County 3 Stalybridge Celtic 1
County continued their promotion push, consolidating their position in the play off places with a 3-1 victory against near neighbours Stalybridge Celtic, today at an unusually sunny Edgeley Park.
For a time, the play from County was sunny too, as playing towards the Cheadle End they went into an early lead via yet another strike from live wire wide man Danny Lloyd.
Celtic were clearly second best in the first 45, but no doubt galvanised by a word or three from their Co Managers, and spurred on by some fine work by ex County man Sefton Gonzalez, they equalised within 2 minutes of the re-start as Kieran Dunbar beat Ian Ormson before going on to mock the Cheadle End rather naughtily!
Celtic surprised me a fair bit with the quality of their play after the break. Aided ….…yes…by some occasionally sloppy passing from the blues, but their work was infinitely better than that of the last team from SK21 that ventured hence to ours last term!
That said …County had a match to win, and once again this intent was helped by some excellent substitutions from James Gannon. County were making hard work of getting back in it….and then they weren`t, as goals from Lloyd again from the spot, and ex Celtic man Jimmy Ball clinched the win for JG`s side.
Sam Minihan took the sponsors M.O.M award , and he really was terrific, and you will surely say that he had to be to edge out such a wonderful performer as two goal Danny Lloyd.
There was a return for Ian Ormson in goal and he performed impeccably throughout , having no chance at all with the goal that went in past him.
Others deserved a mention as well….Montrose…excellent in midfield….Michael Clarke a rock at the back, along with Scott Duxbury, who along with Minihan was able to supplement cool defensive work with some cutting edge attacking.
Good stuff then, but whilst I was pretty pleased to be back, I was less so to see that County were kicking towards the Cheadle End first off!
An early County attack promised much but fizzled out as Meppen -Walter lifted his shot into our midst behind the goal. Marsden and Lloyd then pushed on….forcing Celtic to defend still, and the visitors just managed to block Marsden`s shot , and hold their breath as a flick header by Amis went close.
Celtic replied through Adam Morning but Montrose was on hand to head clear when he was joined by Gonzalez and Dunbar.
County went back on the offensive early doors after that briefest of Celtic sorties, Minihan finding space a plenty down the right and making good use of it. Marsden went close in this period, shooting wide, but Ormson got his first taste of hard work next as Morning again ran clear down the left.
The County keeper`s response was excellent -timing his advance from goal impeccably well to deny the lanky wide man a pot at goal.
That was promising for Celtic , but their feeling of satisfaction was short lived , as a long ball from Ormson, saw the ball bounce in the visitors box where Amis flicked it on with his head for Lloyd to beat the keeper and make it 1-0. He took a fair old bang whilst doing the deed, but the very next County attack told us Lloyd was OK and not in major difficulties.
Stalybridge were stung into action by the goal and Clarke twice got good blocks in to prevent Gonzalez and/or Morning getting a site of goal. No less than 3 corners came Celtic`s way in this period…but …no goal.
It was not long before County replied in kind , but in doing so Lloyd had his person mangled by some none too fussy work by ex Hatters Danny Morton. The referee saw no foul, and the move ended with Osbourne lifting his shot into the Cheadle End.
Meanwhile…Gonzales was working hard and it took good work from Montrose and Ormson to deny him.
Having hinted earlier that Celtic looked to be reformed characters, they were clearly still unable to wholly throw off the behavioural shackles of yester year, instance Danny Wilkins who tracked back with the seemingly single intent namely to scatter the legs of whoever in blue was closest to him - it was Duxbury, but Wilkins` two attempts to lay Scott out failed, and I watched in horror to see the County number three`s cross whiz across the face of goal with no takers within sniffing distance!
With County pushing on…..Dunbar joined the party with a poor challenge on Marsden. This brought us a free kick but nothing else as County could not make the kick count.
County, with Osbourne and Lloyd running at their opponents, clearly held the whip hand, and Celtic were working really hard to stay afloat under mounting pressure.
Dan Wisdom was a rock for Celtic at this juncture, as County persevered pushing the visitors back, but having done the hard work…..and won a corner( via a Duxbury run) again the set piece was wasted, and Celtic could breathe easily again.
Thankfully, Celtic were no better with the set pieces , and any threat offered by messrs Gonzales, Dunbar and Morning, dissipated to nothingness when a hard won free kick failed to test Ormson.
With 8 minutes of the half left Morton did just enough to ensure Amis could not get a shot off when played in.
A minute later Clarke was called on to usher Morning away from the danger zone- he did this well, and the only other thing of note for the rest of the half was a raid set up via great work by Wisdom and Gonzales, that saw Dunbar clear down the left. It was a half chance, but it went begging as he planted his shot wide of Ormson`s far post to County`s relief.
Was that a warning?
Possibly so…as within a minute or so of the re-start Celtic were level!
There was no real warning of what was to come, indeed the early moments of the half looked quite promising with Montrose and Smalley doing good stuff turning defence into attack in the prescribed fashion.
Then it all went a tad haywire. County lost the ball ( Meppen- Walter I think) and Celtic ,in the shape of Danny Wisdom, pounced with relish. Wisdom tore into the County back-line, surging clear like the proverbial knife through butter.
His pass onwards saw Gonzales in the mix, doing enough in his clash with Smalley to see the ball clear towards Dunbar, who slammed a neat finish home to make it 1-1.
He then went on to do his naughtiness in front of the Cheadle End which was sad, I could not bring myself to be angry….I just dreamed of County snatching a winning goal…preferably in the 94th minute…yes…that would be a suitable repost!
County came under the cosh after this as Dunbar and Gonzales strutted their stuff in front of the Cheadle End- I was impressed with Gonzales, as I had been when he was with us, but less so by the excitable Dunbar, who I was happy to see anguished as his shot, 53 minutes in, was saved by Ormson.
The Celtic duo continued…Gonzales supplier…..Dunbar the target, but his luck was out, his next shot going wide as Ormson advanced off his line to force the error.
County did win a corner, not long after, but again a finish was lacking as Osbourne pinged a decent ball in from the right, so Celtic survived to hit us on the break, with substitute Florian Da Silva a real menace down the left.
With ex Celtic man Jimmy Ball on for Courtney Meppen-Walter ,after the hour, County attacked , but when Lloyd darted clear…as he reached the edge of the box…his legs and everything else were scattered asunder by the force of Danny Morton`s arrival. Down went Lloyd, and into referee Simeon Lucas`s book went Morton`s name.
The kick offered much, from a decent position, but only a corner resulted, and despite keeper Grant Shenton spilling this, and Minihan doing his darndest along with Lloyd to snatch a second, it would not materialise- it stayed 1 apiece!
It was not long before JG swapped Kaine Felix for John Marsden, but any attacking intent on County`s part had to wait as the obnoxious Dunbar was making himself a nuisance again, this time slipping into the box past Smalley- thankfully Clarke was on hand to steady the ship and his intervention saw the threat off with knobs on!
Celtic were not finished either, and Ormson did really well to punch clear under pressure with Dunbar searching for that vital second goal.
That second goal almost materialised, with 16 minutes left, and it started with County losing possession, to Wisdom who burst clear through the remnants of the County cover. Wisdom did well….but passing on to Dunbar he saw his good work scattered to the four winds as Dunbar`s hasty snatched effort missed the target.
County were trying to regain the upper hand, mainly via Lloyd, but a couple of efforts from him went just wide of goal.
We were just 12 minutes from time when the situation changed. Lloyd, unsurprisingly perhaps, was the catalyst…his surging run taking him into the box where, under pressure from a couple of defenders, he went down.
The referee was close by, and quickly pointed to the spot.
Danny Lloyd did the rest….picking himself up before slotting the perfect kick past Shenton into the net.
It was 2-1 to County now and the Cheadle End started to raise their voices in support of the team, as Felix went to the by-line looking in vain for a third goal.
Ross came on for the last 10 minutes replacing Lloyd who went off to his usual ovation.
Credit to Celtic…they kept going…looking for a way back, but without finding a way past Smalley and Clarke who were now operating a shut out.
Into the last 5 minutes we went, to experience one of those delicious moments that almost make life worthwhile!
Yes….County had just snuffed out another attempt by Celtic to rain on their parade, when someone in blue executed a beautiful `wall pass` off referee Lucas- it really was a thing of beauty!
Off surged County, and Celtic were barely able to galvanise themselves sufficiently to concede a corner rather than worse.
A corner it was then, and Osbourne looked to be going to take it, but he was joined by Duxbury , and instead young Scott did the honours, bending a vicious kick into the forest of bodies in and around the line. One such body belonged to Jimmy Ball and he got his head to it to make it 3-1, and virtually `game over`.
County gave us some really good football to watch at times in the games dying embers, but no further addition to the score was forthcoming from them, indeed Ormson was called on to make a late/late claim under pressure as Wisdom`s free kick threatened to offer the visitors a late consolation.
That was not to be…3-1 it was….a decent win, and a vital 3 points. Yes…we made hard work of it at times, but there is no such thing as a free lunch even in Division 6….points and wins have to be earned, and County did just that today.
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Minihan, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Montrose, Meppen-Walter( Ball 60), Osbourne, Amis, Marsden( Felix 68), Lloyd( Ross 81).
Subs not used: Smith, Odejayi.
Stalybridge Celtic line up:
Shenton, Morton, Mather( Ahmadi 85), Hughes, Wisdom, Chalmers, Dunbar, Gee( Gaskell 81), Gonzales, Wilkins, Morning( Da Silva 54).
Subs not used: Mc Knight, Pilkington.
[ Excellent as ever photos from the game can be found here. I note the big advertising sheets covering the railway end. Clever use of space as long as they can be remoevd for visiting teams with decent away support? ]