Stockport County 0 Curzon Ashton 0 ( Vanarama National League-North) 30 April 2016
Well…the sun shone ridiculously brightly circa 4.45,as a bumper Edgeley Park crowd made their way home, but what had gone before , after Tuesday’s Cheshire Senior Cup excitement, was a lack lustre affair……end of season fare in every respect. It was not that the teams showed any lack of desire to get a grip on matters, it was just that neither County nor visitors Curzon Ashton looked capable of scoring. Of the two…..County’s opponents looked the likeliest, but not by that much of a margin. They were certainly the tidier of the two sides, but when they showed up with anything resembling a chance, they either totally fluffed their lines, or found Dean Henderson in tip top form twixt the sticks for County in possibly his last game for us.
I am not sure that JG will at this stage have any questions left unanswered as far as personnel issues are concerned, thus this match will have had little impact on his thinking I guess, and the ensuing weeks will reveal all in that respect.
As for today…..Henderson and Wilson for Ormson and Rule were the only changes, although the bench offered a surprise or two with no sign of Brodie but a place for the highly promising youngster Adam Etches offering up a glimpse of the future maybe.
Straight from the kick off, Curzon Ashton showed that they had not come to make the numbers up, and O’Hanlon was in early action denying Mat Warburton possession in the box.
A corner resulted, but Henderson dealt with this calmly and well, but already there seemed a certain lethargy in County’s play , and that allowed Warburton to get a shot in that struck a defender a yard out going out for another corner.
Again nothing came of this, but there was no sign of County increasing the revs, and again Henderson had to work to see off a cross ,this time from Ryan Brooke.
The first ten minutes ended with Mathew Flynn straining to reach a ball from Warburton after the number eleven had broke clear dangerously.
The final ball from the Tameside outfit, again did not match the quality of the approach play , and that at least was reassuring from a County view point!
Garvin and Wilson did try shots, but neither needed saves from Ashton keeper Hakano Burton.
Slowly…..County were beginning to stir themselves, and Morton earned applause for breaking up an attack spearheaded by Joe Guest. Things might have taken an altogether brighter turn next , as a foul on Odejayi offered us a chance of sorts with the free kick smack in front, but Burton excelled when push came to pull and his feathers remained largely unruffled by County’s efforts to beat him.
It was slightly worrying that Ashton still looked to be doing more than County in terms of attacking play, and their passing was neat and tidy also…..just the finishing was lacking, and County were indebted to Wilson who got in a vital block to foil Guest in the act of shooting.
Another minute……and Henderson had to dash out and snuff out a break by Brooke. The sight of Guest being flagged offside when clear, just a minute later, cheered me up a bit…..but not that much…..County were very definitely second best so far and needed to address this.
They tried….Marsden was not that far away from following up an effort from Odejayi, but this proved only to be the prelude to more angst for County as Brooke and Noel Cummings forced their way through down the County left flank. It perhaps should have seen Ashton take the lead but instead Cummins looked on aghast as his shot drifted a foot wide of Henderson’s right hand post with the keeper beaten.
On it went with a header by Brooke missing out by inches.
In reply for County…..Marsden’s tenacity earned his team a free kick, but Garvin could not make this count, ushering in another attack from the visitors that saw O’ Hanlon in action keeping Cummins from Brooke’s ball in the box. County were struggling to clear their lines and it was a relief when Chris Rowney ended the raid by hooking his shot just over the angle of bar and post.
County were fortunate that Ashton’s finishing was of the quality it was, and we saw more evidence of this with 10 minutes left of the half, when an intuitive ball from Guest found no takers at the sharp end.
The best County could come up with at this stage in response was a shot from Marsden from a lay off by Odejayi, but this climbed and climbed over the bar clearing the ranks of the partying Ashton fans who seemed to be having a great time in the Railway End.
Warburton then Brooke did their best to add to County’s difficulties next. If Warburton was some way away with his effort…..Brooke’s run almost did the trick for his team as he latched onto the latest ball from Guest. O’Hanlon just kept him out, and Cummins’ luck was out when the corner came his way.
So……County did not concede, but it was through no lack of trying from the visitors, and Ellison did well to deny Warburton, with 4 minutes left.
3…..2 minutes left and I looked on to see Henderson pull off a double save to keep his team afloat – Brooke missing out with the final ball , and a minute later it was Connor Hampson having a go for the visitors although his effort proved no problem at all for the County keeper.
The half ended with a mild note of irritation as Connolly went into Referee Richard Wild’s book. Fortunately…..a foul by Cummins on O’Hanlon rather ruined the free kick that followed, and the teams left the park to modest applause from the largish crowd.
During the interval it was good to see Alan Lord’s young team parade their well deserved trophy and the supporters gave them a fine ovation!
Surely the future is in safe hands with AL and JG at the helm!
The visitors were first onto the front foot upon the re-start, but that said…they seemed no nearer finding the back of the County net despite monopolising most of the chances.
Thankfully Henderson remained alert and he did well at one point to ensure Brooke made no headway deep in the County half…..and yes….County were stirring again….and Marsden went close with one effort. Burton dealt with that OK but then made a wakes of his clearance sending the pill straight to Wilson. At last this looked to be something of substance that County could make something of…..but no….Wilson’s ball onward was altogether too strong and mis-directed for Marsden to catch it never mind do anything with it. Chance gone!
By this time Glenn Rule was on for County, replacing Connolly, and there did seem to be a greater urgency about County’s play, with Rule bestriding the mid field as he does. However….it also meant that Morton moved back to RB, and that was not necessarily his best position.
County pressed on…winning a corner……not taking advantage of same…..Marsden seeing a shot rise over the bar…..this was better ….but not greatly.
At the other end of the park, Morton did well in his defensive role to charge down a shot from Dan Shaw, whilst Brooke again got in our faces but could not add to this by keeping his shot down when a chance came his way!
Ellison did well for County getting forward, as JG replaced Wilson with Menagh, but still it was predominantly Ashton doing the attacking, and Henderson had to pull off a decent save to deny Rowney after Morton had been beaten by Brooke on the edge of the box.
It was a massive bonus for County that their opponents were so apparently toothless….but were County any better? I posed the question and declined to answer 68 minutes in, as I ducked to avoid Glenn Rule’s shot in Row R. That was a waste of a free kick reasonably placed just outside the box, and County needed better if they were to win this game, instead I looked up to see a long range dipper from Cummins just clear Henderson’s bar!
Bugger….this was getting a touch iffy now and there was no sign of relief any time soon either as Henderson again denied the visitors as Tomsett linked up to cause mayhem with Brooke.
Much pressure ensued after this and it was a while before this was relieved by Odejayi , who set about fashioning a quick reply linking up nicely with Menagh. For a time it looked pretty promising this, and Marsden was nicely placed in the box to receive the final ball, but when it came in from Menagh ,it was Burton who reacted first ….emerging triumphantly with the ball much to County’s displeasure.
With 10 minutes left JG brought on Adam Etches in place of Garvin and he was soon in the action as County won themselves a corner.
Slowly….chances emerged for County…..Menagh’s free kick fizzing menacingly into the box where Marsden was inches from applying that vital finish, and Etches missed out with a half chance from a Menagh cross!
The better chances though still continued to accrue at the other end where Mike Norton found Jon Hunt in the box, bringing another good save from Henderson!
That was really good from the young keeper, but within a minute he had to do it again. Rowney had just kept a Morton cross from Marsden, when County were hit on the break by Hunt forcing Henderson to dash out and make a `hearts in mouths’ last gasper to keep it at 0-0.
Another attack from the visitors….close but not close enough as a late header flew wide.
County did, even at this late stage have a go at snatching a cheeky win, and it would have been just that in my view, but it was not to be …and Burton was on hand to keep Marsden’s shot out with Odejayi running in at speed.
It went on for a little while after this…….just a minute of added time …and that was that for the season.
I doubt whether anyone present really expected a display or game as exciting as that on Tuesday, indeed there was plenty of applause at the end for the team, who paraded the Cheshire Senior Cup after the whistle which was good.
The Curzon Ashton team joined their fans, who had done a lively conga in the second half, on the Railway End ending their season on the right note too.
And that conga....
Thanks JG for stepping in again and giving us hope once more.
Here’s to County then and to a successful campaign in season 2016/17- I cannot wait!
Stockport County line up;
Henderson, Connolly( Rule 53), O’Hanlon, Smalley, Roberts, Morton, Ellison, Wilson( Menagh 64),Odejayi, Marsden, Garvin( Etches 80).
Subs not used:
Curzon Ashton line up:
Burton,Rowney, Guest, Hunt, Flynn, Shaw( Norton 53), Tomsett, Hampson, Cummins( Cockerlime 79), Brooke( Hughes 86), Warburton.
Subs not used: