County 1 AFC Telford
Hit by injury to key players Sam Minihan and Kaine Felix, County were forced to re-organise for the visit of recently revitalised AFC Telford to Edgeley Park last night.
The result was a disappointingly disjointed performance from County, who had to be content with a share of the points after a 1-1 draw in front of a large bank holiday crowd.
The showing was doubly disappointing in that visiting keeper Callum Burton had little of quality to deal with game long. Danny Lloyd badly needed support up front, but this was largely absent.
Add a propensity to fall foul of unforced errors and County, at times, made things unnecessarily hard for themselves. They were fortunate in that the early blooper that set Lee Hughes up with the clearest of chances, was spurned by the serial thorn in County`s side.
There are consolations to point at and cling too though….only goal difference separates us from the Play Off positions…..and those who came in to do a job, and fill the gaps left by Minihan and Felix, did it well……Meppen- Walter gave a composed showing throughout, as did Duxbury who was asked to play right back which he did to distinction in the first half before switching flanks when another re-organisation was called for when Hampson was forced off through injury at half time.
There was however one, arguably two, passengers on board last night and we cannot afford that luxury if we are to go up. That said….no doubt JG is all over this one with knobs on- expect a positive outcome!
Significantly perhaps, Lewis Montrose was first to thrust his head above the parapet as Telford stirred themselves enough to attack County from the first whistle. Lewis had a fine game, garnished by his first goal for the Club( an excellent effort by any yardstick) and capped by the M.O.M award.
Joe Fitzpatrick`s run took him into County territory, but Montrose robbed him of possession with a minimum of fuss and loads of finesse.
Meanwhile Duxbury was doing well in an unaccustomed right back role and he was getting forward to good effect right from the off.
Then there was fans favourite Lee Hughes ( well someone likes him) and he was an animated sight straight away , communicating loudly with his team mates, with Michael Clarke as his chaperon. Despite the striker`s advancing years , he was one we definitely had to keep an eye on. We preferably did not need to spur him on with the ritual booing, but…it was ever thus, maybe this time, for a change, he would not respond by scoring.
Six minutes in and Burton had something to do, and he did it well, flinging himself sideways to tip a shot from Hampson around the post. That was a good save , but the resultant corner was anything but, flying tamely out with neither forwards nor defenders getting anywhere near it.
A moment of quality surfaced five minutes later, and it came from Ball who otherwise had a quiet game. His through ball was nicely played, and although it only gave Lloyd half a chance he very nearly took it, being denied by Burton who snatched the pill to his breast greedily.
These moments of quality were very rare indeed however and it was a further 5 minutes before Lloyd gave us one- his shot forcing Burton into action to keep the score line blank.
Play was fairly unexciting, as both teams, probed the other ever more tentatively with an eye to the possibility of being caught napping on the break, and 20 minutes in…County very nearly were! There was no pressure on the blues, save that Hughes was watching close by as the ball was played inside to Clarke.
Clarke normally would have made further consideration of the matter unnecessary, but on this occasion he slipped and in a flash Hughes was on it and clear. It was a real chance, and Clarke and Ross underlined this fact with the urgency of their efforts to track back and prevent what looked like the unpreventable happening.
Their efforts were gallant but fruitless, except that they probably did just enough to distract Hughes as he took aim, and his shot drifted wide of the far post, as the Cheadle End responded with a ribald tribute to the red shirted number nine.
Fitzpatrick sprayed a poor shot high into the Cheadle End next, after Josh Wilson had done well to wheedle a corner from the County defence.
Hughes apart, there did really not seem to be any real threat likely to hit us from the Telford ranks, but we still had to make a chance or two ourselves and take 'em, but despite winning a couple of free kicks, these went west as Meppen-Walter`s hit the wall, and the second from Duxbury found no blue shirted takers upon its arrival in the box.
And…..there was still Hughes to contend with, but policed tightly by Clarke and Ross, his break on 33 minutes, saw him lift a hurried effort high and wide.
For a while County were under a bit of pressure and Clarke did well to thwart the initial thrust. A corner followed, and Hinchliffe had to work hard to end the Telford gallop with Hughes on his case at the back post.
And……the unforced errors were still a factor, as Clarke was put under unnecessary pressure by a ludicrous throw in from Meppen -Walter. Clarke had Hughes on his case and anyway that throw should have hugged the touchline rather than been plonked into the danger zone! Clarke managed to negotiate his way out of that one, but he should not have needed to.
County played a bit of football after this, but Ball lost the ball on the end of it all and perhaps our most promising move so far had gone to dust.
We were almost at the break now, and County were beginning to stir somewhat, and Duxbury`s neat diagonal ball sent Lloyd twisting and turning past his man heading for goal. Chance……yes a good one….and then it wasn`t as the defender hauled him down.
My initial thoughts were " it`s a red" but wiser counsels ( Dazzer on Row Q) advise that a covering defender was in the mix, so a yellow it was….and a free kick …..which Ball lined up meticulously before sending tamely into the Telford wall.
A tame effort from Hampson ended the first 45 minutes- disappointing fare to lay before a large bank holiday crowd.
The resumption saw County having to reorganise again. Hampson was out injured and another back four switch was called for with the County back line now reading ( L TO R) Duxbury, Meppen-Walter, Clarke, Ross.
I was looking for the `James Effect` to kick in, but County`s first attack ended with the ball flying over the bar off Ball.
That upsurge in energy from County was not greatly evident straight away , but having said that ,they might have gone one up , 5 minutes into the half, as Duxbury`s header back across the box set up a possible goal chance, only for Gonzales to be unable to get his legs in gear and force it home.
County were now stepping it up a tad and former Hatter and Telford skipper Luca Havern was happy to find touch under the County cosh. The County push continued with Montrose running through the gears before finding Lloyd with a neat pass.
Lloyd was on it in a flash, but so was Ben Bailey and the County number eleven went down under pressure from the defender. A howl of protest went up from the County specs, but to no avail, as referee Tony Tankard waved play on.
Bailey, harassed by a clutch of County forwards then found the roof of the Danny Stand, but from the throw, with the County momentum building noticeably, Ball sent the poorest of crosses way beyond everyone, to leave a decent move in ruins.
County kept the pressure up…a great run from Lloyd teeing Ross up to win the first of a clutch of corners. Nothing came of any of these ,and all the time there was the nagging doubt that Telford`s tactic of sitting the pressure out and then lumping one long to the lonely Hughes way away up the park, would bear fruit for the visitors!
The hour mark was passed with Telford on a bit of a resurgence- Hughes going close, as free kicks and corners put County to the test.
It was tense stuff and this factor probably contributed to Lloyd`s booking as he went down ever so easily under very little pressure in the box. I was distinctly unimpressed with the referee, but he got this one right!
Surely this would not end 0-0!
Well Lloyd kept trying- his header dealt with easily by Burton, and a follow up shot was charged down by Havern. Gonzales then won a throw off Dielna, and from it County had the lead, as the pill reached Montrose who promptly lashed a snorter into the net beyond Burton`s despairing dive!
With Winter spreading play nicely after that last action, County were able to send Ross up the park to good effect down the right, but Burton was alert enough to grab the ball before Amis could react after Lloyd had taken over from Ross and pinged a corker over.
It was still 1-0 and we were deep into the last 15 minutes when the County lead disappeared. County were under pressure but a foul on Montrose looked to have seen that off via the free kick that obviously would result, except we did not get one, referee and linesman combining in a show of mutual incompetence to award Telford a corner!
I am guessing that County`s minds were still dwelling on the total injustice of this when the corner, from Dielna whizzed over and went into the net to even it up at 1-1.
What an appalling fluke….. what an abysmal bit of 'refereeing`, but we had what we had and we had to get back in there and put things right if we could.
It was a big ask though , and Hinchliffe had work to do keeping a strike from substitute McCarthy, hit from distance, out, and another from goal scorer Dielna late on.
Into 4 minutes added time County now had Odejayi on for Winter, and Cartwright for Meppen-Walter, and Odejayi was inches from reaching a tasty ball from Lloyd and squaring the circle for County, but it was not to be…it stayed 1-1 to the end.
If that was disappointing….disappointment has to be kept in proportion…we are very much still in it -score one goal more than our opponents in all our remaining games and we are up!
See you all at Worcester….oops…Bromsgrove on Monday!
[ Pics from the game... get 'em here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Duxbury, Ross, Clarke, Hampson ( Gonzales 45), Montrose, Meppen-Walter( Cartwright 91), Winter( Odejayi 89), Amis, Ball, Lloyd.
Subs not used; Ormson, Brazel.
AFC Telford line up:
Burton, Samuels, Dielna, Bailey, Havern, McCone, Rea, Fitzpatrick, Hughes ( Lilly 83), Wilson, Jones( Mc Carthy 75).
Subs not used : Westwood, Higham, Reynolds.