Altrincham 1 Stockport County 2 ( Friendly- 11 July 2017)
County’s pre-season campaign continued , last night,with a fixture against near neighbours Altrincham FC now of the Evo Stik.
I say `now of the Evo Stik’, but Alty Manager Phil Parkinson seems to have put together a team way capable of exiting that league at the correct end, probably at the first go.
As Ian Watts excellent preview indicated, Alty were packed with ex County players, amongst them Sam Sheridan and with him running their midfield they looked neat and tidy playing some decent football. Width came from John Johnston and Josh Hancock, and I thought that Johnston was arguably their top man.
For County it was another good work out, and a definite step up from Saturday’s interesting encounter at the Heath.
The first half saw County very much in charge as the triple threat of Stephenson, Oswell and Warburton tested Altrincham’s resolve to the fullest extent.
Warburton was a class act and there was good support from Stephenson who again caused our opponents much trouble, but the most satisfying aspect for me, from the game, was the showing of Jason Oswell. Jason scored one- a very good one, and played a part in the other County goal along with Stephenson.
|More excitement from Stephenson !|
That Altrincham were able to snatch one back, after the break, was a disappointment, but on balance no less than their zesty second half display deserved. County might have added to their goal tally but gutsy defending from Deasy and his fellow defenders and a touch of good fortune here and there kept the Moss Lane side afloat.
NASA yesterday accomplished the extremely excellent task of flying directly over and close to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter’s surface.
|Some spot that, and difficult to get to!|
The Spot NASA reckon is caused by a storm that has raged for over 350 years- so their task was immensely difficult, in a way that travelling from Stockport to Altrincham definitely is not, that is until last night when the A538 was a car park for longer than felt comfortable.
|A538 on another more tranquil ( non County) day|
Eventually entering Moss Lane it was clear that County fans had made the effort again and were on site in good numbers providing the majority of the near 700 crowd.
A dull drizzle welcomed them to this part of Cheshire, but this soon subsided as County got the game in motion getting on the front foot from the off, with Stephenson starting where he left off on Saturday with a run and shot that earned County an early corner from which Ball went close.
A foul by O’Halloran then put County under pressure and County were fortunate in so far as Jake Moult’s header, from what was a decent kick, missed the target.
|O'Halloran on the ball.....|
This early whiff of success buoyed Alty and a foul, this time by Winter, saw them attack again as ex Hatter Josh Amis brought Johnston into the game for the first time down the right. For a moment it looked iffy for the blues but despite making good ground Johnston saw his cross spurned by those in red/ white stripes.
|Winter- captain again and looking good !|
We were 5 minutes into proceedings now , and despite the short spate of attacking from Alty, County looked composed and full of intent, none more so than Warburton who won possession in fine style before forcing Tim Deasy to an early save.
Altrincham then came under intense pressure from County, Moult and Disney both having to concede free kicks to keep Stephenson and Oswell out respectively.
Nothing came of the first of these, but the second from Warburton required a good save from Deasy to keep it out, as County number 10 curled a neat effort beyond the wall. The resultant corner allowed Michael Clarke a free header, but Deasy saved this as well and it remained 0-0.
County , with Winter and Walker again looking composed and in charge in the middle of the park, kept probing their opponents, but another foul from O’Halloran put the screws on us briefly, and Hinchliffe did really well to keep the free kick out with a diving save.
|Iffy photo...excellent save !|
Twenty minutes had gone now and we needed a goal, and when it came it was no surprise that Stephenson and Oswell were involved. Oswell first…. and his challenge as Deasy prepared to make a clearance, almost saw the ball in the net. Instead Stephenson latched onto the ricochet and powered a shot in that somehow the keeper saved, but he could only parry the ball, with the lively Oswell on his case again, and send it crashing into Sam Heathcote and onward into the net.
Of the 3 people involved in that one, Heathcote was the least likely to claim it, but it was chalked up to him, and County had the lead.
An effort from Johnston induced a fumble from Hinchliffe, but generally ,despite Alty looking composed and trying to play football, it was County who looked the more likely to prosper- Walker going close with a shot that somehow Deasy kept out.
That said though, Hinchliffe again had to pull out all the stops to keep Poole out- this was a terrific save from the County keeper!
We needed an instant reply from County, and it came from Stephenson, and Deasy did well to make the required save after the County striker had induced panic in the ranks of the Alty rear guard. Deasy parried the shot opening things up for Walker, but his follow up effort cleared the bar narrowly.
Despite looking good going forward, the occasional foul or error from County, was tending to undermine their attacking intent, and when Hampson lost the ball to Johnston , with Amis joining in and heading for goal, we looked potentially under threat. Whilst Amis charged through the middle, Johnston took to the right flank, releasing a tempting ball into the box where the former County forward now was.
Nah…….up stepped Hinchliffe to snaffle the cross with all the relish of a donkey eating strawberries. Good stuff that from Hinchliffe…. not so what went before though!
Johnston was looking frisky now and , with the break approaching, he again had the ball heading Hinchliffe’s way down the right. This time he picked out Hancock on the left with a neat pass, and the cross from him reached Amis with precision only for the resultant header to carry the bar!
That was a let off, but County did not dwell on it, but set about putting matters right, doing so in the best possible fashion….with a goal!
This one was all Oswell!
It started with a run from Dan Cowan down the right, followed by a cross that landed temptingly in the yard or so of grass twixt Oswell and Deasy- somehow Oswell’s effort was deflected around the post, but from the corner Oswell re-doubled his efforts and made no mistake with a snappy header from close in that brooked no arguments from Deasy and Co…..
County’s lead was now 2-0, and not long after it was half time.
It all got a tad confusing after this….I was perhaps expecting County to make wholesale changes, as per Saturday’s modus operandi, but then again…with Alty looking a touch too tasty, that just might be a tad risky, and that was the way it seemed that JG was thinking as I could not see many changes from County upon the re-start, apart from Ormson for Hinchliffe at the back. Alty however made a host of personnel changes amongst these were Joel Benbow-Lita and Jerome Wright who were both to show up to good effect in the following 45 minutes.
I was immediately impressed by Ormson’s distribution, but he was under pressure a time or two as Alty attacked down the flanks where Wright made considerable ground. The approach play flattered to deceive from Alty however and they could not seem to hit the target and thus test Ormson.
But…..no sooner had I scribbled that last legend when ……Benbow-Lita set about us again - his dipping effort forcing Ormson into an excellent diving save that saw the ball tipped over the bar at the last gasp!
|Stephenson pushes on....|
After the hour mark County were busy shuffling their pack, which saw ,amongst other things, Chris Smalley on for his first ( welcome) run out of the close season.
Meanwhile Benbow-Lita had another dip, albeit a lesser powered effort,and Ormson again did the biz to keep it at 2-0.
|Warburton to the fore...|
The County attacks were less frequent than in the first half, but did not lack intensity, just a shade of luck, and maybe just a shade more finesse….and Walker’s neat run saw Oswell’s shot somehow kept out by Deasy’s outstretched arm as the keeper lay prone on the ground!
|Threats galore via Oswell.|
Twice after this Oswell went close- an almighty scramble on the goal line ending with the ball still improbably in play.
|Ooo...its a corner!|
Into the last 20 minutes and we saw youngsters George West and Adam Etches on, and Deasy had to make a fine save to keep a West effort out minutes after he had come on.
Altrincham continued to work hard and look good , but it was still a surprise when they nicked one late on through Hancock whose close range effort went in off the cross bar with County failing to prevent the cross coming over from the right.
Both teams tried to add to the score….County via powerful runs from Warburton and Brazel, but there was not enough precision in the last third now to penetrate the doughty Alty defence.
|Brazel in the thick of things...|
Alty meanwhile kept trying but without the finish that would have made the difference from playing well and getting something from a game.
All round …another useful run out, and a step up in class for County.
Again it’s too early for heady prognostications, I am certain JG has matters weighed up – expect improvement on Saturday when County take on Preston at Edgeley Park.
See you there then!
Altrincham line up:
Deasy, Disney, Brownhill, Lynch, Heathcote, Moult, Johnston, Sheridan, Amis, Poole, Hancock.
Substitutes: Short, Jones, Taylor, Wright, Densmore, Benbow- Lita, Hasler-Cregg, Thompson.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Hampson, Winter, Clarke, O`Halloran, Ball, Walker, Oswell, Warburton, Stephenson.
Substitutes: Ormson, Duxbury, Smalley, Brazel, Thomas, West, Etches, Whitty, Downing.