County 0 Hednesford Town 1
Another Saturday for County, saw another deeply depressing 90 minutes end with visitors Hednesford Town taking all the points at Edgeley Park in front of not far short of 3000.
Hednesford were probably favourites, by virtue of their league position and current form, but even so it was disappointing, if not a great surprise, to see them take an early lead through a Charlie Anagho- Ntamark goal.
What was even more disappointing, but unfortunately no great surprise, was the ineffectual response from County, who failed to test keeper Dan Crane throughout the game.
I am not sure but maybe we have to look no further than the midfield for the answer..........the midfield was swamped as Town put numbers in that zone, and took it from there.
As a result........this put pressure on the County back line that had done so well on Tuesday.
With Stephen O`Halloran again outstanding, they responded well, albeit they had to reorganise when Charnock went off injured midway through the first half, but where was the link between the back four and the forwards?
I looked hard but could not see it!
Then what of the forwards?
Well....Jevons worked hard as usual, but from such a withdrawn position that much of his work was wasted.
Moke did well again and for much of the time he was County`s only source of attacking vitality, but time after time he had to come inside and forage for the ball instead of being able to feast on a wealth of passes.
To be fair Howard tried hard particularly after the break, but that was that. Crane should have brought his paper and a decky such was the threat coming his way much of the time.
With Dennis totally lost and off the pace throughout the match, it was a surprise to see Moke substituted, and an even bigger one to see Oates on instead of the much trumpeted new man Sanchez Payne.
Payne did not show at all, and Dennis played a full 90 minutes, which with us needing a goal desperately, seemed odd, as did the `like for like` Lofthouse for Platt late switch.
This is all a bit manic....and I apologise......I really should be used to it by now, but I am not....and it hurts, and the sight of Micky Flynn and Tony Dinning ( from the bad old days!) on the pitch at the break, only served to salt the wounds!
Nuff said though......on with the match report, and at 3 o`clock there was just one change in County`s starting line up from Tuesday, that of Howard for Lofthouse, so at that stage, notwithstanding the wince inducing sight of Mr Michael Salisbury in the middle, this seemed much as expected and gave us a reasonable chance of doing something, on our own patch, against a decent side.
It was cagey stuff to start with as O`Halloran and Charnock busied themselves ushering hopeful balls from the visitors back to Ormson. At the other end Jevons gave Moke an early sniff of the ball, but the first 3 minutes passed with no real incident to report.
A throw then put County on the back foot ,but O`Halloran and Charnock had the situation boxed off and no danger seemed on the cards until Tom Thorley hastened to the ground under little or no blue pressure, and Mr Salisbury obliged with the games first free kick.
Thorley lifted this into the box where Danny Glover went for it, but Ormson prevailed, making it his with a confident gather.
The sixth minute gave us all a fright, and County a timely warning, as Lees did well to block Marvin Johnson, or appeared to do, as the ball ran on to captain Darren Campion wide on the left.
Campion made it to the by-line before pumping a dangerous ball across the box.
It was a bad moment, but...try as he might Charlie Anagho-Ntamark just could not reach it. Neither could anyone else and the danger was over!
Ten minutes had gone, and O`Halloran was in his element winning a couple of good defensive headers.
Hednesford meanwhile had done pretty much all the attacking, and looked neat and tidy when doing it, with Johnson seeming their man to watch, but it was 0-0, and therefore still all to play for!
Unfortunately though....play seemed destined not to move out of County`s half , and Charnock and Lees did well to hold firm as a second free kick pinned us back once more.
A foul on Howard offered County some relief but it was short lived as Milligan`s free kick came back County`s way in double short time.
That said, County did threaten briefly via Moke, but there was nothing in the way of support coming his way, thus the move broke down, and not long after the ball was back with Johnson who bullied his way to the by-line before unleashing the mother of all low crosses goal ward.
It was a belter and needed a similar response from County, but Duxbury was the wrong side of Anagho- Ntamark , and he made short work of forcing the ball home from close in! Thirteen minutes gone.....one down......bugger .... but maybe County would rally and show us a thing or two!
Well ......maybe, but there was no one up to take advantage when Howard received from Dennis and put the ball into the box, a couple of minutes later.
That last action was but a brief interlude in the attacking play of the visitors, and had Johnson`s set piece proficiency matched that of his wing play, County might have struggled, instead one flag kick, on 21 minutes, from the Pitmen`s number eight, flew out at speed, and another 3 minutes later nestled harmlessly on the top of the netting.
All was not well however for County and Charnock had to be substituted having picked up a leg injury, bringing Fagbola on. This meant Lees switched inside( no doubt happy to get away from Johnson) with Fagbola wide right- a position he seems not to prefer or shine in.
The 30 minute mark saw County win a rare corner, but Howard could not get a shot off at the back of the box and this rather typically ended in farce with County hot footing it back to where Ormson was along with a bevy of red shirts.
The red shirts looked favourites to latch onto the ball however, and Ormson did well to deny them with a quick intervention!
A County free kick, won when Moke was brought down just outside the box, saw Milligan`s kick go out for a corner off the wall, and this saw a defender head out off the line, which was County`s first effort on target in 33 minutes of football!
A second beckoned shortly after, and again via a Moke run, and Hednesford`s only answer when he swerved past them and cut inside was to bring him down, and that`s what they did! Again Milligan took it, but Hednesford got bodies back and ushered it clear.
Hmmm......County were beginning to stir a bit, and about time too.......but a Jevons cross just eluded Howard, who was beaten to another Jevons tempter moments after by Crane who seemed none the worse for the prolonged period of inactivity.
He looked about to get busier, but Dennis missed the target with one shot, and Moke was inches from reaching a Duxbury cross.
The last action of the half from County, involved Moke who sent Fagbola clear on the overlap down the right. Fagbola`s cross was not bad, but Howard`s lack of inches did for him, and he was brushed off the ball somewhat easily.
Half time then, and with County kicking towards us this half, maybe things would take a turn for the better!
Some wag in the PA department managed to have `All we need is a miracle` blasting out as County took to the park after the break, but I would settle for something as mundane as a goal...a County goal.....a slutchy fluke would do! Not that desperation was setting in!
Well......County tried, with Moke on the `forage` hungrily trying to ginger things up, and Howard ( probably fearing an imminent subbing) nipped here and there in an effort to emulate Moke.
That edge of class was however missing and this was amply bourne out, on 50 minutes, when a Howard cross was helped on nicely by Jevons to Dennis, but the response from County`s number nine was woefully slow and the chance went begging.
The blues kept pegging away though, but without anything resembling luck ,as there was more than a hint of red shirt holding blue as Howard battled in the box with John Disney, but the referee saw nothing untoward and Disney was able to find touch.
It went on....Moke missing by inches.....Dennis offside ( apparently) going for a high/ bouncer, and stopped from reaching a Jevons ball moments after by Paul McCone.
County did win themselves a couple of corners during this period , where a goal for the blues would not have been that outrageously unbelievable, but the quality was lacking as far as finishing was concerned and despite the pressure continuing, nothing fruitful came of it.
Expecting Payne .....I was surprised to see Oates replace Platt with about 25 minutes left , but forgot this for a moment as Lees fouled Glover who then proceeded to play dead for the referee`s benefit.
Mr Salisbury liked it.......booked Lees, whereupon Glover sprang to life miraculously! Utterly reprehensible, but then I am naive am I not! No matter.....the kick was defended well enough by County, so the damage was contained.
County came under the cosh for a time after this, and passes started to go astray as a consequence- that said.....Moke and Oates were only kept out by decent work from Thorley and Campion with just 15 minutes to go, so there was still hope...wasn`t there?
Well.....yes....but...what`s this....substitute Wayne Riley was away, and the flag stayed down as he picked out Mike Lennon.
This was a really dicey moment...in fact Ormson was exposed and looked dished, but instead he saved the forward`s shot with his legs, which was about as good a response as we could have wanted!
Excellent stuff! County defended the corner well, and the follow up from Riley was abysmally under par, so the score stayed 1-0.
County tried to respond through Dennis and Jevons to no avail, and via Oates, but he was flagged off side when things looked slightly promising.
With Moke off, and Lofthouse on, I am not sure what this signalled with us still a goal down, with around 10 minutes left to play.
The score didn`t change in the 5 minutes that followed on from this personnel change, but it might have, because Ormson spilled a shot, and as it came out off his chest, Glover somehow managed to spray his shot beyond the far post- an amazing miss!
County then went long, and McCone and Bailey got themselves in an almighty tangle trying to deal with the situation as the pill bounced their way in the box with Oates showing a lively interest.
First off they seemed to have it and Oates looked beaten, but then they didn`t, and he had another go, but when he was past them a foot shot out and down he went!
Penalty?...................well................I thought so, but Mr Salisbury didn`t, and neither did his liner, and that was a match saver for Hednesford, and how the EP faithful knew it and told the officials!
Credit to them, County kept trying, but...urged to shoot by the crowd.....Lees on the burst, did so and lifted a defenders shot into our midst on Row R.
Into 4 minutes added time we went with Riley so close to doubling Town`s advantage, and in response Milligan lifted ball after ball up and into the box from deep...all to no avail.
Try as they might, County were on a loser and soon enough Mr Salisbury confirmed this with the final whistle.
I had expected better......we didn`t get it.....perhaps next time.....I certainly hope so!
County line up;
Ormson, Lees, Charnock ( Fagbola 25), O`Halloran, Duxbury, Platt( Oates 66),Milligan, Moke ( Lofthouse 79), Jevons, Howard , Dennis.
Subs not used; Payne, Moses.
Hednesford Town line up:
Crane, Disney, Campion,Bailey, McCone, Mac Pherson, Osbourne, Johnson, Glover, Anagho-Ntamark, Thorley.