County 2 Tamworth 1
County put their supporters through it big time today at Edgeley Park, before winning what was seen by many as a `must win` game against a hard working Tamworth side .
Tamworth worked their socks off, in an attempt to frustrate County`s lofty ambitions whilst furthering their own, and for long periods they succeeded ,taking the lead in the first half with a goal one or two in blue might want to forget, or more usefully perhaps….learn from.
From there on out it was an up-hill struggle for County who for long periods forsook the intricacies of midfield play opting instead for the long high ball from deep- it was not at all pretty!
It looked, for all the world, like a losing battle as well, until JG rang the changes bringing Felix and Odejayi on the park, and things suddenly changed.
Felix in particular played an absolute blinder , and with County at last firing on all cylinders, they were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a couple of goals from the excellent Mark Ross and Danny Lloyd, that send them into the play off positions in fifth spot!
Job very much done then, but around 3 o`clock all that was miles away as, after a minutes silence to honour the dead and injured from the Westminster atrocity, the game got underway.
County were first to the fore , Gonzales giving us some of his best hold up play before going close with an effort.
Tamworth quickly replied , winning a corner, but the County defence ,with Smalley and Clarke already looking in good nick , dealt with the danger well.
Gonzales seemed to be being targeted for `treatment` and the first 10 minutes saw him fouled 3 times. Nothing came of any of the free kicks, and before we knew it 15 minutes had gone by in what, up until this point, had been a largely incident free encounter.
Having scribbled that last offering, it stands to reason that straight off Hinchliffe had to make a save to deal with a sneaky snap shot from Ross Dyer.
County put pressure on Tamworth after this, and Lloyd went close twice…firstly from a run by Montrose. Andy Burns was in position to head that one out, and keeper Belshaw had little difficulty in sorting the second effort , after Lloyd had latched on to the loosest of loose balls from a harassed yellow shirted defender.
Meanwhile…Gonzales was still taking hits, and Smalley had joined him in the bruises department as the feisty Danny Newton took liberties with him twice, leaving him very much the worse for wear at one point.
County then went close from a corner after a neat Gonzales flick on had freed up Danny Lloyd in the box. Close was good…..but…..
Then Tamworth replied, and it was their top man Callum Powell who was instrumental in it, his searing run taking him into the box , before he was eventually stopped by Michael Clarke.
That was a warning for sure, but we failed to heed it , and…..with Jimmy Ball standing off , when a tackle of some sort was required, Powell was able to whip a cross to the back post where Dyer headed it home unchallenged.
That was not good, but County tried to make light of it by getting in Tamworth`s faces, but after Winter had sent Lloyd away, and he made it into the box, there was no one in blue there to apply a finish to the Lloyd cross that followed.
A run and shot from Hampson warmed the crowd up a touch, shortly afterwards, but after the promise of the run , the shot tailed off being half a yard wide.
Back came Tamworth with a quick long ball next, and disconcertingly…the usually impeccable Clarke and Smalley allowed the pill to bounce , and thus Newton to latch onto it. It was hearts in mouths time for sure…..but not for long as Newton sent the ball towards the Cheadle End Upper Tiers , much to my, and I suspect Clarke and Smalley`s relief!
An escape then…….and County were frustrated in their attempts, through Lloyd and Gonzales, to make amends, after a neat one two twixt Ball and the marauding Minihan had opened up the visitors defence.
We were heading for the break, within a minute of it actually, and settling for being 1 down, with the certainty that James would have things to say before the second half that just might change matters, when 2 down sneaked up on us unawares!
Andy Burns was the instigator for Tamworth this time around, and he skipped neatly into the box past umpteen blue shirts who were apparently oblivious to the danger.
A second Tamworth goal was very much on the cards, but the shot went inches wide and it stayed 0-1, very much to County`s relief!
That had been a poor 45 minutes work from County, and we needed better from them if our play off ambitions were to be kept alive.
They certainly set about it with a purpose- their first attack seeing Minihan shoot wide after both Gonzales and Winter had had half chances.
A near post save by Belhaw denied Gonzales glory from a header, and Ball should have done better next - his cross finding no one after being sent clear.
This was certainly better, but there was no change of luck in the offing just yet as Belshaw saved with his legs to keep Montrose`s effort out , after Winter had pulled the ball back from the by-line brilliantly.
It went on with Minihan sending Ball clear. The cross that followed was good…but the luck bit wasn`t and the ball eluded Lloyd by not very much at all.
Newton ran the ball clear to relieved the pressure on his team and for a time the focus switched ends as the visitors busied themselves trying to take the game out of County`s reach via a second goal.
If one was to come ,it would be Newton or Powell who would do the biz, but Newton overdid the vigorous stuff on Smalley and at last went into wishy washy referee Martin Woods book.
To even things up…you will be unsurprised to know that almost immediately Mr Woods booked Gonzales when his shoulder brushed that of Burns. Words fail me sometimes folks!
A County free kick, not long after, put Tamworth back under pressure, , but it didn`t last and the blues found themselves pushed back into their last third for a time, and they struggled from there to construct moves of any substance.
It was then that James brought on Odejayi for Gonzales , and within seconds the popular forward almost squeezed one in, chesting the ball high towards the top corner where Belshaw acted to keep it out.
I liked that…..but not what happened next…..
It started with Tamworth attacking…and Winter emerging midst a forest of yellow shirts with the ball at his feet. Then it wasn`t as he had dispatched it into the path of Jimmy Ball who was off and running down the right flank. He was away…and then he wasn`t as the main stand liner raised his flag for `offside`
It never was and I and all around me were going AS big time at the obvious nonsense of it all!
Cue James Gannon again, and this time, with just over 20 minutes left, he replaced Smalley, who was no doubt struggling from Newton`s attentions, with Felix.
I would have had Kaine on from the start , but he was on now, and I can see the point of using him as an impact sub……
But….oooh…err…there was no time to ponder longer over what Felix might bring to the party as County looked likely to ship one at the wrong end as the ball bounced invitingly for Newton in the County box.
Thankfully Hinchliffe retained his form from Tuesday evening and his punch out under pressure was as vital as it was excellently executed, so it stayed at 0-1.
County hit back, but having made the break, instead of feeding Felix ( who was un-marked) Ball soldiered on alone…ran into traffic….and squandered the chance!
Credit to Tamworth…it was not all shut up shop and defend….there was Newton to consider but his luck was out, and his latest effort came back out off a blue shirted defender.
Meanwhile Minihan battled on, somehow winning a corner from pretty much nothing. Belshaw managed to punch out under pressure, but after Montrose and Odejayi had had efforts blocked, up stepped Mark Ross to make it 1-1 with a coolly executed lethal finish!
The place went wild, but Tamworth kept their heads on and County did well to resist with Powell and Newton refusing to stop pestering them.
Amazingly Powell was one of two Tamworth players subbed, with just over 10 minutes left, but the changes did not seem to signal a willingness on Tamworth`s part to not play for a win and again County did well to keep them out, although at times they were hard pressed to do so.
At last Felix was played clear, and it almost paid off as his excellent cross saw a clutch of blue shirts queue for a shot at goal, only for the referee to add a touch of comedy to proceedings by awarding Tamworth a life saving free kick.
County were not done however….and Felix definitely wasn`t , and a brilliant run from him, ended with a peach of a ball inside that Lloyd slammed home with ruthless efficiency to set us all off again!
It was 2-1 to County…great stuff….but still Tamworth would not go away, and Minihan did good work ushering the ball back to Hinchliffe with Newton interested.
Have I said that Felix was playing a blinder? Well he was, and he somehow fashioned another County corner from absolutely bog all, a great return after Odejayi had won possession in improbable fashion.
County were on for a third now , but whilst Tamworth were hard pressed to hold out at times, they did not forget to attack when they could -Burns closest to squaring their circle with a late /late effort that Hinchliffe will have been happy to stop.
Belshaw did even better with a terrific one handed diving save ,as we went into 6 minutes added time ( yes…..SIX minutes, what was the referee on?)to keep a header of supreme quality from Ball out! The corner upped the angst for Tamworth but no third County goal followed despite a clutch of last gasp clearances from the men in yellow and black.
County pushed on relentlessly none more so than Minihan who drew applause from the EP Crowd by winning yet another corner.
Tamworth continued to look for a chance to hit us on the break, but with Ross settled nicely in at the centre of the defence with Clarke an equaliser did not look on at all.
A final County goal to put the game to bed did look possible though, probably via Felix, but he had 3 men on him now and when he had only one on his tail that one invariably had to foul him!
It was a really top class finish from County, seeing off a game that for a time had looked decidedly iffy.
Lots to think about then for James and the team, but they can be justly pleased to be sitting in fifth spot, with 6 games left ( not counting the play offs) of the season.
Drink it all in, and come back for more next Saturday!
See you all at Edgeley Park then!
[ Lovely pics of Edgeley Park draped in Spring sunshine can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe,Ross, Clarke, Smalley( Felix 68), Hampson, Montrose,Minihan, Winter, Gonzales( Odejayi 64), Ball, Lloyd( Duxbury 90).
Subs not used; Ormson, Meppen-Walter.
Tamworth line up:
Belshaw, Burns, Morley, Deeney, Jones, Lane, Powell( Fox 78), Green( Clarke 78), Newton, Dyer, Taylor( Jezeph 64).
Subs not used; Styche, Davies.