Tamworth 0 County 1 : ( Conference North) 16 August 2014

Plague struck Tamworth in 1563, 1579,1597, 1606 ,and again in 1626- the population apparently recovered from these ravages, only for another to strike them down today, and it was resplendent in white shirts and black shorts, and it hit them late on....too late for anything resembling a recovery this time around.
Yes......say it loudly, and be sure everyone hears you.....County won their first full haul of points of the season, with a hard earned and not undeserved win at the home of perhaps the most parsimonious club at this or any other level of football- Tamworth FC.
The margin was only 1-0, and it was a penalty, won by Sharp and Ryan ,and put away splendidly by captain Jamie Milligan, who had a decent game, but we`ll take that after all the traumas of recent time.....wont we?
The mood at the Lambs was interesting to say the least. Tamworth`s overnight  machinations over Pure FM ,probably affected the numbers turning out( numbers were somewhat down on previous visits), and made those who did make it there not overly inclined to think kindly of our hosts. Indeed some, myself included, took a lead from the Supporters Cooperative, and resolved to buy absolutely nothing once inside the stadium. But the angst never got any more revved up than that and a few naughty chants- all it needed to set us all smiling again, was for County to win!

Glenn Belezika.
There were several changes at kick off time, for County, who had Belezika, Moses, Spencer and Ryan back in place of Woolfe, Churchman, Sharp and Dennis. There was an altogether more solid look about this 11, even on paper, and A.L`s ploy of playing Moses AND Milligan from the start, was a winner in every sense. Moses went about his business quietly, but his presence seemed to free Milligan up to put himself about, and he did so impressively- still in the thick of things minutes after slotting the winner home! By no means did this solidity completely eradicate small crises or chances for Tamworth, but the sheer weight of numbers and weight of those individual numbers did seem to discourage County`s opponents from being too free with the adventurous stuff- so that was a nice change!
It looked like a fluid 5 at the back for the white shirted blues( Belezika, O`Halloran, Lees, Gregson and Duxbury )in front of Hurst, and shielded by  Milligan/ Moses . Though there were only 3 forwards on show ( Baker, Spencer ,and Ryan), the effect of the new found solidity , amazingly did not mean County defended and did little else.....they produced a fair number of chances here and there. To be fair....so did Tamworth, but both sides missed most of them. Thankfully County put the crucial one away when it counted to give us all a fantastic lift!

Early action.
Pre match traumas set aside, it was time to concentrate on the game, and the action came thick and fast with Tamworth attacking the away end ,where Kayden Jackson volleyed over .Some early pressure followed from Tamworth but County looked nicely organised and quite unruffled as O`Halloran and Gregson did good work.
The first real attack of note from County came 4 minutes in, when Ryan saw a shot go un-rewarded, but it was the home side that were getting the lion`s share of the early chances, and Hurst got down well to deny Rob Purdie who threatened down the middle.
 On it went 9...10...11 minutes with Tamworth still on the front foot, forcing County, through the busy O`Halloran, to concede a corner, with Jackson poised to shoot. This could have signalled a familiar decline in fortunes for County, as Dave Hibbert hauled his lanky frame into the air and met the incomer with his head. 
Hurst gathers.
Chance................yes.........goal......no, as the forward sent his header wide!
Next.....James Belshaw, the home keeper, had to dash out and head clear with Spencer in the vicinity and on the lookout for trifles, but again it was mostly the midland side on the charge, albeit that County looked comfortable combating same. O`Halloran typified this comfort stopping Jackson for the umpteenth time, and winning a free kick as well! Then Lees joined in ,preventing Leon Mettam from reaching a decent through ball in the box......O`Halloran and Gregson made fine blocking tackles midst a blizzard of red shirts just outside the County box, but Hurst did better than all with  a neat catch to keep Jackson`s header out following one of several crosses from the left by Dan Sleath.
Twenty minutes had gone, and it had been mostly Tamworth on the offensive,  and it went on into the 21st  with Brendan Davies lifting one into the box , where Hibbert played it sideways to Shane Clark. He maybe should have done better....but he didn`t- instead shooting tamely wide with Hurst exposed.
A minute later however, and we saw a glimpse of what just might be, as after a free kick and corner....a second kick from Milligan clipped the bar with Belshaw comprehensively beaten. Hmmm.....I liked that!

Milligan prepares FK ( top) it hits the bar ......
But this brief contentment did not last long before Tamworth hit us on the break again through Davies who again picked Hibbert out with a neat cross. A shot was on, and Hibbert obliged, but Hurst would have none of it, and his dive saw him beat the shot out and keep it 0-0.
 This last action probably served to inspire County, as a powerful run by Belezika set them up for a series of corners that seemed to set the home side problems that bordered on the insoluble! The period ended with Spencer unlucky to see a header narrowly miss out, but it was encouraging stuff none the less!

Heads up, as County defend !
Yes.....County started to gradually get more into the game, but 36 minutes in and Tamworth hit back via a free kick  that saw Daniels clear down the left. A cross was very much on the cards and Daniels did the biz, lifting a beauty into the box where, arriving late, Clarke met it sending his shot very much on target, but a magnificent one handed diving save by Hurst kept it out as the away end erupted in a wall of joyous sound!

Hurst on the alert!
It was high time that County replied, but this thought was again put on hold as Sleath pinged another belter into the box, where yet again Hibbert lurked menacingly. Once again though the chance was spurned, and I began to think that it was County`s day, as almost immediately after Jackson picked Mettam out sending him clear, only for the shot to limp tamely wide.
More of the same threatened to follow, but Belezika`s diving header tidied up nicely after Jackson had again got in the box with malign intent.
Surely......surely.....County would respond soon, but when they did Ryan did no better than Jackson and others before him, lifting his shot high over the bar.
County defend.......
Milligan managed to get forward...win a corner....and generally look dangerous next, but Tamworth held out ensuring it stayed 0-0 at the break.

A Man on his stag do....Alan Gaskin  !

After early pressure from Tamworth in the second half, County at last showed us what they could do and Milligan went one on one with keeper Belshaw ,and was only just short of making something decent out of the enterprise. Baker got forward too, but he failed to get a shot off when well placed smack in front of goal.

Keeper just wins duel with Milligan.....
If that was both encouraging and disappointing, the next bit was a tad worrying as, following a rather dubious free kick ,gained by one of Brandon Daniels flamboyant forward rolls  County had two chances to clear the ball...didn`t.....and watched whilst full back Lee Hildreth lined up a shot. Fortunately , it was a fullback and not a forward , because an awful slice from Hildreth sent the ball spiralling wide to the accompaniment of hoots of derision from the away end.
Yes.....it had been a lively start to the half alright, and the fact that the teams were still on level terms was encouraging, and more encouragement followed as Baker went down under pressure from Don Preston in the box. The referee would have none of it though, and he was correct, and I must say he had a decent game in my view.
County were now getting forward more now, and Belshaw did well to deal with a shot from Baker at the foot of his near post. He was less confident shortly after however, having to punch clear under pressure as a Milligan free kick whizzed over.

Close call for Belshaw......
After the hour, Tamworth revived somewhat, but when they worked an opening, the finish on the end of it would be poor. County were therefore presumably buoyed by this and Spencer went close to getting an opener on 64 minutes, being foiled by good work by Paul Green.
As I say...Spencer was unlucky with that one, but within 6 minutes, another chance came his way, and this time he really should have scored. Played in nicely by Ryan`s pass, it looked merely routine for him to despatch the pill past Belshaw, who was doing stranded whale impressions several yards off his line. A lob was certainly on, but when Spencer tried it his execution was off and the ball missed the goal by a bit.

Spencer rues a lost chance.
Spencer was clearly bereft at this turn of events, but it did not affect County`s play....they still kept pressing, and within a couple of minutes another chance appeared, not from nowhere, but from the boot of Baker who sent a lovely looping ball onto Ryan`s toe in the box. The defence was split, but despite the fact that Ryan had darted beyond a defender prior to latching onto the ball. The far liners flag turned fact on its head, and the move was halted!

By this time Churchman was on for Belezika, and traffic was starting to build in the area of Belshaw`s goal, with Spencer and Baker trying their best to snatch something from nothing.

This by no means signalled the end of hostilities from Tamworth, indeed Lees did well to ensure he did just enough to see Hibbert send his shot wide, with about 10 minutes left to play.

County put Tamworth under pressure.
It was at this point that A.L. sent Sharp on in place of Spencer, and possibly crucially gave him a central striker roll. Within a minute he was in the box to the right of Ryan, harrying the home defence. It looked promising!
Tamworth came back at County though, and the home side were assisted more than once in this period by a miss placed pass or two, after some excellent defending. This must have encouraged Tamworth and Jackson went close twice, forcing the previously reliable Hurst to flap at a cross...he recovered well enough to grab the eventual shot, from Jackson, but there were about 5 minutes left now, and whilst 0-0 would be fine, to leak a late one would be the precursor to a call to Dignitas for me and others!
Five minutes became 4...then 3.....2 , and County had themselves a corner won neatly by Sharp after Milligan had kept a move alive brilliantly near the by-line. The kick was a peach from the County captain, and Churchman leathered a shot goal ward, but somehow Belshaw managed to keep it out. It was nail biting stuff, and soon enough the ball was with Sharp and then it wasn`t as he had slipped it sideways to Ryan who headed for goal. Out came Belshaw......down went Ryan, and County had a life line because the referee was pointing to the spot!


 Penalty on its way in.....

After a modest delay Milligan stepped up and smacked the ball home, and pandemonium broke out in and around the away end....I say around because a number made it onto the pitch to briefly congratulate their team. The moment past without any incident of note, but the feeling of elation didn`t- but the referee did not blow for time for probably 3 minutes more ,during which time both teams tried their best to change the score line, but it stayed 1-0 to County and a famous victory was ours!

Goal celebrations abound!
That was worth travelling and waiting for, let`s hope it`s the start of a turn in fortune for County who should be pleased having  managed to put a neat dent in Tamworth`s otherwise decent start to 2014/15!

County line up:

Hurst, Belezika ( Churchman 74), Lees, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Milligan, Moses, Baker, Ryan, Spencer ( Sharp 79).

Substitutes not used:

Ormson, Woolfe.

Tamworth FC line up:

Belshaw , Green, Hildreth, Mettam, Clarke, Daniels, Preston, Purdie, Sleath, Hibbert, Jackson.

Attendance ; 795

Ian Brown



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