County 3 Lowestoft 0
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
'Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
OK.......perhaps today at Edgeley Park was not quite Balaclava 1854 revisited, and neither Mick Chapman nor Ady Gallagher are as dumb, in the leadership department, as was Lord Cardigon back then.
It might just be appropriate to add also that as for bravery, the 600 far outstripped a very disappointing Lowestoft team that came to Edgeley Park unbeaten and left it shell shocked and well and truly thumped, by a County team who had too much zest and fire power for them.
For County it was another chance to make up lost ground, and they did that with some assurance, their 3-0 win sending them up to ninth spot in the division.
The match was a very low octane affair for the most part, with Lowestoft struggling to make any headway against a determined County side who looked confident on the ball.
Yes.....there was much to admire in this County performance.....like all good showings, it was rooted in solid defence and the central defensive three of Lees, Gregson and O`Halloran were superb....none more so than Gregson, who was pushing Baker for that M.O.M award for me.
It was a back 5 again, with Belezika getting 85 minutes to shine this time on the right, with Duxbury on the left- there was just no way through with those five on song and willing and able to get forward too!
In front of the back line, we had skipper Jamie Milligan, who had another belter linking up nicely between defence and attack, and he got valuable support from Chris Churchman, who was pressed into service at the expense of Nathan Woolfe.
That was the only change from Stalybridge on Monday, which meant hot shot Kristian Dennis and the steadily improving Chris Sharp were on the bench, as County kicked off with their backs to the Cheadle End.
Within a couple of minutes we got a taste of things to come as the Town back line went into doze mode allowing Richie Baker in on goal. It was a chance, but a bobble did for him in the act of shooting and the shot climbed into the very nearly empty Railway End as a result.
It took another 3 or 4 minutes for Lowestoft to reply, and when they did Jack Ainsley`s cross found no one in white to apply a finish.
The game meandered on ...County trying to keep the ball down and play it about....whilst Lowestoft were apparently content to lump it into the August greyness overhead and hope.
Their keeper however...the rather good Ashley Jones.... had us all talking ...indeed shouting at the referee, as he grabbed the ball whilst his body was entirely outside the box.
It was mean spirited of us to shout for his dismissal, but ( with memories of our Jones at Birmingham ,when Bruce was refereeing the game, way back when, and other similar calumnies!) we did, but referee Peter Wright, who had a reasonable game, would have none of it.
Lowestoft ,through Ainsley, fashioned a rare break next, but the forward`s run was neatly cut short by excellent work from O`Halloran, as a result of which Ainsley went to ground.
Again ...the referee was on the spot.....and again was having none of it , which sent Ainsley into something of a lather for a while, which was not greatly improved when his next run was halted by Duxbury who won a goal kick to boot.
Ainsley was livid, but I was not alone in enjoying the theatre as it played out before my eyes, and the excellence of the defending!
I brightened up further next with the sight of Glenn Belezika storming in on goal, and only just missing out with a high octane header!
Sam Gaughran then had to go off for Lowestoft due to injury, but if this thought encouraged County ( he was a central defender) this encouragement was immediately tempered with the knowledge that his replacement was the gangling, massively travelled, forward Jefferson Louis.
Indeed Louis promptly won a free kick that forced Hurst to punch clear under pressure, the move only ending when Curtis Haynes- Brown`s cross was ignored by a clutch of white shirted forwards.
Haynes- Brown, along with Jones, was Lowestoft`s stand out performer, for me, but he was to work hard but in vain throughout the game to light a flame on the seemingly well damp Town Tinder Box.
Already it was possible to say that Lowestoft were a disappointment, but they did well enough to keep Belezika out as another of his leggy runs stretched them to bursting down the right, from O`Halloran`s splendid cross field pass.
It was a throw to County then, and this saw Milligan battle his way into the box before passing to Spencer who promptly went to earth. It was a corner however....not a penalty, and again the referee was probably correct, but any disappointment for County quickly dissipated when Baker stole in to force the ball home from close range from the resultant kick.
That was excellent, but then so was the Baker celebration.....a joyous cartwheel executed at speed in front of the Pop Side!
This seemed to buoy County no end......Churchman missing out with a poor shot, and a neat move involving Milligan, Baker, Ryan and Belezika, similarly fated!
This state of affairs continued with County playing it about with ease and comfort, but they were watchful at the back as well for the occasional sortie from Town, and one such, on 31 minutes by Jefferson Louis looked fairly interesting until Baker and Belezika combined to dish the lanky forward.
Mainly though....it was the blues on the ball, as a plethora of free kicks came their way, pushing Town further and further back. Spencer harassed a throw out of nothing near the corner flag and then sent Ryan scurrying along the by-line causing alarm and despondency in the visitors defence- they held out though, but only just.
A free kick to Lowestoft threatened for a moment to turn the tide somewhat, as Hurst had to react quickly and punch the ball for a corner as a result. From this Robert Hayles headed over the bar, which was good from a County view point....what wasn`t good was that he had had a free header!
No matter.......half time was approaching, and that last action wasn`t representative at all, of the first half. Indeed a long kick from Hurst almost saw Baker in for a second goal........then Ryan was similarly unlucky this time from Belezika`s prompt.
County were warming up nicely ,with the break getting ever closer, and a lovely cannon off referee Wright ,again almost set us up to double our lead, with Belezika bearing down like an avenging angel on the hard pressed Town back line.
Hard pressed or not.....they managed to hold out, and Haynes- Brown even managed to ping another decent cross over ,on the break, but once more there were no takers, and it stayed 1-0 to County as the teams trouped off at half time.
Lowestoft opened at a frenetic pace in the second half , Gregson and Hurst doing well to deal with Louis...twice.....the second time via a decent ball in from the right by Chris Henderson, but despite clearly bursting to get a shot off.....thanks to Gregson`s diligence, they totally failed to do!
Gradually County reasserted themselves, and Ryan was unlucky to see a blatant dive by the highly irritating Ainsley, gain the visitors a free kick and thus thwart a promising County raid.
Straight off after this, County came back at their opponents again, through Spencer who was played through brilliantly by Churchman. In a trice Spencer was beyond Ainsley and inside the box, and in another he had sent a shot of tremendous power heading for goal.
No problem......it was 2-0....but not so...because Jones twisted in mid air and stuck his right arm aloft to somehow push the ball up and over the bar. The corner was 100% an anti-climax, as Hayles headed it clear at the near post!
That was Spencer`s last contribution as he was replaced, on the hour, by Sharp in a double substitution that saw Dennis on for Ryan as well.
Louis tested Hurst with a shot after he had taken the pill to the by-line, but with captain Dan Gleeson substituted ,there was clearly trouble brewing for Town, and it did not take long to surface!
A mere 3 minutes in fact, as Sharp burst clear and headed for goal. Jones started to advance off his line, but Sharp reacted quickly by blasting a shot of enormous power towards goal. It was going in but Jones managed to beat it out magnificently.
Chance gone then!......except no.....because the ball was with Duxbury and he crossed it back into the box where Dennis met it with his head sending a beautifully judged glancer into the far corner of the net!
That was excellent....and it was also 2-0 to County....great stuff!
Sharp was on fire now and it took a terrific last ditcher by Haynes-Brown to stop his next run just a couple of minutes later.
There was no keeping Sharp quiet and , shortly after , thanks to a brilliant ball from Gregson, he was clear again. It looked curtains for Jones and his team as Sharp advanced on goal and more so as another cannon ball shot headed for the net.....it was belter, but so was the Jones response, and the keeper again denied Sharp with the bravest of fine saves.
Again...the chance appeared to have gone, but I had reckoned without the resilient and resourceful Baker and he snaffled the available trifle, forcing the ball into the net!
It was 3-0 now, and a decent win was on the cards for the resurgent blues, despite the efforts of Ross Jarvis to start WW3 after the slightest of brushes with Churchman. Thankfully the referee was on hand to quell hostilities and disappoint Jarvis.
Lowestoft tried to get something from the game after this, but twice Baker broke up prospective raids, and the most that Hurst had to deal with was long balls from Jones aimed at no one in particular, and these were no problem at all.
With 5 minutes left, and all hope lost for Lowestoft, Ainsley went beyond irritating to try his hand at a bit of common assault. As such it was perfectly executed and O`Halloran as a result was pole-axed.
All hell broke loose as a result with everyone bar Hurst involved- handbags flying about all over the place!
In the end order was restored and Ainsley got his yellow. Many thought he might have got red, but again I thought the referee did well.
If the aim was to ruffle County feathers, particularly those of the younger ones, it did not declare a dividend, because County came back at Lowestoft , forcing Jones to make a vital catch to keep a Lofthouse cross from Sharp and Dennis!
It went on with Dennis thwarted at the last gasp by Haynes- Brown, as County queued to be the one to force that fourth goal in.
It was not to be, but it didn`t matter a jot did it, the game was won and the points were ours!
Well done County!
See you all at Hednesford next Saturday!
County line up;
Hurst , Belezika ( Lofthouse 85), Lees, Gregson , O`Halloran, Duxbury, Milligan, Churchman, Baker, Spencer( Sharp 60),Ryan ( Dennis 60).
Subs not used: Ormson, Murray.
Lowestoft line up:
Jones, Hayles, Haynes-Brown, Fisk, Gleeson, Gaughran, Ainsley, Jarvis, Bammant, Henderson, Eagle.
Louis, Jessop, Smith, Okay, Radomski.
Attendance ; 2169