Stockport County 1 Bradford Park Avenue 2 ( Vanarama National League- North) 19 November 2016





County came away pointless from the game with lowly Bradford Park Avenue today, and should have done better, especially in front of a decent sized Edgeley Park crowd.

Bradford played some neat football at times, but with Kayode Odejayi in imposing form, County took the lead 25 minutes in, and looked well set. However….neither side really took a firm grip on proceedings after the goal, but when County were awarded  a penalty, with just 23 minutes left to play, a 2-0 lead looked sorted, until Danny Lloyd slammed his kick against the bar with the keeper nowhere.

That was a pivotal moment in the game, and within 3 minutes Bradford were level, and still playing some decent football. Despite much pressure from County, and with the game getting a touch feisty late on, it remained 1-1 until 3 minutes into added time when it all went pear shaped as a James Knowles, shot went in off a defender.

County should have been quids in, and the game, won long before the 93rd minute but …..credit to Park Avenue…they stuck to it and made us pay for our inability to turn our possession into goals.
Andrew Machin catches pre match scene

None of this disappointment abounded at 3 o’clock, amongst another bumper crowd of over 3000, the majority of who were willing a County win.

There were 3 ex County players in the Park Avenue squad, Chris Sharp on the bench, and Danny Boshell along with Oli Johnson in the starting line up. Johnson always plays well against us, so when the game commenced after a suitably well observed minute’s applause in honour of the late County legend Len Allchurch,
 it was with some trepidation I noted that Oli was in amongst the County back line giving every impression he would make my worst nightmares come true. 

Oli Johnson hovers.....

For five minutes Park Avenue took the game to County, looking a cut above their lowly league position with the ball played about to feet and to a purpose.
Hill pre panto mode.....

Their early shooting was another matter entirely ( Nicky Boshell and Matt Hill spraying weak shots way away from the target). Boshell did finally locate the goal, but the 5 minute period ended with Hinchliffe comfortably saving his shot at his near post.

Hinchliffe claim ( Andrew Machin )

County offered a first glimpse next of what might be, as Ross and Montrose carved out an opening down the right, but when the latter’s cross picked Meppen-Walter out he sent the tamest of efforts straight into keeper Jon Worsnop’s hands.
Bradford press ( Andrew Machin )

Twice after this, with Hinchliffe seeking a Gainsborough repeat performance, Lloyd was thwarted by Worsnop as he darted into the box onto the keeper’s long ball. 

Lloyd cross on the way......

Lloyd did better…twice …. after this, but….. set up by Montrose’s excellent run, the County wide man’s shot whizzed inches wide of the mark first off, and then he looked up to see his shot thunder into the advertising hoardings not that far away from goal ,after much good work from Stopforth!

About 15 minutes had now gone, and County looked to be getting their act together, but when Meppen-Walters’ free kick failed to pierce the visitors defences, it was all hands to the tiller as Park Avenue had us on the break. 
Meppen-Walter kick ahoy !

Almost inevitably the situation called for a foul to stop the rot, and Meppen-Walter duly obliged. County had a free kick to defend but this hit the wall ,allowing Hinchliffe to deal calmly with the follow up from Hill.

Emile Sinclair threatened to headline for Bradford next, as the stand side liner dozed on with the forward on the charge but clearly offside. 
 
Sinclair to the fore and onside....apparently !
The flag stayed down …and on…on ran Sinclair, but the moment passed with Ross tidying up at the back post with no visiting  player able to convert what had looked to be an undeserved chance.

Bradford upped the tempo after this, and Smalley was just able to nip in and keep Hill’s dangerous ball from the predatory Sinclair.

Smalley stops the rot.

 County were under pressure – largely through Hill who again pinged a tasty ball over. Thankfully the referee spotted a foul on Cartwright by Nicky Boshell and the resultant free kick offered County some respite, but this was only temporary and Stopforth and Smalley had to work hard to see off a couple more raids from a Bradford side that was looking anything but relegation fodder.

That said…..the next minute saw County take the lead!  It started with a concerted effort from County that saw Lloyd cut inside before delivering an inch perfect cross into the box . Odejayi met it with the firmest of headers sending the ball crashing into the net with Worsnop and his fellow defenders groping air desperately.
Goal...for Big K(Andrew Machin )

Twenty five minutes gone, and County were one up, and almost immediately 1-0 shaped to become 2-0 as Lloyd popped up on the right to ping another neat cross on Odejayi’s head. Another imperious header followed and Worsnop did well to keep it out. 
Lloyd v OJ ( Andrew Machin )

The corner came to nothing, and further County pressure saw Stopforth, Odejayi and Lloyd all go close without claiming the cigar.

Odejayi has company ( Andrew Machin )

I was still quite impressed with Bradford’s play, and they did use the ball well when they had it, and Clarke did really well to deal with a break by Johnson as the period of blue pressure subsided with us being hit on the counter!

 
Meppen-Walter clears.
 One attack foiled….a second followed and Ross fouled his man with a goal threat on! 

Ross covers well ( Andrew Machin )

 A small pre Xmas panto then unfolded before our disbelieving eyes, as Park Avenue lined their kick up- instead they didn’t line it up….instead Hill and one other took turns to tie their shoe laces rather than take the kick.
 
Panto !!!!!!!!!!

 Now…I know that referees at this level are prone to allowing this kind of nonsense, but it was truly annoying, a situation only assuaged when Hinchliffe reached up to gather the incoming ball to him!

So much for panto !
County poured forward from the goal kick, and Stopforth’s run succeeded in filleting the right side of the visitors back line, so much so that a second goal looked on as he crossed to Odejayi who again hit the target with a power header! It would have been 2-0 for sure had it not been for Worsnop who flung himself to his left to push the ball round the post!
Montrose on the ball and in form.
It was beginning to look like County might just win this one with something to spare, with a smidgeon of luck, but they also needed to take what chances came their way and the next attack showed them lacking in this respect. Montrose was having another good game, putting himself about to good effect all over the park, and his latest run sent Jimmy Ball skidding clear with a run on goal a distinct goer! But….having taken the pass…he hesitated and…..worse…drifted ever so slightly away from goal, and on reaching the box …another hesitation was one too many and the defender whacked the ball clear, forcing Clarke into action to stop Sinclair taking full revenge on the break.
Bradford came back at County in the last 5 minutes of the half, and the blues had to defend in numbers with the referee obliging their opponents with the odd iffy free kick. County’s wall did the trick in response and the half ended with County attacking and Odejayi giving us a master class in deft forward play.

A master class from Big K !
First off Big K’s immaculate lay off sent Lloyd on a run. His shot took a  deflection, and nothing came of the corner, but Odejayi was not finished – another brilliant ball from him had Lloyd scooting clear once more- again it was nicely done and a chance was on, but it faded to nothing as weight of numbers stopped Danny on the edge of the box.
Not long after the half was over, but any disappointment was tempered by the knowledge that we were 1-0 up and playing towards the Cheadle End in the second half!  
                
Bradford were quick off the mark on the re-start, with Sinclair again the prime mover- three times in as many minutes he was in County’s face – bringing the best out of Hinchliffe and Clarke in response.
As in the first half, we had about 5 minutes of concerted pressure from the Yorkshire side, broken up eventually by Meppen-Walter whose neat work not only won him the ball, but set up County to cause mayhem on the break. A neat pass followed from Meppen-Walter and Ball was well set and clear, but with a chance very much on he again wasted it, passing the ball inside to a Bradford player with a shot at least a possibility.
That was disappointing, and more followed with Lloyd inches away from Odejayi’s headed pass, but JG took the opportunity to shuffle the pack somewhat, and he brought Minihan on for Stopforth.
Odejayi & Nowakowski  clash....
Bradford attacked next- Luke Dean seeing a shot charged down after much good work by Ross had got in the way of some dangerous play from the visitors.
Minihan got into the action early, and was denied only by quick work from Worsnop….then Odejayi  harried Shane Killock into conceding a throw- Meppen –Walter’s shot was blocked when the throw came in, but it again looked like maybe County were just one attack away from adding to their lead.

Any minute now ?
But….Bradford were offering dogged defence in reply, and they must have been crestfallen when Dean leaned on Lloyd in the box and the referee pointed to the spot!  
This surely was a death knell to Avenue’s chances, and Lloyd stepped up to take the kick with something of that ilk in mind as he smashed the ball goal ward. The keeper moved…and went the wrong way…but it did not matter as the ball thudded into the cross bar and it remained 1-0.
Lloyd's pen hits the crossbar( Andrew Machin)
It stunned the crowd, and probably did nothing much to boost County’s morale, and Hinchliffe almost added to our feelings of unhappiness by sending a poor clearance straight to a Bradford player. Now…this was Bradford’s chance to capitalise …rubbing salt in the County wound, but Nicki Wroe failed to oblige, lifting his shot into the empty Railway End!
It stayed 1-0, but only for another 2 minutes …..
There was nothing happening to create any alarm…County were attacking through Lloyd …and then they weren’t as Hill proceeded to do his best to rain on County’s parade. First off he blocked Lloyd’s run, and then he hauled him down, with play elsewhere. The free kick, unaccountably went to Bradford, and … after another little Hill panto, it was taken, and with County failing to clear the ball, Sinclair was able to force it home to send the small Yorkshire contingent at the far end of the Pop Side wild with delight.

1-1 ( Andrew Machin )
County tried to respond immediately but Hill denied them, clearing his lines with a clutch of blue shirts queuing for a shot! Danny Boshell joined in with a foul( and a booking) to stop Lloyd’s break. County pushed on after this, forcing corner after corner- having masses of the ball, but without applying the necessary finish. Odejayi not usually our best hope in this respect, again saw a header miss out......
Over the bar from Big K ( Andrew Machin )




........ and Lloyd kept at it –denied frequently at the last gasp…but he kept trying, but he was looking somewhat tetchy now, as a result of some of the decisions that had gone against him.

Lloyd still working hard
( Andrew Machin )


 I thought with this in mind JG might just substitute him to avoid a card, but when a double switch was announced it resulted in Marsden and Amis replacing Ball and Odejayi. The latter left to a thunderous standing ovation that was richly deserved!
Bradford meanwhile were still mixing the panto with some good football and Smalley hurriedly found touch after Ross had rescued County with a goal line clearance. Joe Cofie then won his side a corner as 4 minutes added time was announced ,but this was cleared by County who promptly attacked via Minihan who was then drawn into more theatricals by the highly entertaining , if irritating, Hill.
Montrose…Minihan…Ross all piled forward…all thwarted by resolute defending from Bradford, who were not slow to hit on the break when they could- a second corner won by Cofie being claimed by Hinchliffe to the general approval of the County faithful.
Deep into added time we went with County pressing….Hill milking his moments to the full in response, as Minihan was adjudged to have fouled him.
The free kick pushed County back and they failed to clear their lines and paid the price as Knowles latched onto the ball and slotted it home via a wicked deflection.

Last gasp winner ( Andrew Machin )
There was no time left for County to make it back to parity- it was game over, and on this occasion…game lost!
We have an opportunity to make amends on Tuesday at Tamworth.
I will be there- hope to see you too!

Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Cartwright, Meppen-Walter, Stopforth( Miihan 53), Montrose, Odejayi( Amis 83), Ball( Marsden 83), Lloyd.
Subs not used; Ormson, Duxbury.

Bradford Park Avenue line up;
Worsnop, Toulson, Hill, Dean( Nowakowski 74), Killock, Knowles, Wroe, D Boshell( Sharp 80), Johnson( Cofie 61), Sinclair, N Boshell.
Subs not used: Spires , Eccles.    
 Attendance: 3246

Ian Brown.

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