Darlington 2 Stockport County 1 ( Vanarama National League- North) 7 September 2016

County hit the buffers , surrendering a 1-0 lead to go down 2-1 to Darlington in Bishop Aukland last night.

One up, and apparently cruising, having coped coolly with everything Darlo’s lanky forwards could produce, it all went pear shaped thereafter.

The back ward drift  started 32 minutes in, when Lloyd  failed to finish off a move that had the County faithful roaring `goal’ . It wasn’t and the County wide man’s shot was duly cleared off the line. 
Go in 2 up and it would have been a big ask for Darlo to claw their way back into it. As it was….with just 2 minutes left County’s defence lapsed into doze mode long enough for Mark Beck to equalise- a massive boost to the home side.

That was a real blow and another followed just beyond the hour when the winner went in via Adam Mitchell, with County failing to clear their lines under pressure.

In the end, having looked well capable of winning almost up to the break, County looked anything but in the second half. OK…..they went close more than once, but then so did Darlo, who did just enough to win whilst looking reasonably together doing so.
Noisy home terrace !

Back at 7.45, having made it to the  ground  with 30 minutes to spare after a massive delay on the M62, it was interesting to note that new man  Jimmy Ball was in County’s starting line up, replacing Meppen- Walter . The only other change was Amis for Odejayi, and there was a bit of an air of optimism about  in the away end as  County kicked off attacking the far end.

This bullishness almost didn’t make it beyond the first 60 seconds however, as Hinchliffe  had to make a save to stop the home side taking the lead ( and me taking the ‘first goal’ pot on the Flyer).

Darlo had a  lively set of forwards , Mark Beck the liveliest in the early minutes, but I was not unduly worried as the County back line looked reasonably adept at dealing with the threats that materialised.
Lloyd & Montrose  on the ball.

It took County about 8 minutes to sort a response…..winning a corner from which nothing came…….then keeping the pressure on  ,whilst playing the ball about a fair bit , with Montrose and new man Ball looking the part  in possession.

County pressed on, and they came really close to opening the scoring, as a shot from Montrose was charged down following the mother of all melees in front of the home goal.
Darlington’s defence did not look at all solid during this period- nothing came from a decent probing run by Marsden, but I was far from disheartened!
Clarke & Duxbury join the attack.

There was work for Hinchliffe to do, keeping a corner from Terry Galbraith at bay, but I still felt County to be the better bet of the two sides. They just needed to add a goal to the mix, but instead Marsden, drilled another shot wide of the target.
It took until the 20th minute for County to square that particular circle, and it was the  result  of quite a bit of attacking pressure, and not a little muddle in  response from Darlo. The home team just could not clear their lines, as County’s grey clad forwards buzzed around like a pack of ravenous lions after a stricken wildebeest ! Eventually the ball reached Jimmy Ball, and it was 1-0   he made no mistake with a neat finish to open his County account!
It took a minute or so for Darlo to mount a reply and it was not a bad one either, but Liam Hardy’s shot came back into play after hitting the bar, instead of going in. Mark Beck might have made the Darlo laments superfluous, but he didn’t ….lifting the follow up shot high over the bar.
This stung County into action again, and a terrific shot from Ball would have made it 2-0 for sure had not Peter Jameson, the home keeper, beat it out with a breath taking last ditch save.
Some gritty defending followed from our hosts, and Thompson along with Beck did manage to shake off the shackles and break up field, but the finish from Beck was a poor one and it stayed 1-0.
Hardy pressures Smalley & Hinchliffe.

On it went….still County looked the likely lads, at least to me….. but it was frustrating to see Jameson rise to push another Ball shot over the bar.
The corner came to nothing, and more pressure …via Lloyd ended similarly, but the next action was altogether of a different ilk….and should have seen us double our lead.
It started with a break by Ball down the right flank, followed by the tastiest of onward cross field passes to Lloyd who looked a shoo-in to score.  The County specs were up and cheering a goal, but the County number eleven took his time getting his shot off , and when eventually he did, although  his shot  was on target,  the delay was a crucial factor in allowing a defender to emerge from nowhere to scramble  the ball off the line to the consternation of the travelling fans in the 1700+ crowd.
Its not a blame game….Lloyd has been a magnificent player for us in the short time he has been in County colours, and he will be an even better player as the season unfolds, I am sure, but it is  a case of us acknowledging what had just happened….a big chance had just been missed, so we needed to shape up and react accordingly.
Did that miss buoy Darlo though? Not sure….but Hardy did his best not long after to capitalise on County’s misfortune, only to see Hinchliffe in position to smother his shot.

County defend.

But……I still felt at 1-0 County could look forward to building on that lead kicking towards their supporters after the break.
Duxbury tried his luck….his shot climbing over the bar late on in the half.

There were just 2 minutes left , and everyone  was thinking ` half time break’…….County really should have  been sharper in the period, but they were not , and as a result Mitchell was able to ping a cross over from the right, allowing Beck to take advantage of the lack of response from the  County defence to dive forward and head the ball home.
Late 1st half pressure from Darlo.

There was time for Jimmy Ball to show us some good defensive work, before the whistle went for half time.

Ball tidies up....

Now that was a disappointing ending to the first half and I found no one disagreeing with that view point.

Play was even in the early minutes after the break…..Thompson   lifting a shot over the bar at one point…….Tom Portas on hand  to see Marsden off the next, as Montrose sent him through.

Marsden tried again shortly after….winning a corner, but again County made nothing from it with Darlo tracking back and defending in numbers. Montrose was doing his best to bring Marsden into the game, only to see Marrs do the Portas bit and deny him.
County were trying to snatch back the lead , but no matter who tried the result was the same…Smalley stepping up , on 54 minutes, and seeing his shot saved by the keeper- the ball flying wide, as Ball tried his best to force the ball home  from the keeper’s parry and the resultant melee.

County press....

County came under pressure after this, and Hinchliffe was busy  with Portas and Mitchell combining down the right to good effect. More followed and Minihan did well to clear under pressure as County conceded a free kick in a dangerous position. Montrose joined in heading another incoming ball out…….then Smalley did like wise, as the free kicks suddenly started to multiply.

Chris Smalley

Thankfully the Darlo free kicks were no great shakes, and County survived, and even worked themselves an opening. It fell to Ball and his shot was a decent effort, but so was Jamesons’s reply, and it stayed 1-1.

Well….it did for a minute or so….and then County failed to cut off the run down the right by Portas…or the cross that followed it, and when Mitchell ran onto it, and it was 1-2 as he forced it home, as gloom descended on the away end, now shrouded in a fast gathering darkness.

That was a real bummer….and JG reacted swiftly making a triple substitution bringing Carney, Odejayi and Spencer on for Marsden, Amis and Lloyd- a bold move, but it was a player who had played all 68 of the minutes so far played who stepped up next, responding to County’s plight with a whiz bang of a shot  that Jameson somehow, and I think inadvertently, pushed onto the woodwork. The ball stayed out ,and the moment …with the danger…passed!
County get free kick....

Not long after Jameson charged out to deny Spencer , as Carney joined in  smashing a shot inches wide.

It was not long before Carney had a go again, and his run that took him down the left before he cut inside, really looked good. His finish however did not, and his under powered effort did not trouble Jameson.

County could not be faulted for effort but their finishing was under par on this occasion. That said….Ball was distinctly unlucky, with 7 minutes left, to see his snap shot drift inches wide.

Darlo came back at County and looked quite good whilst so doing, and some really neat attacking play from them might have ended the game there and then had the ball bounced into the net instead of flying back into play, from substitute Nathan Cartman’s shot.
Odejayi penalised.

That was fortunate from a County view point. There was still hope I suppose  with added time to consider….but when a last gasper came courtesy of a Duxbury ball across the box…Odejayi failed to react and the ball bounced harmlessly in front of him before going out.

Company for Odejayi....

There was time for Minihan to win a corner, and Duxbury  to turn provider again, but somehow …try as County might…the ball stayed in play, until eventually flying wide as Ross’s late/late effort flew wide!

That was that….game over….points lost!

In the end it was County’s failure to put reasonable chances away that cost us dearly…..that……… and defensive lapses , which are becoming a concern. Darlington looked a decent team who could play football if let, but they did not look an unbeatable outfit. Neither do Boston, who visit us on Saturday( although they did win on Tuesday) so maybe we can look for County to put this set back behind them and claim  a win?

I certainly hope so, and along with you….will be adding my two pennyworth in support at Edgeley Park.

IO County!

Darlington  FC line up:

Jameson, Marrs, Galbraith, Turnbull, Watson, Hunter, Thompson( Purewal 78), Portas( Nowakowski 72), Beck, Hardy( Cartman 51), Mitchell.

Subs not used;

Bell, Scott.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Montrose, Minihan, Ball, Amis( Odejayi 65) , Marsden( Spencer 65), Lloyd( Carney 65).

Subs not used:

Ormson, Rule.

Attendance : 1730

Ian Brown


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