Altrincham 2 Stockport County 3( Vanarama National League-North) 3 September 2016

Part County Contingent (Andrew Machin)

The fact that it was revealed this week that wrinkly octogenarian film funster Woody Allen’s latest screen offering depicts the relationship twixt a glamorous young woman and a much older man, is perhaps not the most surprising news item you will have heard in last 10 days or so.

What was a surprise though, in the same period, was the news that County’s game with Altrincham( today’s game) was to be …..I nearly said all ticket…..but that’s not strictly true…..only the away portion of the ground would have to buy a ticket in advance to gain entrance to the ground on match day-  home specs  could just stroll up and pay on the gate! Now….quite apart from the absurdity, in Division 6, of making it a (partial) all ticket affair, when the stadium has a capacity of over 6000 and the host clubs average gate is below 1100….and the fairness angle….I am guessing a rule or two would have been side stepped along the way also, and this fact maybe decided a change of plan, rather than the disingenuous line put out 24 hours before the game by the hosts explaining how …..low and behold…..there was going to be a cash turnstile at the away end!

Having put Stockport County, and their supporters, through this ridiculously unnecessary hoop jumping exercise, it was clear to me that the  `explanation’ hardly fitted the bill. The waters were only muddied further when  Alty introduced an even more surreal element by advising County supporters that no drums or musical instruments could be taken into the ground, and if they were they would be confiscated!  This was the kind of stuff that North Korea are regularly pilloried for, and it was not great tactics when looking for a trouble free occasion.
In response I was  looking forward to County supporters taking up the suggestion by fuzzbox, made in a thread on Marionsboard, to the effect that  they should all turn up with a couple of spoons! A fitting comic response in my view to a decidedly un-funny cack handed welcome extended in our direction- but would either Alty or the constabulary get the joke?

This rain sodden selfie shows I did try with my spoons!

We only needed it to rain and sure enough it did….torrents of it…. to fill our cup of angst to the brim ahead of kick off.
Teams by Andrew Machin.

The game that followed, whilst providing salve to our issues, turned out to be something of a curates egg- County definitely good in parts….decidedly not at others! 

What County did have was resolve, energy( most of the time),and the necessary stamina to keep playing at a decent tempo late in the game. Despite looking the better of the two teams, early on, they managed to concede a poor goal, going  behind thanks to a speculative effort by James Lawrie, that must have surprised him as much as us when it sneaked in past Hinchliffe’s otherwise watchful gaze. 
Rrae action for Hinchliffe ( Andrew Machin)

Things seemed to have been put to rights when Clarke headed home from within a ruck of players, only for County to lapse into doze mode again and go behind once more via a close range effort from Miller. One down at half time, for 20 minutes after the break County looked out of sorts and certainly out of luck, but once again JG’s substitutions made the difference. Amis had come on at the re-start and he was followed not long after by Spencer who  thumped home a goal of the season contender to square things, setting things up for a grandstand finish that saw the blues win it with a powerful back post header from Smalley.
Spencer impressed ( Andrew Machin)

 That was no more than County deserved and the County supporters went home happy, with 3 more points in the bag. There are still areas for Jim to look at before we can be at all totally confident about matters! The defence is susceptible to lapses in concentration, that in this match led to conceding poor goals, and Montrose could do with assistance in midfield where he ploughed a lone furrow at times today.
Montrose ready for the off....

 I expect Rule to provide this ultimately, and it was good to see him again getting game time, and again looking the part. But…..we had a couple of mini pitch invasions and, maybe more seriously another smoke bomb/flare thrown onto the pitch. Acts of selfishness in my view, and since the referee definitely made a note of the flare- the Club will be sanctioned! Not good that and greatly disappointing particularly because the bulk of the County following behaved brilliantly throughout!

Back to 3 o’clock and the County faithful were in good voice as the teams took turns probing the other. The first 10 minutes saw honours even as the largely unspectacular action played out to the accompaniment of incessant rain.

Sam Minihan caught by Andrew Machin.

 Minihan looked on form for County, whilst Odejayi was unlucky ( twice) to be flagged offside, but overall there was not that much to write home about, except perhaps the crudest of challenges on Marsden by  Goodall that sadly went unpunished by Referee Simon Mather.

Odejayi & Marsden work hard....

I was just settling down to battle of attrition , followed hopefully by a County blitz on the Alty goal, when my complacent thoughts were interrupted by the sight of James Lawrie ambling through what passed for cover in the County midfield to get a glimpse of goal. He was way out and had no expectation of his shot going in, I am convinced, but it did ….Hinchliffe’s dive not enough to keep this none too lethal drive out!
That was simply awful, and more of the same looked on the cards within a minute when Smalley spilled possession forcing Meppen-Walter to save the day with an excellent tackle with Jake Mouh clear.

Meppen Walter about to deal.

County did rally via Lloyd, but Tim Deasy stopped him getting to a tasty flick on from Odejayi  to disappoint us.

Lloyd a constant threat !

Lloyd ( County’s M.O.M by some distance today)  kept up the pressure and Sam Heathcote did well to stop the rot as the County wide man cut inside on another lung bursting run.

LLoyd & Marsden....

The pressure on Deasy’s goal continued – Meppen-Walter just unable to force the ball home from a corner.

Corner cleared.

On it went with Duxbury joining Lloyd as the duo led Alty a fair old dance down the left flank. 

Duxbury calls for ball....
 The pressure looked to be telling on Alty, who conceded a free kick rather unnecessarily, bringing Lloyd into play again latching onto Odejayi’s latest flick on in the box before crashing to earth. Mentally I pointed to the spot….unfortunately Mr Mather did nothing of the kind, waving play on with an irritating mime.

Lloyd in there again.........

The Odejayi flick on’s were a definite feature so far, but none had seen anything accrue from them, and another , on 23 minutes, went the same route- Minihan unlucky with a run down the right from a Big K prompt.

Big K....

This was encouraging…..but also disappointing, but this feeling was to last but another 3 minutes whereupon the place went ever so slightly wild as County equalised. It was all started by yet another terrific run down the left by Lloyd. All John Cyrus could do in the way of response was to foul him , so he did, and the resultant free kick saw the ball hang invitingly above a heaving ruck of players in the box, more than sufficient encouragement to see Clarke rise to head home. As I say…the place went mad …it was 1-1 and County were on the march, and their supporters loved it!

The booking....

The free kick

County were really firing on full cylinders now and Deasy did well to deny Marsden a couple of minutes after the equaliser.

Deasy- a rock for Alty.

That was a good save from the experienced home keeper, but he bettered it within a couple more minutes, making a terrific last ditch diving save to push a goal bound shot from live wire Danny Lloyd round the post, and then reacting quickly to deny County when the corner headed in.
Bit of a tug somewhere do you think ?

Lloyd was irrepressible, and twice after this he almost sneaked one again- the second occasion making it to the by-line before squaring the ball inside along the deck. There were no takers though and any chance was gone!

It must be said that I was not thinking that Altrincham’s defence , apart from Deasy, were looking all that stable…..just a push I thought…..another try….and we might push them over the edge!

Yes…..well….did I hear you say “ bunkum” in response to my last statement? Well you would be correct, as the defensive unit that were to prove deficient was County’s as no one reacted quickly enough to deny Sean Miller the time and space he needed near goal. It was another defensive aberration on County’s part, and a goal to boot as Miller slotted it home to the consternation of the now sodden County following.

Guess what….twice  in the minutes that followed that goal…Lloyd went close for County, but somehow Altrincham survived, but that was about the best of it from County as the half ebbed away like so much filthy bath water down the plug hole.

County faced the second half one down, but with Josh Amis on for Meppen- Walter.
 The play from both sides was distinctly lack lustre, and the hour mark was up before I had needed to note down any note worthy play.

Montrose & Duxbury get to grips watched by Andrew Machin.

Alty rang the changes on the hour bringing Harry Cain on for Miller, but County waited a further 3 minutes before introducing their second substitute, Scott Spencer, and it was to prove something of a masterstroke on Jim’s part….keep reading!

We were beyond the hour and still Lloyd was trying to instil some life in his colleagues but, up until that point without success. The result was the home defence , that I had seen as vulnerable, was now looking anything but. The home forwards were not doing anything for sure….but they were one up and seemingly did not need to…..certainly Deasy was in this frame of mind wasting time by the bucket load at every chance he could get.

Lloyd for his part kept plugging away , albeit without a goal to show for it, but with Spencer on  the park the ball was now on the ground more , and we were to see the full benefit of this next as he latched onto the ball just beyond half way.
Typical tight Spencer work ( Andrew Machin )

 County had  resorted to a short spell when they pinged balls long from similar positions to the one that Spencer was now in, but the ex Hyde striker did not go down that route, instead he kept the ball…ran with it….continued to run with it…..before slamming a wonderful finish into the net past Deasy’s despairing dive.

Goal of the season ? ( Andrew Machin )

That was a wonderful goal and just the tonic that County and their supporters needed, as they began to pound the home goal…..Minihan…Montrose…Duxbury , and Duxbury again all tried their luck in the home last third- Lloyd perhaps inevitably going closest of all- inches from applying a finish to Duxbury’s probing ball.

Ouch (Andrew Machin )

Altrincham survived , but with Glenn Rule on for Montrose, with 10 minutes left, I was hopeful that, with our hosts visibly wilting, something more might be gleaned from this game!

Rule was tidy as ever and his pass sent Lloyd through the middle. It was a terrific move and only the best of tackles by Heathcote kept it at 2-2.

Even the casual observer would be able to sense that County had the force with them now, and had fully recovered from their mid game doldrums. They kept the pressure on……two corners offered Alty respite, but it was illusory as the second was sent to the back post where Smalley rose imperiously to power his header home!

This was an excellent moment, but somewhat tarnished by the mini pitch invasion and flare throwing that followed.

When the smoke eventually cleared and the game resumed it was in the same vein with Lloyd desperately unlucky not to squeeze his shot inside the far post with Deasy a beaten spectator.

Altrincham did do their best to get an equaliser in what was left of the game, but Craig Hobson shot wide from near the by-line, and Clarke did for a neat cross from Frank Sinclair with a trademark headed clearance.
Hinchliffe/ Clarke deal.....

I felt that the referee gave just about everything Alty’s way in these last minutes. 

A rather tasty free kick smack in front and not far out, being one case in point, but by now, no doubt galvanised by JG’s half time talk, the County defence was on top of its game and panic was not on the agenda at all.

Ross( top) Minihan ( below) cover for County.
Eventually the referee blew for time and the points were ours….well earned…and deserved in my view. As with previous matches there is stuff still to work on, but JG’s the right man to sort that particular job out, so I am not unduly worried.
See you at Bishop Aukland on Wednesday then!

Altrincham line up:

Deasy, Heathcote, Patterson, Moran, Cyrus, Goodall( Hobson 84), Richman,Mouh( Sinclair 92) , Lawrie, Reeves, Miller( Cain 60).

Subs not used:

Lynch, Dawber.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross,Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Meppen-Walter( Amis 45), Minihan, Montrose( Rule 80), Odejayi( Spencer 63) , Marsden, Lloyd.

Subs not used:

Ormson, Carney.

Attendance :  2355

Ian Brown


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