Stockport County 1 AFC Fylde 2 ( Vanarama National League- North) 27 September 2016

I was proud of my team last night!

Oh……yes……there they were….faced with the task of matching skills with hugely funded ….big spending….table topping juggernauts …AFC Fylde, and expected not only to lose but to be leathered in the process… some experts anyway!

The teams( Andrew Machin )

That was the prognosis pre match, as I say …from some….. on paper, but we all know about matches played on paper…on grass it turned out altogether a different ball game- one in which  County played assured football whilst taking the game to opponents that played for time from early in the first half being content to find touch rather than seek to delight us with their apparently precocious talents.

League Leaders sparse support.

To be fair they did look a strong outfit, and to be equally fair they made their physicality count, capping a particularly loathsome display with a seriously bad foul that stopped the game for 10 minutes whilst Scott Duxbury received treatment prior to being stretchered off, not to return, after being comprehensively taken out via Dom Collins’ elbow in the box.

2 views of the Duxbury treatment from Andrew Machin.
But….ignoring the fouls….the time wasting…the lack of class both on and off the park from Fylde, the real story is County…..they were magnificent! JG set the team up to perfection and every man jack of ‘em responded with a top notch performance. As early as the 12th minute County could have taken the lead, as a thunderous drive from Marsden crashed into the upright with Fylde’s largely befuddled keeper Tony Thompson comprehensively beaten. Instead despite much County pressure, Fylde sneaked one on 21 minutes hitting us on the break.

Marsden hit the woodwork.

The game pretty much took that order from there on out…as County, marshalled brilliantly by Stopforth and Montrose , piled on the pressure. The back four were excellent throughout , but the blues flow was constantly interrupted by a series of fouls, and if I could point to one County failing it was a familiar one- an inability to make good use of a huge number of free kicks!

That said ….it was a massive injustice that County were one down, but JG’s personnel changes again looked to have squared a circle when Scott Spencer slammed home a wonderful strike deep into added time- repayment I thought for the Fylde time wasting.

Scott Spencer ( Andrew Machin )

Even deeper into added time however, with Fylde desperately trying to salvage the game, Dom Collins( who by rights should have been showering by that point) drew a foul on the edge of the box. Up stepped ex Hatter Danny Rowe and it was 2-1 and the money boys had snatched the unworthiest of wins!  

 The first 3 minutes of the game belonged to the Lancashire side, but there was no point when County looked at all disturbed as the visitors strutted their stuff at the Cheadle End.

Andrew Machin sees an early catch by Hinchliffe.

A neat link up between Lloyd/ Amiss and Marsden interrupted the Fylde flow, but this was cut short by Danny Holmes’ tackle on the edge of the box. County  were quick to come at their opponents again however, and Lloyd might have made headway had not Holmes sent him sprawling with the first of a match long series of hopelessly poor tackles. The free kick offered some recompense, but the Fylde keeper managed to push it out and the danger dissipated.
Fylde under pressure....

This was not bad at all from County, and I nodded in approval again as a shot from Amis thudded into the boards a foot wide of Thompson’s unguarded post.
Fylde responded through Bohan Dixon, but Scott Duxbury did excellent work to dispossess him near the corner flag.
Already, with just 12 minutes gone, the free kicks were piling up for County, and Lloyd sent the latest to the back of the box. The Fylde defence were doing traffic cone imitations as Marsden latched onto the ball and it should have been 1-0 to County, instead the shot crashed into the upright with Thompson nowhere. It stayed out…. and stayed 0-0.

County pushed on…Amis seeing a run cut out by a defender whose instinct thereafter was to find touch- a modus operadi much in favour on this occasion by the visitors! Yes….the early bounce we had seen in those first 3 minutes was now decidedly missing from the Lancashire sides play!

I was getting bored now ….with the volume of free kicks Fylde were apparently willing to concede to keep their expensive but rickety ship afloat. I counted 3 free kicks in a 5 minute period, the last of which from serial offender Holmes laid Lloyd out as he looked on to cause Fylde issues!
Another casualty ( Andrew Machin )

 The kick put Fylde under pressure yet again, but with County probing relentlessly for that opening goal, a loose pass allowed Dixon to break from deep.

Lloyds free kick.....

 He was away and it looked ominous as he ate the ground twixt him and goal in double quick time. Upon reaching the box Dixon was joined by Dan Bradley and his pass gave the number eleven the simple task of beating Hinchliffe .

Unbelievably…it was 1-0 to Fylde….totally unbelievably….one shot… goal…they had punished a moments slackness on our part, and we needed to learn from that!

I do not think that Duxbury needed any tuition in this respect and he was doing great stuff at both ends of the park…cutting Bradley off with a neat intervention one moment before going close to putting both Minihan and Marsden in with decent balls at the sharp end.

The 28th minute saw Fylde reply through Rowe, and after making it to the by-line he must have thought that his cross had set Dixon up with a second goal chance, but he sent his header straight at Hinchliffe. 
Danny Rowe.

Miffed?.............I am not sure…..but Rowe took a petulant pot at goal from  the edge of the box next. Again his expectation sped on ahead of reality and the ball flew 2 foot wide of Hinchliffe’s far post. 

County re-applied themselves after this…..mainly taking free kicks – Marsden went close from one ,but generally the set pieces were not that great at all.

The Fylde approach was frustrating to watch, we just needed Lady Luck to stop belting us amidships with her fashion accessory, and we would be quids in, but after good work at the back from Montrose, Lloyd’s searing run ended with a shot that flew just a foot wide of goal.

Thompson grabs the pill gratefully.

On it went in the same vein….County attacking….Fylde so…so negative  defending, but with 3 minutes left of the half County again lost their discipline and a loose ball sent Dixon away on a run again.  Company was arriving fast in the shape of Rowe and Bradley as Dixon made it into the box, but he decided to shoot and Hinchliffe saved the effort brilliantly with his legs to keep it at 1-0.

There was time for a decent punch out from Hinchliffe ......

Hinchliffe to the fore.

....... and a shot by Andy Bond that he dragged hopelessly wide, before we went into 1 minutes added time…..60 seconds of which were taken up by Thompson time wasting near the by-line taking a free kick- poor stuff indeed!
Ready for the re-start ( Andrew Machin )
The re-start saw County re-double their efforts to equalise and Marsden, Minihan and Lloyd all went close in the first five minutes. Amis went closer still, but having challenged and robbed the keeper of the ball……… as it was rolling towards the net the referee blew for a foul on the keeper…..hmmm!!!!!!!!!

Dixon interrupted the County flow with a break from deep, but his shot was poor and never threatened Hinchliffe’s peace of mind at all.

Marsden was dumped unceremoniously for about the umpteenth time, and my irritation at this was not eased when we again made nothing of the kick that followed. 

Down goes Marsden again ( Andrew Machin )

 But….County were now playing some neat football and the crowd were getting behind them well as Duxbury pushed the ponderous orange shirted defenders back at speed. 

Duxbury - excellent ( Andrew Machin )
He was excellent, and Minihan was in decent nick on the other flank too, and Amis only just missed out at the back post on the end of a really good Minihan cross!
Minihan takes game to Fylde....

On it went with Montrose the next to go close without the cigar…..then Lloyd joined in again  missing out by inches after the hapless Thompson had spilled a drive by Ross, who was having a real captains game.
Lloyd about to shoot....

We were beyond the hour mark and the time wasting had reached such a peak of obnoxiousness that referee Aaron Jackson ( possibly the worlds worst referee)was moved to wave a yellow card in his direction!

Yellow for Thommo !Well deserved! ( Andrew Machin )

You could perhaps see why Fylde….and in particular Thompson were hell bent on wasting time…they were being out played, and if County’s finishing could match up to their approach play………………….instead somehow Thompson managed to survive a visit to Trauma City and scramble the ball off the line with Amis oh so close to stabbing it home!

It was pretty much all County now, and the equaliser looked only a matter of time…when it all took a rather sickening turn as Duxbury went for the ball in the box…was beaten to it by Collins who followed through taking young Scott out with his elbow.
Duxbury- poleaxed by Collins receives treatment.

It took 10 minutes for Scott to receive treatment before being carried off on a stretcher, meanwhile there was the penalty wasn’t there ….and a red card!

Err….not so… the referee unbelievably signalled a bounce up which allowed Fylde to clear.

That was impossible to take….almost as impossible to take as the foul….the injury to the player…and the mocking laughter Thompson treated us too whilst the treatment was going on. Fylde may be top of the pile just now but classy……..never!

Rule came on after the long delay but after looking on to score…County’s rhythm was understandably  disturbed- Minihan was now at left back, but it was Ross at the back post on the right who saved the day with a neat clearance as Fylde tried to capitalise.
With less than 10 minutes left JG brought Odejayi and Spencer on for Amis and Marsden, but an early Spencer run fizzled out as Odejayi couldn’t move his pass on.
Rule was quickly up to speed and a shot from him was deflected for a corner which again had Thompson flapping like a penguin with the shakes. The visitors were in total disarray as another ex Hatter Richie Baker hacked the ball clear with cries of `handball’ ringing in his ears!

We went into 10 minutes added time with County back in the groove again and pushing on for glory. The Fylde response remained the same……find touch…..waste time…..foul your man, but we were still not making the free kicks count, as Thompson scrambled hither and thither desperately trying to save his team’s bacon.
County press......

The 93 rd minute arrived accompanied by a County goal, and a right good one it was too.  Fylde were reeling from the effects of yet another blue assault when Lloyd played the ball deftly to Spencer who smashed it low and hard into the net! Cue mayhem as County players and fans went AS in delight!

County goal captured by Simon George.

`The Scarfe’ belted out now from Cheadle End/ Pop and Main Stands…it was a delight and full payback for all the unworthy time wasting from the league leaders!

Well….it was not to be….with Fylde desperately trying to get back the lead , deep into added time, Collins engineered a free kick smack in front on the edge of the box.  Kennedy lined it up with an elaborate mime, before allowing Rowe to step forward and curl the kick past Hinchliffe into the net. A very good free kick it must be said…..but deserving of winning this game….absolutely not!
Bugger !!!!!

Not long after the referee blew for time and the game was lost, but County had won everything bar the points….our hearts……our respect…..and a knowledge surely that, having outplayed the league leaders for the majority of the game, they can look forward to the rest of the season with confidence.

Well played County….I am still proud of my team this morning as I write this!

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury ( Rule 74), Montrose, Minihan, Stopforth, Amis( Odejayi 81), Marsden( Spencer 81), Lloyd.

Subs not used ; Ormson, Meppen-Walter.

AFC Fylde line up:

Thompson, Holmes, Kennedy, Langley, Collins, Bond( M Hughes 99), Hardy( Newell 78), C.Hughes( Baker 45), Rowe, Dixon, Bradley.

Subs not used; Blinkhorn, Jennings.

Attendance: 2206

Ian Brown

PS; After such a stirring performance I am loath to introduce a negative element.  However at last nights game I was given a hard time by two County fans , the pretext being my taking of the photo you see above of Scott receiving treatment. One of the two clambered over 5or 6 rows of seats to get at me. That no actual violence took place is irrelevant, and I thank those supporters a couple of rows back who tried to reason with the older of the two, but I am not willing to put up with that kind of rubbish, thus …with regret I am  going to cease covering County matches . I will cover the two Salford games and then that is it- I will of course continue to support County home and away!

Ian Brown


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