Stockport County 3 Hednesford Town 0 ; ( Vanarama National League- North)1 March 2016
Stockport County’s resurgence under the measured leadership of Jim Gannon, continued apace last night at Edgeley Park, where Hednesford Town were dispatched 3-0- a score line that did not flatter the blues one bit.
Make no mistake…..this was a prodigiously good performance, one laced through with a discipline that was thoroughly challenged, at times, by a Frank Sinclair side that proved none too fussy about the legality of their challenges. That County’s discipline held firm, was a tribute to the players and their manager. Referee Jonathon Hunt was unnecessarily lenient at times in response, but by and large that is the sum total of my criticism of him, this time around.
To be honest ….County did not need the referees help….they kept to their shape…..the plan…did not get drawn into the iffy challenge stuff…..stayed on their pins, and as a result won the game handsomely whilst recording yet another mightily impressive clean sheet.
That was due reward for our defensive excellence as Ian Ormson again proved what he could do behind a back line that knows its onions and plays accordingly.
Injury to Paul Connolly in the warm up saw Danny Morton slot back in the back four, which he did well ,getting forward to good effect none the less frequently. In mid field, having been drafted in at the last gasp for Connolly, Jamie Menagh ran off with the sponsors M.O.M award, but I thought Montrose worked as hard and as effectively as I have seen him do, as well alongside workaholic Karl Ledsham.
Up front we looked pretty lively, the goals coming from Obi Anoruo and Richard Brodie in the first half, and one from substitute Kayodi Odejayi late on.
It was a horrible evening-the rain started , as forecast, precisely at 7pm and thereafter , whipped by a gruesome swirling wind, gave us and the players hell.
Pre-match….. County, via COWS, had released the welcome news that, thanks to the magnificent support of Help the Hatters, Jim Gannon had signed promising youngster George West to his first pro- contract.
Details via this link…..
George was understandably not in the squad last night after his extended run out on Saturday, and the late inclusion of Menagh was the only change from the side that had taken all the points off Gainsborough Trinity.
Then……with the rain for accompaniment, County set about their task, which last night saw them kicking towards the Cheadle End first off. County were the first to attack- Brodie’s header flying some way over the bar, but it was not long before Town got the bit between their teeth , and buoyed by a couple of early ( and I must say slightly baffling) free kicks, they pushed the blues back. Having done so however and got nicely on the end of Jack Truelove’s kick, Tom Thorley rather messed things up with a shot that disappeared in the direction of Mercian Way. The second kick was closer to the County last third and altogether held up a better prospect of success for Town, but this time the taker was the `line fluffer’ and Truelove’s effort failed to trouble the County keeper.
Leaking these free kicks was an unwanted irritation, but County, under JG, are proving a resilient outfit, and the very next push from Hednesford saw the blues bite back with a purpose! Montrose started it….. winning possession with great tenacity before passing to Ledsham on his left. Ledsham quickly brought Roberts into play and this resulted in him pinging the tastiest of balls to the back of the box where Anoruo met it with the firmest of headers ,dispatching the ball into the net past keeper Dan Crane.
Six minutes gone….one up…..sound familiar?
Well…..within a couple of minutes…..one nil almost became two, and didn’t solely due to the vigilance of George Cleet who managed to hook the ball clear from under the bar after Jamie Menagh’s flick on headed goal ward.
Another minute or so and there was work for Ormson to do at the other end, and a one handed save kept Shelton Payne’s dangerous cross at bay. There was a fair bit of pressure coming at County from their opponents at this juncture, but marshalled by skipper Sean O’Hanlon ,County dealt with it well.
Eventually this pressure abated, and County got forward themselves, and Brodie was unfortunate to see Crane( a very decent keeper) positioned perfectly to make a save and keep his header out!
County kept it up after this via a Montrose/ Morton combo that severely stretched the Town defence down the right flank, so much so that it took the most reckless of challenges by ex Hatter ( and curse bearer)Danny Glover to stop him. Only a free kick resulted and Hednesford managed to work this clear. Not for long however as the blues surged back up the park. This again looked a promising excursion from County, but once more it was cut short by a truly awful limb threatener on Ledsham from Payne who flew at the County man from behind like a bull at a gate! A mini summit ensued following this during which the saintly Truelove pleaded Payne’s case.
He did well….as Mr Hunt opted for a yellow, which was really very lenient indeed! Again nothing came of the free kick…..Truelove blocking the kick at the near post allowing Glover to make a clearance.
County seemed to have the measure of their opponents, the only worry was whether they would get drawn into the iffy stuff, therein would hang the result of the game! There seemed to be little danger to County’s control at this point though, and Brodie was unfortunate to see his excellent ball from the by line, miss out Anoruo and Marsden by the width of a fag paper, after he had thoroughly duped Ben Bailey en-route.
Now….you know I am loath to criticise officials, well ….let me mention briefly the Main Stand liner who really should have done better on at least one occasion, the glaringly obvious one being when a back ward header from a defender put Anoruo through, only for him to be flagged `offside’. Poor hardly covers it…’nuff said!
The pressure from County started to build in intensity after the last action and a remarkable period of play came next and it all happened in the Town box where once….twice …three….no….four times in as many seconds County were denied by gutsy last gasp saves. Three of these were by Crane as shots from Brodie, Anoruo and Marsden rained in….Crane stopped one…..arose…parried another…..and another , and then Cleet joined in again saving the day for his side by clearing off the line! Wow…..that was incredible defending particularly by Crane!
Having given credit where it was due…..I must say again ….the Hednesford tackling was appalling at times and , with about 10 minutes left of the half Sean Williams joined Payne in referee Hunt’s book after he had clattered Morton comprehensively in front of the Main Stand! Payne followed suit not long after…. again on the unfortunate Morton, but presumably the referee was loath to produce a second yellow, and he escaped punishment!
If the free kicks and fouls were meant to provoke a like for like response from the blues, this was not happening, indeed it was greatly pleasing to see one of a veritable plethora of felonies get its deserved come upance, almost smack on half time. The free kick found Morton again prowling up the park, and he found Brodie with a neat pass. Brodie then obliged with a thunderous drive that went in off the under side of the bar having lightly brushed a defender en-route.
This was just the fillip County needed and at just the right psychological moment too, and 2-0 at the break was a good position to be in!
Into the second half we went then, with the weather getting no better. County…through Brodie and Anoruo announced their continued intent to press on regardless. Town replied via Sean Williams and Thorley but firm headed clearances by O’Hanlon and Roberts sorted matters nicely for the blues.
Hednesford were still trying their best to draw County into a rash tackle or two , but they were not bighting and the `looked for’ free kicks just did not materialise for the visitors.
It was mostly County, as I say…but the hour mark saw a shot on the turn from Glover force a fine diving save from Ormson, who pushed the pill around the post in great style! The corner ushered in a measure of tension for County, but this ended when the excellent Roberts kept the ball out on the line!
That was good work by Roberts and more followed from Morton, Smalley and O’Hanlon, who looked entirely unperturbed in dealing with the best that Town could produce.
|Sean O' Hanlon|
County faced the last 20 minutes with Garvin on for Anoruo, with Town still trying to square the seemingly unsquareable circle. Smalley came into his own at this point making good interventions to deny Thorley. Ormson too had stuff to do….a punched clearance here….a comfortable save there….as a free kick from Payne pinged in.
It was not long before it became apparent that JG wanted to bring Odejayi on, but the officials had gone all `Mr Magoo’ and he was in danger of catching a chill beyond the touchline awaiting the call.
Eventually the call came and he took Brodie’s place with just 10 minutes left to play. Within 3 minutes of the call….. the substitution declared a dividend as Menagh’s free kick picked big K out with precision at the back post where his header gave the keeper no chance at all. It was 3-0 to County and now affectively `game over’.
|Library pic- Odejayi|
It was at this point that the referee had to stop play to have a word with Frank Sinclair- it was arguably not a moment too soon!
The last 7 minutes or so saw County draw on the experience of the likes of Ledsham and O’Hanlon who both got through shed loads of work. They were not alone however it must be said and if ever there was a win that was truly a `team performance’ this was it for me!
Up next is Tamworth on Saturday, and the Flyer leaves at 11 from the Fingerpost, so book now, do not be tempted to miss this one!
Then…..next Tuesday get yourself down to Edgeley Park at 7.45 pm for the Cheshire Senior Cup Semi Final County v Northwich Victoria- simply unmissable!
See you at both then!
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Morton, Smalley, O’Hanlon, Roberts( Joyce 88), Montrose, Menagh, Ledsham, Marsden, Anoruo( Garvin 65), Brodie( Odejayi 80).
Subs not used:
D Smith, Russell.
Hednesford Town line up:
Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove, Bailey, Pigie, Cleet( Peers 45), Thorley, Williams, Perry( Ennis 62), Glover( Obeng 72), Payne.
Subs not used: