Worcester City 0 County 0
County came away from Aggborough last night, with a point, that was as valuable as it was hard earned.
It perhaps over eggs it a bit to call the point priceless, but you know what I mean, with recent disappointments in mind.
There was nothing at all to be downcast about, in County`s performance, on this occasion, indeed they might have snatched a win if the night`s best effort- a first half Jevons rocket, had gone in instead of almost uprooting the woodwork.
Apart from that effort, we never really looked that much like scoring though, but neither did Worcester thanks to the County back four who, marshalled superbly by O`Halloran, shut City out in impressive style. All four were tremendous, with Ormson not far behind either.
Yes.................it was a real joy to stay and applaud the players off at the end.....and do it with feeling!
There were 4 changes in County`s starting line up come 7.45, with Moke, Lofthouse, Platt and Battersby in for Howard, Dennis, Moses and Churchman, but after a blast of Prokofiev from the P.A. at the appointed time, the blast was followed by another...and another, as we waited for an age for the teams to come out, which eventually they did, County kicking our way when the game commenced.
The first action had the 57( 1 sneaked in via home turnstiles in case you`re about to dispute the figure) County supporters craning their necks to their right as Daniel Nti (a clown and an irritant all night) engaged in a fierce tussle with Duxbury.
Duxbury did well enough, but the ball finished up with Ebby Nelson-Addy, whose shot was blocked. The referee then saw a foul by a home forward and the danger was gone.
County had Moke wide right.....Battersby left, and Jevons notionally central but in actuality ...all over the place( in the best sense), but the next action was at County`s end, where Lees showed us just how nicely he is settling in at RB.
He did well under pressure, but then so did, the equally impressive, O`Halloran whose timely headed clearance stopped an early cross from George Williams from doing any damage.
It was good stuff, but even so it was a relief to see Martin Devaney`s shot deflected for a corner, not long after, and the flag kick defended with something approaching precision, with the admirable O`Halloran in the van with some top notch defending.
Seven minutes in, and County, at last, responded, but keeper Leigh Bedwell dealt with Milligan`s cross calmly, after Battersby had set the move up with a neat lay off.
It was clear that Moke offered us a potentially profitable option, but after an early run from the ex York City winger resulted in a corner- County promptly wasted it, which was sad but not all that surprising.
Worcester continued to probe County when they could, and Nti was almost through down the right- his team settling instead for a throw, that Williams pinged long ( ala Exodus`s Exocet),but Ormson gobbled this up greedily!
Nti persevered.....but so did Duxbury and ,after recent indiscretions, it was good to see that County....in particular Duxbury did the defending without conceding too many damaging free kicks.
The 13th minute saw things liven up no end, as a poor ball from the home keeper presented the pill to Battersby who looked on to maybe score.
It was a chance for sure, but Wayne Thomas did well to impose himself on Battersby and deny him the opportunity to shoot. Unfortunately....in so doing, the defender played the ball back to his keeper (with all due deliberation), and he promptly picked it up!
It was a free kick and no doubting it, except the referee did not think so, and judging by appearances, the far liner didn`t even care. No free kick then....danger averted....County dished.....no one amongst the 57 at all surprised!
Did this injustice spur County on? Possibly......as Bedwell had to act quickly shortly after to keep Duxbury`s deep cross out of danger`s way. Then some Moke magic saw Platt a cigarette papers width away from scoring with a snap shot!
A long throw from Williams then pushed County back, but not for long , and their lively play seemed to unsettle Aaron Brown, who headed behind to give us a corner, and then proceeded to blame his keeper for the blooper.
Jevons went close from the first of two corners that followed on from the last action, but the danger was cleared by Brown who got his body in the way of the shot.
That was good from County, but the 23rd minute ushered in something not so welcome to see as an undefended corner allowed Thomas a free header in front of goal- he put it disgracefully wide, but we needed that to be the last of these freebies, and Ormson offered reassurance with a confident claim to deny Ethan Moore on the end of a free kick from Ellis Beeley.
Better.....that was definitely better!
A brilliant tackle from O`Halloran saw us to the half hour mark, as Nti once again was kept out, and overall County were competing rather well and getting a reasonable amount of decent possession.
That said however, they did keep throwing that possession away largely via free kicks that were wasted with a profligacy that bordered on the alarming.
It went on with Battersby`s verve winning us a corner, but this came to nothing via the far liner`s flag that was quickly thrust skyward when Platt surged clear. County kept plugging away though and it was disappointing to see Platt concede possession limply allowing Moore to dart clear.
For a second or so it looked iffy, and then it didn`t as O`Halloran produced a masterful tackle to block the City man- danger averted!
Back came County through Moke, and a defender just got a late touch on the ball to prevent a screamer from the Stockport wide man from opening the scoring! The corner was defended easily by City, and Thomas did particularly well to stop a through ball by Platt from reaching its intended target.
Moke now had 3 men on him, which begged the question I suppose " why weren`t the others capitalising on this fact? Battersby certainly tried but the keeper had little difficulty in dealing with his strike with about 5 minutes left of the half.
And.....despite the plethora of markers.....there was still Moke ,and his latest run saw him brought down on the edge of the box, giving County a rather tasty free kick. This ushered in the redoubtable Jevons, and his kick almost took the woodwork from its moorings, as the ball thudded into the angle of bar and post with the keeper groping grotesquely in the cold night air!
That was unlucky....really unlucky, but that`s life I suppose, and it`s definitely football. The rest of the half seemed an anti-climax, with both teams having a go at getting a cheeky late one, but it was to no avail and the teams went in with the score still 0-0.
The second half opened with me reaching anxiously for the BP tablets, as Devaney was allowed to gallop clear whilst several yards off side. It was quite simply unbelievable to see the far liner`s flag down, as he was a yard or so from the action, albeit behind play, but down it was , and County did well to block the route to goal and keep it at 0-0.
That was not good, and I was in one almost immediately after as the referee ignored a blatant foul on Lees, which pushed County back once more. Again though, they defended well, particularly Duxbury, so the officials `mistakes` proved not to be costly to us, and despite a series of corners, County`s defence remained in charge and totally un fussed.
At the other end things were slightly different in so far as County were less incisive, especially with the free kicks( those not taken by Jevons that is) which were still not being fully pressed home, and ,added to this, Lofthouse was proving less than accurate with some of his passes and one such, on 55 minutes, put us under the cosh .
Duxbury was able to rescue the situation, and County survived again despite having to concede another corner.
Nti meanwhile......kept plugging away down the right, but his latest effort ended unsatisfactorily for him when Jevons tracked back and was able to hook the ball clear.
The ball eventually went innocuously out for a throw in where upon the excitable Nti swung a boot at it dispatching the pill out of the ground.
I learned from stewards later that a long and anxious search had been undertaken to ensure the safe return of said football. With Worcester working hard to make ends meet, you would have thought Nti would have tempered his temper so to speak and bourn this in mind.
We reached the hour mark with a ball from deep sending Moke clear. He had company but did well to outpace his marker as he headed for goal. It looked a decent chance, but Moke`s shot came early and drifted just wide, with Bedwell a very relieved man indeed.
I have not mentioned yet the ongoing early season panto that the far liner and referee were treating us too. If it was not so potentially serious I would have laughed, but they were struggling with the most basic of decisions, and both sets of fans were not slow to point this out.
AL then brought on Howard for Lofthouse , and after Ormson had dealt comfortably with a snap shot from Nelson-Addy, and Lees had thwarted a lively raid involving Devaney, Moke was away as Lees had picked him out with the neatest of passes.
From looking good things turned decidedly off when Brown brought Moke down, and County were unable to profit from the free kick.
Twice in a couple of minutes after this Charnock did well with decisive headers - the sort that instil confidence in those around him. Devaney ,midst this, was still able to get a header in ,but Ormson was not troubled and thoughts of at least a point were beginning to surface now for me.
Moke continued to get some conspicuously rough treatment from those assigned to mark him, and whilst Tyler Weir `s block on the winger was fair, the follow up from Brown was anything but.
With Moke pole axed on the deck, play `would surely be stopped` I naively thought, but instead the referee looked and then looked away, and with County almost to a man relaxing in anticipation of a free kick, Nelson Addy took advantage, and....spotting Ormson off his line...... pinged a meaty effort in on goal.
It was going in as well, but Ormson back pedalled swiftly before tipping the descending ball over the bar at the last gasp! That was excellent goal keeping from Ormson.....worthy opportunism from Nelson-Addy, but awesomely bad from a refereeing perspective! Only Ormson`s work saved me from going way beyond `in one` at this point, and I was not alone.
Ormson then did well again not long after ...once more from a Nelson- Addy long range effort ,but with Moses now on for Platt to shore up the back line, it appeared that County were set to settle for what they had got.
Not long after AL switched Dennis for Battersby, but the County emphasis now was on keeping things tight and they were relieved to see Devaney squander a decent half chance , with 15 minutes left, with a really poor shot, and Brown followed suit not long after.
He had also been offside and amazingly perhaps the far liner spotted it and had his flag up- a fact duly acknowledged by the studious 57!
The meaty stuff still kept on a coming however from City, and Graham Hutchison went into the referees book, for one mindless lunge too many with less than 10 minutes left to play.
Almost inevitably Milligan`s free kick came to nought, but it relieved pressure for a while.
Not for long though, and........... for a moment .........as a cross came in from the right, and Nti rounded on it smack in front, things looked a tad iffy, until O`Halloran intervened with the sweetest of defensive blocking tackles.
It did the job required of it, and apparently did for the highly entertaining Nti as well, as he acted out a near death scene to our great amusement. Then....praise be the much maligned NHS........he revived and slouched off to the touchline to resume battle.
The corner seemed a half decent one and maybe, from a City view point, deserved better but instead Hutchison fluffed his lines and the chance ,to keep it still at 0-0.
Both sides probably deserved a point, but wanted 3, and Charnock along with Ormson did well, with 5 minutes left, to stop a break by Brown.
County`s efforts to respond were praiseworthy but lacking an edge of good fortune as a Milligan cross was cleared after good work from Dennis and Moke ,who had another trade mark run blocked with just 3 minutes left to play.
Substitute Santiago Aloi then burst clear at break neck speed- it mattered not that he was palpably offside....the flag stayed down and Ormson had work to do!
The County keeper again did his job well, but the pressure was still on the orange shirted blues, and Charnock did exceptionally well to usher the ball clear as a cross thundered in from the right.
Normal time ended with Howard unlucky on the break, and Moke with a shot that cannoned out off a wall of blue/white striped shirts after Jevons had set the chance up.
County seemed to get a tad nervous in added time, and it was good to see Charnock ladling out the calm reassurance in bucket loads- not the verbal kind ,but the `do as I do` sort......great stuff!
The pressure stayed on County until pretty much the final whistle with O`Halloran, Milligan and Ormson doing wonders when called upon in the cause.
At the close, for once I did not head off for the Flyer at a rate of knots.....I stayed to applaud the team, and rightly so!
Before the game it was difficult to see just where the next point would come from, and the manner of the performance , grounded as it was in solid defending, perhaps augers well for the run in to the season`s end.
Let`s hope so....see you at Edgeley Park on Saturday- they will need our support against high flying Hednesford!
County line up;
Ormson, Lees, Charnock, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Platt ( Moses 73), Lofthouse ( Howard 61), Milligan, Jevons, Battersby( Dennis 74),Moke.
Subs not used; Lewis, Fagbola.
Worcester City line up:
Bedwell, Williams, Weir, Hutchison, Thomas, Brown, Nti, Deeney, Moore, Nelson -Addy, Devaney.