Harrogate Town 2 Stockport County 4 ( FA Trophy 3rd Round) 2 February 2019

Stockport County belied their position one division below National Premier Harrogate Town by handing the North Yorkshire high fliers something of a lesson in the 3rd Round of the FA Trophy today.

Frank - excellent again !

The weather might have been cold but County ignored it with as hot a performance as you would want to witness in a tie that most experts would have made Town favourites to win.
Despite Harrogate taking a lead 19 minutes in, that prospect was never on . as County, with  new boy Lewis Baines slotting in seamlessly, scored within 90 seconds……notching a second within a minute of that.

Lewis fitted seemlessly in .....

The problem for Town was that ( like myself in Rusholme and District Sunday League-Division 2 in 19 hundred and frozen to death) they needed time on the ball , and County were just not having any of that, and their habit of not accepting a ball was lost ….allied to a crucial alertness of mind ,personified by the excellent Frank Mulhern, and the tireless Adam Thomas, that ensured that any slip was punished and both Frank and Matty Warburton did just that after the break as County cruised into a 4-1 lead and sent their supporters into raptures  (a state most of them are by now getting used to).

Thomas marauding forward with Minihan !

A late goal for Town probably flattered them, but whose counting…4-2 will more than do as County tee up a Wembley trip to go with their push for a place in National Premier.

Ready for the off.....

Harrogate were probably at their best early on and they looked sharp …passing the ball about nicely and largely on the ground.

But……a finished product is required for success , and early doors there seemed no sign of that from our hosts, and it was County causing most of the issues going forward , as both Minihan and Duxbury  worked keeper James Belshaw with  crosses of some quality.
County applying pressure ...

It was 8 minutes in before Hinchliffe had work to do , and this was routine, as he caught Burrell`s high ball at the back post with Mark Beck threatening.
County continued to occupy territory in the Town half , in the minutes that followed, a period punctuated briefly, but not to great distinction, by Liam Kitching  who scuffed a poor effort high and wide.
At the other end though, Harrogate were toiling, Warren Burrell hooking the ball clear under pressure from Minihan, while   Belshaw did well, making a decent job of seeing off a County free kick with 18 minutes gone.
A melee in front of Belshaw`s goal...

That action ushered in what looked to be a game changing moment as almost straight from the clearance by the keeper, Town hit on the break down the right where Emmett hit a dangerous ball towards goal where it ricocheted into the net off . Jordan Keane who could do absolutely nothing about it !
Anguish as County go 1 down ( Andrew Machin )

Harrogate 1 County 0….wow…..the home specs thought Xmas …..New Year and their birthdays had all come at once, but they were a touch premature, as within a couple of cool North Yorkshire minutes County were level . It began with some neat hold up play by Stephenson, who then ushered the ball on to Thomas . 

Another assist from Stephenson ! ( Andrew Machin )

A shot was probably on….but no one expected what we got…as Thomas unleashed a quality strike that beat the keeper , going in off the far post !

Instant equaliser from Thomas !

And Andrew Machin `s view of that.....

The cheers from the County following from that one had hardly died down ( I certainly had not finished note taking from the previous goal )…when another followed , and the white shirted blues took the lead !
Frank watchers will know how fatal it is for defenders to relax , or be forced into error and that`s what happened next I guess as Mulhern snaffled the loose pill in typical style before slotting it under Belshaw`s on rushing body into the net !

Frank`s the man !
and Andrew Machin saw it !

Fantastic !

Town must have been shell shocked, but they kept trying to snatch one back, but Beck`s downward header went wide from Kitching`s cross.

Thomas and Mulhern were looking irresistible at this point , Jack Muldoon happy to track back at one point and concede a corner as  another lethal cross headed goalward from Thomas. Palmer tried for the incoming flag kick , but despite something of a melee in front of goal, Town were able to clear their lines.

Excellent game from Thomas !

We then saw Lewis Baines` metal, on the half hour, as with Emmett breaking  through the middle, County`s new central defender ` took one for the team` collecting a yellow , but stopping the rot in the process. I can add also that the two corners and the free kick they followed, were defended well by County.
In the middle of our goal- Hinchliffe ( Andrew Machin )

The rest , apart from a scare when Belshaw spilled the ball whilst under one of Frank`s spells, was relatively low key stuff…..

Good work by Minihan was wasted when no one in white showed to apply a finish……

Stephenson went close with a minute left…….and Beck did well to head clear with Warby and Mulhern straining for a third goal.

It stayed 2-1 though , but I saw nothing but smiling faces from the County following at the break.

And here`s some of em .....

And some from Andrew Machin :-

I was just thinking how quiet things had become when the game resumed after half time, when it rather exploded again.

Hinchliffe had just made short work of what might have been a difficult catch under pressure from Burrell`s cross, when his clearance found its way to Burrell. No matter……he went to pass back to Belshaw, but before he realised it, or the keeper could react….Warby nipped in…stole the ball….drew the keeper…before slotting a neat finish into the net !

2 shots of Warburton`s goal !
And Andrew Machin`s view of that action .....


Fantastic hardly covers that, but it will do….

There was work for County next as Town replied, but an imperious header from Palmer snuffed out their best work at source.

And…..there was attacking to do for JG`s boys too …..Minihan seeing a shot charged down.

Thomas was still firing on all cylinders , let me confirm, winning a corner around the hour mark. A melee ensued in front of Belshaw`s goal, before the move sadly ended with Warburton`s shot carrying the bar.

Walker takes the corner, and the ensuing melee.....

Harrogate , to be sure, were doing their level best to stop County`s progress and get back in the game, but there was nothing at all special about their work, and County could just bide their time and wait for the loose ball…the error…

Town attack ( Andrew Machin )

And when those occurred County had the equipment to punish the Yorkshire side , and they knew it and Mulhern was carted just outside the box by Kitching, who got a yellow for his pains.

Frank...carted .....

Belshaw excelled himself by pushing the free kick over the bar, and seeing the ball out of the ground from Walker`s follow up corner.

Good save from Belshaw ( Andrew Machin )

We were way past the hour now and Cowan was now on for Warburton.
But those tempted to see this as a defensive move needed to think again as it took 3 defenders to fend off Duxbury `s run.

Duxbury thwarted....just...

That said….County did have defending to see to, and Hinchliffe did really well to make a crucial save with Harrogate buzzing around his box like so many angry bees.

Crucial stop from Hinchliffe ( Andrew Machin )

The Hinchliffe save brought Town a corner…….and then another….but there was simply no way through for them beyond the impenetrable grip Palmer and company had on proceedings.

If there was a fair bit of pressure around this time from Harrogate, they also must surely have addressed the tendency of theirs to fall asleep at the metaphoric wheel…..
Well Duxbury had just gone close again ,and the next action gave us our answer, as Thompson lost the ball to Mulhern , who then drew  2…3 defenders his way before slamming the ball home to make it 4-1.

Franks second in easy stages .....
And Andrew Machin`s view of that action :-

With just under 10 minutes left, County now had Kirby on for Mulhern ( Turnbull had replaced Stephenson earlier), setting their stall out to  stifle the Harrogate raids ( of which there were a number) whilst offering to hit their opponents on the break.

Kirby on late ....

Mostly the late attacking came from Town, and they were able to nick a late one  with 2 minutes left when Fallowfield`s cross was fired home from close in by Thomson .
As I Said earlier, that late goal probably flattered Town, but by then it was a case of` job done` for James Gannon and this excellent County team.
Catch you at Guiseley for a repeat !

Harrogate Town line up:-
Belshaw, Fallowfield, Falkingham, Howe ( Senior 84), Burrell, Thomson, Emmett ( Leesley 61), Beck, Kerry, Muldoon ( Williams  73), Kitching.
Subs not used :- Cracknell, Woods.

Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Baines, Duxbury, Keane, Thomas, Walker, Mulhern ( Kirby 81), Warburton ( Cowan 66), Stephenson ( Turnbull 75).
Subs not used ;- Ormson, Osbourne.

Attendance 1142


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