Harrogate Town 2 Stockport County 1 ; ( Vanarama National League North) 2 February 2016
A rumbustiously competitive game between two well drilled and motivated teams saw County lose out 2-1 to hosts Harrogate Town at Wetherby Road last night.
It was a raw night, but the football made up for it with County coming out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. On debut….Richard Brodie was everything we hoped he would be….neat positioning and fierce physicality- allied nicely with an eye for goal which saw him snatch one 25 minutes in.
Alongside Brodie….. most put a shift in, but I particularly liked Conor Smith, who was unlucky with one effort that struck the woodwork early on. The defence played well….and they needed to because their opponents looked capable of creating much and often. In the first half County held them at bay beautifully , but when Town upped their work rate after the break, the welter of corners and free kicks this generated, brought the Yorkshire side two goals that….despite a brave late rally from County, were enough to earn them the points as well.
Injury to Glenn Rule in the pre match warm up, ensured that all Jim Gannon’s recent signings were in County’s starting line up- Conor Smith being called in to join Brodie and Obi Anoruo , and Brodie was quickly in the action probing left, with Ledsham, and right before hooking a shot over the bar.
Five minutes of County pressure was interrupted by roars from the local ultras as Paul Clayton and Brendan Daniels bore down on the County goal. A corner was the result ….and with County defending in numbers ….and well….that’s as good as it got for the home side at this stage.
However……it might just have got decidedly pear shaped for our hosts next as, straight from the corner , County swept forward- the ball flowing sweetly twixt Brodie and Ledsham and then inside to Smith who was desperately unlucky to see the ball smack into the angle of bar and post with Peter Crook, the home keeper, beaten.
County were enjoying the lions share of attacking possession, and with 10 minutes gone, I was already feeling optimistic, although Ledsham didn’t help by lifting his shot high over the bar a couple of minutes later.
Brodie however was still all action and only a very decent tackle from Danny Ellis prevented him from opening his County account.
Morton and Roberts were getting forward nicely down the flanks causing Town more than the odd issue, and Obi Anoruo was inches away from reaching one Roberts cross as County made to up the ante.
Twenty minutes in, and Smith again showed us some excellent play, his final ball whizzing inches wide of goal. I was impressed….and then I was impressed again …this time by Ledsham who did really well to put paid to a lively looking break by Joe Colbeck, with a top notch block.
Not long after and .Harrogate, through Daniels, turned the tables, and the number 11 was distraught to see his sweetly struck drive denied, when Dean Henderson somehow got something on it deflecting the ball for a corner. That was a good bit of work by the young custodian of the County net, and from it sprung the seeds of something even better as the blues( actually playing in blue !) again hit their opponents quickly on the break. It looked good too….. as Anoruo darted clear through the middle. Crook advanced to meet him and he was augmented by the arrival of Louie Swain, and between them the duo did enough to thwart Obi’s ambitions.
County kept the pressure very much on with a series of throws, from Roberts, requiring close attention from an alert Town back line. Then…..with 25 minutes gone the Yorkshiremen conceded a free kick for one too many fouls on the lively Brodie. Menagh stepped up to take this….lifting a beauty into the box where Brodie rose to dispatch it into the net to the delight of the big County following.
For a time after the goal, County looked to be well set to add another…with Morton and Ledsham marauding down the right flank to good effect, but that second goal just would not come-instead Brodie’s shot, from Morton’s throw, carried the bar much to our disappointment.
Twice …..after this, Daniels pinged crosses over. He succeeded in winning a corner via O’Hanlon’s decisive block, but Roberts was positioned perfectly to make the clearance when his second effort came his way.
Mostly though….it was a case of County doing the attacking –Ledsham and Menagh looking more than useful more than once in this respect. Menagh’s free kicks I have, up until now, thought were about his sole asset, but I am slowly re appraising my view, and this game added more fuel to that flame.
On it went ….County on the front foot…..Brodie and Anoruo thwarted by the offside flag on the end of a raking pass from Roberts.
Late on in the half Lloyd Kerry caused a brief ripple of excitement for the home specs with a break ,and Colbeck treated them to another threatening run down the right, but cool heads from Smalley and O’Hanlon saw the danger off both times . That work from County instilled confidence, but the next did not as…deep into added time Clayton was allowed time and space to turn with the ball in the box, and get his shot off. Thankfully the ball thudded into the boards inches wide instead of the net, but it was a close call and decidedly did not augur well for what was to follow should we offer a repeat performance in the second half.
Add another cross from Daniels and a headed clearance from Smalley, and that was that for the first half…a pretty satisfactory 45 minutes- I and just about all the Blue Army I spoke to thought!
There were significant changes afoot upon the re-start for Harrogate….for starters Ellis and Colbeck were replaced by Jack Emmett and Jordan Thewlis, but probably just as significantly…the local…very vocal `ultras’ `relocated behind Henderson’s goal, rather undermining the young keepers satisfaction at having a stand apparently named in his honour.
The bulk of County’s loud and loyal support were now under the roof of the Wetherby Road stand and both sets of supporters. blessed as they were by the absence of segregation gave terrific support to their respective teams!
County opened the brighter of the two sides, but it took the seemingly revitalised Yorkshire side less than 5 minutes to bring the scores level. A corner started the rot, and with County unable to defend it well enough, Paul Clayton took advantage forcing the ball home from close in.
Harrogate now looked all together nippier, than either side had looked in the first 45, and the substitutes were making a real mark on proceedings as passes zinged about between yellow/black shirts on the greasy but perfectly playable surface.
Henderson had a close call a couple of minutes after the goal- Smalley tidying up after Thewlis had threatened alarmingly, but then so did Crook ,but excellent positioning by him saw him deal well with a snap shot from Montrose delivered from just outside the box.
Things were distinctly lively at both ends of the park- the home subs giving County’s back line stuff to do, and Anoruo along with the combative Brodie in the faces of the locals well and truly. Brodie was drawing foul after foul and I thought referee Andrew Miller handled the situation and the game well, although he did miss a pen later!
The first 15 minutes of the half were high octane and alive with expectation from both teams, but the hour mark saw the latest break by Emmett thwarted by the upraised liner’s flag. It also saw Tom Platt on for Lloyd Kerry as Town went for broke.
It was a tense affair now as more than once Brodie was called over by the referee for a chat- he was receiving a traditional Yorkshire welcome back and no doubt would have the bruises to show for it tomorrow, but for now he had to take it and carry on, and he did.
Harrogate meanwhile kept alarming us with lively …well constructed raids, and a cry of “ goal” came from behind Henderson’s goal with just over 20 minutes left, but they were wrong….it stayed 1 apiece despite Thewlis and Emmett best efforts.
County responded, but following a free kick for the latest foul on Brodie, Tom Platt was able to clear the free kick and the danger.
That was Brodie’s last action, as Jim replaced him with Kayode Odejayi.
Shortly after came that `penalty’ I mentioned earlier…..Anoruo was progressing into the box when he was pushed down from behind by Lewis Turner. It was inside for me….but the referee saw it as being the archetypal ` one centimetre outside’. I raged on briefly, as did a bunch of blue shirted players, but it stayed a free kick albeit in a decent position, but Menagh, skimmed the bar with his kick, to keep the scores level.
That was a definite escape for Town, but escape at one end was followed quickly by one at the other, and the County keeper watched the ball drift just wide, being stranded with Town breaking in numbers and at speed.
Thewlis and Emmett were continuing to shine for Town, and Henderson did well dealing with one of a growing number of free kicks that were racking up, along with corners, against County. It was a touch hairy for a moment or two as free kicks and corners pinged in on the County goal, and we were indebted to Menagh at one point for his good work that saw him win the ball and run it out of the danger zone. Once out on the flanks he was drawn into a tackle which had the locals raging angrily. They were wrong in my view……and the referee agreed, showing a yellow to the County man, but a lesser referee would perhaps have obliged the locals with a red.
The pressure was on the blues for sure….still those free kicks….the corners, and Roberts did well to deal as Daniels whipped over his umpteenth free kick of the night. His clearance went to Emmett though and we were relieved to see his shot fly inches wide.
On it went ….in the same vein, with County defending with some determination . A draw seemed a likely result, with 10 minutes left, and would not be at all a bad reflection of how things had panned out, but it was not to be…..
With nine minutes left, it was a relief to see Smalley in position to clear a cross off the line, albeit at the cost of a corner. An almighty scramble ensued as Daniels latest offering skidded into the box, and I was again relieved to see the ball cleared . `Out of the danger zone’ I told myself….but not for the first time ……I was wrong….the ball landed at the feet of Warren Burrell who slammed a fearsome drive way beyond Henderson’s dive into the net. It was 2-1 to Town and there was precious little time left now to turn matters around!
With Marsden on for Roberts, County set about seeing if they could save the game, and some spirited stuff followed from the boys in blue- Anoruo going close twice in quick order. Marsden followed suit, but found Crook as solid as ever keeping the effort out.
On it went…..Montrose and Marsden combining to set Morton up for a shot that flew just wide of the target.
With 3 minutes time added, and Charlie Russell on for Smith, County were doing everything bar put the ball in Crook’s net. In one such attack, Russell went down in the box, but the referee was not impressed, and ( although I would have given it) he was correct.
It was a brave effort now from the blues but a Ledsham shot carried the bar after a collaboration with Marsden that had promised much.
Menagh …agonisingly…saw his shot on the break saved brilliantly by Crook, but despite Henderson joining the charge when the corner came over, Crook survived as the ball flew inches over the bar !
Soon enough a blast of Mr Miller’s whistle told us the coldest of Yorkshire vigils was over….County had lost. This was disappointing, but not totally unexpected against a side scoring for fun of late and challenging for promotion. There was much to take heart about in County’s performance and when Jim has time enough with his new men we will see them prosper I feel. We just need to be patient.
Now to get back to the `Boost the Budget ‘ effort, which is going well. You can still donate via http://theplayersfund.webs.com or direct to Help the Hatters bank account,
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Account No: 69512571
Account No: 69512571
or....in cash at the Bung at the ‘ Meet the Manager ‘ night which starts at 7pm on Thursday, or at the Bung or the Cheadle End cabin at Saturday’s match.
See you Thursday/ Saturday then!
Harrogate Town line up:
Crook, Turner, Swain, Thirlwell, Ellis (Thewlis 45), Brown, Colbeck ( Emmett 45), Kerry ( Platt 60), Clayton, Burrell, Daniels.
Subs not used;
Stockport County line up:
Henderson, Morton, Roberts ( Marsden 83), Montrose, O’Hanlon, Smalley, Anoruo, Smith ( Russell 89), Brodie ( Odejayi 69), Menagh, Ledsham.
Subs not used:
Attendance 570 ( 350)