Boston United 0 County 2
County turned in another top draw performance today to take all the points at York Street against Boston United.
This time the white shirted blues were able to convert a deserved 1-0 lead late on into the more comfortable 2-0 margin, and that winning score, did not unduly flatter us.
The win was neatly engineered and decisively executed. Two cracking goals from Danny Lloyd did the trick, and he was again tremendous, but then I have an almost endless list of others in white who were immense also.
The midfield, particularly in the first half, with Stopforth and Montrose covering every inch of the playing surface in the County cause, was a thing to behold- how we did not score more than the one we did in that half will remain a major mystery.
When something did get through to our back line we had Smalley and Clarke dominating affairs not letting anything or anyone pass, whilst out wide the full backs had the shutters down particularly Duxbury who capped what has been a great if somewhat interrupted season for him, with his best showing so far.
It was really excellent and just what the noisy County following came for and deserved!
Ross for Meppen-Walter was the only County change at 3 o`clock, as the game opened with Boston under heavy pressure from a lively County outfit.
The game was not a classic by any means, there being too many free kicks ruining it as a spectacle, and this pattern set in early as home frustrations were converted into fouls and free kicks to County.
For Boston….Josh Robinson was prominent in this early period but not for his football prowess so much as the verbals he aimed at referee Robert Massey-Ellis( who had a fairly decent game).
No card was issued but this scenario would be revisited with a vengeance later!
Lloyd and Duxbury were prominent in the opening exchanges and Boston did well to keep them out.
Jay Rollins took time out to raid the County heartland , but the cover from Smalley and Clarke was too much for him and he was restricted to a shot from outside the box which went straight to Hinchliffe.
Boston were trying to play though, and some of their passing early on looked crisp and precise- were we in for a shock? Well…… the latest push on from Thomas and Rollins suggested as much, but Clarke soon disavowed us of those thoughts with an assured intervention.
Mostly it was County doing the `pushing on` and some great work by Ball saw Odejayi snaffle a corner from nothing. Stopforth went close from this, but it stayed 0-0.
County were beginning to impose themselves now, and it was a disappointment to see Minihan loft his shot way over the bar , having been set up neatly by a Smalley/ Stopforth cooperation.
Stopforth was in the mix again ,15 minutes in, this time linking with Montrose, who was again covering a colossal amount of ground, but despite Odejayi , Ross and Minihan joining in, the final ball ( from Minihan) again lacked quality to keep the score line blank.
Boston , even early on, were looking second best by a distance, their response to the constant County pressure being either to lump the ball out….or foul the man in white at the sharp end, and the 18th minute saw the former option taken by Chas Gatter with Odejayi bearing down on goal.
On it went…..County attacking…..Hinchliffe and Ball , forcing Robinson to extremes to stop Stopforth`s run….and Tom Batchelor no less stressed as he thwarted Minihan`s latest run.
Twenty five minutes had now gone, and County were dominating matters conclusively, but it was still 0-0 and we were but one fluke away from disappointment or worse.
Thomas tried to prove this particular point, adding counter point to the County pressure highlighted by a series of throws from Ross, but whilst his break had speed, and a slight element of surprise on its side, he also had Duxbury on his case and his covering tactics were brilliant - sufficiently so to ensure what had seemed a tasty break, became no great concern.
But…we did rather need a goal…and everyone knew it to be so, but Odejayi was just kept out, after brilliant work by him and Ball had thoroughly filleted the home back line.
County were warming up nicely now- Ball again probing the home cover but narrowly missing out. The pressure continued to build on Adam Murray`s lads, and they were distinctly fortunate to survive the next action as Duxbury burst into the box at speed past a clutch of defenders.
He was on for a shot, and might have considered going down, as one defender stuck out a leg and definitely made contact. Young Dux was too honest though, and stayed on his feet for a shot, which was good but came out off the keeper`s legs. Lloyd`s follow up effort carried the bar, so again…despite being well on top…County remained on equal terms with their opponents.
The pressure from County was relentless now, and Lloyd went closer next, after Minihan had capitalised on good work from Smalley and Clarke to win a corner.
That was 33 minutes gone…another 3 minutes and we had something to cheer- I was cheering early doors thanks to excellent work from Montrose and Stopforth in the build up, to a move that saw Lloyd surge into the box down the left.
There was a tidy angle to deal with but Lloyd gave this scant consideration, smashing a wondrous left foot shot in off the keeper`s near post. The Blue and White Army, who had been in excellent voice from minute 1….were overjoyed, and raised the roof of the away end in response!
That was just what was needed , and a second was almost added 2 minutes later - keeper Ross Durrant doing well to hold Lloyd`s header with rampant County in overdrive.
The final 7 or so minutes of the half were a procession of County attacks and a plethora of free kicks as Boston struggled to compete.
That said…there was no addition to the score, and 1-0 seemed a scant return for what had been a sharp County showing.
Boston swapped Brown and Marshall for Gatter and Hilliard when the game re-started, and the fresh legs seemed to inject some formerly absent urgency into the Pilgrims work.
A run of cheap free kicks did not assist County`s efforts to combat this renewed energy, but the cover was as before with Smalley and Clarke in command and ably assisted by just about everyone in white- I will single out Montrose, Stopforth and Duxbury for a special mention in this respect, and as a result Hinchliffe looked to be in little danger despite the huff and puff of the opposing forwards.
Odejayi went close twice after this, before being replaced, on the hour, by Amis.
Montrose was still in mighty form sending Lloyd clear, 65 minutes in, but despite being joined by Minihan , the move fizzled out. Ball …then Duxbury made the keeper work shortly after, and Duxbury had enough about him to be on hand at the other end to thwart a break by Thomas that for a moment looked likely to please the home specs no end.
A dive in the box by Rollins pleased nobody- both referee and left side liner staring in disbelief at the diminutive diver as he picked himself up.
To be fair to Boston….they were working hard trying to get back to parity , but they were faced with the immoveable object in the form of the County back line ,and the midfield was no less excellent- Stopforth and Duxbury combining brilliantly to block a Boston raid and set up an attack. Montrose latched onto the ball and set off…head down….up the park into space where he was hauled down by Fairhurst.
The free kick came to nought which was a frustration, but more followed as Clarke was adjudged to have fouled his man and was thus booked. The free kick put County under the cosh somewhat, but only until Hinchliffe could join the action- grabbing the ball in a forest of bodies in the box.
Lloyd….Duxbury …both ran at the home defence with a will and not a little skill- Duxbury being particularly unlucky having beaten half the home team en-route to the by-line.
We needed that second goal…we really did…to close off this resistance from Boston- instead Duxbury was in action again having tracked back to stop Thomas as he threatened down the right.
Twice after this..Thomas had efforts, but these were of variable worth. Fitzpatrick did better, if only marginally, his snap shot bringing a dive out of Hinchliffe, but thudding into the advertising boards inches wide.
That was about the last we saw of Boston as an attacking force, as with around 5 minutes left Robinson took an early bath courtesy of Mr Massey- Ellis. I am assuming verbals were the cause- Robinson liking a chat….Mr Massey -Ellis not….
Down to 10 Boston had little or no chance of making a wakes of County`s lead.
The free kicks piled up for County in the last few minutes of normal time, as Boston….consistently trying to attack and equally consistently being caught out by Lloyd on the break. Usually a foul followed and 10 could quite easily have become 9 or less with another referee on another day.
No matter…it was still 1-0 …and then it wasn`t…..
JG had just brought on Felix for Ball , and Felix had got involved straight off -copping for a hefty bang colliding with the keeper when others ( especially having just come on) might have ducked the 50/50!
I was impressed and more so almost immediately as, into 4 minutes added time, Lloyd broke up-field yet again, sending a neat pass for Felix to run onto just beyond half way.
There was lots to do, and Felix ran and ran until in range for a shot…but he didn`t shoot….instead slipping the ball into Lloyd`s path to his left, and it was 2-0 in a heartbeat as Danny slammed it past Durrant into the net!
Brilliant from Lloyd for that, but massive credit to Felix also….just on…great composure… and very un-selfish.
Oh….and another James type subbing master stroke!
Boston found themselves well and truly stretched in the games dying embers, but it stayed 2-0, which was good enough, and County left York Street with the cheers of their supporters ringing loudly in their ears.
Great stuff from County…the season is building nicely……..now for a big crowd at Edgeley Park this Saturday to see us past Brackley who in my opinion are the best team in the division!
Oh….and do not forget the defence of the Cheshire Senior Cup which begins at EP this Tuesday- another one not to miss!
Boston United line up:
Durrant, Thomas, Gordon, Robinson, Batchelor, Gatter( Brown 45), Rollins, Fitzpatrick, Hilliard( Marshall 45), Clarke, Chippendale ( Fairhurst 61).
Subs not used; Clappison, Colley.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Minihan, Montrose, Stopforth, Odejayi ( Amis 60), Ball ( Felix 88), Lloyd.
Subs not used: Ormson, Meppen-Walter, Marsden.
Attendance : 1360