Nuneaton Town 1 Stockport County 1 ( Vanarama National League-North) 12 November 2016
After a week in which a deranged sociopath became the most powerful man on the planet…..when a bunch of assorted animals bounced around on a trampoline to the benefit of John Lewis, and some cute racer snakes were seen to go hungry thanks to the nimble footwork of an even cuter marine iguana, I was more than averagely nonplussed as I boarded the Flyer for Nuneaton this morning.
I badly needed a County style reality check….preferably one with a 3 point tag line, instead today’s fare at Nuneaton’s Coombe Abbey Arena left much to be desired!
|Some early pre start shots (all Andrew Machin )|
In the opening half, with County looking assured on the ball and Nuneaton anything but- a convincing County victory looked decidedly on the cards, especially when Josh Amiss ended his goal drought with a neat strike 37 minutes in. But….it did not quite work out that way as the County defence allowed itself to be bullied into surrendering the lead almost on the stroke of half time.
|Some of County following ( Andrew Machin )|
I was still thinking County would have little trouble taking this game when it re-started ,but I was wrong, and for about half an hour or more, County were on the wrong end of considerable pressure from a team I had earlier characterised as being `very poor’. Thankfully…. good defending (Meppen –Walter earns kudos for being on the ball in this respect), saw the score remain 1-1.County had been under the cosh , but it all changed with the introduction of Sam Minihan to proceedings with 3 minutes left and these were minutes in which Town keeper, the brilliant Christian Dibble, made save after save….yes…County might have…and possibly should have won it in that late period , but they didn’t and had to settle for a point , that just minutes after the final whistle looks like two lost!
|Christian Dibble- top man ( Andrew Machin )|
Handball by Aaron Williams put paid to an early Nuneaton gambit, but it was County who were impressing in the game’s birthing moments , and Dibble did exceptionally well to keep Stopforth’s goal bound header out . That was a terrific save, one that begged a response from County, but Ball’s shot, a minute later, was charged down by Kelvin Langmead, after Ross and Amis had done well in the build up.
|Ball battles for possession.....|
Nuneaton replied via Jordan Nicholson, but twice he was denied…first off by Montrose and then Meppen-Walter .
Josh Amis was showing every indication of doing something today, although he was hobbling 10 minutes in, which did not inspire confidence.
|Amis- under guard !|
No matter….County were building a head of steam and Stopforth and Lloyd both went close.
Ross went closer than both of them and forced Dibble to fumble the ball over the by-line. ` Corner’ thought I and all around me, but it wasn’t as Mr Magoo, running the near side line, flagged a goal kick!!!!
|Lloyd builds a head of steam up early on !|
It had been pretty much all County, but not 100% so, and they might have been punished 22 minutes in, as Williams slipped past Smalley to confront Hinchliffe. It was a chance but the Town wide man wasted it shooting tamely into the County keeper’s arms.
It went on with Ross providing much ammunition down the right, whilst Lloyd did likewise on the other flank ,and Lloyd was worrying Town so much that Conor Anderson was moved to attempt an early shirt exchange with the County man as he burst clear. We got the free kick but nothing else as Dibble imposed himself again with a imperious catch under pressure.
|Dibble again !|
Nuneaton were largely under the cosh but they had the occasional moment or two most notably when Nicholson beat Smalley to turn inside. The danger was averted when Meppen-Walter‘s intervention saw the ball cleared, but it was perhaps a warning!
|Lloyd thwarted .....|
As I say….it was mostly County doing the attacking, and it took an awful `tackle’ from behind by Langmead to stop Lloyd as he cut in from the by-line on the end of another sharp run.
|That free kick !|
It was a County free kick and a yellow for Langmead , but nothing more despite both Meppen-Walter and Smalley’s best efforts from the kick.
|That foul !|
County were re-doubling their efforts now, and James Clifton did well to hook the ball clear as another County free kick headed goal ward.. Back came County though ,and a corner was the reward as they pressed and pressed. All seemed due to end in anti-climax with the kick being cleared and the follow up effort blocked, but the ball ran loose to Amis who had his back to goal. A moment’s thought….a quick turn on the ball …..and it was 1-0 as Amis slammed the ball home from the edge of the box. That was an excellent moment and fitting reward for a lively showing from the young ex Vics striker.
|Amis & Lloyd battle for ball ( Ansdrew Machin )|
County kept the pressure on via Lloyd, but having filleted the right side of the home defence , and having made it to within a foot of the goal along the by-line, he then sent the poorest of crosses way out of everyone’s reach- chance gone.
|Lloyd holds sway( Andrew Machin )|
The pattern remained the same to within 5 minutes of half time, when Joe Ironside saw a shot deflected wide of goal. Hinchliffe punched the corner out under pressure- danger over ….except it wasn`t as Clifton whipped the ball back over. There still didn`t seem too much danger until Nicholson was allowed to bully his way to heading the ball back across goal to Williams who beat Hinchliffe with his header.
That was really disappointing, and try as they might County could not get the lead back in the few minutes that remained of the half.
|County battalions switch ends......|
I was expecting County to come at their opponents upon the re-start, and it started in that vein, and County very nearly scored within a minute when Amis, reacting to Ross's cross,slid a neat pass to his left where Cartwright was rushing onto it. He was a yard or less out and looked on the make it 2-1, when …. out of nowhere appeared namesake Iwan who somehow managed to block his shot forcing the ball behind, for what I assumed would be a corner but which the officials saw as a goal kick.
That was a narrow escape, but I found myself momentarily distracted as I was alerted to a nearby deposit from some flying creature or other, on the rail I was resting .....
You can perhaps appreciate the level of trauma that took hold of me when moments later I gazed at the same patch to see……
......who had made the imprint?.....I was the only one within spitting distance….deep trauma indeed!
I had a quick word with myself , and looking away from the detritus I saw Hinchliffe make a save to deny Nicholson, and Billy Daniels head over the top not long after.
|The Hinchliffe save ( Andrew Machin )|
County came back at Town via Meppen-Walter who was having an excellent all round game, and Anderson did well to hook his cross out after good work by Amis. It continued with Dibble making a decisively firm punch out with a queue of County forwards forming for a shot on goal. On…it went with Meppen-Walter again pinging one over forcing Anderson to resort to panic measures to keep the Town ship afloat. The corner ushered in thoughts of a second goal but ,from Ball’s kick, Clarke’s header cleared the bar.
|Dibble thwarts Lloyd ( Andrew Machin )|
At this point I found myself distracted again as the announcer ,who had come out with Kayod Odegee…..in his pre match announcement…..gave us Ode Odejay….as Big Kay replaced Amis with half an hour left.
Odejayi was in the action straight away but it was Nuneaton who went closest – winning a corner before bringing a decent save from Hinchliffe to keep Scott out after a break by Nicholson.
|Clarke & Hinchliffe face down Scott( Andrew Machin )|
For minute after minute after this Nuneaton pushed on, and it was alarming to see them enjoying far more possession than they looked worthy of, but possession they continued to enjoy, and Meppen-Walter produced an excellent tackle to stop Williams’ run as he made it to the by-line down the right.
Meppen-Walter was there again a minute or so later, in position to charge down a shot from Iwan Cartwright.
After this….Nicholson shot wide after Leahy had been allowed a run down the left…..and on the other flank Clifton’s run ended with his shot drifting just wide.
Hmmmm…… that was worrying , and although Lloyd continued to offer us some hope, with less than 15 minutes left this took a small dent as his header flew inches wide with Dibble in distress mode.
|Lloyd, still a threat late on.|
At last….County responded and it took a desperate late lunge from Langmead to keep Ball’s effort from making it 2-1. From the subsequent corner the County effort subsided as Cartwright wasted the moment by lofting the ball into the waiting arms of Dibble.
County were trying a bit but their luck was out as Odejayi’s down ward header from a Stopforth cross, missed out by inches with Dibble watching helplessly.
There were just 3 minutes of normal time left now, and Minihan and Marsden were on in place of Smalley and Ball, as Nuneaton took the game to County – Hinchliffe saving from Nicholson, before Clarke got in a decisive block to keep the follow up strike out.
However belatedly however, the changes seemed to have a galvanising effect on County who were soon forcing their opponents onto the back foot. Dibble was a busy lad, going full stretch to keep Minihan’s effort out!
We were into 4 minutes of added time now, as another fine Dibble save denied Meppen- Walter .Montrose joined the fray, his run teeing Marsden up for a strike that was deflected wide. The follow up fared no better drifting wide with Dibble a spectator.
Nuneaton tried to break the County hegemony but without success as Meppen-Walter, with Minihan’s help, turned defence into lively attack, and Anderson did well to make a last gasp clearance to stop the duo.
The game ended with Dibble continuing the late pattern of play, keeping a decent Marsden strike out.
Game over….points shared.
Despite my earlier comments perhaps an equal share of the spoils was fair, but only perhaps, as the thought still lingers that Town rather got out of gaol today.
We cannot win them all of course and we have an early chance to come back roaring on Tuesday against Gainsborough, but we will need to be a touch sharper than we were today.
Nuneaton Town line up:
Dibble, Clifton, Leahy, Scott( Penny 92), Langmead, Anderson, I Cartwright, Daniels, Ironside, Nicholson, Williams.
Subs not used:
Elliott, Moli, Mc Donald, Keane.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Smalley ( Minihan 87),Clarke, M Cartwright, Meppen-Walter,Stopforth, Montrose, Amis ( Odejayi 60), Ball ( Marsden 87), Lloyd.
Subs not used: Ormson, West.
Attendance : 806