County Youth 5 FC Halifax 1
County `s excellent Youth Team roared to an emphatic victory at Woodley this afternoon delighting the small crowd with a commanding performance topped off with a clutch of top notch goals.
The first half was something of a curates egg with large periods of scrappy play interspersed with small gems, namely a Nick Williams strike that rattled the bar and two goals ....a powerful opener from Albert Keeling and a cool penalty from Kiarno Samms, who then went on to perform wonders as a central defender in the second half after the influential Williams had gone off injured.
That second half was altogether different...with County set on attacking and doing it rather well.
The goals were all special in this period -firstly a sweet strike by Dean Nolan that had me using a word I am loath to reach for....great....but it was that good, but then so was the fourth from Liam Atkinson, who had a fine second 45, and for that matter the third - a beautiful drive by Charlie Mather that had the keeper groping helplessly some way from reaching it.
For County a fine win then, and for FC Halifax the consolation of a lone late strike with County busy up the park.
Back to 1.30 though, and much of the early play lacked bite with both sides searching for an opening and wary of making a mistake. Halifax were not slow in getting forward at this stage and it was good to see Williams and Mather in there with a couple of timely interventions. County did stretch their legs in their opponents half a couple of times, but both saw Atkinson flagged offside.
Murphy joined the fray, linking neatly with Atkinson, but the final ball whizzed across goal before going harmlessly out of play.
It was apparent that County were intent on getting an early goal, but my irritation at seeing a County raid halted for a County free kick was quickly followed by more frustration as the lively Rodney Ajayi went within a whisker of scoring from the set piece.
All this time Halifax were content to hit on the break and Rigby did well to keep out a shot from the number 7 who managed to wheedle himself some space behind the blue back line.
It was clear that County had to be aware of the dangers involved in all out attack, and with Williams getting forward to good effect more than once , any lesson needed to be learnt quickly! Meanwhile Albert Keeling surged up field taking two markers with him winning a corner in the process...then another as Williams and Samms both tried in vain to force the ball home.
Ajayi entered stage right with another powerful run, but his final ball found no takers and the Halifax number 4 was able to head clear.
The play got a touch scrappy next for a time, as Halifax conceded a run of free kicks in rather unnecessary fashion- the latest( for hand ball) ended with Williams in on goal before rattling the bar with a snorter!
Now that was unlucky, but it also showed some quality amidst the scrappy stuff and Williams was there again moments later forcing yet another corner which saw Ajayi unlucky again smack in front ,and Samms more so as his shot on the turn came back off a defender on the line!
Was it going to be one of those days? One of those goal less frustrating days?
It was unlikely I felt ,but even so it was alarming to see an almighty scramble ensue in front of Rigby`s goal, only ended by the liner`s upraised flag- that back door again....County had to remember to keep it bolted!
Not long after however and County`s boldness paid off as a neat move saw Keeling through the middle and in on goal. `Whack!`................he delivered what looked like a killer blow, but the keeper blocked it.........no matter....Keeling would not be denied and fired his follow up effort low into the net to open the scoring!
One up was good, but with Gateshead scoring for fun, we needed a few ourselves, but despite great promptings from Ajayi another just would not come.....indeed Rigby had to make a decent save to keep the visitors number 9 out midst a welter of blue attacks. For a moment or two it looked like maybe Halifax were rallying, but when their free kick not long after hit their own man in the box, I knew that maybe any rally would have to wait.
Yes....indeed it would have to wait as....with half time almost on us County doubled their advantage with a move that saw Samms power his way into the box shepherded on his way by two defenders. Inside the box one gave a tug of the Samms shirt making him lose his balance, but he regained the vertical only to be impeded once again. The referee was adamant...it was a penalty, and Samms stepped up to blast it home.
Two nil it was then, and it was also half time!
The re-start brought a surprise with Williams off ( injured) and striker Demell Cumberbatch on in his place. This was not like for like obviously, but this was solved by another striker, Kiarno Samms, taking over from Williams in the centre of defence.
There was very nearly another surprise within a minute of the off as well, as Ben Spibey looked on in anguish to see the keeper dive to his right to push the forward`s shot around the post. Spibey tried again from the corner but again the keeper won out and County were frustrated.
If County were resolved to attack......Halifax were not without resolve either and Adam Rigby was needed to pull off a really good save as the re-shuffled County back line were caught napping on the break. Two corners followed before Mather wellied the ball clear.
This saw County round on their opponents with a will as Keeling and Ajayi sped the ball on to Spibey who found the road to goal blocked. More corners pinned the visitors back in their last third- Keeling being unlucky, in my view, to be flagged offside at one point. At another...County were caught on the break again, and Callum Jones did really well to get in the way of the break and work the ball clear.
Mainly though, it was County on the offensive, with Ajayi, Spibey and Cumberbatch all denied by the weight of numbers, in and around the Halifax box.
The hour mark saw a couple of substitutions with Wesley Barker on for Kristopher Livesey , and Dean Nolan for Ben Spibey.
Nolan was in the thick straight away and only stopped by a neat last ditcher from a defender, as a series of corners had Yorkshire nerves fraying alarmingly as scramble after undignified scramble ensued in the box.
Still ...County couldn`t get that all important third , and Halifax ,albeit on an occasional basis, kept at it on the break, but their finishing was poor and simply served to encourage County to be even bolder. And they were.... and the ball was with Nolan again and before we knew it..... it was in the back of the net, as he had sent a veritable rasper through the forest of bodies in the box, home!
Three none was good...really good in fact, but County were not content and Nolan was unlucky to see the keeper make a fine save to keep another strike out, after he had been sent clear by Atkinson.
It went on with Cumberbatch sending Nolan through ( keeper saved at the second attempt), and a Murphy pile driver missing out by barely an inch with the keeper beaten, after Cumberbatch had been fouled just outside the box.
It was all County as Jones joined in only to be denied by the keeper, and denied a penalty not long after as he was bundled down in the box , but I thought the referee was generally very good so I will not indulge myself!
The Halifax back line were taking a pounding now and were doing heroics in keeping the score down, but it could not last and it didn`t as another wave of blue attacking ended with the ball at Atkinson`s feet ,whereupon he leathered it home in brilliant style from the edge of the box- fantastic strike!
Atkinson had done well, particularly in the second half, and he did well again a minute or so later, but there were no takers when his cross pinged into the box, so any chance was gone.
Atkinson and Murphy continued to probe for an opening however, but without luck.
With County 4 up and camped in the Halifax last third it was tempting to forget about the small matter of defending, and with County caught on the hop, Mather conceded a free kick ( and a booking) for a robust tackle just beyond half way.
The free kick that followed thudded into the woodwork off a defender, and the resultant corner was despatched into the County net from distance to make it 4-1.
But.....if Mather was at all disappointed with that last action , he would be absolutely delighted with what followed. It involved County pushing their opponents onto the back foot of course, but also saw Mather in there and onto the ball.
The usual mass of bodies littered space between him and goal, but this fact was as nothing as a beautifully weighted shot beat the lot of them to crash into the far corner of the net! Have I said fantastic yet ? ....Well...it was fantastic...it was 5-1 also which was fantastic too.
It might easily have been 6-1 too, as that man Nolan had the ball in the net again ( offside) and missed out narrowly with another snap shot.
It was some finish with Jones and Cumberbatch in there tormenting their opponents.
There was time in the games dying embers for Samms to show us how surprisingly good he is at defending- well done Kiarno......fantastically well done County!
County line up:
Rigby, Mather, Murphy, Livesey ( Barker 61),Williams ( Cumberbatch 45),C Jones, Ajayi, Samms, Spibey ( Nolan 60), Keeling, Atkinson.
Next game ...next Wednesday at Woodley ( v Crewe ) k.o 1.30