Stalybridge Celtic 1 Stockport County 1 ( Vanarama National League North) 28 December 2015








Well…..this was better…..not great….but definitely better than what County laid before us on Saturday!
It would not be County of course if there wasn’t a roller coaster ride in store for County fans who travelled in prodigious numbers to Bower Fold, and this one went to the death as many have done before.
With Charlie Russell lining up for the blues, and fully justifying his inclusion, County, enlivened also by the energy brought to the field of play by Delial Brewster, gave an encouraging showing for the most part. 

 
Welcome return for Charlie Russell !
They defended well, and resisted some blatant provocation from Celtic who, particularly in the first half, constantly looked to get County reduced in numbers ( when in fact they weren`t kicking lumps out of them or having elbow to face contact as Chippendale had on O’Hanlon  without sanctions at one point).
But……..having done the hard part…..and snatched a goal via Jonny Margetts that looked to have sealed 3 points for them, County then unfortunately wilted under a plethora of late throws and free kicks, one of which, deep into added time, went in off Odejayi  one of County’s second half substitutes.

 
Jonny Margetts- notched another one.

Ricky Wooton the referee, seemed to get the game off to an early start ,and this looked to be suiting the home side who had County penned back in their last third for much of the opening minutes, as Oliver Crowley hurled long throw after long throw into their midst.





 
Early play, Montrose, Russell & Margetts to the fore( below)
Three minutes in….and we got a hint of something encouraging from County though, and it came via the second of two County clearances. Ledsham had just produced one such to dismiss a Crowley offering, when another pinged over which Montrose dealt with splendidly, sending Baggie scurrying clear. In response….Celtic were all over the place…..and Baggie did just the right thing….slipping a neat pass inside to Brewster who, by this time, was in `head down go for it’ mode in front of goal. He did well  controlling the ball to perfection, but when his shot came in Tony McMillan trumped it with the type of save ,I remember seeing him pull off time after frustrating time against us!



We should maybe have been one up …against a lesser keeper….we would have been for sure , in my opinion, but we had no time to ponder this thought as Crowley was busy heaving long throws in Arestidou’s direction , one of which resulted in Bohan Dixon bouncing a header off the top of the bar.
After 12 minutes a casual observer would ,I think, be moved to say that Celtic were doing the greater part of the attacking, but this same person might , by minute 13, be tempted to conclude that the sharper and more lethal looking work was coming from a somewhat rejuvenated County side. Baggie was playing a big part in this, but it was Charlie Russell who was the instigator of what was another real chance. Charlie’s insightful ball behind the defence, had Brewster heading off for goal at speed. He had company but did rather well to shrug this off long enough to get his shot off. It was another good effort and required a save of quality to see it off, and that’s just what McMillan produced at his near post, to keep his side afloat!
 
McMillan awaits as Brewster makes it into the box !

Twice after this…..Baggie shredded the cover on the right side of the Celtic defence, and both times he provided ammunition for Brewster in the shape of decent passes, turning John Shaw inside out at one point.  Responding….the young Evertonian managed to again get shots off….his first being charged down by one of a line of defenders….his second( a leggy drive) just went wide with McMillan rooted to the spot.

 
Brewster goes close.
This was building up to something promising, and things went on in the same  vein as Charlie Russell appeared in the box and was unlucky to see a poachers effort just kept out on the line. A corner followed soon after this as a second effort from Charlie was deflected round the post, from a Baggie pass. That was excellent work, and more followed from Ledsham when the kick came over, but we winced in anguish to see his header thud into the bar and fly clear!

 
The woodwork denies Ledsham !

County were clearly building up a head of steam now and looking likely to score at any time, and Celtic were looking ever more at sea in response, so ……sadly….the home side’s play degenerated further into a series of crude tackles and provocative  incitements, one of which Aaron Chalmers had lined up to dish Garvin. Chalmers did his best to provoke the County man to some form of excess, which he thankfully neglected to oblige him with. WW3 threatened briefly however in front of the sparsely populated main ( home) stand, but a yellow for the two main participants brought some semblance of peace.




 
WW3 averted.........
We were past the half hour in no time, and I was convinced we had a penalty as Brewster was bundled over in the box by Shaw. No penalty accrued to County however, and Brewsters’ angst increased when Crowley was positioned perfectly to intervene and thus rob him as he prepared another strike on goal.


I was getting fed up at this point as …in quick succession Russell and Garvin were felled by Matty Hughes, who amazingly was not booked. County did get a free kick for their considerable pains, Montrose forcing Wylie to hurriedly head the ball behind for a corner when something altogether more awful beckoned. Brewster again went close from the resultant flag kick, but it stayed 0-0, and I was probably not alone in wondering if Celtic might snatch one and dish us despite our dominance!



 
County apply pressure
The pressure continued from County though, and the usually unflappable McMillan was momentarily in difficulties as Brewster terrorised him at the edge of the box. A foul on Montrose, from Hughes, teed a prime site free kick up next for County, which Garvin thrashed towards goal where McMillan twisted in mid air to somehow keep it out. That was an excellent save, the corner gave him an easier one, O’Hanlon’s header causing him no great issues.





 
Two from McMillan.

Russell’s eye for a pass came to the fore again with the break not far away, and Hughes did well to deny Ledsham space to shoot, on the end of it.
Into added time, and for a while County seemed to go off the boil…allowing Farrell , who had done pretty much nothing up until that point, room to make a run. The absence of a challenge allowed him to make ground, and although no shot came from him, County managed to concede a free kick in an excellent position, which wasn’t great defending. It looked somewhat iffy as Mudimu lined up the kick, but he made a total wakes of it drilling it over the bar to hoots of derisive laughter from the away support.
The half ended with Russell latching onto the ball before slinging the sweetest of balls into the path of Margetts, who was set fair to high tail it for goal unchallenged. He was on side too….so …..jobs a good ‘un…except it wasn’t as the referee blew for half time the moment Margetts put foot to ball……bugger!!   





 
2 Views of around 2/3rds of Countys following.
The second half opened as the first had…with Celtic getting forward, but after Dixon had sent a shot scurrying a yard or so wide, County got to grips again, Brewster providing much energy…and O’Hanlon a strike on goal, but this flew up and over the bar to keep it at 0-0, which many a sage observer was heard to state just might turn out to be the final result!

 
Dixons effort.
For sure …some of the edge had ( thankfully) gone from the game, which I was thinking would aid County, but it also did nothing for the excitement factor, as throws and needlessly conceded free kicks abounded for both sides.
Also in keeping with the action in the first 45…..County continued to show the sharper cutting edge( albeit minus that all important goal), and more excellent work from Baggie had our hosts in a real tizz…..Baggie’s pass reaching Ledsham , who….for the second time in the game clattered the woodwork with McMillan and company helpless spectators.

 
Busy Baggie !
Shortly after this Baggie was replaced by Evans, and for a time County put men behind the ball as Celtic, who had made two changes themselves, inched forward. Dixon showed willing with a leggy run, but this was cut short by a timely cooperation twixt O’Hanlon and Ledsham.





O'Hanlon in the thick.....( with Montrose  below...)

It was Russell and O’Hanlon who combined next to halt a home attack, sending Brewster on a run that threatened to embarrass McMillan. The keeper managed to bundle the ball out for a throw, and from this Brewster headed over the top, so again it stayed 0-0, and just cried out for someone….anyone….to spoil McMillan’s afternoon!
They had barely 15 minutes in which to do this, meanwhile Dixon was bent on causing us trouble, which thankfully O’Hanlon dealt with, with his usual aplomb.
It was at this point that Chippendale smacked his elbow deliberately into O’Hanlon’s face…..it was a shocker…and right under the referees nose, and he bottled it showing the perpetrator a yellow which was shamefully ridiculous!
Just to add insult to any injury…..Dixon then won himself the softest of free kicks in a rather tasty position shortly after .And…….with County’s back line under the cosh a tad…..the ball did end up in the County net. The liners flag had been up for some time however, and the goal was ruled out for offside!
 
County under pressure.

Lucky?.....maybe……maybe not……but Celtic then did their level best to seek immediate redress, only to find County’s defensive resolve restored , and the way to goal blocked. There was more as well….as County initiated a break from which Margetts got the away fans roaring with a shot that went in via McMillan’s right hand post!
Great stuff……around 5 minutes left and one up…….fantastic!
County even tried to build on the lead….Ledsham seeing a shot climb over the bar……Brewster ( unluckily in my view) flagged offside when played clear….but….with time running out….tension began to rise…aided and abetted by a series of free kicks the home team were awarded.
Brewster was brilliantly blocked by Burns on a late break, but we went into added time still one up with Odejayi on for goal scorer Margetts.




 
Late action......

It was excruciating stuff….. and the inevitable finally happened as……. from one kick the ball ballooned up into the air coming down almost precisely on the goal line where it went in off Odejayi!
Have I said bugger yet? Bugger!!!!!!!!!
The rest of what little time remained was spent fending off throws from you know who… County kept all of these out, but the disappointment was palpable at the final whistle…such scant reward for so much effort!
Off to Harrogate then on Saturday ,weather permitted of course. The Flyer leaves the Finger at 11.30 at a cost of£14( £10 under 16) so what’s not to like? Ring Lou on 07896 536757 to book.

Stalybridge Celtic line up:

McMillan, Wylie, Crowley, Hughes, Shaw, Chalmers( Chippendale 63), Dixon, Wright, Farrell( Simm 76), Tames( Burns 63), Mudimu.
  
Subs not used:

Lingouba, Johnson.

Stockport County line up:

Arestidou, Tonge, Garvin, Smalley, O’Hanlon, Russell, Baggie( Evans 73), Montrose, Brewster, Margetts( Odejayi 90), Ledsham.

Subs not used:

Ormson, Morton, Roberts.

Attendance: 1516 ( 1100)

Ian Brown  

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