Stockport County 1 FC Halifax Town 1 ( Vanarama Natuional League-North) 16 August 2016








Those expecting County’s early season form to start shipping water by the shed load with the arrival of table topping FC Halifax Town in the Borough got a real shock last night as the blues battled their way to a splendid 1-1 draw in the face of significant pressure from the best drilled side to meet us so far this term.
Denton about to....( by Andrew Machin)

Halifax were top of the pile….knew it…and went about proving it to us unbelievers. Chief prover was the excellent Tom Denton who was quite simply immense …leading the line with an uncanny mix of headers and deft lay offs. He of course snatched one…one we definitely might ….no should have prevented, but only one, and a first half in which we might have leaked more, saw us in at the break just one down.

County were out early for the second half, no doubt with James’ words still ringing in their ears, and there was a big transformation. For starters Spencer was on for the largely anonymous Thomas  ,but there was also an altogether better approach abroad as well, and whereas the first half had seen us second to a lot…..the re-start had us up for a challenge and winning at least as many 50/50`s as we were losing!
Duxbury defends well....

Duxbury had a great game and scored the equaliser, applying a brilliant finish to a Mark Ross free kick with his head, and I thought that Montrose put in a shift, but great praise goes to the County back line that, with Denton aspiring to further feats, defended well, particularly after the break when the Yorkshire side did their level best to dish us on the counter.

Montrose- high energy !

It was not to be, and the final blast of the referee’s whistle was the signal for  thunderous applause from the County faithful who cheered their team to the core ,well aware that  County had come within a whisker of an unthinkable win. Rumour has it that we are now in second place in the National League- North, not bad at all after the  tasty clutch of challenges which have constituted this season’s opening phase!

Back to kick off time, and the surprises started early as there were actually some away fans in the place, and quite a few of them had made the short hop down the M62 and looked in lively form.
 
2 Views of Halifax fans ( hedgie top/ Andrew Machin below)
For County there was just one change in the starting line up Adam Thomas coming in for Danny Lloyd who was on the bench. Injury meant that Odejayi was replaced by Glenn Rule on the bench for what was, by any yardstick going to be an almighty challenge for James’ team to face.

Adam Thomas- a rare start.

County looked slow early on, and twice Clarke conceded throws when not under too great a pressure. Richard Peniket looked to take advantage in this opening period and did well to get a cross in, only for his efforts to be wasted when Scott Garner’s header flew up and over the bar.
A run from Minihan apart, much of the first 8 or 9 minutes were Halifax’s and already Tom Denton loomed ominously large on County’s horizon- he had already laid off a couple of headers of varying deftness.
Ten minutes in and Thomas got a chance to stretch his legs , and his run and cross were pretty promising, but whilst the Halifax back line looked momentarily disturbed that was as far as it went and the danger was eventually cleared.
There were some hefty lads wearing the gaudy orange of the Yorkshire side, it must be said, and it was not great to see Jake Hibbs go for afters on Meppen-Walter  next, earning himself some verbals from David McNamara, the referee.
Within  a minute however…Clarke returned the compliment, but in an altogether more dangerous position ,his foul on Peniket setting Town up with a free kick in a central position not far outside the box. Fortunately Kevin Roberts’ kick was as poor, as all his subsequent one’s would also be,and we survived, but that was not great football from us.

Denton dwarfs Meppen -Walter.

Halifax were enjoying a fair bit of possession and their play was neat and tight and not unimpressive at times, but their set pieces let them down and along with the free kicks , they wasted a fair few throws  which threatened to put the skids under County.
Twice after this Amis did his best to ruffle the Yorkshire feathers without success .A third try from the young number nine looked on to do better, his pass sending Minihan clear, but the full back’s cross flew out and any notional chance flew with it.
That said…a couple of minutes later and a neat combo twixt Minihan and Thomas put Halifax all a dither- just  managing to keep the Thomas probe out along with the follow up from Duxbury who was getting forward to good effect.

Thomas run caught by Andrew Machin.

I liked that….but not what followed as a lightening raid from the visitors almost caught us out- Jordan Sinnott’s outstretched leg inches away from a diagonal ball across the box!
The half way point of the first half arrived with a clear cut chance for County, via a nice link up between Stopforth and Marsden. 
Stopforth & Marsden ( Andrew Machin)

Things looked really promising….and better as Stopforth found Amis, at the back of the box, with an immaculate ball. It was belter…………Amis’s header was not, and with the goal gaping, the ball brushed the top of the crossbar instead of the back of the net! Chance gone…would we rue that?
Amis missed out !

Back came Halifax and Hinchliffe did well to deny Sinnott with Denton on the charge in the box.

That save u/p from Denton ( Andrew Machin )

County kept conceding free kicks in dangerous areas, and Montrose was the culprit this time, 26 minutes in, his blushes spared by the County wall and another poorish kick from Roberts.
County defend ( Andrew Machin )

Halifax  were then gifted a ridiculous  corner next, when Minihan had clearly duped Peniket into conceding a goal kick, and it was a massive relief to see Hinchliffe earn his corn with a firm punch out under pressure.

The pressure continued however from Halifax, but Hinchliffe continued to do well in the face of it…again in action keeping Denton’s header out following some lively work from Hibbs in and around the County box.
County u/p....

It went on, with Halifax clearly seeking an opening goal, and the pressure mounting. In response ….County were doing OK….but failing to clear their lines quickly enough. The result was….more pressure, and County were in full siesta mode next as MacDonald was allowed to sneak to the by-line before pinging a ball across the box. One….two…defenders might have got something on it….cleared it…..but they didn’t and Denton’s almost involuntary stab of the foot at the back post saw the ball almost apologetically slink over the line off a post!
The 12 minutes or so remaining of the half were largely spent in County territory, with the blues under the cosh and looking ever more likely to concede again.
More pressure.....

Thankfully Hinchliffe was still on his toes and did enough to see off a shot from Hibbs, which was probably the best of the efforts from the visitors.
A clutch of further free kicks ( not all of them legitimate) came and went without Halifax ever improving  their efficiency in that area. In the end the teams went in with the score still 1-0 to Halifax, and County had done well not to go in more in arrears!       
The re-start saw Spencer on for Thomas, and County were out well early no doubt still pondering JG’s half time words!
45 minutes for Spencer .....

It was heartening to see Spencer open by hustling Nathan Hotte into conceding  a throw. When Amis was hauled down inside the box , from the throw, this appeared to have declared County a welcome dividend until it became apparent that the referee was not giving County what they craved!
Amis and company !

Not deterred….Amis then proceeded to tear into the Town back line, making it into the box where his effort was kept out at the cost of a corner. Rare excitement followed as the kick came over and Meppen-Walter met it on the volley , leathering the ball first time inches over the bar!

Just  5 minutes into the half and Denton was already back in his groove…his deft headers already a potent weapon, supplemented by some first time passes that just rang out  ` Class Act’ loud and clear- County would do well to keep him quiet in what remained of the game!

County press....

Stopforth and Minihan replied for County, followed by a run from Spencer that won us a free kick that saw Montrose disappointed to see a shot come whizzing back out off a line of defenders.

Yes….there was something more substantial about County’s work this half that had been missing before the break, as Ross and Minihan earned applause with some cool work at the back in the face of the constant threat from Denton and others. County had just weathered another Denton inspired storm when they were awarded a free kick just beyond half way. Ross did well to ignore the attempts at time wasting from Town and the accompanied protests, and his kick was a neat one too, picking out Duxbury as he arrived in the box. The young full back had lots to do, with MacDonald at his shoulder, and he did it well …his header soaring into the net to the accompaniment of loud cheering from the majority of the 3000 + crowd.

To come back so well, was really pleasing, and the EP crowd was enlivened by it, but less so by the theatrical dive ( by no means the first or last of the game)from Moyo. 
RADA graduates benefit performance..

The referee bought into the theatricality and obliged Halifax with a free kick. This was a real chance and it was a big relief to see Denton send a poor header wide with the goal at his mercy.
Have I mentioned Denton’s defending yet? Having seen him at Ferriby heading dangerous balls clear, it was no surprise to see him now back deep into his team’s last third heading clear with Amis threatening. Meppen-Walter joined in with a meaty offering….but again Denton was on hand to usher the pill clear of danger!

Denton back defending !

You will not be surprised…….I was impressed, but not at all by the next move from Town that saw Hotte clatter Spencer as he looked on to cause them issues. We needed a repeat of the Ross magic with the free kick, but we did not get it and it stayed 1-1.
2-1 did look on the cards though shortly after as Duxbury did all the hard stuff…charging through at speed…beating a clutch of defenders, but then sliced his shot wide when well set. No matter County were now giving as good as they took from Town, and looked capable of taking more out of this game than maybe we had thought likely.
County have defending to do.

Denton did his best to confound my thoughts with a lovely bit of work sending Roberts clear on the counter. He should have done better, but instead dragged his shot wide.
At the other end Montrose was unlucky with a shot that drifted just wide with the keeper desperately trying to reach it, and went close again not long after with a mazy dribble that had the Town defence at sixes and sevens!

It was a terrific game now and either side looked capable of winning it…certainly Denton was well up for seeing it was Town who triumphed, but County defended his next move well to keep the home specs happy.

Some tension crept in next as Denton threaded a peach of a ball to Sinnott who blasted a shot that was going in until Hinchliffe ‘s dive saw him reach it and push it wide. It was a parry, if a good one….but MacDonald was running in at speed to force it home beyond the left hand post. So …..the chips were down ….but Hinchliffe was up to the moment his brave reactions winning him the ball as Mac Donald thundered into him! 
Great stuff….inspiring stuff…could we get another goal, on the back of it?

LLoyd on for Marsden.

The last 15 minutes saw Lloyd replace Marsden , as County continued to press…Spencer going close from Meppen-Walter’s free kick.
Meppen Walter( library pic)

County had to be wary though of being hit on the counter and Ross did particularly well to stop the rot after the deftest of chested lay offs by Denton had turned defence into attack for Town.

This really was a great battle now….Denton firing on all cylinders still forcing another save from Hinchliffe with a header, and inches away with a thunderous drive after Hibbs and MacDonald had worked the opening for him.

Both sides plugged away….Spencer lively for County….Denton just Denton for Town. Free kicks came and went for both teams neither taking the chances provided by same.
Duxbury took a knock and was replaced late on by Carney, necessitating a switch to left back for Minihan, as County kept on trying to win a game that might so easily have been lost.
Lloyd free kick on the way

The defensive work from County was exemplary now, and County’s attacking play merited a word or two as well, Amis putting some good work in with no reward as we went into added time.

Pushed onto the back foot, deep into added time, County fashioned a decent break via Stopforth who sent Lloyd scurrying clear at pace. No sooner the break by Lloyd than he was hacked down by Moyo, who was distinctly lucky to remain on the park!  Lloyd drilled the eventual free kick into the box, and the momentum looked to be building nicely when Amis won a corner, only for it to be dissipated by the referee’s insistence that it was a goal kick.

Halifax were on the rack in the dying minutes….Roberts finding Hardcastle Road in extremis at one point….Denton again heading clear at another. Add another shot from Montrose that was charged down by one of a line of defenders and that was the game put to bed!

Cue prolonged applause from the EP faithful, in acknowledgement of a terrific second half come back.

County can be justly pleased with that result which gives us something to build on ahead of Brackley’s visit on Saturday.

Great stuff….see you on Saturday!

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Minihan,Clarke, Ross, Duxbury( Carney 83), Meppen-Walter, Stopforth, Montrose, Amis, Marsden( Lloyd 74), Thomas( Spencer 45).

Subs not used:

Ormson, Rule.

FC Halifax line up:

Drench, Moyo, Wilde( Hughes 91), Roberts, Hibbs, Garner, MacDonald, Hotte, Denton, Sinnott, Peniket( Barrows 72).

Subs not used:

Nicholson, Kosylo, Burrow.

Attendance: 3086

Ian Brown        

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