Brackley Town 0 Stockport County 1 : ( Vanarama National League-North) 20 February 2016
County came under an awful lot of pressure today at St James Park against a Brackley side that pulled out all the stops, especially after the break, in an attempt to disturb County’s grip on the game, established by Obi Anoruo’s 40th minute goal, and Karl Ledsham’s steely determination.
Brackley pushed on forward in the second half and probably felt disappointed not to at least sneak an equaliser bearing in mind the quantity of attacking they did in the last 45 minutes or so. Credit to Jim’s boys though….perhaps inspired by the presence of 100 year old County Legend George Haigh in the crowd…. they manned up and battled for a valuable win that will buck their support up no end as we seek a respectable league placing at season’s end.
There was time before the start for me to snatch a photo of George as he took his seat prior to the kick off, County scarf to the fore. There is not a great deal about St James Park to attract excitement, but it’s a welcoming spot and one I never fail to enjoy visiting, and as usual the food was terrific
…sausages( sourced locally)wondrous…. chips superb……as I say terrific, and the bar welcomed County fans too, which again was excellent and the mood in the B & W Army was buoyant come 3 o’clock despite our lack of goals this term.
There was a delay for a minutes applause in honour of Ann Haynes, a recently deceased Town supporter of many years, and this was observed beautifully by both sets of supporters who mingled happily in the un-segregated stadium.
County were first out of the blocks through Marsden who darted into the box before picking Brodie out with a neat pass. Brodie was on it in a flash, but so was Joe Clarke who did enough to deflect the County forward’s shot away from goal. The resultant corner was cleared.
Clarke was in action again minutes later, but to lesser affect, his shot flying tamely wide after Matt Lowe had engineered a break down the left.
Sam Hornby ,the young Brackley keeper, had his first real action 4 minutes in, and he did well to prevent Anoruo getting to Menagh’s through ball.
Anoruo was looking lively at this point and a foul on him brought County a free kick , but nothing came of this or the Montrose/ Menagh raid that quickly followed.
There was more work for Hornby to do next- keeping Brodie out, but …beyond the 15 minute mark and Town slowly began to get into the game more- O’Hanlon doing really well to block Lowe’s progress on the break, and Roberts doing likewise not long after to deny the increasingly lively Courtney Cameron.
As per last Saturday…Menagh was featuring prominently at this stage ….threading a through ball goal ward for Brodie to go for one moment….then back blocking a shot from Lowe the next….and then on hand to sting Hornby’s hands with a snap shot. OK….the pass was a tad too strong, and the shot a touch under hit…..but…….both were well worth the effort!
On it went, and the rain swirled around us driven by a fiendish wind, and Ormson did well to pluck the ball out of the prevailing overhead maelstrom as it whizzed goal ward.
It went long from Ian, and for a moment things looked up for the blue shirted blues as Marsden had it and the defence looked stretched. Alas…..it was not to be and he failed to pick a blue shirt out with his pass and any chance was gone.
There was something about County’s attack which seemed to discomfort the likes of Clarke and Slade, who I did not think fancied a battle all that much. As a result free kicks kept coming County’s way , but even with O’Hanlon joining Brodie and company on the end of the latest set piece, the result was the same…..Town somehow cleared their lines and it stayed 0-0.
That said…..Karl Ledsham, who was again catching the eye with his industry and drive, did try one from outside the box, and it was not all that far away either!
|Ledsham flying in........|
With 10 minutes left of the half , a goal less first half looked very much on the cards, although within seconds of me thinking this, both teams went close…..Town through Slade…..County through a series of thrusts and probes that saw Anoruo floored by the keeper at one point. Montrose’s shot on the end of all this did not trouble Hornby.
Almost immediately…..Town had their best chance of the match. It was set up by Cameron whose run saw a cross pick David Moyo out to perfection. Unfortunately for Brackley, the forward fluffed his lines and could not force the ball home, with the blues defence for once exposed.
We were getting ever closer to half time now( 6 minutes away to be precise), and it was disquieting to note that our hosts were getting more and more into the game, as Ormson and Smalley were both called on to make last gaspers to keep us afloat.
The pressure continued and it looked to be County who maybe wished for the break rather than our hosts, but ……with just 4 minutes to go….. things changed …abruptly ….and out of pretty much nothing …….Town seemed to have weathered a brief storm from County, when Karl Ledsham entered the fray and leathered a loose ball back across goal from the edge of the box for Obi Anoruo to force home from close in.
It was 1-0 to County and the cue for a wave of attacking from the blues , and Smalley was inches away from applying a vital touch to a Menagh free kick with just 3 minutes left……
….Brodie lively on the break a minute later but unable to find support.
All County ?.......hmm….not so…. There was still time for Connolly to get a great block in on a goal bound effort from Cameron …….and Lowe to miss out with a header that flew off over the bar, and that was the first half put to bed.
|Marsden, Slade & a corner flag....|
The re-start saw a surprising personnel change for County, as Menagh was replaced by Tonge.
For a time…County managed to get forward to some effect…..Marsden forcing a corner , that saw Ledsham thwarted by the combined efforts of Clarke and Lowe. County had themselves a free kick though, but with Menagh elsewhere Ledsham took it, and Hornby was in difficulties momentarily as a Montrose shot ricocheted into the air in front of goal off a defender. It went on with a run from Anoruo ended by a Clarke/ English cooperation.
Ten minutes had gone of the second half and both teams had had their moments, but Town started to get more of those moments than did the blues and Roberts almost sleep walked into trouble at one point with some uncharacteristically slack work. Added to this Steve Diggin looked to have scored until an intervention by Tonge deflected the ball wide. Ledsham saw the kick off with typical calm…..and from the clearance Marsden earned applause from the County following by a willingness to chase the seemingly unchaseable.
But…… again the disquiet mounted as Town piled on up the park, this time via Lowe whose shot went out off Montrose. It continued…..corner cleared….another comes Town way almost straight off as a shot from Cameron is deflected wide. Thankfully County defended these kicks well, none more so than the excellent O’Hanlon, but Smalley was in the mix too and it was his block, just on the hour, that did for Moyo’s effort!
Soon Charlie Russell was on for Marsden, but it was still Brackley who were on the front foot- Moyo seeing a header miss out!
At this point Brackley were enjoying a lot of possession, with Lowe and Moyo in the van of the action. County were defending well…it has to be stressed again, but with our prevailing luck the temptation was to expect something… at some point to sneak past our guard as good as it was. The 67th minute saw the excellent Ledsham in position to clear the danger.
Despite the weight of pressure from Town, I still found myself thinking of how vulnerable I fancied Clarke and Slade to be, but we were not putting them under sustained pressure now at all. Odejayi was warming up …would he be called on….that sounded a good idea to me……as the liners flag did for a County raid.
Back came our hosts, and Ledsham again did well to block a shot from Cameran on its was in……..as did Ormson who spread himself well to keep a strike from Moyo out! It was seemingly unending as Ledsham again hooked the ball clear under pressure only for it to come pinging back via Curtis McDonald whose shot bounced out off the top of the crossbar.
On it went….a save by Ormson from a Diggin header…then a shot from Lowe that thudded into the boards inches wide from Glenn Walkers pass.
County were defending deep now, and well at times, but it was not great for the BP at all, and I winced to see a Cameron free kick fly just wide.
Ormson watched that last effort from an upright position, his next action with just 7 minutes left, needed him to be at full stretch to keep a Diggin shot out. Crosses and shots were pinging over at a rate of knots at this point, and County did ever so well to survive with their lead intact.
We were into the last 5 minutes now and still Town pressed….and still O’Hanlon and company resisted them- the County captain doing particularly well to keep substitute Ndlovu out at one point!
Odejayi was now on for Brodie, who left to a prolonged ovation from County fans, but the pressure was still on the blues as subs Ndluvo and Winters failed to put half chances away. These chances were like gold and needed to be seized upon with O’Hanlon and his co defenders in a miserly mood, but for Town it was just not happening so……
A foul on Russell almost smack on the 90 minute mark gave Hornby real difficulties due to Odejayi’s presence and his determination to get to the ball. The home defence survived however and it stayed 1-0 to County, but would it stay that way much longer?
Well ……I felt it probably would, but the referee signalled 5 minutes added…so the pressure would no doubt be on again.
Well….there’s pressure and pressure and some of it is self induced and that was how I saw the incident that was in danger of upsetting the County apple cart.
A bit of a fracas started near the touchline and at one point 2 balls were on the field of play. Montrose grabbed the one most of the players viewed as the kosher item, and just would not let it go. An infantile melee then ensued after which Montrose got his second yellow and a red, and hopefully a blast from Jim afterwards!
It could have placed County’s hard earned victory in jeopardy.
It did not…….County’s remaining 10 applied themselves manfully to the task of getting those 3 points….Ledsham going close late on with a free kick that skidded inches wide of goal.
County came under sustained pressure again in the dying minutes of the game tormented by the swirling wind and a plethora of wind bourn crosses and free kicks. Somehow none of these went in, and it did stay 1-0, which under the circumstances was a decent result.
Still much to do with this side of course,but the steadfast resolve allied to a knowledge of what was required that was shown whilst defending their corner today shows there is at least something to work with for Jim, and I am certain he knows what needs doing and will see it done.
See you all at Edgeley Park for the visit of Gainsborough next Saturday then!
Blackley Town line up:
Hornby, English, McDonald, Clarke, Slade, Graham( Ndlovu 75), Cameron(Winters 85), Lowe, Moyo, Diggin, Walker.
Subs not used:
Mills, Odhiambo, Marsden
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Smalley, Roberts, Montrose, Menagh( Tonge 45),Anoruo, Brodie( Odejayi 85), Marsden (Russell 63), Ledsham .
Subs not used:
Evans, D Smith.
Attendance : 438.