Stockport County 1 Chorley 1 ( Vanarama National League- North) 18 November 2017

Harry Houdini was world famous for his incredible escapes from near impossible situations, but County are fast overtaking the renowned escapologist, as for the second consecutive match they came from behind to snatch a share of the points deep into added time today against Chorley at Edgeley Park.
Chorley's support.

This was a decent match between two teams that wanted to win, but for long periods the Lancastrian side held sway, their neat passing routines putting County under considerable pressure at times. They could not score however, and it took something of a freak to eventually bring this about for Matt Jansen’s team. Hang on though…..did I just say `freak’ …no…a more accurate description would be `refereeing blunder!’  committed by custodian of the whistle Ben Speedie in incorrectly awarding Town a free kick from which they broke away and scored.

Andrew Machin sees the teams come out....

That really stopped any thoughts, from me, of ` well Chorley look worthy of winning this’ as the injustice took a hold on my consciousness obliterating all other thoughts.

That was 82 minutes in……into added time we went with the score still 1-0 to Chorley , and then it wasn’t as ,in tribute to last Saturday’s epic last gasper at York Street, we did a reprise with Oswell in the Ball role heading a deep cross home in front of deliriously happy County supporters.

Os wants it ( Andrew Machin )

We had escaped with a point….Chorley will be disappointed with their return from what had been a good performance from them, but whilst much of County’s play left a bit to be desired at times, they were playing a decent side working to a plan (as usual) which they executed perfectly( save for the finishing element). If nothing else though…. Jim will be buoyed by his team’s continuing willingness and ability to play to the final whistle….keep on going….fighting….its a quality that just might come in handy as the season progresses. 

Cheadle End as seen by Andrew Machin
County fielded the same side that had successfully won a late share of the points against Boston last week, and the bench looked strong too, the only change there being the inclusion of Ben Mc Kenna in place of Adam Thomas.
Dixon & Oswell compete for possession.

I was expecting a County surge in the early moments, but barring an effort from Dixon that did not test the Town keeper, it was Chorley who showed the most enterprise in the opening minutes. To be sure Jason Walker did no better than Dixon had with his sides first effort, which he wastefully screwed wide, but County knew early doors that they had a game on their hands, Clarke doing well to see off a lively challenge from Nick Haughton.
Clarke in control !

Dixon’s second shot, was decidedly better than the first one, and keeper Matt Urwin had to scurry back across his line to ensure it did not go in, but Chorley looked about to trump that one with an even better one of their own when Josh Wilson combined neatly with Chorley M.O.M  Matty Hughes  to burst into the County box. The threat was there in shed loads as the forward advanced within striking distance of goal, but County were served well by Gary Stopforth whose brilliantly executed tackle in the box stopped the rot for the blues.
Stopforth and Oswell ( Andrew Machin )

If that was good from Stopforth, and it most emphatically was, his next action saw him concede a free kick. There was more than a hint of ` no way ref ‘ about Gary’s response, and mine too , but we had a free kick to defend, and Hinchliffe did this to perfection dominating his box just when it was required of him!
Ben's ball !!!

Twice after this, in rapid order, the visitors pushed County back into their last third and twice Cowan did really well faced by real threat from the likes of Josh O’Keefe and Matt Challinor. Cowan has impressed me of late…quietly getting on with the job and contributing well at times.

County under pressure.

Thirteen minutes in, and a familiar scenario was enacted in the afternoon’s gathering gloom. County were attacking, having won a free kick when Oswell took a mauling from Scott Leather. As with similar situation previously…the moments of greatest danger to ourselves seem to come when we are striving to score, and so it was….from the kick….Chorley worked the ball up the park in short order for Walker to scoot into the box with County’s back line caught out. It was a definite chance, one he should have put away, but he didn’t …instead he lifted his effort over the bar to much derision from in and around Row R.

Walker should have scored !

Mantack was unlucky next – his run from deep perhaps deserving more than it achieved, but we were 20 minutes into proceedings, and I still found myself thinking how impressive the opposition were ( yes dear reader…I had forgotten my tablets!), and O’Halloran did exceptionally well to stop Hughes as he threatened down the right.

O'Halloran on Hughes.

Clarke joined in with the good work, conceding a corner with Hughes again in evidence at the sharp end – 

Header from Clarke.

-Hinchliffe ending this period of anxiety by saving from Adam Blakeman.

Hinchliffe again !

It was high time that County replied, and they did through Oswell….but his header hit the keeper when better looked on.
Oswell header hits keeper Urwin.

 and not long after this Warburton went close with a free kick, but it stayed 0-0, and the way that Chorley were shaping that was far from being a comfortable position for County to be in.
Close call for Chorley ( Andrew Machin )

To be fair….County were beginning to up their work rate, and the move that followed, involving Oswell, Warburton, Stopforth and Mantack  put Chorley under some pressure for a time, but again it stayed 0-0, and again a couple of minutes later when Duxbury picked out Oswell to perfection at the back post , and the striker duly headed home. The liner’s flag was up, and as a result, what had looked like the opener…wasn’t…it was still 0-0.

Duxbury on the ball ( Andrew Machin )

County kept the pressure on after this and Andy Teague did well for Chorley first blocking Oswell’s chances in the box, and then seeing off the follow up effort from Duxbury. 

Again…Chorley hit County on the break…..and again their finishing failed to match their build up play…..Marcus Carver clearing the bar with his effort.

County needed to guard against being hit on the break, but still their attempts to break down a stubborn Town defence were largely stillborn- the blues failing to capitalise on a free kick after Warburton had been fouled.
Stubborn Chorley defence ( Andrew Machin )

Less than a minute later, and the excitement came at the other end of the park and O’Keefe was disappointed to see his shot fizz across goal before going out inches above the angle of bar and post.

County managed to concede a late free kick in the time that remained of the half, as an injudicious slider by Warburton got him booked. Haughton’s  kick went wide , but County did still need to tighten up a tad in the second half if the match was to be won.

Cheadle End Upper Tier (Andrew Machin )

Excitement abounded at half time when Darren Berry of Row Q fame, came back to his seat clutching a cheque for £390 having won the half time draw!

Dazzer Does It !!!!

Dixon tried his luck when the game re-started, with the same result as his first half opener, and Oswell and Duxbury both won corners for County, without either ending in a goal. Indeed we got a foretaste of things to come when Duxbury was fouled only for the referee to award Chorley the free kick.

County defend free kick ( Andrew Machin )

Hughes had been instrumental in influencing the referee with that last one, and he was in the thick again 4 minutes later just being kept out by exceptional work from Stopforth. County were back under the cosh after having looked likely to throw off their chains late on in the first half, and Hinchliffe had to fling himself to his left to beat a shot from Wilson out.

County under pressure.

Two Chorley corners followed, but Ball did offer us some respite, with a run from deep, but no one could reach his final ball and no sooner had that brief charge been sorted, than we were back defending again- Hinchliffe in action punching clear under pressure after County had given two free kicks away in close order.

Chorley continue to press....

There was no let up of the Chorley pressure , Teague missing out with a long range drive on the hour, but at 0-0…the game was still anyone’s, and JG reacted by bringing Stephenson on for Mantack.

County started to up the ante at last but Stephenson saw his shot deflected for a corner, and Oswell sent his header wide from this.

That was disappointing, but more very nearly followed on from it, at the other end of the park, as Chorley attacked from deep again forcing Hinchliffe to make a vital save with his legs.

County were under considerable pressure for a time after that last action, punctuated by a shot from Dixon that missed by no more than a foot, but the blues major work load was in front of Hinchliffe’s goal where Hughes continued to threaten mayhem. Duxbury did well to block the Town number three’s latest run.

I was simply amazed to see Hughes replaced, with 17 minutes left, by Paul Jarvis……no…I was pleased…but there was no immediate let up of hostilities from Chorley as Haughton went close with a neat effort. 

A couple of minutes later and a County move involving Cowan was broken up by O’Keefe who then fed Challinor , who seemingly was now in the Hughes role down the right. His cross was a belter, and Hinchliffe had to react quickly…rising to tip Carver’s header over the bar at the last gasp.

Stephenson was unlucky twice after this, but despite enjoying more of the play than they had earlier, County still could not make possession count.

This went on until just 7 minutes remained of the game. County were attacking , but still without ever really looking likely to score. Duxbury was trying though, and his latest run saw him brought down just outside the box. It was clearly a free kick to County, but not in the referee’s book- he gave the free kick to Chorley. 

It was a poor decision…but we needed to forget that and keep our eyes on the ball which was inside the County half in no time at all. In a flash Haughton had it…and in another it was in the net as he beat Hinchliffe with a decent finish.

That was terrible, and JG’s reaction was to bring Stopforth off, replacing him with McKenna. Stopforth was M.O.M so I am guessing that the avoidance of cards of whatever hue was the name of Jim’s game.

We had 6 minutes in which to salvage a point, but it did not seem all that likely…and even less so when the keeper foiled Oswell as he charged through the middle……and again when Jimmy Ball, perhaps with thoughts of last Saturday’s glory moment surfacing in his head, was blocked just half a yard or so out.
Urwin thwarts Oswell....

We were into 2 minutes added time……then even deeper as Stephenson tried in vain to work some small miracle for County.

It was not to be …was it…..but then Duxbury won a challenge out on the left, and the ball drifted back to Warburton who was more or less in an identical spot as he was last Saturday. He launched it…..and this time Oswell met it heading the ball home from close in.
Andrew Machin clocks the score.....

....and 2 very happy County supporters !

That was a lovely moment, and another one for County players to look back on with relish and pride.
Chorley had given us a severe test, and we should not be greatly surprised at that fact, as they pretty much always do.
There is much still for County to put right, but the basics are there to build on…..we just need to apply ourselves better and avoid leaving the back door ajar as we occasionally do.
See you next Saturday at Edgeley Park then for the visit of Southport in the FA Trophy . We are overdue a run in that competition, lets make this season the season this happens.

Stockport County line up:

Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, O’Halloran, Duxbury, Ball, Stopforth ( Mc Kenna 84), Mantack( Stephenson 60), Dixon, Oswell, Warburton.   
Subs not used: Ormson, Smalley, Walker.

Chorley line up: Urwin, Calloner, Hughes( Jarvis 73) , Teague, Leather, Blakeman, Haughton( Cottrell 87), Wilson, Carver, Walker, O’Keefe.

Subs not used; Anson, Black, Azam.

Attendance: 3674



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