Stockport County 4 Alfreton Town 3 ( Vanarama National League- North) 6 August 2016
After 7 days or so of sports coverage from around the globe that has at times been more about chemicals than actual sport, it was great to get to Edgeley Park and see something you could believe in, in the shape of James Gannon’s Stockport County team.
|James Gannon.(by Andrew Machin)|
They had a tough task on their hands today in the shape of visitors Alfreton Town, who had not been beaten away from their place since December last year, but for whole swathes of this game, particularly before the break, there was largely only one side in it- County.
County cruised into a 2 goal lead with goals from Danny Lloyd, who was a constant threat to the visitors, and John Marsden.
|Danny Lloyd- a constant threat !|
With County well in control it was a massive surprise when Town snatched one back via an effort that looked at least 10 yards offside. I hardly had time after that to lapse into one as County scored a third via Kayode Odejayi almost immediately.
That should have been that ….but it wasn’t, and when the visitors pegged it back to 3-3 we looked on for the kind of shock best avoided.
To say that Town were physical in their approach is rather like describing Donald Trump as a bit rude, and they paid for this late on when adding time wasting to their repertoire. Off for an early bath went Tom Allan as a result of a bit of empty headed buffoonery with just over 5 minutes left to play, which left County to grab the latest of winners via an immaculate finish from substitute Gary Stopforth.
County had finally won a match that had looked comfortably sewn up much earlier.
The sun was blazing above Edgeley Park as the game got underway with a blast of Referee Simeon Lucas’ whistle.
It was the signal for County to pile forward on the attack, with Lloyd a severe nuisance to Nicky Law’s team with his nippy runs, egged on by Marsden and Duxbury. Down the other flank it was a similar story as Minihan and Ross combined to make life distinctly uncomfortable for the visitors.
The first 4 minutes were all County, and the Alfreton reply, a minute later, saw Dan Bradley lift a poor effort high into the Cheadle End.
Another minute……and we were one up and it was an archetypal route one effort as well….started by a long punt from Hinchliffe and put away by Danny Lloyd who was tearing into the Town back line like a croc on a wildebeast.
It was 1-0…Lloyd having tucked the half chance away brilliantly, and he was back again in no time at all giving Doyle, and the auxiliary help he had with him 100% of the time, apoplexy with a run that took him almost within sniffing distance of Fabien Spiess’s goal. The ball inside, from Lloyd, was good, but, try as they might, Meppen-Walter and others could not get a shot off.
|Meppen-Walter worked hard.|
No matter…..back came Lloyd at the double, and Niall Heaton did wonders to keep his shot out on the line!
This was high octane…fever pitch stuff and no mistake, the excitement heightening when Minihan picked out Duxbury with the slickest of cross field balls, after good work by Meppen-Walter had won possession. It looked like another decent opening, but Town were back in numbers and the move fizzled out.
|Meppen-Walter & Montrose battle for it.|
On…on….it went with County continuing the assault on Alfreton’s goal, as the neatest of flick on’s from Odejayi sent Minihan darting clear. Keeper Spiess was clearly compromised when Minihan’s final ball headed inside to where Marsden lurked, but somehow Brad McGowen managed to save the day for his team and prevent the County forward from getting to the ball.
County were camped in Alfreton’s last third now , and with 15 minutes gone all the possession and pressure paid off, and the crowd were ecstatic as Duxbury’s throw reached Odejayi , whereupon another deft flick on teed Marsden up for the second goal that he slammed home with alacrity.
|Marsden's goal !|
County continued to dominate proceedings and it was 20 minutes in before Alfreton managed a response, a header from Allan that Hinchliffe dealt with easily.
|Two views/ one catch - hedgie above/ Andrew Machin below.|
Momentarily …after this….Craig Westcarr looked to be in with a chance as he made his way into the County box. He might have shot….he didn’t…..he could have gone down looking for a foul…..he didn’t, and Clarke and Ross did exceptionally well to not give him the opportunity of either!
Mainly though it was still County in charge with Marsden, Minihan, Ross and the live wire Lloyd taking turns to probe and tantalise their opponents.
|Again 2 views...hedgie above/ Andrew Machin below,.|
That said….the 26th minute saw the Alfreton corpse twitch, via Paul Clayton, whose break was only cut short by the quick responses of Michael Clarke. A corner followed and a thunderous shot from Bradley that looked to be going in. It did not solely because Hinchliffe treated us to a blinding save right out of the top draw- a real match winner as it turned out!
|Great save by Hinchliffe.|
That was not at all typical of play….it was a bit of a shock…but not typical, and play reverted to type straight off after . As I said earlier Lloyd had 2 on him, both of whom were having great difficulty coping, except by somewhat dubious means, and 28 minutes in Lloyd’s latest run was ended with him on the deck. The referee waved Danny’s appeals away disappointingly!
|Andrew Machin catches that`no pen' moment !|
We were about 7 or 8 minutes from the break now and the contest had been somewhat one sided but not a bad spectacle, except for the propensity of the Alfreton team to lapse into the overly physical. It wasn’t so much the full blooded crude tackle as the sly lean or tug of the shirt that had a tendancy to send the BP soaring. In response we needed to be sure to punish the offenders whenever possible, but following the latest foul on Odejayi, the subsequent free kick was wasted despite a pre-kick conference twixt Marsden and Lloyd.
The response from Town was immediate but not that impressive and the best that Clayton could do was to hurl himself to earth in the box and hope. The referee waved this appeal away too, and the forward was perhaps fortunate not to be carded for the wobbler that followed.
Back came County ,looking to snuff out any fight back, real or imagined, and Spiess made a good save to deny Marsden. The ball stayed in play however and County’s luck was out again when Montrose saw his follow up shot deflected onto a post by an unsighted defender.
|Spiess spoils County raid.|
With Duxbury and Minihan getting forward at will the pressure mounted on Alfreton as half time neared. Lloyd and Marsden continued to offer no respite to the Town back line who just kept on racking up the free kicks and bookings in reply.
It was getting boring though….the sight of Marsden picking himself up off the deck having been put there dubiously. We had just had another free kick for the latest Town indiscretion, and not done much at all with it, when County lost possession allowing their opponents to clear their lines. County were caught out for sure….but…that said….there was more than a hint of offside when the ball was played beyond the County back line to the back post where Clayton forced it home from close in.
That was dispiriting and annoying in almost equal measure, and there was barely no time at all left of the first half in which to dwell on it. Err…except there was time enough for County to hit their opponents on the counter through Lloyd whose cross saw Odejayi head home off the under side of the bar.
|Odejayi makes it 3-1|
Wow…..what a finish to the half…and it was the finish as the referee blew for the break pretty much straight off.
|Cheadle End View|
The interval was enlivened by the presence of top line band Blossoms who did the half time draw, and presented a cheque to Stockport homeless charity The Wellspring.
|Top Band Blossoms !|
It was great to see the boys who are such a magnificent advert for the town!
The re-start saw Alfreton replace Doyle ( nerves shredded/ confidence annihilated) by switching Heaton to right back , with Todd Jordan taking up the number 3 role.
County looked about to repeat their first half display early on, and for Alfreton’s part …they were going to carry on as before evidence Minihan who was sent sprawling unceremoniously just 2 minutes past the break . This earned Allan a booking, but the free kick saw Jordan combine with keeper Spiess to keep Marsden out, so he may have thought ( at that point) he had done well by his team!
Suddenly though….things began to get a touch worrying, and Allan underlined my disquiet with a cross that fizzed its way across the box inviting that scoring touch that never quite came!
|County under pressure.|
I have not mentioned the long throws yet have I? Well we had one to defend next and it was a belter that Allan met sweetly on the volley to beat Hinchliffe all ends up!
Bugger….it was 3-2, and from looking no hopers Alfreton were now looking very likely lads indeed and it was no great surprise when ,just before the hour, they levelled things , and it was another sweet strike leathered home from 25…30 yards by Bradley after a brief cooperation with Cecil Nyoni, with County midfield standing off.
3-3 was now distinctly worrying, and it signalled movement from the County bench where James brought Stopforth on for Lloyd.
Both teams clearly must have thought they still had chances of winning the game, but faced with a series of free kicks neither could take advantage of the opportunities available.
|One example of free kick blight !|
The last 20 minutes saw Amis on for Odejayi , who received a decent ovation from the home crowd. County’s rhythm was not what it was in the first half, and the change was worth a try, with Alfreton beginning to buzz a bit.
|Amis battles on.....|
The Alfreton free kicks may not have been any better than ours, but their long throws were a definite threat and time after time County found themselves pushed back defending one, and Hinchliffe did particularly well to scramble back and keep it at 3-3 with around 15 minutes left with the latest cloud scraper heading goal ward.
|Hinchliffe on his toes.|
With 12 minutes left Spencer came on for Minihan….Alfreton countered with Garnett on for Westcarr, as we prepared for a roller coaster finish to proceedings.
County were beginning now to ratchet up their effort again , and Clarke was unlucky to see his shot fly inches wide from a Meppen-Walter knock down, after Duxbury had picked the ex City man out with a late free kick.
|Duxbury on the ball.|
County continued to press…..Alfreton didn’t……and they did worse than that…they opted to waste time most particularly Allan who….having been booked earlier…..should have known better…he didn’t….or just did not care….deciding to grab the ball like a peevish child and run away with it with County about to take a set piece. The response from the referee was inevitable and the second yellow that followed despatched the crestfallen defender to the dressing room.
There were only about 5 minutes left, so maybe Alfreton could survive OK with 10 men…..and County do have a reputation of not being particularly successful against teams reduced in numbers!
No matter…it was `roll up our sleeves time’ now and Duxbury tested the keeper with a strike….Amis looked to do likewise not long after being denied by the slyest of fouls by Jordan that went unpunished.
It was one- way traffic again and it was all heading our way in Row R. Jordan found touch with Spencer in full flight, and from the resultant throw, I thought we had snatched the winner until Stopforth’s shot came back out off one of a line of defenders.
It went on….a Ross cross seeing another Duxbury shot ping into Spencer rather than the back of the net. That was unlucky!
|Spencer- worth a run out !|
Almost smack on the 90 minute mark Alfreton rallied and Hinchliffe was under the cosh for a time as corners pinged in at him with every chance of one of them spoiling County’s day completely. They didn’t, and that was down to good defending, but I looked on in a rage to see Marsden upended on the break by Nyoni ,after Duxbury had broke clear from deep with the ball.
The free kick from Duxbury that followed was blocked by the Town back line, but after Meppen-Walter had seen a shot charged down, County had themselves another free kick thanks to a Bradley foul on Duxbury.
|Late County free kick.|
Somehow Alfreton kept the kick out despite the best efforts of Meppen-Walter and Marsden .The chance looked gone…and then the ball carried to Stopforth, who stylishly stroked the ball home through the crowded box.
|Winner seen by Andrew Machin.|
Cue…..giant celebrations…it was 4-3 and the game had been won by the classiest of goals!
|And Andrew Machin catches the celebration as well !|
How good was that?
Very…very good…I say….and the referee soon blew for time confirming that the points were all ours!
That was a good win…..not a perfect display be any means, but 3 points against such a set of proficient professional curmudgeons as Alfreton will do me, and no doubt James will work on ironing out a wrinkle or two twixt now and Tuesday’s muck and nettles encounter with Stalybridge Celtic.
See you there then!
Stockport County line up;
Hinchliffe, Ross, Duxbury, Meppen-Walter, Clarke, Smalley, Minihan( Spencer 78), Montrose, Odejayi( Amis 70), Marsden, Lloyd( Stopforth 59).
Subs not used:
Alfreton Town line up:
Spiess, Doyle( Jordan 45), Heaton, Allan, McGowan, Nyoni, Wilson( Kennedy 87), Westcarr( Garnett 81), Clayton, Bradley, Monkhouse.
Subs not used: