Stockport County 2 Tranmere Rovers 1 ( Cheshire Senior Cup Final) 26 April 2016



 
Pic by David Wright.


County braved weather that would have made Shackleton wince at the Weaver Stadium in Nantwich last night to deservedly claim the Cheshire Senior Cup ,with a well merited and ruthlessly executed 2-1 victory after extra time, against Vanarama National side Tranmere Rovers.
The win was as dramatic as it was deserved, secured by  substitute Obi Anoruo scoring the winner in the last minute of extra time. But County were worthy winners having drilled shots against the woodwork time and again throughout the game. I counted 6 such efforts in the second half …add a similar number of last gaspers from the Tranmere keeper Luke Pilling ( by a country mile Rovers top performer),and you get a measure of just how much in control of the game County were.
In the first half, with Glenn Rule in prime form, County took the game to their opponents. 
 
Glenn Rule- firing on all cylinders!

Rule was just one of many County players to prang the woodwork as the blues queued for a shot at goal. None came…..in fact…..it took until 7 minutes into the second half for County to sort this issue out through Marsden, who got the travelling County fans singing his name with an opportunist effort as the Rovers defence got themselves in a tangle.

 
Marsden in the thick of it....
That should have signalled the first of many for the blues but it didn’t and within a couple of minutes of Rule being subbed, Rovers were level against the run of play.
It took a mighty team performance to re-ignite the flame after that unexpected reverse , but with the defence solid, and Ellison  joining the impressive Morton in an all out effort up front , County did it, setting up some really joyous scenes at the end as Jim Gannon’s team celebrated with the trophy!



An atrocious blizzard greeted the teams as they came out circa 7.45, but both teams ignored the conditions and got on with it …each probing the other diligently. The closest thing to a ripple of excitement in the first 10 minutes came when Odejayi went down in the box. We asked about a penalty but we did not get one, and that was probably a correct decision.
 
Odejayi has company.....
Enter Glenn Rule next, and he looked in prime form, which was good to see, but it was disappointing to see Morton’s shot rise over the bar from a neat pass from him.
 Jack Mackreth and Sam Ilesamni  took the game to County briefly, but replying for County, Roberts and the energetic Rule were on the spot to put matters to rights.

 
Roberts emerges from the back....
That was not typical of how play would pan out, and I looked on in anguish to see an effort from Marsden come back out off the angle of bar and post, from Odejayi’s deft lay off not long after. County’s foot remained down on the accelerator pedal but Rules follow up shot was charged down much to our angst.
 
Garvin & Marsden await the ball...

It went on with Marsden missing out on the end of a neat bit of work from Rule and Odejayi.
It was fully 15 minutes in before Morton treated us to one of his lung bursters, and it fell somewhat short of expectations, being blocked near the corner flag, as Jordan Hunter led a posse of 2 to head the County flyer off.
Tranmere replied but the anguish was their’s this time as Toluni Omotola shot over the bar from a lay off by Liam Davies.

 
Ellison & Garvin apply the pressure....

County re-doubled their efforts to get an opening goal next, and Marsden went close twice  in this period- Pilling doing well to deny Odejayi in addition as Garvin supplied ammunition from the left flank.

Odejayi foiled by Pilling !

The ball then flew between Odejayi and Marsden , only for keeper Pilling to spoil County’s fun with some good work. Smalley joined in, and a lovely high one from him, was sweetly dealt with by Odejayi who set Marsden up only for the shot to clear the bar.
The pressure was almost constant from County now, but still the ball would not nestle in the back of Pilling’s net…..instead Rule’s snap shot from outside the box smacked into the crossbar and stayed out!
With all this pressure it was almost inevitable that something might happen at the other end of the park, and it did…but Davies’ break was brilliantly curtailed by Ellison who then turned defence into attack  in fine style. 

 
Ellison bursts clear.
This was excellent and I thought we had squared the circle nicely when it went from Ellison to Roberts and on to Odejayi who headed home. It was not to be though as the liners flag was up and….astonishingly….. it was still 0-0.
The County forwards , urged on and primed by the excellent Glenn Rule and Ryan Ellison who was to have another crucially good game, were showing great cohesion, and looking good in the process, thus the result was this provoked a series of  poor fouls from their opponents ,which apart from the free kicks….  a few lectures and just one booking from a poor referee, largely went un-punished. 

 
Odejayi & Hogan get to grips.

Odejayi was the latest to chew mud courtesy of Rovers none too fussy approach, and our frustration continued with the sight of Pilling dealing with Ellison’ s effort with a degree of comfort on the end of Joe Garvin’s free kick.


Thirty two minutes had now passed and I had counted 10 free kicks  to County thus far and Liam Hogan treated us to the eleventh with an awesomely bad foul on Marsden right under the referees nose. OK….we again got the free kick….but…NO BOOKING for common assault with obvious intent!?

 
Hogan wags finger- ref bottles it !
I was trying to think nice thoughts  and forget the mindless `tackles’ but just when I thought I might  with the pleasing sight of Marsden helping out at the back , I went AS again when Matt Hill unceremoniously dumped Odejayi on his face, as he threatened with his control and presence. The fact that Ellison’s strike from Garvin’s free kick missed out, only served to increase my angst.

Pilling beats Marsden to the ball....

It was hard to imagine that County were playing a side one division higher than them , and one in the mix for promotion….but they were …and they were outplaying them by a distance at this point. I just hoped that at some point we could convert this supremacy to the gold of goals! That was a fervent wish , but one lacking fulfilment at this juncture thanks in no small degree to Luke Pilling who gave us the best of many good saves from him next to keep yet another Garvin free kick out!

 
Top save from Pilling again !
County kept the pressure up until the break….efforts from Rule and Smalley the closest  to sorting something, but it was 0-0 as the teams went in for a chat and a warm!







When play resumed  Tranmere looked on to make more of a game of it and with Omotola and Davies getting forward  supplemented by the efforts of Sam Ilesamni, I began to wonder whether we might be in for a disappointment after all. I was reassured as Ilesamni’s shot climbed up and over the bar and kept on going.
Yes…..Tranmere  were definitely showing up to the party now . Marsden did get one chance from Morton’s run , 5 minutes in, but the first 7 minutes or so were offering hope to the small Tranmere contingent in the crowd ( they covered the game for their fans  by video link though ),that their team would confirm their National League superiority!
Hmm…..that thought lingered only briefly as , in the 52nd minute Pilling, under pressure from Marsden, forgot his lines and the County man took full advantage pilfering possession in impudent fashion before dispatching the pill into the net to the deep joy of County’s big travelling contingent.

Pressure on Tranmere.


At last we were in front, but it took Rovers just 8 minutes to turn this around.
Understandably having put himself about so well for an hour, Rule was replaced by Brandon Wilson just before the hour mark, and within a couple of minutes of this Rovers sneaked one through Ilesamni who slotted home from close in  to level the scores.
This was disappointing, but anyone who imagined that County would buckle as a result, were in for a rude awakening as they piled forward forcing Rovers back like so much straw in a howling gale. Morton was in overdrive now his surging runs urging his team mates on to bigger and better things. Likewise Ellison, who simply refused to see any loose ball as un-winnable. The result was a constant stream of shots on goal from the blues…..Morton went close with a shot on the turn…..Garvin not so close with his effort……Marsden was again thwarted by the combined efforts of Pilling and Hill as he strained to reach the latest mighty morsel from Morton. 
 
Askew foils Marsden...
The best of these came from the feet of Marsden again – a veritable rocket that fizzed like an Exocet in my direction inches wide!

 
Marsden on the charge....
Did I say that was the best….well it was up until that point, whereupon Morton entered stage right to ping a shot into the woodwork from a Roberts throw. It was a massive effort by County, but we have seen teams in this sort of situation dished many times by a breakaway goal….would that be our fate tonight?
Ellison did his best to not make it so only just being kept out by Hunter as he went for Garvin’s latest free kick deep in the Merseyside clubs half.
On it went….there was simply no end to the pressure from County and this brought with it a plethora of free kicks – Lucy’s push on Odejayi setting us up once more as Smalley sent the kick thudding into the crossbar. Mayhem ensued as the ball came back into play, and the ball smacked into a post as O’Hanlon’s header beat the keeper.   
 
Ooo...arr...O'Hanlon  !
Still the ball was in play, but when Smalley latched onto it again he found Pilling on his toes keeping it out with another potentially match saving save!



This was agonising stuff …..County were so close…..so unlucky…..and the Blue Army were giving them good support……surely a goal would come soon?
Again Ellison tried to make it so but his shot was charged down , and he quickly had to double back and do some crucial defensive work as Lucy broke up the park with most of County’s troupes still in the Rovers half- thankfully he did this well!
That was a brief moments respite for Rovers who were back under the cosh again quickly- another County free kick ,by Smalley, being brilliantly saved by Pilling, and Marsden’s follow up was blocked on the line by one of a number of yellow shirts.
County continued to press in what remained of the 90 odd minutes…..and Tranmere worked themselves an unlikely opening( wasted profligately by Omotola) so it was still 1-1 as the teams went off to prepare for extra time!

County re-groupe at 90 minutes....

Both teams rang the changes for extra time- Tranmere  swapping Galloway and Williams for Hogan and Hill whilst County brought Menagh on for Garvin, and Anorou for Smalley. This showed an admirably attacking intent from JG and the County fans were `giving it some’ as play resumed.
Within seconds Anoruo went close following good work by Marsden.
County did have a corner to defend 4 minutes in ,but they did this well and mainly it was the sight of Marsden and Menagh combining to good effect on the left that entertained us, but still the ball would not go in again!

 
Anoruo....mustard straight away !
That Marsden/Menagh link up was working well though, and it took a crucially good slider from Hulley to stop Menagh’s run…..and an even more crucial on the line clearance by Mackreth to keep Tranmere’s ship afloat from the resultant corner.
 
Tranmere feeling the pressure.


 
But there were Kind Hearted County fans on hand to offer Pilling some advice!

Bugger…..minutes on….and Odejayi was inches from glory with a long range lob as Pilling scrambled back to his line……and Marsden faired no better seeing his effort deflected around the post by Lucy.
County were piling forward now…queuing for a shot, and whilst Wilson was less than accurate with two efforts in this period…. Anoruo was a fag papers width away from applying a glorious finish to Ellison’s cross.

 
O'Hanlon unlucky again.
Into the second half of extra time we went with the thought of penalties looming large now, but Ellison was still trying to make this ending unnecessary only to see his back post header somehow kept out!
Briefly……Omotola put hearts in mouths with a break, on 109 minutes, but Ormson did enough to see him off, drawing applause from the County contingent! Ilesamni was some distance away after this with his shot, but with County striving to re-assert their control  WW3 threatened briefly thanks to the crudest of assaults by Askew on Wilson. After  discussing hostilities with his liner the referee at last booked someone- I was waiting for him to make it someone in blue, but he didn`t…. Askew was the recipient and rightly so!
The free kick again pushed Rovers back and Ellison missed a chance to win the game for County having a `feet in treacle moment’  faced with an open goal, but he had done great work before this setting things up and was clearly bursting a gut in County’s cause. He was by no means alone in so doing….it was the 114th minute and Marsden still had the skill and energy to skin Hulley and round on goal. Now…..surely this was our moment….but no….Marsden hit his shot perfectly , only for Pilling to produce another belter to keep it out!


 
Foiled again- the blur on the line is Pilling!
That was exciting and dispiriting in equal measure and more of the same followed as the keeper repeated the process when Menagh’s cross enabled Anoruo to get another goal bound shot off. I had lost count now of how many shots on target County had mustered, as I looked down anxiously at my watch that told me there were barely 2 minutes twixt us and the awful agony of penalties!
A rare free kick to Tranmere ushered in a briefly alarming late melee in front of Ormson’s goal, but the angst abated with the sight of Roberts heading clear.
Eventually County worked the ball up the park again, and with the Blue Army still in fine voice, the circle was finally squared and justice done, but it did not immediately seem as though it would be- it seemed like the mixture as before until Marsden's cross was headed back by Wilson to Obi Anoruo who made no mistake with a  typically excellent finish that brooked no argument- it was 2-1 and the Cup was ours!
Well….not quite …there were 2 minutes plus one of added time to sort , but County did this without problems – cue emotional scenes as the team celebrated claiming the magnificent Cheshire Senior Cup after a gap of 50 years since Harry Bunner’s lads did it last!



















The victory was a good one and well deserved and no less worthy for the last gasp nature of it!
Saturday at Edgeley Park will be some celebration….great stuff County!

Stockport County line up:

Ormson, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Smalley( Anoruo 91), Roberts, Ellison, Morton,  Rule( Wilson 58),Odejayi, Marsden, Garvin( Menagh 91).

Subs not used:

D Smith, Brodie.

Tranmere Rovers line up:

Pilling, Hulley, Hunter, Lucy, Hogan( Galloway 91), Hill( Williams 91), Mackreth, Askew, Omotola, Davies, Ilesamni.

Subs not used:

Ramsbottam, Medlen, Akpan.

Attendance 503

Ian Brown
                    

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