County 3 Curzon Ashton 1
All the major players in Vanarama National North won yesterday, so after a convincing 3-1 victory against Curzon Ashton, County found themselves kept from the play off places by goal difference only.
With 9 games left to play, no one at Edgeley Park, and definitely not James Gannon, will be worrying overly by the current position, if County can keep this form up.
The win was achieved with skill and energy, and thoroughly deserved, against a side that had put together a run of decent results of late. Indeed for Curzon Ashton a revival in fortune was shaping up nicely until yesterday`s encounter with James Gannon`s team at Edgeley Park.
The game started as many recent one`s had, with County`s opponents bringing back visions of the `bag with a mouth` with a series of late/late challenges , none of which, at least early on, got any more than a free kick against and a word from referee Matthew Donohue.
At that stage, the referee looked about to give us another display to forget, but…I must say he was not that bad overall…..slow to punish offenders early on, but he did not make any major bloopers.
For County there was lots to praise…..debutant Harry Winter won the M.O.M award and had to be good to take it from 2 goal( and one assist ) Danny Lloyd.
Winter was the very antithesis of what it said on his tin giving us a very measured performance that not only added stability in the middle but also freed up Montrose and Ball to do the biz ,at the back and going forward respectively( although really Montrose was up…down and everywhere pretty much as usual). Lloyd had a terrific game scoring 2 typically opportunist goals and producing a superlative assist to lay on County`s third for Jimmy Ball.
Elsewhere I thought Sefton Gonzales showed up terrifically well -absolutely impossible to shake off the ball throughout the game, and at the back Clarke stood out making the save of the day in the first half to prevent Curzon from scoring against the run of play.
The game was won, and County were coasting, when the visitors pulled one back. It came from a penalty, and that was just about the only way they were going to score despite trying a bit late on. Hampson will no doubt be disappointed with the result of the outstretched leg he left out obligingly for McKenzie to trip over, and Clarke`s booking for descent could be costly in the run in, but overall this was a good team performance and 3 much needed points.
Winter tried his hand early doors , but his pass for Lloyd to chase saw Oliver Thornley cut the County number 11 off just inside the box- that was just about the one and only success Thornley clocked up against Lloyd game long.
The visitors gave us a hint of what might just be possible from them, 3 minutes in, but after out foxing Hampson, Jordan Wright lifted a poor effort way over the bar.
Another 3 minutes passed before anything else of note occurred, and it was Hampson who started the ball rolling with a long ball out of defence that was quickly ushered on, by Gonzales, to Danny Lloyd. Lloyd had Thornley and keeper Hakan Burton in his path, but made light of the fact by beating the pair of them before slotting the ball home from the edge of the box!
Six minutes gone…..County 1 Curzon Ashton 0…excellent stuff, but there was precious little time to bask in this score line, before the crowd of some 3400 were up in arms at the sight of Niall Cummings going right through Minihan with the ball in the other half of the field. This needed a card, but, low and behold, one was not produced, instead the referee had a word with the miscreant and that was that.
County had a free kick, of course, and this led to Hampson going close with a header, but already I was feeling uneasy at the quality of the officiating on view!
A period of County pressure followed, County prospering via good work by Minihan and Ross down the right, but without adding a second goal. Minihan did try his luck with a shot, but this was well wide, and he soon had more bruises to attend to as, this time, Ryan Hall went in late on him, with the same result as before!
Fifteen minutes had gone now, and Curzon Ashton were not looking any great shakes as a threat, but County let their guard down somewhat, and allowed Hall to steal the ball and head off for goal. He was away and into the box, and it looked a goal for sure with only Ormson to beat.
He did this pretty well, but the County keeper had made himself sufficiently big to ensure that Hall had to swerve slightly to his left away from goal for the merest fraction of time, and almost as importantly Ormson managed not to foul him either!
It was enough to seal Hall`s fate, as Clarke was on his case and the classiest of interventions from him saw the threat off - Clarke blocking the goal bound shot and forcing it clear. The place erupted and rightly so- that was a great stop- had it gone in, that would have been a game changer!
The Tameside side must have been disappointed at the conclusion of the last action, and it showed in the worst possible way next, with Wright clattering Hampson. Again we got the free kick……and…..that again was that.
It went end to end for a bit next…..Ball not far away with a header after good work from Hampson and Lloyd, and Ormson was in action twice…first to curtail Joe Guest`s run by advancing quickly off his line, and then with a firm punch out when under pressure.
This set County up for a counter attack, and Lloyd`s break saw him pick Hampson out and send him clear down the left. Hampson was away, and amazingly, when he crossed the ball at the end of his run, Lloyd was there to apply the finish. Lloyd`s dive deserved better, but alas life is cruel and his header flew inches wide!
That was great work though and the place was buzzing now, and the buzz continued as Lloyd went close after being sent clear by the tenacious Gonzales!
After that action, Minihan joined with Montrose to blunt an embryonic Curzon Ashton attack, and it was not long before Gonzales was in the mix once more…well twice actually… with some great work, the best of which saw Lloyd inches wide with his effort.
Doing well up the park, Hampson was struggling defensively and Wright bettered him again, on 35 minutes, and things looked a tad iffy when the CA wide man cut the ball back to Matt Warburton , but Smalley answered the call with a neat bit of work to deny his man a shot on goal that from that spot might have counted!
Close encounters featured at both ends next as Ormson`s long kick almost saw Ball and Lloyd in with chances. But, almost from nothing, the Nash also had themselves a chance as defender Dan Shaw stole into the box to latch onto the ball, but from point blank range he could only skim the bar with his powerful effort.
From that escape County showed how increasingly adept they are at striking from deep, and they did just that via excellent work by Lloyd and Hampson bringing the ball out from the back. Stott just beat Gonzales to the product of this Lloyd/ Hampson cooperation, but it was a close call, as was the action that followed that saw keeper Burton punching clear under much pressure.
The visitors kept trying to get that equaliser but without ( the Shaw shot apart)ever looking capable of doing so, but they kept at it -Hall winning a corner that Warburton might have capitalised on had not Hampson blocked his path to goal. Then….whoa…..County were off again on the break, winning a throw down the right as their opponents strove manically to get back.
Ross`s throw was good, and from it Lloyd made it 2-0 lashing a vicious drive home from close in! Great stuff!
County attacked again in the 4 minutes that remained of the half, but the teams went in with the score still 2-0, and the applause of the 3400+ crowd ringing in their ears.
Ball took another late one ( from Luke Clarke) when the game resumed after the break. The referee again chose not to punish the offender apart from awarding a free kick, but his patience ran out, 10 minutes in, when a crude limb threatener from Wright at last won him a card, whilst Montrose picked himself up off the floor.
That was annoying, but all was forgotten in a sublime moment or two that followed. It started with Winter, and he produced a superlative ball over the Nash defensive cover to send Lloyd scurrying to the by-line.
When there, Lloyd had options, but he took his time before a final shimmy allowed him to stroke a pass of consummate accuracy straight to Jimmy Ball just a yard or so out. Ball was surrounded by defenders thus did not delay his response sending a neat shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.
That was a fantastic goal… the product of great work all round from County, and I felt that there just might be more to come from them.
The Nash kept trying though and it took a last ditcher from Ross to dispose of Hall with Cummins awaiting a `tap in` `in front of goal, but County`s defending was A1 and I never felt at all anxious that the visitors might sneak one.
By this time, with just over 20 minutes left, Gonzales and Lloyd had left the park being replaced by Felix and Duxbury, and I was salivating at the thought of what Felix`s pace might do to the centre of the Nash back line.
Minihan and Ball combined to win a corner not long after, and Winter and Clarke did their damndest to convert same, but it wasn`t to be, neither was it shortly after when the aforementioned Felix`s pace saw him clear of Stott the last defender. Under pressure from the keeper however Felix`s shot drifted the wrong side of the far post.
On it went much in the same vein…Winter missing out with a somewhat ambitious shot…..Ball foiled by a late intervention by Shaw.
There was clearly only one winner of this contest but what would be the winning margin?
As the game progressed so County started to defend a touch deeper, and whilst this was slightly perturbing, it also offered more chance to see us hit our opponents on the break, and after the blues had soaked up pressure for a while, sure enough the break was on via Felix.
This time he successfully rounded Burton in the box, but then slipped on trying to make it 4-0 and the chance was gone. So was the referee`s cool as well as Guest joined a growing number of Nash names in his book ( verbals).
County went back to defending deep after this, relying on breaks by Felix and Duxbury to relieve the monotony. Nothing came of these late breaks, and we had just settled for 3-0 as an acceptable final score line, when the unthinkable happened and McKenzie went down over Hampson`s outstretched leg in the box.
Warburton lined the subsequent penalty up and neatly put it away to make it 3-1.
County might have had chances to improve on the score line, had Alex Brown not body checked the breaking Felix and earned himself a card. County got a free kick but nothing accrued from it and that was soon that and the game was over.
This was a decent showing from County and they got a good reception at the end.
Some vital games are upcoming after this, starting with Salford at their place next Saturday.
I can see County coming away from both Salford and Fylde with something - believe….see you all there!
[ Aside from the report, treat youself to some great match photos, including the 'bag with a mouth' which you can marvel at here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Hampson, Montrose, Winter, Minihan, Gonzales9 Felix 64), Ball, Lloyd( Duxbury 66).
Subs not used: Smith, Marsden, Odejayi.
Curzon Ashton line up:
Burton, Thornley( Baillie 58), Guest, Shaw, Stott, Brown, Hall, Clarke( Barber 69), Cummins( McKenzie 66), Warburton, Wright.
Subs not used;