Stockport County 1 Harrogate Town 2 ( Vanarama National League North) 26 December 2015







County sank to another demoralizing home defeat at the hands of a competent ,but by no means unbeatable, Harrogate Town side that must have been amazed by the ease with which the points were secured , in front of a bumper crowd at Edgeley Park.
Two goals were enough to accomplish the deed for the Yorkshire team, one each from Jerry Yates and Jordan Thewliss to be precise. Both of these efforts were well taken decent finishes, but each was regrettably also the result of chronically bad defending by County which Chris Smalley will wish me not to dwell overlong on.
There seemed to have been no noticeable change in County’s approach from that which faired so badly just 7 days ago against Boston. Last to most balls and likely to do something awful with it when they did win it, County disappointed their supporters once again.

 
Delial Brewster ( centre) by Andrew Machin
There was some consolation midst perhaps the most insipid showing from County for some time, in the shape of Delial Brewsters performance…he looked every bit as good as his advanced publicity….scoring a belter…..creating what should have been a second, but wasn`t when Jonny Margetts fluffed his lines from the spot…..and generally appeared to be  head and shoulders better than all his team mates who, apart from a couple of flick on’s from Margetts, failed to summon up a decent pass to him game long!
So…..it was terrible…..but …..the wind was in my sales around kick off time, largely due to the magnificent response to the call from the Supporters Cooperative Boxing Day Appeal to County supporters to donate food to Stockport homeless charity the Wellspring.

 
Just some of the food County fans generously donated !
To call the response of supporters magnificent is to significantly under sell it….at 2.45, the allotted finishing time, the Coop team was still receiving bundle after bundle of food destined for the Wellspring. Our van was full to bursting, and the effort by County fans left the warmest of feelings with me as I headed for the turnstiles!
Then…..more good news as…..Charlie Russell was seen warming up with the team, and I look forward to this excellent young player featuring soon in County’s first team.

 
Great to see Charlie Russell back !
Yes…..I was buzzing come 3’oclock, but it took just 3 minutes for the wheels to well and truly come off that rickety old wagon. County had been struggling to clear their lines as Louis Swain and Brendon Daniels pressed on down the left. Tonge seemed hard pressed to keep them out. One cross was blocked, only for a second to ping over to where Yates lurked at the near post. Thankfully( or so I thought) Chris Smalley was in the vicinity too, and his blocking tackle seemed to have sorted matters, only it hadn`t …as….with Smalley still on the ground….Yates rose to swing his boot at the ball and send it hurtling into the net beyond Arestidou’s grasp.
That was quite simply awful, and could have got worse had Knowles managed to stretch an inch further and thus get to Swain’s latest offering minutes later. Daniels had a go as well not long after that, and was a foot or so wide with a shot that maybe should have been prevented. County were second to most 50/50’s at this point and there was some disquiet expressed behind me, which was maybe a tad unkind there only having been 10 minutes play gone.
 
County under pressure.

That said …..it was not great to watch at all, especially when Turner and Emmett broke up a blue attack and pushed on towards the County goal down the right. Another iffy moment was upon us, but further angst was avoided when Emmett’s shot hit the side netting, with Arestidou exposed.
Then….from the depths of despond……deep joy…..as  the neatest of neat breaks saw a flick on from Margetts send Brewster scurrying clear from just beyond half way. There was loads to do….and it was well set for him to fail….but instead he played it 100% to script…drew the keeper….and slipped the coolest of finishes under him into the net…..superb!!!

 
Brewsters brilliant goal captured by Andrew Machin.
Both teams took turns after this probing the other, but Crook was not embarrassed further by a series of throws and corners. County had defending to do as well, with Daniel in lively form down the left, but they coped well enough and we reached the half way point in the first half with it still 1-1.
Knowles and Yates combined to good effect after this…..Knowles twice setting the number ten up with half chances, that he narrowly failed to put away. Yates was probably Harrogate’s prime mover and he looked on aghast shortly after to see Smalley block another effort from him that might have given Arestidou some anxiety.  Ledsham followed suit not long after with a timely intervention to deny the same forward access to yet another Swain cross, as I began to wonder when something of note would come back from County.

Arestidou deals ( by Andrew Machin)

Not yet it seems as there was more defending to do, and the slutchiest of corners to keep out after the referee had hallucinated in Daniels favour. Now…this really might have been a substantial refereeing howler, and one that cost us dearly, as the kick was not well defended by the blues who allowed Ellis a free pot at goal, which he duly took, sending a fierce drive thudding into the bar with Arestidou watching helplessly. Wow…..I watched as the woodwork shook in response…and again….as the ball dropped downwards into the grateful arms of the County keeper ….we had escaped!
Emboldened perhaps by this good fortune, County ventured forth and indeed into their opponents box where Montrose went down under pressure from a defender. “Penalty” was the cry from the County team, but the referee would have none of it, and we faced the last 15 minutes of the half therefore with the score still 1-1.



 
Two County attacks ( Andrew Machin )
It was very disconcerting to note how Harrogate were continually quicker to the ball than were County, and the number of crosses that they were getting in as a consequence of this was really worrying………Swain’s latest  skidding at speed off Knowles’ head in the box.

 
County under the cosh .
Things stirred a touch for County with around 7 or 8 minutes left of the half, but ….infuriatingly….having benefited from some rather iffy refereeing, they could not make anything of the free kick that resulted. It was not all bad news however…..I was slightly encouraged to see that Margetts and Brewster were showing signs….their luck was out still….the deftest of touches from Brewster inches away from setting Margetts up, but……..
That was both disappointing and encouraging, and within a minute more of the same came our way as Brewster treated us to a wonderful back heeled pass that sent Margetts on his way into the box. On his way…..then on his way down as contact twixt him and the defender sent the County man to earth, and this time the referee was pointing towards the spot!
Great……Jonny will dust himself down……and put the kick away…except he didn’t…… sending a really poor effort to the keeper’s left where he had no trouble keeping it out!
County pressed a bit after this, and Margetts did his best to make amends, but it all lacked the look of conviction, and it was still 1 apiece when the teams went in at the 
break.  

The Harrogate fans in good voice !

With their support giving them some full throated encouragement,Harrogate attacked from the off in the second half…….County …thankfully…..saved when Lloyd Kerry’s control let him down on the edge of the box, with the blues right flank suitably filleted.
There was some encouragement for County’s support……Crook did have to venture out of the box at one point to head clear…

 
Crook....out of his box ( by Andrew Machin )

..and two subsequent free kicks, from Rule,  saw Ledsham go close. At last County were perhaps sharpening this element of their game up…..would it last though?

 
That was close ( by Andrew Machin )
Before I could look to answer that one…..there was the small matter of Yates who was shaping up to apply a finish to the handiwork of Knowles who had stolen clear turning defence into attack. We looked done for……Arestidou a helpless spectator …but when the ball reached Yates he could do no more than shoot harmlessly into the County keeper’s arms!
Saved again….but we needed County to capitalise on this good fortune, but instead they fell back into old ways wasting two half decent free kicks with hurried ill considered methodology.
More and more Harrogate looked the likely lads, and Arestidou did well to stop Daniel giving his side the lead just beyond the hour.
We were now giving Crook useful catching practise with our free kicks, which like much else from the blues amounted to the long /high and hopeful.





 
No probs for Crook !
That feeling about Harrogate’s chances persisted with me, and I was thankful to see Roberts do really well to block Knowles as he tried to apply a finish to some well constructed build up.
O’Hanlon was inches wide with a header after Montrose had won us a corner, but over all County were struggling to match their opponents work rate and application.
Seventy two minutes in ….. Harrogate  rang the changes swapping forwards Knowles and Yates for Clayton and Thewliss. County countered by bringing Garvin on for Rule.
Within a couple of minutes Simon Weaver’s changes declared a dividend for the Yorkshire side, when substitute Jordan Thewliss darted clear surging into the box with Chris Smalley for company. As with the first Town goal…..matters seemed to be sorted as the County man got in what looked like a decent tackle….but it was not quite decent enough, and Thewliss shrugged it off before leathering the ball in from the tastiest of angles!
That was gruesome stuff from a County viewpoint , and Town went for the jugular for a time after this…..Thewliss seeing his shot drift wide on the end of another run down the left flank, which was now almost continually under pressure…... and Emmett was not that far away with another effort down the other flank.
And….. what of County? Well they did keep plugging away, but it looked to me like the effort of 11 individuals making it up as they went along. Against a side working together as a team…this was never going to work. We continued to ping across the long….high hopeful balls, but Crook could deal with these in his sleep.
 
Late push by County.

OK….fair do’s the admirable Brewster, who must by now have despaired of ever getting a decent pass from his team mates, succeeded in forcing a diving stop from Crook….and Garvin brought another one from the keeper with his best work of the afternoon- a late/ late free kick delivered to the foot of the keeper’s left hand post, but even with 3 minutes added at the death, it was clear County were not going to square this particular circle.
Game over…another 3 points down the plug hole!
Not sure I need to say any more, I do not need to say that it isn`t good enough…by some distance!
I’m going to Bower Fold on Monday and Wetherby Road on January 2 thereafter, hoping for better things.

County supporters deserve no less.

 
They really do.......


Stockport County line up:
  
Arestidou, Tonge, Roberts, Smalley, O’Hanlon, Joyce( Evans 80), Rule( Garvin 72), Montrose, Brewster, Margetts, Ledsham.    

Subs not used :

Ormson, Connolly, Odejayi.

Harrogate Town line up:

Crook, Turner, Swain, Thurwell, McGurk, Ellis, Emmett, Kerry, Knowles ( Thewliss 72), Yates( Clayton 72), Daniel.

Subs not used:

Bloomer, Colbeck, Cadman.

Attendance : 3326   

Ian Brown

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