Stockport County 1 Boston United 0 ( Vanarama National League- North) 20 March 2018

`Watch out all you National League North contenders ….Stockport County are coming !’ was the clear message that rang out from a steadily cooling Edgeley Park last night.

The air, circa 9.45, may have been somewhat bitter, but a warm glow emanated from County supporters who had just seen their team storm to seventh spot in the division, and into a play off spot, with a well deserved 1-0 win against Boston United.

In truth, with Boston playing the most negative of  games from the off in which time wasting was of the essence, much of the match was of a tedious even boring nature, as Referee Gareth Rhodes continually interrupted the flow for free kicks, as man after man,  the Pilgrims lined up to give the official their names.

If Boston had little to commend them, although County struggled to test Jon Stewart( of whom more later) , with Jimmy Ball, Michael Clarke and Scott Duxbury firing on full from the first whistle, the blues  were always  the better team.

It was wholly fitting that , having suffered the intolerable nonsense’s of Stewart and others for 85 minutes, that County could enjoy the last 5 minutes and another 5 of added time, knowing that Matty Warburton’s  lethal strike had positioned James Gannon’s side nicely in the run in to the play offs.

It was also a magnificent payback for what had gone before, and that served to add to the chuckle factor as over 2000 County fans made their way home or to the pub after the final whistle. 

A nicely observed `minutes applause’ in honour of County keeper Ken Mulhearn who sadly died a few days ago started proceedings off.     
Fitting Tribute to a Great Keeper.

Turnbull for the now departed Stopforth on the bench , was the only change from Saturday’s 3 pointer at snow scarred Gainsborough, as the match commenced with Jimmy Ball  quickly into a rhythm tidying up nicely as Mr Rhodes started his game long whistle symphony with a free kick to Boston.

The Pilgrims were reasonably frisky early on, but the only real shot in the opening salvoes came from County as visiting keeper Jon Stewart held onto Matty Warburton’s shot. 

That was 6 minutes in…the seventh saw Ball and Thomas combine to set Oswell up. Ossie went close, but Boston survived.

Another 3 minutes …and Oswell was there again….but again unlucky, being inches away from nicking an early one after a glorious run from Duxbury.

County press.

Boston were getting some encouragement from Mr Rhodes in the form of  a raft of early free kicks, but the visiting forwards( who had racked up 4 on Saturday)looked completely toothless , Ashley Hemmings typifying this with an effort that missed the target and provided Duxbury  with a near perfect pass.

There was also a dreadful pantomime next as the Referee tried to improvise with a bounce up following injury to a Boston player -it was a ridiculous mini farce, made all the more irritating by the sight of Stewart warming his act up with a limp and a dubious fall to earth with no one within yards of him. Winter won the bounce up but I was not amused.

Winter organising stuff....

County failed to press home their advantage, 21 minutes in, having gained a free kick in a decent position after Thomas was upended on the break. Indeed the advantage quickly switched to Craig Elliott’s side as Reece Thompson sped clear. Now this really did look dangerous, and more so as the forward made it into the box in determined fashion. Alas…..for him….he had been accompanied from box to box  by Dan Cowan , and he did ever so well to first get a decent block in, and then wait until his opponent was forced wide( and out of the box) before fouling him. 

The free kick from Hemmings, was poor…landing on the top of the netting!
Meanwhile, although much if not most of what was going down was forgettable, there was good work to admire also as Ball and Duxbury dealt serenely well with breaks by Wafula and Beesley respectively.

There was more too…at the other end where Warburton went close from a free kick( County’s best so far)and stretched  United further not long after with a searing run to the by-line.
County free kick coming.

For Boston, if Hemmings was somewhat under par finishing, he was finding time on the ball, being stopped by Ball after 27 minutes, and perhaps unlucky with his latest effort 2 minutes later that curled inches wide of goal.

Clarke came to the fore next as free kicks abounded for both sides, being spot on seeing any threat off as long throw followed free kick.

Clarke- spot on !

The 36th minute saw Boston’s best chance so far and it fell to Thompson, and this time no one had his collar. It was a definite chance and the shot when it came was not a bad effort either, but thankfully it whistled wide of Hinchliffe’s right hand post to allow us to relax again.

Having enjoyed and admired the refereeing of James Oldham on Saturday it was irksome in the extreme to witness Mr Rhodes’ work, and irritation tipped over into outrage as, with Matty Warburton clear and heading for goal, he stopped play. If the fact that one Boston player had slammed the ball into another team mate to cause the stoppage, sounded hilarious……Mr Rhodes remedy of choice.. a poorly executed bounce up ,was definitely not, neither was the fact that we had had a prime chance wafted away with the cool night air.

County finished the half in good nick however…..Ball heading wide from a Harry Winter prompt, both Harry and Jimmy seeing follow up efforts kept out by Stewart. Winter was doing well and just failed to set Oswell up as we went into 2 minutes added time.
Harry to Ossie........

The half ended with Wes Atkinson doing enough to see Turner off after a break from deep by Warburton.   

It was a familiar story…. We just needed to add a finish to our approach play in the second half………………………. Seldom can one word ( just) have been so miss used!

Straight from the re-start County were in Boston faces, more precisely Duxbury was – winning a corner , that saw the Boston keeper smother the ball and thus snuff out any chance County might have of causing mayhem, but then treat us to some serious over acting spending eons on the ground before rising to the vertical and crumpling again- pure vaudeville!

County press- keeper falls down....

County ignored the theatricals and piled onto the attack Oswell heading narrowly over the top from Duxbury’s inch perfect cross under pressure. Unaccountably the ref gave a corner  but County could not capitalise  on this- Thomas shooting over the top after his original shot had been charged down.

Boston under the cosh.

Turner was spending time in the middle with Oswell, but the County number eleven was not looking in too great a nick, and I was thinking that Stephenson would be a good option to maybe nick something from the game. 

Again County surged….again Duxbury was in the van with a neat cross to Oswell, but Ossie’s scissors kick displeased the Referee and Boston were spared any further angst.
Both keepers were in action next – Hinchliffe catching a deep cross from Hemmings, whilst Stewart took two attempts to hold a shot from Thomas. No sweat…he held onto to it…..but he had to lapse vaudevillian again and fall about claiming a none existent foul.

As a keeper Stewart looks to be not a bad player at all, but his major talents lie elsewhere I am tempted to believe. Row Q is blessed with a wide knowledge of matters vaudevillian, and they advised me at this point that, short of Desmond and Marks( 1940-70) `Fooling and Falling’ Stewart was arguably potentially the best variety turn there has been. He was certainly good value last night!

Row Q were busy again next as Turner gave Dazzer a chance to show his goal keeping talents with a fine catch as the poorest of shots headed up into the Cheadle End.
County were trying though, so fair do’s, but so were Boston to some degree, and Hinchliffe saved bravely to deny Wafula as he ran onto Beesley’s pass in the box.
For sure…the second half was better to watch than the first had been, but if Boston were trying too  they were also putting a great emphasis on time wasting and niggling fouls- nothing limb threatening…just niggling.

For their part, County did their best to ignore the nonsense and mayhem ensued as Warburton made it to the by-line. County queued for a shot and Oswell was distressed to see his effort deflected for a corner that Stephen Brogan hacked clear at the near post.

We were beyond the hour mark now and JG moved to replace Winter with Turnbull.
The County pressure meanwhile continued with Stewart saving from Ball as corner after County corner came and went without a goal, although Clarke was distinctly unlucky with one header midst the mayhem.

It went on…Stewart saving Warburton’s effort………..Jordan Keane cutting off a break by Oswell.

In response …Boston supplemented the time wasting with a few sorties up the park….but where was the quality? Wafula could only  head wide from Hemmings’ cross, and Ball dealt well with another break moments later down the left- there would clearly have to be some kind of a miracle were United to nick anything from this one.

Leaving nothing to chance however…JG brought on Stephenson for Cowan – a distinctly attacking move and a laudable one, and Darren was in the mix straight off bringing out some more comedy classics from Stewart after he had kept the eventual shot out!
Stephenson steams through...

County were working up a head of steam now and Boston in reply revved up the time wasting- Stewart in the van falling over and taking an age to take a free kick, then giving us a repeat performance  much to the home specs annoyance.

Stephenson was just not being handled at all well by Boston, who proceeded to foul him, Atkinson joining just about all his colleagues in Mr Rhodes’ book having attempted an early shirt swap with the County wide man.

The free kick was cleared, and Clarke did really well to react quickly and snuff out the danger as substitute Ben Igiehon made a break from deep.

We were just 5 minutes from time now, and County were still weighing in with attack after attack. Stephenson was causing major issues for the visiting defence , and his latest break saw him feed Duxbury down the left. Scott then lifted a trademark ball to where Oswell and Warburton lurked menacingly in the box. It was an obvious chance but Oswell’s instinctive effort came back off a defender to Warburton whose emphatic finish brooked no argument.
Warburton- lethal strike !

It was off towards the Cheadle End for the County team at this point and Warby’s celebrations got him into Mr Rhodes’ book.

An alteration in tactics from Boston,  was immediately apparent after the goal, and it was comfortably the most satisfying thing of the night to observe Stewart, who had prevaricated and irritated all afternoon now scurry about at speed to retrieve the ball and save now precious moments.
A little light relief as Clarke tries the Stewart tactic- brilliant!

Stephenson and Duxbury continued to rack the Boston back line in the time that remained.

Boston did try a bit, but it would take more than long punts from distance, and long throws to disturb County’s winning calm, and soon enough the place erupted in victory as again the County team headed for the Cheadle End to salute the supporters.

Great stuff….not a classic encounter by any means, but personally speaking I will take that thank you!

The blues are in seventh spot, and have all to play for as we take on Leamington at Edgeley Park this Saturday- one not to miss folks!

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, Stott, Duxbury, Winter( Turnbull 62), Ball, Thomas, Oswell, Warburton, Turner( O’Halloran 87).

Subs not used: Ormson, Minihan.

Boston United line up:

Stewart, Atkinson, Brogan, McGuire, Keane, Qualter, Wafula( Smith 87), Abbot, Thompson, Beesley( Igiehon 80), Hemmings.   

Subs not used : Tsimanga, Willis, Hare.

Attendance ; 2244


Additional Gallery from Andrew Machin.........



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