County 0 Bolton Wanderers 0
Faced by the not inconsiderable challenge of newly promoted Championship side Bolton Wanderers , County gave their supporters more reasons to be cheerful, with a performance brimming over with foot sure excellence from the very first minute of what was an absorbing encounter, at Edgeley Park last night.
It really was a top notch showing from the white shirted blues, who matched their illustrious opponents ,from the second tier of the Football League,move for move and idea for idea throughout.
Bolton , with Derik Osede set up in front of a back three , came to play, showing us some skilful stuff at times, but in response County's defensive work was as immaculate as I have seen it, and there was a total absence of the first half problems that afflicted us against Macclesfield on Saturday. But I thought it was in midfield that we shone the brightest with captain Winter and Walker, doing an immense amount of valuable work. And I have to say that Jimmy Ball, played in a deeper role for much of last night, got a shift in too making some vital interventions particularly late on. Best of the bunch for me though was Scott Duxbury who again combined alert defensive work with purposeful forward runs and some nifty through balls that on another day.......
In fact.....no one failed to contribute and the proverbial Martian visitor would have had extreme difficulty, on this balmy Edgeley evening, to pick out the Championship side from the two teams on the park. Bolton had new signing Sammy Ameobi on show and he did give the impression, with his lithe changes of direction and leggy bursts of speed, that despite his first half radar being sadly askew, he would surely dish us later with some show of dextrous wonderfulness or other- he didn't, and in truth ,although Ian Ormson did have to make a couple of saves ,he was not under the cosh as much as he probably feared that he might be- a fact not entirely unrelated to the work those in front of him in white shirts were doing.
Yes....0-0 looked a very fair result indeed to me, and augurs really well for the season ahead!
The one downside was an injury to Adam Thomas , who , having started in place of hat-trick hero Matty Warburton, had to be substituted early on after sustaining an injury. Hopefully it is not anything related to his previous issues, or in any way serious, and it is to be hoped that he will be back firing on all cylinders soon.
I have to say what an excellent idea it was to have a minutes applause to honour the memory of Danny Bergara , 10 years after his passing. It was observed immaculately by all corners of the ground and I particularly commend the travelling Bolton fans who were all on their feet applauding throughout- respect !
I mentioned Sammy Ameobi in my intro and Sammy managed the only shot on target,after 8 minutes, in the opening period which saw both teams playing some neat football . County looked compact and neat at the back with midfielder's Winter and Walker doing good service in front of a back four that started without the excellent Michael Clarke at the heart of it...Smalley and O'Halloran doing duty in the central roles flanked by Duxbury and Minihan.
The first real sign of success from County came via Jason Oswell, who looks set for a successful season. Frantic last gasp defending from Mark Little sorted the danger for Wanderers, but that moment or two offered real hope of something special from County.
Then...just 10 minutes in we saw Adam Thomas go down, and struggle for a time thereafter.
As early as the 11th minute Duxbury pushed forward on the other flank and Ben Alnwick, in the Bolton goal, did well to reach Scott's first dangerous ball of the night before Oswell.
A dubious free kick followed for Bolton, but with Ameobi's radar off beam County survived the experience without undue anxiety. I will keep my thoughts on the main stand liner to myself for now!
The nip and tuck nature of things continued , and I was well impressed with the composure and solidity of County's game so far with 20 minutes gone.
Duxbury again epitomised this County ethic and his latest run teed Ball up for a shot ,which was charged down by the alert Derik Osede.
Shortly after ...sadly.... Adam Thomas had to be replaced, County bringing Dan Cowan on in his stead. Dan was not a direct `like for like' replacement , but the change gave the right flank a solidity and energy with Minihan able to push on up the park, that compensated in some measure for Adam's absence.
A foul did for one of several Stephenson runs, 26 minutes in. The free kick was 10 yards out , and after Ball had dummied a shot...Walker applied boot to ball and Alnwick had to look sharp to keep it out.
Mark Little meanwhile was looking lively for the visitors. Number two on his back...Mark didn't look a fullback ,instead he was up the right flank to the by-line like a ferret up a drainpipe. His cross was good.....a real tempter, but Smalley saw to it that the move ended there, his firm headed clearance drawing applause from a pre-season crowd of well over 1000.
Play switched rapidly next , Minihan winning a corner with a trademark run. Walker took the flag kick and Ball got to it with his head- his effort just a foot wide with Alnwick a spectator.
I was liking this......
That said, Bolton looked purposeful and up for an away win, none more so than Ameobi whose leggy athleticism saw him send Little scuttling clear again. He looked a danger, but with Duxbury covering, his cross had altogether too much oomph about it, and the danger was no more.
Time next for Darren Pratley to have a go, and it was a cheeky one from outside the box. It was worth a try for sure, but Ormson was on his toes and did the biz well to keep it at 0-0.
With half time just 5 minutes off, County pushed their opponents back, and Stephenson was unlucky to see his effort blocked by one of two trialists in the Bolton line up.
The end to end stuff continued apace though with Ameobi still trying to square the circle for his side, and himself, winning the ball off Jimmy Ball by some pretty basic bullying. Away at speed he looked on to open the scoring , but again he was out of luck- his shot deflected for a corner that was defended impeccably by County.
Almost at the break , and with play again switching ends, I looked around to see the other trialist hurry across the box to clear Duxbury's latest effort after more good work from Stephenson.
The half ended with County on the front foot , and Oswell about an inch from getting a touch on Walker's fiendishly dangerous ball into the box ,within sight of the whites of Alnwick's eyes.
That was it....half time...0-0.....god stuff all round!
County opened the second half with Michael Clarke on for Steve O'Halloran.
The first real action came 3 minutes in, with Stephenson on the ball, but his shot lacked power and Alnwick had a simple task to keep it out.
I needed to have a talk with myself next...as with Bolton attacking Smalley sustained a mighty mugging at the hands of Ameobi. Infuriatingly...despite being feet away from this action , the main stand liner failed to flag, and I was almost incandescent with rage as the forward continued on into the box to conclude the formality of beating Ormson and making it 1-0.
Have I mentioned Ameobi's radar ?
Well it was at the menders again as ,having done the hard part, he sent the poorest of shots into the crowd.
It stayed 0-0 then, but....not for long it seemed as Bolton new boy Adam Armstrong was clear and heading for goal with only Ormson blocking his view of the net. It was 0-1 for sure....wasn`t it, as the forward drew back his foot and blasted his shot off?! But....no...Ormson dived and with his leg somehow blocked the ball's onward passage to goal. From here the ball ricocheted upwards in the steadily darkening Edgeley skyline, and Armstrong still wanted it!
So did Ormson however and he saw the danger off with a great claim!
Oswell cleared the bar after this for County, and Bolton continued to try and find a way through an increasingly obdurate County back line on top of its game.
Winter took time off from defensive duties to have a shot . He too carried the bar with his effort but it was good to see the confidence building in the County team.
Ameobi was still showing no lack of that last quality , winning a sneaky free kick some 10 yards out and fairly central. He even took the kick only for the County wall to do its job and keep it at 0-0- Ball finding touch before Clarke cleared his lines.
Bolton had another chance , 66 minutes in, and it fell to Jeff King who stole into the box. Another of those Little crosses was heading his way, but no more than a foot or so out at the back post, King found Row G with his header.
Still Bolton kept trying via Ameobi, and although Smalley did his best to contain him, the forward managed to get his shot off , but it was another lulu and missed by a country mile much to our relief.
Connor Hall fancied his chances ,just over 20 minutes from the end, but Clarke and Ormson combined nicely to see him off .
There was still an element of the `end to end' about proceedings , and Alnwick did well to quell County's enthusiasm next with a neat catch after Duxbury's inventive ball from the back had won County a corner.
From Alnwick's throw Ameobi sent Chris Taylor clear, and it looked promising for the Lancashire side before Winter's intervention ended our angst.
Clarke had taken a knock and was struggling, and had to be replaced by young Tom Whitty, who was to do pretty well. Not immediately however as County were attacking, and Alnwick was in overdrive reacting to Stephenson's run onto the most excellent of balls from Duxbury. The keeper won that one , as both sides rang the changes.
County now had Brazel and West on for Winter and Oswell, whilst Bolton's 3 changes saw them quickly back on the attack coaxing some fine defensive work from Cowan in response.
Bolton kept attacking and just how Ormson saw King's shot as it headed goal ward through a forest of legs in the box I do not know, anyway he did and his save was a good one.
Etches came on for Stephenson with 10 minutes left, as Bolton piled it on aided by the referee and his assistants who conjured up a late/late Bolton free kick out of the cooling night air, after Ball had cleared a corner. The free kick cleared the County wall ,but also the bar so it was game over was it not....0-0!
Well with JG giving Jordan Downing a minute or so at the 90 minute mark, that's how I saw it, a feeling only emphasised as Smalley executed the neatest of sliders to block Hall's progress down the left. Ball did well and blocked the follow up effort from the resultant throw, and was there to head the ball out as a corner followed.
The mother of all melee's ensued next and ,in the distance, the travelling Bolton fans erupted with joy as Hall forced the ball home from no distance at all. Enter stand side liner, and his flag was raised splendidly to rule the effort out.
Bolton were probably mortified, but then again they must have realised that 0-0 was about right- a fair result from a decent game played in the right spirit!
Another impressive showing from County, which sets us up nicely, ahead of the season, for Barrow's visit this coming Saturday.
See you there then.
[ Match pics here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Minihan( Downing 90), Smalley, O'Halloran( Clarke 45/Whitty 71),Duxbury, Winter ( Brazel 75), Ball, Walker, Oswell ( West 75), Thomas ( Cowan 20), Stephenson ( Etches 80).
Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Hampson.
Bolton Wanderers line up:
Alnwick, Little, Trialist, Perry, Trialist, Taylor, Osede( White 73), Pratley, King, Armstrong( Hall 60), Ameobi( Earing 73).
Subs not used: Turner, Lansdale and sundry trialists.
Attendance ; 1465 ( 460)