Stockport County 2 Woking 4 ( FA Cup - Round 1) 5 November 2016





County exited the FA Cup yesterday, at the hands of National Premier Woking , to whom they went down 2-4 at an Edgeley Park that had hummed and buzzed throughout a typical cup tie.
Cheadle End- humming !

Forced to lapse into cliché, I would plump for the description ` game of two halves’ – a first half in which Woking had two shot on goal and scored with both of them, whilst County pounded their opponents for probably 40 of the available 49 minutes, coming away with the same two goal tally at the end of the half as Woking- both scored by Jimmy Ball. That said….Ball might have had 4 or 5 in that half had not Cards keeper Brandon Hall not been in such superb form- several of his saves were world class and kept the National Premier side in a game they at times looked likely to be long gone in!

The second half looked like a repeat of the first as County again had the lion’s share of possession and attacking play. But they were attacking the Railway End this time and the added impetus gained from facing the Cheadle End was not on tap and this fact was probably not a million miles away from being the reason that Hall did not need to be quite so brilliant. Twice County were hit on the break, and twice conceded goals- it mattered not that these were against the run of play, and with the second of these going in added time there was little County could do to claw their way back .

Away End ( Andrew Machin )


A disappointing result then if one that does not come close to denting my view that we are decidedly on the way back.
Just 1 of many County flags caught by Andrew Machin.

At 3 o’clock there was a buoyant mood around EP as we awaited the commencement of play, and a terrific ,pre match, rendering of `The Last Post’ by Daniel Smith of 5th Manchester Company of Boys Brigade, set the mood into some perspective, adding just the right amount of pathos to the mix. 


Two views bugler( Hedgie top/ Andrew Machin below) and....

....Daniel Smith in close up ( Andrew Machin )
 
The sight of County lining up to attack the Cheadle End rather skewed matters a tad but we soon got over our dismay as a bevy of blue shirts proceeded to push their opponents onto the back foot.
I was slightly surprised by Jimmy Ball’s inclusion in the starting line up, but the early moments saw me preparing to chew on words as the ex Staly Vegas lad ripped into the visitors who looked pensive in response. 
 
Early run from Jimmy Ball.
Brian Saah managed to keep him from Cartwright’s probing pass, 2 minutes in,  but the lad was back again within a minute and only prevented from opening the scoring by a terrific save from Hall, after good work in the build up from Lloyd.
Ball on the ball ( Andrew Machin )

Lloyd and Ball were roaming about freely  early on, and whilst Saah was able to put himself twixt the duo and goal a time or two , his actions thereafter seemed limited to finding touch- a fairly  basic response to pressure I suppose, but fair enough with County looking for early goals as they were.
County press....

The early action continued in the Woking half, as a flick on from Amis, from Clarke’s free kick, found Ball about to pounce in the box. Ball was beaten to the pill by Hall’s quick reactions, but although it was still 0-0,  I was already liking what I was watching!

I must flag up at this point, the number of fouls that Woking were making- two on Montrose, and another on Stopforth all of which had the BP soaring. Referee Bramall stayed calm however and only Frank Sutherland was booked- another early disappointment!


County push Woking back ( Andrew Machin )....

Dennon Lewis offered us a brief glimpse of what Woking might have to show us in the way of attacking play, but his run and cross ended without reward when another foul on Stopforth again raised the temperature.

Ten minutes in and the game took a turn for the better. At first there was more disappointment to deal with as Hall dived to somehow push a shot from Ball around the post. One….two…corners followed , the second of which saw the ball carry to Ball who promptly lashed a lovely curling ball into the net!

Great strike from Ball !

County were one up…and in the best way possible….via a fine goal…I was well pleased!

The pressure on Woking continued to build, but when Amis shaped to burst clear, he was brought down by Ismail Yakubu.
A break by Amis, `tackle' pending from Yakubu !
...the outcome ( Andrew Machin )

 It was a poor tackle but he only got a yellow much to my chagrin!

 
Yakubu's yellow( Andrew Machin )

 It only needed the kick  to hit the wall and the angst multiplied, but we were one up so really….did it matter that much?
Wall in place !


Well….yes…..as within a couple of minutes Woking were level.
County had the visitors under heavy pressure, only to see Ball’s cross cleared.

Ball covered.....

Working the ball up the park, Woking won a corner , a corner that County failed to defend allowing Joey Jones to force the ball home at the back of the box.

County consternation....its 1-1 !

That again was disappointing, and more followed on from it as a Ball shot was hacked off the line by Yakubu. A corner followed and more angst for the visitors, but when Clarke fouled Saah after going close, the moment passed and Woking were able to clear their lines.

Clarke pressing at bk post ( Andrew Machin )

Twenty three minutes gone, and it was still 1-1. Woking were struggling to cope with County’s attacking play, being content to find touch in the heat of battle. Saah was in the act again clearing a shot from Montrose who again was having a mightily impressive game ( he would have been my M.O.M).

Montrose- buzzing !

On the rare occasions that Woking broke the County strangle hold on them, County looked composed in their response, and their defensive work was pretty solid, and apart from the goal Hinchliffe had had nothing of any significance to do so far!
It was mainly County on the offensive – Lloyd saw a shot clear the bar, and Minihan stung Hall’s hands with a snap shot.
County press....

We were beyond 30 minutes now, and again County got the drop on their opponents. Ball was again the focus, and the next attack saw him well clear and set up nicely, but with Amis and Lloyd forming an orderly queue to his left, and in better shooting positions, he elected to shoot and planted the poorest of efforts well wide.

The County offensive continued apace with Ball winning what looked to be a  nicely positioned throw deep in the Woking half. Ross lifted this high into the box , but with Amis unable to get on the end of it, Woking had it on the break. In a trice it was 1-2 as Chigozie Ugwu slotted the ball home to the utter dismay of the home specs.
Minihan applies the pressure.

Credit to James Gannon’s boys….they came back at their exalted opponents, Amis and Minihan combining to force Saah to seek Hardcastle Road out once more.
Incoming from Ross !

 From Ross’s throw, Stopforth made it to the by-line, but whilst a corner resulted and much excitement, it ebbed quickly away when Saah again frustrated the blues by blocking Amis’s best efforts to force the ball home.

Amis thwarted by Saar and co!

The blue blizzard was in full swing now and, with Hinchliffe having a rare moment in possession of the ball, it magnified as his long ball, unsurprisingly perhaps, picked out Lloyd midst a forest of red/white and blue shirts. Lloyd reacted promptly and pumped a fierce shot goal ward, and it was going in as the keeper’s dive had him heading in slightly the wrong direction. Yes…..it was a goal….the equaliser….but no….it wasn’t as Hall managed to bring his right arm into play at the very last gasp pushing the ball over the bar.

That was an incredible save…..a world class save, and must have bucked his beleaguered team mates up a ton- I had a pretty good idea how County were feeling –they had already done enough to put the game to bed , but………..

The one way traffic continued with Kieran Murtagh hooking clear from under the bar from a corner won by Ball and Minihan. It was desperate stuff from the Cards who now had 2 men on Ball, and Murtagh was in there again, with just 4 minutes left of the half, halting an Amis run with a decent tackle.
Amis caught by Andrew Machin..

The impetus was building still, and looked about to result in the equaliser when Ball ran clear down the right before slipping an immaculate pass inside to Amis who had a good sight of goal. It was a chance and no mistake but Josh snatched at it and the ball flew yards wide of the target.

That could have signalled a turning point in what had been a one sided game so far, but instead County’s resolve ensured it wasn’t. 

There was a chance for me to do some ` word chewing’ again as I looked up to see Cartwright win the ball and Smalley send what I viewed as an overly ambitious ball forward for Lloyd to maybe run for. “No” I blundered as Lloyd sped after the ball …latched onto it and scurried to the by-line before sliding an inch perfect pass along the deck and across goal to the back post where Ball side footed it  home. It was 2-2, and County were back!
Woking under pressure !

There was time for Saah to keep busy in the added time that followed, and for Hall to do likewise , most notably keeping a Minihan shot out, but it stayed at 2-2 , which was hardly a true reflection of the way play had panned out, but there were still 45 minutes for County to square this circle, and they left the field to a rousing reception from the EP  faithful.

The re-start saw County again on the attack as Cartwright’s run was halted by a foul. Montrose’s shot following the free kick ,was deflected wide, and  Hall  snaffled the Minihan effort that  came from the subsequent corner.

Ross stepped up to stop the rot as Ben Jefford tried to hit County on the break, and Clarke followed suit ,doing well to nullify Delano Sam-Yorke’s run that took him to the by-line.
Ross covers.....

Woking were beginning to flex their muscles a touch, and with County looking for another goal ,hitting us on the quick counter was always a possibility, but County’s play, particularly Montrose’s looked so compelling at times that this dire possibility was instantly put to the back of my mind.

Montrose was in excellent nick, but his shot came back out off a defender, then another run from him gave County a free kick. Lloyd went close with the kick and again a minute or so later from another after Clarke and Minihan had set things up.

Lloyd free kick.

It looked just a matter of time before 2-2 would become 3-2 to County, but instead , after latching onto a poor pass from a harassed defender, Lloyd dragged his shot wide of the far post with Hall exposed.

I was at it again just before the hour as Hall just managed to beat Minihan to a loose ball. “ County are in control” I scribbled, and they were….but really…did I need to?.........
Ross & Minhan in there( Andrew Machin )

The inevitable happened….as from all out attack County allowed Chigozie Ugwu the chance to sneak clear. He was in the box in no time with options to pass, but he declined to and his shot beat Hinchliffe before thudding into his far post.” Saved” I opined to myself only to be thwarted by a swing of Lady Luck’s fashion accessory that saw the ball spin ridiculously back across the line to go in .

That was an awful blow, and an undeserved one , but County  did their best to get back into it again via Minihan and Lloyd who both saw efforts miss out narrowly.

Anguish for County !

Minihan was replaced by Hooper with just over 20 minutes left to play, as Woking  briefly gained a new lease of life via Nathan Ralph and Ugwu who brought the very best from Clarke and Smalley in response, keeping it at 2-3.

The normal pattern of play resumed  however with County pushing on  urged on by their vociferous supporters.

Montrose to the fore......

For his part….Saah was still working to plan, doing well to thwart a Ross run, before locating the Reservoirs with immaculate precision. Woking were stuck in their own half with no route clear for long periods, but the ball was not showing any signs of eluding Hall’s eager grasp any time soon. The majority of the 4000+ plus crowd thought that they had seen a chance to turn that particular tide as the ball appeared to hit a Woking arm in the box. Yakubu promptly lashed the ball out of play and the Referee was not inclined to oblige County so the battle resumed.  
  
JG made a double switch with 10 minutes left, replacing Ball and Amis with Marsden and Odejayi, but Marsden put a shot wide when well placed  not long after coming on.
Woking were now getting the odd moment or two now, with County pushing on for that equaliser, and Smalley did well to deny Ugwu . Smalley was in the van again moments after doing enough to put Ugwu off as he went for goal. Ugwu could have chosen to pass to Lewis who was  better placed, but under pressure from Smalley opted to shoot and sent the ball heading our way in Row R.
Late long shot of EP

County still had the whip hand attacking-wise but without that final cutting edge- as shot after shot hit and came back off defenders.


County- still pressing late on ( Andrew Machin )

County were still doing their best to book that dank Tuesday night date at their opponents place, when it all went pear shaped.
The ball had just been worked clear following a County attack and substitute Fabio Saraiva was on hand to drill the ball home as a first time cross came his way from the right flank.
There was no time left for County to do anything but lick their wounds, the Cup run was over, Woking had won.

There was time though after the final whistle for the supporters to give their team a rousing send off and it was well deserved, County had outplayed their opponents for much of the game, and restricted them to four shots on target the whole game- that all 4 went in is sadly just the way football , and life, is.
and another late late shot of EP

It’s back to National League North reality now ( and perhaps a tasty run in the FA Trophy) and I fancy JG’s boys to keep those smiles on County supporters faces going forward….keep the faith folks…..see you at Nuneaton!

Oh...and its back to normal next week, with Saturday publication .

 Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Cartwright, Montrose, Minihan( Hooper 69), Stopforth, Amis( Odejayi 79), Ball( Marsden 79), Lloyd.

Subs not used: Ormson, Meppen-Walter, Carney, West.

Woking line up:

Hall, Lewis, Sam-Yorke( Thomas 90), Jefford( Saraiva 61), Saah, Murtagh, Ugwu, Yakubu, Jones, Ralph, Sutherland(Carter 57).

Subs not used: Little, Edgar, Kandi, Kretzschmar.

Attendance 4025

Ian Brown

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