County kicked off attacking the Railway End, and they quickly had a real chance of going ahead in the very first attack of the game after Odejayi had stolen possession from Tom Allan( as irritating a number 4 as you could wish to meet in a lifetime of seasons at this level). Having not yet settled in their seats …..the County following were on their feet in an instant as the County number nine swept on into the box. But alas………… it ended badly for County with the cross cum shot from Odejayi neither testing Duke or finding an interested blue shirt, and disappointingly it stayed 0-0.
Disappointing that certainly was, but encouraging too, and more of that ilk followed within a couple of minutes ,and a foul by Allan set another decent County chance up via Kirby`s free kick that skidded behind off a defenders head. Cue every man and his dog to descend on Matt Duke’s penalty area, and from this happy set of circumstances came the County goal, as with a mass of bodies preventing the excellent Duke from seeing or getting to it, Ellison lashed an absolute belter past him into the net to give his side the lead and put the County following on an almost unprecedented early high!
It took a few minutes for Alfreton to respond through Jamie Jackson and Jordan Robertson ( another candidate in the `most irritating stakes’), and County did well to concede a corner with a succession of bean pole Town forwards queuing for a shot at goal. Cliff Moyo did his best to power the ball home from the kick that followed, before a foul by Joe Leesley ruined things for the visitors.
All this time Ryan Ellison was busily building on his excellent start , complimenting the terrific finish with a couple of neat defensive contributions , then another going forward in tandem with Micah Evans which brought two vital stops from Duke to keep it at 1-0.
Alfreton were definitely trying a bit though…..Ellison and Roberts doing particularly well to keep Durrell Berry out at one point. Then we witnessed the first of a game long monotony of throws, each one heaved prodigious distances by Niall Heaton. Then he darted down the left and pinged a cross in that Jackson got to but could not force home.
Heaton then got in the act again this time at the other end where he did well to block a run by Evans that promised much following Odejayi’s flick on.
This was a fairly decent game now between two teams prepared to have a go. If County’s approach was a touch more sophisticated than that of Town, the visitors did have the advantage of size and bulk to call on, and who dares totally discount those attributes?
County showed their metal…Kirby going close after Ellison had torn the right side of the visitors defence apart with a tasty run.
This was good….in fact better than good, Montrose adding to the good humour in Row R and elsewhere ,bursting clear before linking with Hazeldine who was unlucky to see a defender deflect his effort for a corner. Ledsham headed over from the kick, but again, there was a good feeling about the way that County were shaping up, and it made a nice change.
Heaton and Ryan Wilson both tested County next, bringing the best out of Thorniley and Ellison in response, and Ledsham was in the defensive mix there too, in what was developing into a good all round team performance.
Hazeldine and Odejayi went close next, but after winning a corner, this was wasted , which was not good to see, as to rest on our laurels at 1-0 would be a mistake against such in form opponents.
I guess County did not need me to tell them that last bit, but Hazeldine was again out of luck- inches from reaching a tasty ricochet off Evans in the box.
On it went with a cross from Burrell Berry setting Heaton up at the back post, only for Ellison to deny him with some fine work.
It was nip and tuck for sure now as both teams had half chances to point two, but without any evidence that either side knew just how to put these away.
At the back for County there was a worrying moment or so when Hurst’s disinclination to come out almost put us in the mire. O’Hanlon and Ellison had a right to expect him to come and claim, but this was left to the very last gasp when it looked at least as probable that Robertson would get it. He didn`t….perhaps I make more of it than I should do…………….
There was plenty of effort from both sides….Kirby doing well at times, Odejayi maybe less so, being caught offside at one point. For Alfreton ….Heaton continued his tour de force stopping a run by Hazeldine in its tracks with a neat rib tickler, and Moyo and Jackson combined well down the right being undone by the quality of their final ball.
Alfreton were beginning to shape up and work for that equaliser, and then possibly more, and they were encouraged no doubt by a series of free kicks that pushed the blues back into their last third. County defended well enough and no doubt this occasioned frustration in their opponents, none more so than dear old Tom Allan who enjoyed some afters at Odejayi’s expense near the corner flag after the County forward had completed a clearance. I was disappointed with referee Pete Wright, as he had probably seen the assault, but after the briefest of words with the offender no card was issued…nothing…I have absolutely no doubt that ,were the positions reversed, the County man would have walked. Mr Wright maybe should have followed the Scott Oldham guidelines ( ie….didn`t see the incident…..took the word of the opposition who can tell a good story….go for a red).
Both teams kept plugging away after this, until the whistle sent the teams in at the break, leaving the field to generous applause.
It was good to see Steve Bellis from the Club honour John Fitzpatrick of Help the Hatters at the interval and doubly good to see Osher Williams present John with a print from the Club. Great stuff…well deserved!
Into the second half then……and this opened with Alfreton pushing forward through Leesley who fed Jackson setting Samuel Berry up for an early strike, but this climbed into the empty Railway End to his team mates disappointment.
If Kirby was inches from reaching a through ball 7 minutes into the half, the stand out feature of the first 10 minutes or so was the succession of free kicks that County conceded. None of them were too contentious or greatly high on evil intent, but all racked up the pressure on Hurst and company as Leesley peppered the County box with kick after kick.
Thankfully …if the first 10 were forgettable, the 11th minute offered hope, and the crowd were out of their seats again as Hazeldine sped clear. He finessed his shot narrowly wide, but again I liked what I saw…just the luck was missing!
At this point Alfreton rang the changes…two of them ….Ironside for Jackson and Johnson for Durrell Berry. County responded shortly after by including Garvin for Evans.
Johnson saw an early effort clear the bar and Heaton resumed the aerial bombardment of County’s back line who, by now, must have been heartily sick of him, with long throws heading their way at regular intervals. Free kicks were in the mix too, and for this we had the fearfully unstable Robertson who would no sooner regain his footing after one unaccountable fall, than …down he would go again, setting up another kick for his captain Joe Leesley. But the quality of Leesley’s kicks was not great …anyway….County dealt with them all reasonably well, and it was a relatively rare County free kick that went closest of all- Kirby picking O’Hanlon out immaculately at the back post. The header that followed missed out by inches, but the crowd applauded the effort none the less.
They were applauding again….and gasping…not long after as well as a neat pass from Hazeldine set Garvin up for a shot that somehow Duke managed to tip over the bar at the last gasp. Anticlimax followed with the corner, and we needed better…we needed a second goal if we were to survive any late alarms!
County did try……Kirby’s free kick, after Sam Berry had fouled Hazeldine, and the subsequent corner , did put great pressure on Town , but the luck was still the missing ingredient and Montrose looked on forlornly watching his header fly over the bar.
In between the County raids, the Alfreton free kicks and long throws continued to pepper the County box from the heavens, but there was no great sophistication about the visitors attacking play thus O’Hanlon and Thorniley and company could have stayed at their post all night and into tomorrow and still not have been beaten by anything sent their way by the opposition.
Meanwhile Allan was busy climbing all over any forward who was unfortunate enough to be in his locality , but…at last…with 8 minutes left….he was penalised for it…………………..bonzer!!!!! Leesley cleared the kick at the back post, and Moyo did for a Kirby break not long after, but with 5 minutes left the temperature rose a touch in SK3 with the sight of Garvin coasting into the box before going down under pressure from Wilson and Moyo…..needless to say I would have given it….but Mr Wright did not which was disappointing if not that surprising.
I was disappointed again when a minute later a momentary lapse in concentration between Kirby and O’Hanlon resulted in a decent chance going begging. A Ledsham shot was deflected for a corner, and Garvin was again the innocent victim of an assault , at least according to 90odd % of the crowd of almost 3000, but Mr Wright was in the 10% or so and waved County`s protests aside.
We were now in the last few minutes of normal time in what had been a fairly decent game, and both teams kept at it diligently looking for the second decisive goal……..Johnson shooting over the top for Town, and Duke doing well to claw a header by Hazeldine from under the bar.
Into added time we went with 4….5….6….long throws from Heaton requiring attention from County….it did nothing for the communal BP for sure, but we unleashed the safety valve to applaud young Hazeldine off the park ,when he was subbed on 90 minutes, being replaced by Sefton Gonzales.
It was a somewhat tense time, eased a touch, as I say, by the general lack of quality in the last third from Alfreton. But…deep into added time…we just did not need another `moment of indecision’ at the back from County and that`s what Hurst gave us deep into added time, staying on his line forcing O’Hanlon to urgent action to avoid a calamity. It was a corner instead of a goal, and Ellison cleared that….but………
It remained for a small touch of controversy to warm us on our way out of the stadium, and it occurred thanks to a break by Gonzales that spilt the Town back line asunder. From Gonzales the ball went on to Garvin whose shot went out off a defender. Everyone in the ground saw it was a corner…… except the referee who gave a goal kick.
Thankfully there was barely time for the resultant angst to boil over, before Mr Wright blew for time and the points were ours!
That was an excellent response from County…I am impressed.
Next Saturday’s FA Cup game at Fylde will require more of the same, and they will need our support.
See you there!
County line up;
Hurst, Ellison, Roberts,Thorniley, O’Hanlon, Ledsham,Kirby,Montrose, Odejayi, Hazeldine( Gonzales 90), Evans( Garvin 59).
Subs not used:
Ormson, Hamilton, Morton.
Alfreton Town line up:
Duke, Moyo, D Berry( Johnson 56), Allan, Heaton, Wilson, Leesley, Jones( Thanoj 66), S Berry, Jackson( Ironside 56), Robertson.
Sub not used:
Attendance : 2839