County 1 Nuneaton Town 1
County today, came up against a team, in Tommy Wright`s Nuneaton Town who knew how to play, and came to Edgeley Park to prove it.
Galvanised by all action performances from Devon Kelly-Evans and Ashley Chambers , the visitors , despite County having the better of the chances , shared the spoils.
A fair result? Arguably I suppose , but had one of six or seven goal bound shots gone in , for County, instead of being dealt with by a bewildering number of gut wrenching last ditchers from Gascoine, Langmead and others County`s post game angst would have been substantially assuaged.
As it was, instead of being several goals to the good at half time, County had to settle for a 0-0 score line.
In the second half, having taken the lead via a Danny Lloyd penalty early on, County were hit on the break by an Ashley Chambers strike that went in via a wicked deflection almost on the hour.
County had held the lead for nigh on 10 minutes, and their task thereafter looked a tough one. Nuneaton had been a real handful before the break, and much sharper than County, albeit under rather more pressure much of the time than JG`s boys were.
The visitors ensured County could not relax with the constant threat of being hit on the break- a possibility enlarged when Greg Mills joined the fray late on to aid and abet Kelly-Evans and Chambers.
If a point was a disappointment for County, there are some elements of consolation…instance Michael Clarke, who with Hampson pushing on, had oodles of extra work to attend to on the left side of the blue back four.
I thought that Montrose and Minihan had decent games too, but cannot find fault with Harry Winter as the sponsors M.O.M - he was the model of tidy efficiency all the game, and I still keenly await a wasteful ball from him- fat chance!
I had enjoyed the SCAN presentation event pre-match in the Bung , and give you a brief sample of same here…..
On then the 3 o`clock whereupon full timers Town, took the game to County from the off, looking a real threat with full back Alex Penny supplementing Kelly- Evans` work down the right giving County much to do.
Having seen off a free kick in the first 2 minutes, County were pushed back again as a poor clearance by Hinchliffe gifted possession to Billy Daniels. On it went from Daniels to Jordan Nicholson, but the diminutive number eleven lifted the ball over the bar to keep it at 0-0.
This was slightly disturbing and not far removed from our opening 45 last Saturday, and I winced as, with just 7 minutes gone, Town came back at us via Kelly-Evans , who shredded the County cover on our left flank to set Chambers up with a good chance of glory.
Good chance….yes…..glory….no sir, as Chambers again gave the ball boys in the otherwise empty Railway End more work to do.
Nuneaton would just not go away though, and another 2 minutes saw a melee in front of Hinchliffe`s goal that looked iffy for a moment or two until Clarke hooked the ball clear.
The pressure on County persisted however and Smalley did well to stop the rot as Chambers headed goal ward onto another Kelly- Evans ball
Lloyd offered us hope , with 10 minutes gone…..Penny thwarted him by finding touch, but…at last…County were off and running!
The problem was, however, that Nuneaton still had the bit twixt their teeth, and Nicholson very nearly capitalised on a loose ball from Ross not long after.
But…. I was beginning to see a glimmer of something stirring now with County, and Lloyd was…..oh…so close to opening the County account with his delicate glancing header, from Gonzales`s pass.
Tyrell Belford then tipped a shot from Minihan over the bar, to add fuel to my `glimmer of something` fire.
A free kick followed - a fantastic bender from Lloyd, but this smacked into the right post and went out, and it was still 0-0!
On it went with Belford a busy lad …in action again to once more tip a Minihan effort ( a header this time) onto then over the bar. Somehow Town survived the corner, and were able to hit the blues on the break.
The raid, by Chambers and Kelly- Evans, was engineered with precision, but County had the man for the moment in Ross whose intervention saw Chambers off when things looked a tad awkward for County.
It was an end to ender….again, and County responded - Gonzales going close with an effort.
That was disappointing, but County surged forward again through Hampson whose shot was inches wide from an inch perfect Winter pass.
Within a minute Hampson was back again and this time he went closer still, his shot heading in before Kelvin Langmead made his first goal line clearance of the game!
We were beyond half way in the first half now, and County were definitely warming up nicely - Minihan`s energy was particularly apparent alongside the drive of Montrose , so I was distinctly hopeful!
Then hope gave way to angst as a corner, won by Minihan, saw Daniels back to block a Lloyd effort and Brad Gascoine in position on the line to thwart Winter.
That was gruesome bad luck…and more followed as Belford and then Penny somehow managed, separately, to prevent the ball from entering the net as Montrose and Lloyd again saw their best efforts thwarted.
Montrose was in awesome nick at this point, winning good possession and making searing runs, but still it stayed 0-0, as Gascoine ushered Minihan`s cross out from under the bar.
Have I said that Town were dangerous on the break? If not…I should have, and more evidence of this fact surfaced ,with 10 minutes left of the half, as they emerged from deep defence to cause County brows to furrow!
Kelly- Evans took on the role of prime attacker, and his run again set Chambers up. County rallied and the forward`s shot was charged down, but it was a close call.
Five minutes on from that action, and County were on the front foot as Ross carved a great hole in the visitors` defensive cover with a tenacious run from deep.
Ross passed inside to Ball, but Belford did brilliantly to keep Ball`s delicate flicked header out!
County kept the pressure on as Gonzales, Lloyd and Ball combined to push Town back into their last third.
A free kick followed and then a heck of a melee that ended with Gascoine again in the action keeping Lloyd`s kick, delivered to the back post, from Gonzales.
It was a corner…then another as Gascoine then kept Smalley from the kick at the back post.
That was very decent defending, but greatly frustrating for County and more followed as Clarke headed wide.
The half ended with more of the same as Gascoine kept a Gonzales effort out at the last gasp, and Langmead followed suit clearing a Montrose shot off the line.
0-0 was greatly disappointing, bearing in mind the number of times County had gone close to scoring, but credit to Nuneaton- they had looked up for it from the off and still did, as the teams went in at the break…anyway perhaps County could square that seemingly unsquarable circle in the second 45 !
The re-start saw Felix on for Smalley, and a bit of a switch with Minihan now at RB…Ross centre back, and Felix out wide on the right. I rather fancy Felix as a better bet played inside, but he was pretty sharp wide right last time out, so 'nuff said I guess.
This was a crucial 45 minutes , and County showed every indication upon the resumption of fully understanding this fact, as Felix and Minihan quickly set up lines of communication down the right.
Hampson down the left won a corner but whilst nothing came from that, a goal was not long in coming, and it was a delightful ball from Ball that set it up sending Gonzales surging into the box. Cutting inside Gonzales` progress was halted by contact with the defender.
Down he went….and the referee, who was a yard or so away, immediately pointed to the spot.
Cue Danny Lloyd….and he stepped up to slam the kick home- County 1 Town 0 !
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Nuneaton hit back straight off and Nicholson was inches away with a header from a cross from Chambers.
That was hopefully a brief aberration, and I told myself just that as Hampson and Ball proceeded to tear strips off the visitors right flank.
Hinchliffe did have one shot to save in this period, from Kristian Scott, but it was an underpowered and misdirected effort and gave him no trouble at all.
Meanwhile…Lloyd, Montrose and Winter all had efforts blocked at the other end, the Edgeley Park crowd warming to their teams efforts with a rising cauldron of noise!
Oh…and Lloyd went down in the box…..no penalty!
I was still thinking about that when Nuneaton sneaked clear and, with County standing off Chambers was able to get a shot off that took a wicked deflection off one of several County defenders twixt him and goal. Hinchliffe had no chance at all…..it was 1-1!
It really was a good game….Belford punching out under the cosh one moment….Winter stopping Nicholson with the neatest of tackles the next.
Then Ross bettered the Winter tackle with one of supreme efficiency to deny Chambers who looked well set, and would have been clear on goal had Ross`s tackle miss fired.
Mills was now on for Nuneaton and Gascoine was inches away from heading a cross from him home from almost under the bar.
For County, Duxbury was now on for Ball, and within minutes County should have had that vital second goal. Ross had just sent a ball of no particular quality into the Town half.
Gonzales was not far from it and the gap twixt him and same dwindled rapidly ( but bizarrely in slow motion) as Belford and a defender proceeded to `after you Claude` each other.
Eons passed, and Gonzales really should have done better, but instead he could only watch as the keeper eventually put hand to ball- chance well and truly gone!
Clarke then went close following a move involving Ross, Felix and Duxbury, and Lloyd went even closer shortly after as a dazzling bit of work from him saw him glide beyond a clutch of defenders before leathering the ball goal ward.
It was a cracking shot but….bugger….with Belford no where…the ball smacked the upright before going out!
The excitement continued…Minhan seeing a shot blocked…..Chambers stopped by Hinchliffe from reaching a cross by Mills.
We were into the last 10 minutes now and Odejayi was on for Gonzales, as both sides continued to seek that late /late winner, and County went the closer , with 4 minutes left, through Lloyd, and Belford spilled Lloyd`s cross briefly offering opportunities for County in the shape of the loose ball- no one could respond however and the chance was gone .
Kelly- Evans and Nicholson were Town`s best performers in the game`s dying embers, but in response Clarke was a rock, and the game ended with Minihan ending a period of pressure from the visitors by hooking the ball to safety.
Game over……just one point gained, but it might just be a vital point, come several weeks time.
So it`s off to Gainsborough next Saturday, and a stab at Scubby`s onions!
For County no real reason to be down hearted, we are still in with a shout, and as the man said- there`s still all to play for!
[ Photo's of the action...? Yep, find 'em here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley( Felix 45), Hampson, Montrose, Minihan, Winter, Gonzales( Odejayi 81), Ball( Duxbury 73), Lloyd.
Subs not used; Ormson, Meppen-Walter.
Nuneaton Town line up:
Belford, Penny( Mills 65), O`Hanlon, Scott, Langmead, Gascoigne, Kelly-Evans, Elliott, Chambers, Daniels, Nicholson.
Subs not used; Wallace, Mutton, Gould, Dibble.