Stockport County 1 Nuneaton Town 1 ; ( Vanarama National League North) 16 January 2016
Things that go bump in the night,
Should not really give one a fright,
It’s the hole in the ear
That lets in the fear
That, and the absence of light!
It’s a while since I opened, or even used, a Spike Milligan poem to try and make a point, but with County once again in a state of on the field managerial flux, I thought it apt to do so.
Fear…..is what had insidiously crept into County play in the latter part of NY’s tenure. After initially looking every bit a team likely to challenge, it all faded away to a series of performances that left more than a little to be desired, virtually ending any hopes of the play offs and seeing us exit early from FA Cup and Trophy competitions . Timidity in midfield allied to raw fear in and around the opposition’s box succeeded in nullifying all that early season promise in a welter of avoidable defeats.
Today would hopefully be different. For starters Mike Flynn was in charge, albeit on a caretaker basis, so there was a chance that players’ who had ` gone missing’ for a game or three, might be tempted to show up again, and come to County’s aid.
Flynny made 4 changes from the eleven sent out last Saturday by NY. Out went Ormson, Baggie, and Connolly , whilst Margetts was back with his parent club, the 4 being replaced by Dean Henderson ( a young keeper from Man U), Danny Morton, Glenn Rule and John Marsden who was in for his first start.
Nobody really expected too much from County under the currently prevailing set of circumstances, but Flynny’s side confounded us all by snatching a point late on, via another accomplished finish from Delial Brewster. In the end County probably deserved to share the points, gained via a spirited last 10 minutes that saw the visitors pushed back into their last third, by a County side that looked like they wanted something from the game, which made a nice change. Much of what had gone before however was rather forgettable and the blues struggled hard and long to make headway against a Nuneaton side anxious to bolster a credible promotion challenge. With Rob Duffy and Aaron Williams offering a significant physical presence ,for Town,in County’s half, supplied eagerly by Tyler Little and Cieran Keane , they mostly looked likely to succeed, but after they had taken the lead( via a goalkeeping error, from Henderson) they rather took their foot off the accelerator pedal, inviting County forward by defending ever deeper. Eventually this approach gained the result it deserved and County’s late pressure brought them a welcome point- a handsome return really for a few days graft by Flynny and his team.
There was a quick shock at 3 o’clock though…..no…..not the diabolical pink number that Jordan Smith, the Town keeper, was kitted out in…..but the fact that we were kicking towards the Cheadle End in the first half!
Early doors saw Brewster again busily hustling for scraps…chasing this and that…..nothing came of any of it….but you could not help but think that the lad would again be looking to give us 100% effort.
It was an encouraging start none the less, and enlivened by a tasty through ball from Rule that saw Ledsham on the end of it, but deposited into the Cheadle End by a none too fussy defender.
There was perhaps another 4 or 5 minutes where County, seemingly in relaxed mood, pushed forward……Brewster foiled by Smith as he went for Marsden’s through ball. Another run by the County number nine won us a corner, but the danger passed when Menagh failed to find a blue shirt with it.
The first real sortie from the visitors came via Lyttle, 9 minutes in, but Sean O’Hanlon covered the break well and there was no problem for County’s young debutant keeper.
|Nuneaton attack caught by Andrew Machin.|
County kept trying to sneak something, but Ledsham’s through ball saw Smith snaffle the pill off Brewster toes, following which Lyttle added his ten pennyworth by cutting out Brewster’s through ball before the intended recipient Marsden could get to it.
As I have said….County looked more relaxed …less stress laden…it was just that still there was no sign of anything resembling a cutting edge . Instead….. Marsden seized on a loose ball only to fire it into our midst high up in the Cheadle End. That was disappointing…as was the sight of Smith going full length to grab the ball as it pinged over from Garvin.
Even more alarming was the fact that straight from the above action, we were very nearly wading thigh deep in the brown stuff courtesy of Keane who stole possession deep in blue territory before dashing clear and pinging a cross over. It was a decent one too, and County were indebted to O’Hanlon who managed somehow to prevent Duffy from getting a shot off. He was well placed ….and that was a vital stop!
Then….it happened…another visit to Calamity City. First off we conceded a free kick just inside our own half on the main stand side. From this Lyttle produced almost the perfect cross, picking Duffy out with immaculate precision. Unfortunately….Henderson chose this moment to have a rush of blood and , having dashed way off his line, he found himself massively out of position and powerless to intervene as Duffy curled his header into the empty net. Henderson did scramble back but to no avail, he could only help the ball on its way into the net. Twenty Three minutes gone….we were one down!
County did respond….through Ledsham, but his through ball did not reach Marsden thanks to Jack Lane, just about Nuneaton’s keenest defender at this point. Town struggled for a time to clear their lines after this, but eventually referee Billy Khatib came to their aid with a free kick that relieved the pressure.
After this….Brewster won a corner, but Smalley could not force the ball home from this, and we needed our forwards to take the available chances if we were going to get back into the game.
|Smalley cant force it home.....|
It was County’s turn to struggle next , and Henderson flapped prodigiously at a corner at one point, and when Dave Morgan slipped the neatest of passes inside to Aaron Williams, things looked distinctly iffy for the blues, until Williams fluffed his lines and sent his shot straight at Henderson.
County kept trying…..Ledsham going close with a neat dipper ,with just 10 minutes remaining of the half…….Morton….then Ledsham again….but still Smith’s goal remained intact!
With half time approaching, it was alarming to see Keane launch another run, and this was a belter, taking 3 County men out on his way into the box. Alas…from Town’s view point….that’s where the good stuff ended, as …when the ball reached the well placed Duffy, he again sent the tamest of efforts into Henderson’s waiting arms!
That was a definite let off, but …whilst the half ended with County back on the defensive with the snow now falling …..County did win themselves a free kick , and O’Hanlon did get his head to it, only to see it thud into a defender.”Handball” bellowed the County captain ( and about 2700 of the crowd), but the referee would have none of it, so…..County 0 Nuneaton Town 1 it was then as the teams trouped off at half time.
The mood was decidedly downbeat under the Cheadle End at half time, and I found few enthusing over the idea of another 45 minutes similar to that they had just witnessed.
Both teams took turns probing the other upon the re-start, but the only move of any note, from either outfit, came from James Clifton who caused mayhem cutting in from the right. Sadly, for Town, he lifted his shot high and wide, as we pined for even a hint of quality finishing, preferable from County.
Brewster did treat us to a neat run which took him to the by-line, but he could only hit the side netting with his shot, and in view of the quality of the approach play this was disappointing. Still……Henderson looked a tad more confident…..catching the ball cleanly from a free kick following a `foul’ by Ledsham on Williams.
Both keepers were busy for a time after this….Henderson denying Chettle, after Montrose had gifted possession to Town, and Smith who cut out Ledsham’s tasty left flank cross with something approaching ease.
Nuneaton tried to seal what would be a useful win, with just under 15 minutes left, pushing Clifton and Keane forward down the flanks. They rather fancied their chances at this point, and they fancied they had won a penalty too….but they hadn’t….Williams was not fouled by Garvin in the box, and I am guessing that he knew as much…..certainly the referee did and bid the forward get up and carry on playing!
Odejayi had been on the field for around 10 minutes in place of Menagh, a player who is yet to produce anything of note, and Marsden should have profited from Kay’s good work( a neat flick on), but instead he shot wide when well placed!
It was noticeable now that Nuneaton were camped deeper and deeper in their own half . In response County plugged away-Rule failing to add a finish to good approach play.
I was just wondering when all this pressure would result in a break by Nuneaton and a second goal, when my cynicism got the old onesey/ twosey as the much maligned Odejayi fashioned his trademark flick on to send Brewster scurrying clear. There was loads to do, and again I …and I am guessing a sizeable number of those present…. thought the chance had gone when Brewster drifted away from goal. Yes….he had drawn the keeper off his line but the angle was acute, but he made light of all this by burying a lovely finish way beyond anything Smith could produce in response, into the net!
The crowd went AS ….there were 4 minutes left to play ,and for the first time in the game full throated roars greeted the County players as they shaped to re-start again.
On….they went….to the 4 minutes …another 4 were added, and through it all County kept attacking. Flynny would have been proud I guess!
Deep in added time we got a free kick in a decent position. Chance? I was not sure…but Garvin thought so curling a dangerous ball into the box where Smith smothered it eagerly.
Chance gone then, but County continued to press albeit without any further success, and the last significant action was at the other end of the park where Morton’s alert work dished substitute Marlon Harewood as he threatened on the break.
Soon enough the whistle went and County had secured a decent point….an unexpected point…..and Flynny had perhaps restored a bit of pride to the teams work where it was beginning to go AWOL.
What now then….well…we need the County Board to appoint the new man soon, which I am sure that they will. It is crucially important however that they appoint the right man, and I will not surprise you by stating that I hope fervently, that the man they appoint is Jim Gannon- a known quantity and a safe pair of hands ready made to work with Alan Lord with whom he works exceedingly well! We cannot afford a leap in the dark….a gamble.
See you at Congleton, weather permitting, on Tuesday!
Stockport County line up:
Henderson, Morton, Smalley, O’Hanlon, Garvin, Montrose, Menagh( Odejayi 65), Rule ( Russell 86), Brewster, Marsden, Ledsham( Evans 86).
Subs not used:
Ormson , Tonge.
Nuneaton Town line up;
Smith, Clifton, Lyttle, Morgan,J. Keane, Lane, Chettle( McFarlane 84), Byrne, Duffy( Harewood 78), Williams, C.Keane( Reid 84).
Subs not used: