Stockport County 2 Brackley Town 4 ( Vanarama National League- North) 19 August 2016
In weather you would not even dream of sending your worst enemy out in, today County treated us to a display that you would gladly let your nemesis watch. They were well beaten by a Brackley side that looked pretty comfy in their own skin from first whistle to last.
The game…or County’s contribution to it….was about the worst I have seen in these parts for a season or two. Brackley meanwhile kept their heads…played to feet…..and romped into the lead with 2 goals in 2 minutes mid way through the first half.
Thereafter…notwithstanding a terrific goal by Danny Lloyd, who was restored to the starting line up, Brackley never looked in any danger of relinquishing their hegemony. Within another 8 minutes they were 3-1 up, and the only surprise after that was that it took them until the 79th minute to add the fourth. Adam Thomas managed to reduce the arrears with 2 minutes of normal time left, but the game was over long before that, and despite trying late on…County could not halt the Brackley juggernaut that took all the available points.
|Thomas a rare start following injury.|
There was no Thomas or Duxbury in County’s starting line up come 3 o’clock, their places being taken by Danny Lloyd and Scott Spencer. I was puzzled as to what formation the changes would produce, and it was soon clear that there would be 3 at the back for County…Ross, Clarke and Meppen-Walter, with Lloyd and Minihan providing width( Minihan also making that 3 a 4 when needs must!).
I was still puzzling as the game opened with Clarke ushering Matt Lowe, and the ball, out of harms way.
Minihan was first to venture forth into enemy territory, and whilst his speed looked on to declare a dividend, his cross could only enable Amis to place his header over the bar into the empty Railway End.
The third minute saw Marsden in behind the visitors back line – his shot flashed wide of keeper Laurie Walker’s far post, but I was quite bucked up by that…..quite hopeful!
Lloyd changed the mood a touch not long after though, as the referee adjudged him to have fouled Steve Diggin.
|Yellow for Lloydy( Caught by Andrew Machin) !|
Danny received a somewhat surprising yellow card for that, but more to the point, County had a free kick to defend…then a couple of corners after an untidy melee ensued in front of the blue goal.
County defended these set pieces well enough, but there was no sign of anything materialising from their good defensive work in the way of attacking ideas. Just a decent clearance would do…and even these were at a premium it seemed- Diggin going close as a result.
That said…Montrose did go on one of his languid runs from box to box. Contact with a defender saw County’s number eight go to ground, but no penalty followed and even I accepted that that was as it should be.
There was a certain precision missing from the County passing…..an element that was apparently present in quantity as far as Town’s work was concerned. I was particularly impressed with Glenn Walker, nominally a full back, but seemingly willing and able to get forward and do the biz.
|Stopforth faces Glenn Walker.|
He was active early on and Ross did well to ensure that James Armson’s shot did not overly trouble Hinchliffe, after Walker had done the spade work.
Brackley kept the pressure up…..and it was Walker again to the fore, firing his shot over the bar with Stopforth on his case.
We were more than 15 minutes into proceedings now, and I was beginning to get a bit concerned by all the calm/ neat play coming from the visitors .The County response was not totally convincing, as I say….they were defending OK…and Ross did so again doing just enough to ensure that Hinchliffe could sort the eventual shot from Lee Ndlovu on the end of a run, but where was the beef after that…the joined up passing in midfield allied to coherent movement up front?
|Andrew Machin sees County under pressure.|
We were half way through the first half and County had just conceded their umpteenth free kick in tasty position( a Marsden foul on Lowe caused this). This prompted Glenn Walker to add his two penny worth ,and it was good stuff too, and Clarke did well to stop anyone latching onto the cross in the box, but thereafter no one in blue took ownership of the situation …or just plain and simply looked to locate the pie shop on Castle Street!
|Clarke keeps Ndlovu from the ball......|
The result was …eventually a loose ball fell invitingly for Lee Ndlovu, who stroked the coolest of side footed shots home beyond Hinchliffe’s dive.
|0-1 courtesy Ndlovu ( and Andrew Machin )|
It was 0-1 to Brackley, and that was not great from a County point of view. That said however….it was by no means a massive surprise if I am remotely honest. What was a surprise was the speed with which Brackley were able to add a second goal!
Barely 60 seconds had elapsed when the deed was done!
Glenn Walker was at the heart of it forcing Clarke to concede a corner when far worse was on the cards. The kick from Armson was a belter, and picked out Dean at the back of the box with precision. Where was the challenge from the County defence? Answer….there wasn’t one, thus Dean was able to head home totally unmolested in front of a stunned Cheadle End.
A sense of unreality set in for a time after this, with the thought of another up hill battle ahead in what remained of the game.
But…what was this?.........well………. Lloyd had received a short pass on half way and set off for the Railway End as fast as his legs could carry him.
He had company of course, in the shape of a defender, and a long way to run, but run he did and no amount of company made any difference as he waited until heading just inside the box before smashing a neat….neat finish into the net past Laurie Walker.
Now that was what we had come to see….some real determination….the mood lifted….slightly..... as a result.
Not for long however, as Brackley immediately hit back , as a break by Lowe saw him slip the ball along the ground to Diggin, who did not dwell on it but instead slid the neatest of balls inside to where Ndlovu did the rest….it was 3-1 to the visitors!
Both teams plugged away after this…Lloyd going close with a free kick for County, and Clarke doing well to deflect a shot from Armson , after Adam Walker’s run had set things up.
Things bucked up a tad from County with half time but 5 minutes off, but Amis really should have done better with the material that Lloyd’s latest run provided him with. Marsden had a chance via a free kick, but hit the wall with it, and Montrose had a shot saved by the keeper, fed by Lloyd.
|Marsden free kick.|
This was slightly better from County but still they failed to capitalise on free kicks and particularly throws that littered the final minutes of the half with Town defending.
Laurie Walker did have to hurry with one bit of work very late on in the half but the teams went in with it still 3-1 to Brackley, and I was not alone ,I guess. In welcoming the 15 minute break!
|8 I count, but it may be 9 , but its quality not quantity that counts!|
With Smalley on for Amis for County and Brackley’s Ndlovu replaced by Mark Noon ( who was to do well) the game re-started.
It was plain that JG had shuffled the pack and that Meppen-Walter was now being deployed in an attacking role through the middle.
|Meppen-Walter in attacking mode.|
Glenn Walker saw a shot climb over the bar 5 minutes in……and County thought they had grabbed a second a couple of minutes later, but the liner’s flag was up long before the shot went in, so it stayed 3-1.
|Offside `goal' ( Andrew Machin ).|
Maybe Marsden’s fuse was lit by that last action, as a shot from him whistled inches too high from an immaculate pass by Meppen-Walter.
It was tit for tat now as Brackley replied via a tasty cooperation twixt Glenn Walker and substitute Mark Noon. An almighty scramble ensued as one…..two corners pinned County back on their heels, but they did not concede another goal…so…there was still hope!
|Close call for County ( Andrew Machin )|
I had not seen very much from Spencer in the match, but his pass next almost saw County snatch one back. Lloyd took the pass well, and his shot was a corker too, but his luck was out and the ball fizzed its way narrowly wide.
|Lloyds run ( Andrew Machin)|
To their credit County were trying to get back into the game albeit not that successfully.
Lloyd got to the by-line……..
........Montrose saw a shot drift wide, and Ross and Stopforth did good work pushing Town back at times, but it was still Brackley who looked to have the method….the plan!
With Thomas now on for Spencer ,County set about salvaging something from the game, and Thomas ‘s run won us a corner, then another came County’s way as Marsden’s shot was deflected wide by Shane Byrne.
As before County did not take advantage of this situation and Glenn Walker( now in defensive mode)was able to make the clearance.
This set a counter attack in motion and a fourth Town goal, or so for a moment or so I thought. Adam Walker did well to ping his cross nicely into Armson’s path as he bore down on goal just inside the box. Again not very much in the way of a challenge came his way from County, so surely he must score. Indeed…`4-1’ I said to myself as the forward took aim, but I was wrong as the hurried effort failed to hit the target thus giving the blues a notional life line!
Minutes later and my pessimism came to the fore again as once more Armson had the goal at his mercy. This time his shot was true and it needed the bravest of blocks by Clarke to keep it out!
|George West in the mix ....|
George West came on for Meppen-Walter with just less than 15 minutes left, but County were busy defending as the young West took up his position and Hinchliffe pulled off a terrific save to stop Noon scoring after a neat link up with Adam Walker
The corner was a relief…but this did not last long as from it Alex Gudger( home alone beyond the back post) headed home with all the time in the world.
It was `game over’ really at 1-4, but County kept at it…Smalley volleying over when well placed from a Lloyd pass.
|The Smalley Volley.|
As I say though, credit to County for battling on and some reward came their way with 2 minutes left of normal time. A Thomas run had just won County a corner, which the Town Keeper could not hold. Thomas was close by and made no mistake in forcing the ball home past the beaten keeper.
|Thomas about to score ( Andrew Machin )|
The Brackley goal came under some pressure in the dying embers of the game , but Laurie Walker stood up to it well, keeping his cool admirably, his team running out deserved 4-2 winners in the end.
|Stopforth in the box !|
Not great, but by no means the end of the world, and I am sure JG will sort matters .
Next stop AFC Telford away….see you there!
Before that though……… a view of Row R to my right as I departed.
Help the Hatters volunteers will be expected to pick this up, and there were plenty of almost empty litter bags in the Cheadle End!
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Ross, Clarke, Meppen-Walter( West 76), Lloyd, Montrose, Stopforth, Amis( Smalley 45) , Spencer( Thomas 68), Marsden.
Subs not used:
Brackley Town line up;
L Walker, Myles, Gudger, Byrne( Jeacock 88), Lowe, Dean, G Walker, Armson, Ndlovu( Noon 45), Diggin( Diaz 83) ,A. Walker.
Subs not used:
Attendance : 2529