Curzon Ashton 1 Stockport County 2 ( Vanarama National League- North) 24 September 2016

County left it late today, but came away with all the points at the Tameside Stadium against a Curzon Ashton side that probably could not believe their luck when they somehow snatched the lead late on.

The white shirted blues had dominated play from the first whistle, and to let one slip took the wind out of their sails for a while during which time, marshalled by Alex Brown, and sustained by a series of rib ticklers from Andy Watson the home side started to look a tad better than they had done previously.

But once again JG’s substitutions were right on the money …

JG...on the money again with subs ( Andrew Machin )

….enter substitute Sam Minihan ….and a brilliant diving header from him made it 1-1. Into added time and with County striving for that win….it came when Michael Clarke served up another `goal of the season’ effort that threatened to remove the netting from its moorings, after a prodigious effort from Glen Rule, a half time substitute for Ball, had kept County moving forward!

Clarke in the thick.....

That was simply brilliant, and no more than County deserved, and sent the large County following home happy.

M.O.M ?   I gave this to Scott Duxbury for a terrific all action performance that supplemented the drive and energy of Danny Lloyd magnificently.
Duxbury defends( Andrew Machin ).......

 For the rest…County’s defence were hardly tested before the Curzon Ashton goal went in. The midfield and forwards worked hard pretty much throughout but despite some good work from all the forwards…..  0-0 …….for a long/ long time looked likely to be the outcome yet again….until that frenetic ending!
Amis works hard......

 At this point I must mention Josh Amis, and I saw some evidence today that James’ determination to ignore the `sounds off’ about him and opt to continue to nurture a young talent were working. Some definite signs today…and the goals will come eventually!

Back to 3 o’clock and it was good to see that CA had learnt from last season’s match. This time around there was a larger burger van….and there was access, before the game, to the bar for County fans- a neat bit of PR by the Tameside Club!
Marsden - a welcome return !

There were 4 changes in the County starting line up too …out went Minihan, Meppen-Walter, Odejayi and Spencer, with Smalley, Stopforth, Amis and Marsden replacing them.
Straight off Duxbury was in the mix and a cross from him was inches from Ball at the back post.
The build up to that last action had seen County on the front foot, with Marsden and Lloyd buzzing around the CA box like a couple of oversized hornets! 
Lloyd dazzles.....

It was early days, but the pressure was building on our hosts who were conceding rather more free kicks in the process of defending the persistent County raids than you would reckon to be healthy. One County free kick saw Chris Rowney settle for conceding a corner, but the 5th minute came and went with Stopforth’s shot crashing into a defender before being hooked clear.

Stopforth & lloyd press......

Smalley and Montrose did well as Curzon briefly threatened, but it was soon back to Marsden and Lloyd pushing on…putting their opponents in difficulties.

Andrew Machin catches Montrose in good defensive action !

 The up-shot of this was that Lloyd made it to the by-line before delivering a neat ball inside to Ball, who was unlucky to see his effort charged down.
Lloyd in full flight !

Rowney then did for a run by Lloyd…and Smalley returned the complement when Luke Clark tried his luck on the break for CA.

For a short while County’s opponents had a go, but Hinchliffe was not tested at all by Jordan Wright’s finish after Smalley had stopped the initial thrust from Romney.

Wright was possibly miffed by that last ending to what had been a briefly promising move, but in seeking recompense, his blatant dive failed to impress the eminently impressionable Paul Marsden the referee. Mr M waved play on…and rightly so!
To be fair to Mr Marsden though( who I thought had a good first half )  he was in position to award County a free kick after Romney laid Lloyd out shortly after. The kick was pinged in by Lloyd only for the referee to spot something and relieve the home side’s angst with the oxygen of a free kick.

Lloyd fouled ( Andrew Machin )

It went on with County still on the front foot, and Lloyd earning applause with his latest run. CA were in a tizz next as Lloyd’s pass  was enhanced by Amis’s header on  that saw keeper Hakan Burton in difficulties as a hurried back header from Watson came his way, with Marsden sniffing for scraps. 
OOps....nearly !

It went on….Ball going close….County winning a corner which the keeper dealt with calmly. The keeper was on his toes again within a minute as a header from Ball looked to be goal bound, after a neat lay off from Amis had ushered Lloyd’s cross onward.
On…..and a header from Amis deserved better after good work from Duxbury in the build up.

Amis mixes it with Hunt.

Curzon Ashton were pinned back on the defensive for long periods of the game and only really good defending from Jonathan Hunt  and  series of distinctly iffy challenges from other home defenders kept the score line blank.
Lloyd a none stop menace !

Lloyd was in terrific form and was not far away more than once. Amis too was inches away from opening the County account, following the neatest of moves involving himself …..Marsden and Lloyd.
Marsden watched by Watson .....

`Surely a County goal would not be long delayed’, but no sooner had that bromide entered my head than Clark did his best to give me mental indigestion with a run that took him clear of County’s midfield. Fortunately for County however…Duxbury spotted the situation and forced his man towards the corner flag where he expertly robbed him of the pill and delivered it up field.

County resumed the attacking posture from earlier after that brief scare, Ross doing good work to win a corner. Once more County went close, but without reward.
Burton saves.....

and saves again.......

Amis’s reward for a leggy run a minute later was a limb threatener from Hunt that saw him chewing mud yards from the bulk of the County following who were now going ever so slightly AS at Mr Marsden who satisfied himself with the briefest of chats with the miscreant – his cards nowhere to be seen(cue unworthy thoughts in my head of 2014/15 at Gainsborough when Mr M’s cards were never in his pockets when he reduced us to 9 for not fouling our opponents)!    
Mr Marsden ( Image by Andrew Machin )
Ho hum….I quickly  remembered my new season promise to be nice to officials, and  watched glumly as Amis’s header went a foot wide from the kick.
Close call for CA( Andrew Machin) _

County were building a head of steam nicely now be it via a Montrose/ Lloyd combo  that saw Ball narrowly beaten to the ball by Burton, or a lovely  Marsden through ball  that oh so nearly saw Duxbury in……
We needed one…just one of these promising moves to be converted to a goal, instead the 41 st minute saw Ross in urgent action ushering Hall out of the danger zone  on a rare CA raid.
Well…..County kept pegging away at it…..and Amis did well applying just enough to the Duxbury throw that headed his way to see it on to Marsden who was inches from scoring with Burton beaten.

Countys open terrace and seated fans( hedgeie above/ Andrew Machin below)
That was that for the first half, and when the teams returned Glen Rule was on for Ball as County set about winning a game they had bossed throughout!
Stopforth brought a save from the keeper within a minute of the re-start and I was instantly galvanised!

Early shot from Stopforth.

This feeling persisted as County pushed on, and Curzon Ashton looked about to wilt in response. A mighty push from the men in white and a goal looked on with the ball bouncing about in the box, and an almighty cry of `handball’ went up as  Clark caressed the ball with his hand prior to dispatching it up the park. Mr Marsden was about 5 yards away but gave nothing …..thus our hosts were gifted a lifeline and we were dished!
County press

I was not happy with that last action and even less so 3 minutes on, as Watson  scythed Marsden down 5 yards outside the box- again the referee contented himself with a free kick- an abysmally bad call in my view, and my mood was not improved when Lloyd’s kick sailed off over the bar.

County were undaunted….and so was Watson who launched himself at Montrose who was breaking at speed from deep. It was another appalling foul and this time the referee was moved to book the guilty party. But that should have been his second yellow, so I was not placated!
Amis booked...

Nothing came of the free kick, but the referee was moved to book Amis as he and the obnoxious Watson came together( marginally ) a yard outside the box. My lack of regard for the referee was underlined when…after allowing the physio on to treat Watson….the player was allowed to resume playing without leaving the field of play- he was making the rules up as he went along……..AGAIN! 

It was revving up no end now   as Rowney clattered Lloyd to earn a card( who needs Fury v Klichko with Curzon Ashton abroad?) The free kick again came to nothing , and with the hour mark upon us thoughts of another 0-0 finish were in the air!
Duxbury was busy doing his best to move matters on and a decent run from him was the prelude to shots from Ross and Rule that were charged down midst a flurry of attacking play from County.
County put CA under pressure....

A cheap free kick offered County’s opponents relief, which was brief because Niall Cummings brought us back to Fury/ Klichko stuff again by laying Stopforth out in front of the main stand. Duxbury was flying from the subsequent free kick and a corner followed, and then a shot from Lloyd but this missed the angle of bar and post by the merest margin and it stayed 0-0.
Amis off/ Big K on ( Andrew Machin )

Odejayi replaced Amis next, leaving the field to applause, and more applause followed quickly on as brilliant play by Duxbury opened the home defence as I would a can of baked beans!  Imagine the thoughts that abounded then in the minds of County fans present when the referee gave Curzon Ashton a most valuable free kick!
Odejayi and company....

I was still mumbling discontentedly into my none existent beard when Stopforth’s excellent through ball saw Marsden thwarted by Watson’s last gasper. Duxbury would not let the momentum die however and Burton did really well to keep the full back’s shot out as it fizzed its way goal ward!


County had battered Curzon Ashton for almost 70 minutes….no goal…but a bit of a battering none the less, but Hall gave us a warning 69 minutes in bringing a good save from Hinchliffe on the break.

Ross lines up a shot watched by Andrew Machin.

We had been warned……but   things got worse thanks to substitute Alex Brown who from central midfield spread play wide left to Hampson whose first time cross was headed home from close in by Cummins!

Almost unbelievably….we were 1-0 down, but within 5 minutes JG had responded swapping Minihan for Montrose.

This change did not immediately declare a dividend, indeed , with Ashton finding space and time on the ball easier to come by now I was somewhat relieved to see Brown lift his shot high and wide when relatively well set.
Montrose & Clarke....

When Clarke had to look sharp to end a likely looking run from Wright, it began to look like we needed to act quickly if the game was to be salvaged- in short County had to regain the initiative they had briefly but ominously let slip!

Marsden was doing his best, and a couple of good runs from him gave Burton urgent work to do.
Marsden tests Curzon.....

It looked that County were building a head of steam again, with Minihan in the van, his initial run with 8 minutes left repulsed by one of a bevy of outstretched defenders legs. Back came Minihan, but again he saw his shot charged down, and it looked for all the world that the move was en-route to being dead. Enter Glen Rule who latched onto the ball and surged on into the box simply refusing to release it until he saw Marsden then the pass was on….but there was still work to do as Odejayi beat Watson to the punch and played the ball back to  Minihan who threw himself forward to head it home in brilliant fashion!
Fan…tas….tic….it was 1 -1 , and the result was that the spark was suddenly back in County’s play.

Curzon Ashton in response stuck to their game plan and Minihan felt its full effects next as Hampson fouled him as he ran by at speed. The free kick was better than today’s average and set Lloyd up for a snap shot that whistled  past the far post with keeper Burton watching helplessly.

Marsden again !

Could County get the winner? A draw looked the more likely outcome as we headed for added time with Hinchliffe saving from Howard.
We were deep into added time and County did not care what was most likely…they wanted the points….all of them….and great work down the right by Marsden gave this possibility wings that were only briefly clipped  when Watson swung a meaty leg at the ball and lumped it clear. 

shot blocked.....

 Briefly…because Smalley was on hand to usher it back- his effort blocked  by a line of increasingly distraught defenders. The angst continued and went into overdrive for the home side when the ball reached Clarke on the edge of the box and he smashed it straight back from whence it came…past Burton and a clutch of players into the net- a truly sensational goal, and a worthy match winner too!
1goal/ 2 views ( Andrew Machin above/ Simon George below.

In the time that remained Curzon Ashton tried to get back into it but this was one circle that was unquestionably un-squareable!

It stayed 2-1 ….the points were all County’s and rightly so!

County just do not know when they are beaten, especially on their travels, which is heartening for the tests to come. We just need some of the chances to be put away, and we will be flying!

See you all at Edgeley Park on Tuesday for Fylde and thereafter Saturday for the first instalment of County / Salford.

Curzon Ashton line up:

Burton, Tomsett( Brown 61), Rowney, Hunt, Watson( Ennis 94), Hampson, Howard, Clark, Cummins, Hall, Wright.

Subs not used: Mason, Baillie, Gorman.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Smalley, Clarke, Duxbury, Montrose( Minihan 75), Ball( Rule 45), Stopforth, Amis( Odijayi 65), Marsden, Lloyd
Subs not used : Ormson, Meppen-Walter.


Ian Brown.



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