Bishops Stortford 5 County 2
We have been here before, a few times actually, and it gets no easier to take even if this time it is only a friendly we are talking about.
You know the score, do you not.......County play like they mean it for 15 or 20 minutes in which time they score.
Their opponents meanwhile have kept their powder dry whilst checking us out, before sallying forth thereafter to take us apart.
That was pretty much the way of it yesterday at the impressively appointed ProKit UK Stadium, where after County`s initial burst and Kristian Dennis`s goal, the Bishops proved altogether too strong for County in the latter stages of a game that took a crucial turn when Ron Stringer brought on Reece Prestedge and Cliff Akurang just before the half hour mark.
It proved a master stroke as the pair, along with Matt Johnson and Liam Enver-Marum proved almost unplayable at times.
It is true that County played the ` two teams` approach fielding more or less a different 11 in the second half, and its similarly true that there were a fair number of new faces amongst the County line up, and that some of them were hardly known to one another( sites exchange twixt himself and Kieran Charnock, with asides from Adi Moke).......
Me....` who`s our number 16....the big lad at the back?`
KC......` Er.....don`t know .....Tom something I think.....Moke.... who`s our number 16?`
So, there was a bit of unfamiliarity about then, and of course the inspirational idea of wrapping the game snugly inside a 420 mile round trip needs some thought as well, but the Bishops know all about that having plied their worthy trade in the Conference North thanks to the league`s suits.
Talking of which, where were our suits yesterday?
Bishop Stortford were warm and welcoming to anyone on site conspicuously from Stockport , but I saw no sign of anyone ,barring AL `s touchline usuals, from the Club, and I thought that that showed great disrespect to our hosts, as well as a casual disregard for how the team might be faring.
I am told that our CEO does not live far away from CM23- as the man who organised this one, he really should have made the effort!
`Enough` I hear you cry, `the match stupid................what about the match?`
Well...it started well enough with County seeing a fair bit of the ball- most notably Scott Duxbury who got forward to reasonable effect .
A foul on Moke almost saw County snatch an early sneaky one , but Duxbury`s cross found Dennis unable to force it home from smack in front of goal.
Ex Hatter Tom Collins got in an early run, and looked as menacing for a moment or so as I remember him being on occasions with us, but on reaching the edge of the box his effort petered out via a firm tackle from Charnock who was playing alongside trialist Adam Cowan at the centre of the County defence.
Ramone Blackett was another new face on show but he was up front, flitting from flank to flank, but Callum McNaughton ensured that his first touch of the ball came to nought.
It was mainly County, at this point, and I was reassured to see Cowans win his first aerial dual.
That was the ninth minute......one minute on from that and County had themselves a lead.
It started with Jacobs who saw a typically fearsome shot deflected onto the angle of bar and post by a defender, and was rounded off by Dennis, who followed up to slip the rebound beyond keeper Joe Wright into the net.
That was a decent start then, and looked for all the world like it would get better when Dennis turned provider and sent Blackett clear down the right. A fine cross followed and ran to Dennis who was unlucky to see Wright dive to tip his shot over the bar.
This impression, of County in the ascendancy, continued as another foul on Moke ( the referee missed Adi`s involuntary ball to hand moment prior)saw McNaughton have to concede a corner when the free kick pinged in.
George Allen headed the corner out at the near post but only to Jacobs who promptly sent it back again for Cowans and Duxbury to scramble for at the back post. Duxbury managed contact, but his header took flight heading out of the ground.
An early glimpse of things to come came next as a one/ two twixt Liam Enver-Marum and Matt Johnson pushed County back, but County were coping OK at this stage, even managing to break out of defence - but despite being clear of any markers Dennis saw his shot well saved by Wright to keep it at 1-0.
Blacket and Lofthouse linked up well next, but again Wright would not be beaten, and another dive from him saw the ball pushed around the post, and the subsequent corner defended well by the home side.
Yes......so far so good, and despite Collins and Cowler pushing forward down the left, it still looked like County`s day, as a shot from Jacobs and sundry crosses by Duxbury and Blacket kept Wright warmed up.
There were slight stirrings from our hosts, just before the half hour mark, in the shape of a nippy Nicky Symons run, and another from Harry Baker that saw Collins a whisker away from getting a vital touch to it, but nothing came of these or a similarly zesty charge from Johnson.
However.... Ron Stringer had made his changes now, and Prestedge and Akurang were now on the park- things were about to change!
The substitutes had an immediate impact, both in the thick and quickly- Prestedge noticeably so- slipping a beaut of a through ball into Enver- Marum`s path, smack in front. It looked every inch a goal as the forward took aim, but Jones did terrifically well to keep the shot out with his legs!
That was good, but what followed wasn`t as a run from Akurang and Cowler forced Duxbury to concede a corner under pressure from Anthony Church.
How many times have we stood and watched as County stood and watched limply as a corner came over?
Well....this was another one- the kick was a good one, but might have been defended with a tad more vigour, as it was Sean Francis was allowed to steal in from the back and head home unchallenged.
Had our hosts sussed County out?
Well maybe, but despite the pressure increasing on County, they still had chances to redress things, as on 40 minutes when Platt sent Dennis clear with a lovely ball.
He was away....he was in......he should have scored....but instead Wright got down bravely to snatch the pill off the Stockport forwards toes! A very good save....maybe a vital one, as it seemed to reboot the Bishops effort yet again as Jones had to look lively to prevent Enver- Makum snaffling another precise through ball from the excellent Prestedge.
Akurang was no less excellent, and he followed the Prestedge example with a belter of a through ball, but this time Enver-Makum shot wide.
For sure, the pressure was building on County and Jones did well, with assistance from Cowan to stop a lethal looking run by Akurang.
We were in the half`s dying embers now, and thus possibly safe from further trauma, or so I assumed as Cowans did well again to block Baker`s run down the right, but Bishops just would not go away, and with the ball back with Baker, he lifted it to the back post where Akurang rose majestically to beat Jones with a stonkingly good header.
A challenge might have been nice.....no matter we were 1-2 down and soon enough it was half time and all change ,personnel wise, from County.
As I say ...it was all change for the re-start with a plethora of unfamiliar faces along with a number of players with no numbers on, so please make allowances when reading the teams at the end .
An early free kick to Bishop Stortford saw Allen rattle the post , but my early misgivings gave way to another bout of trademark mindless optimism as after Turner won a corner, Lees did `an Akurang` and headed home firmly to level the scores!
That was good to see, but the euphoria did not take long to dissipate as Jacobs had to save the day with some decent last gasp stuff after Akurang had done Tom Black ( the bean pole number 16 mentioned earlier) for pace.
Jevons chipped in with a header, but the home side looked intent on getting their lead back, and Prestedge looked on to see his shot miss out by a foot or so.
It went on with Black doing just enough to block Enver- Makum, and Francis unlucky to miss out with another header, but just as I gave in to temptation and scribbled ` County are doing OK!`...they suddenly weren`t as Johnson had dished the County offside trap and darted clear- in a flash he had lobbed Ormson and Bishop Stortford had a 3-2 lead!
There were 30 minutes to go as well, and with County`s opponents clearly fancying things and revving things up accordingly- I at last cast the mask of mindless optimism aside as gloom took over!
With Enver-Makum and Johnson both going close not long after this, my mood did not improve, even though County ,at least for a time, looked to be trying to get back into it, largely via Turner`s pace , but Wright`s goal took on the cloak of invincibility now as County raids floundered at the edge of the box.
By way of contrast things were sharper at the other end where Ormson could only stand and watch as a Francis header thudded into the bar from another home corner.
If I was still tempted to think that County just might hold on and keep things respectable ,this viewpoint looked a tad off course as ,with no more than a minute or so left the referee pointed to the spot with a home forward spread out on the ground in the box.
I saw it not so cannot comment on the justice of the penalty, but I saw the kick, and it was despatched lethally beyond Ormson`s dive by Prestedge to make it 2-4.
That was a body blow, but another quickly followed as Josh Fagbohum burst clear to complete the scoring.
Anyone can lose, and it is better to lose a friendly I suppose with no points at stake than to Hednesford, who must surely be looking forward to facing us.
I do feel for AL whose angst at the things he is seeing is obvious to see, but what of our masters....do they even care?
Write off those debts suits, and get talking in earnest to the supporters and those waiting in the wings to take over- they will not step in until the debts are gone- do it!
County line up`s:
First Half; Jones, Jacobs, Cowans, Charnock, Duxbury, Moses, Platt, Moke, Lofthouse, Dennis, Blacket.
Second half; Ormson, Jacobs, Lees, Black, O`Halloran,Craney, Howard, Gordickiotis, Turner, Jevons, Trialist.
Starting line up only.
Wright, Baker, Cowler, Allen, Francis, McNaughton, Johnson, Symons, Enver- Makum, Collins, Church.