Spennymoor Town 1 County 0
All County`s good pre-season form evaporated in the coollish north eastern sunshine at Brewery Field this afternoon, where a disappointingly insipid showing saw them lose 1-0 to promotion experts Spennymoor Town.
The loss was bad enough, but…….. add to that fact a missed penalty late on from County and the angst begins to mount.
Spennymoor, by contrast, played to a plan….kept it simple….and in James Curtis and the none too fussy bruiser Joe Tait, had the elements that more or less decided the match- namely no nonsense defence that underpinned decisively the host clubs simple plan.
The duo dealt with everything County threw at them, and whilst Tait was perhaps lucky to stay on the park after giving Oswell a match long mauling, for me to suggest that County might be considered unlucky not to get at least a draw from this one, would be me raising exaggeration to the level of art form.
Searching for some glimmer of hope……I point to Harry Winter`s match long determination to push his team mates forward, Hinchliffe's obsessional insistence on keeping County in the game …..and Darren Stephenson who looked on the verge of creating something for the blues more than once. Oh ….yes …..Matty Warburton did strike a post at one point in the second half, but he also will want to forget the penalty he failed to put away not long after.
Ho hum…..not a great start then, but back at 3 o`clock none of this was in the air as County took to the field in their …err…….new yellow away strip !!!!
I was a touch disappointed to note that neither Walker nor Smalley would start. Both were on the bench , but the sun was shining so I cheered up!
The early play saw the Moors pushing on through Ryan Hall , but having made good ground down the right, he failed to test Hinchliffe with his effort.
County replied via Minihan , but his progress was halted by some `vigorous` work by Tait , and the free kick ended in disappointment for the yellow shirted blues, when Stephenson`s run was blocked by Matt Dixon who then cleared up the park.
Stephenson was looking a viable option for County , but Town packed the area twixt him and their keeper and eventually the County impetus faded.
County kept plugging away though, as Hinchliffe pinged in a long ball or two , and one such forced home keeper Dan Lowson to rapid action to stop Warburton`s dash for the County keeper`s ball. Lowson sent the ball out of play, and Duxbury`s throw might have worked something for County had not Curtis been on hand to lump the ball clear.
The ninth minute saw Town gain a fortuitous free kick…..but Lady Luck discounts `fortuitous` with a contemptuous wave of her fashion accessory , thus Town pushed on through Hall, and the recipient of Hall`s pass , David Foley, looked on to score ,until his shot came back out off Hinchliffe`s legs. That was a good save, and just might serve to galvanise the County effort!
Chris Chandler then sorted a Minihan break, as County served up a suitable response, but having done the hard bit…..and won the corner…..County then squandered it , as I looked on to see the poorest of kicks wellied clear by Matt Dixon.
Minihan looked a decent shout for doing something of note at this point, and Lowson did well to react quickly and punch the ball clear under pressure from Oswell, on the end of Minihan`s cross.
Both sides were trying a bit…Clarke doing well to block Glen Taylor as he turned on the ball on the edge of the box. A shot then just might have inconvenienced Hinchliffe!
In response Hall could not keep his shot down next, before another swing in play saw County attacking again via Oswell who was crudely halted by Tait. County got the free kick, but found Lowson alert again and able to make a decisive catch under pressure.
Back came County again …and again Tait climbed all over Oswell to halt his progress- adding verbals to the mix when the referee awarded County a free kick. He gained a lecture rather than a booking- arguably a lenient response!
We were not quite half way into the first half, and County made probably their most determined attempt to snatch the elusive opener, when Duxbury`s energy won them a corner…..then another when the first saw Lowson flap prodigiously at it. A considerable melee ensued ,but County were unable to force the pill home.
They kept trying though…..Tait having to head over his own bar at one point under the cosh, and Lowson earned his corn again with a decent save to keep Ball`s free kick out.
Winter did well to snuff out an embryonic Town break, and I was impressed with the ex FCUM man`s play so far- he looked to be doing his best to instil something extra into his colleagues.
Meanwhile….for Spennymoor…the `something extra` as far as Tait was concerned was to embellish a bit of routine thuggery that saw Oswell deposited onto the turf for the umpteenth time, with some extras as the County man lay on the ground - this was childish stuff and deserved more than it received from the referee ( a word for both players and a County free kick). The crisis ended for Town with Lowson`s catch as the free kick headed into the box.
Spennymoor replied on the half hour..but Foley could only head wide after Hall had bypassed Duxbury before getting a cross over from the edge of the box.
Ten minutes passed with both sides taking turns to push on, and there did not seem, in all honesty, to be any great threat emanating from the home team. They were neat…tidy…but a threat….not at all, and it was something of a shock when they took the lead!
It started innocuously enough with County attacking, but this broke down and the ball was soon enough with Foley …and then it wasn`t as he had despatched it into the net with some style!
The locals were suitably jubilant…and I guess almost beside themselves with joy , as within a couple of minutes Foley was back again courtesy of a rare loose ball from Winter. He really tried to double his goal tally but Hinchliffe kept it out ensuring it was 1-0 to Spennymoor as the teams went in for the break.
The first half was a disappointment on the whole, but I was sure JG would sort this with some suitably targeted verbals.
When the teams came out again, County had Walker on for Duxbury, and play was opened with a foul by Curtis on Oswell . County pushed on from the free kick, but without ever looking able to wrench control from messrs Tait and Curtis, who now had right back Kallum Griffiths joining the fray with some confident touches.
Some of Griffith`s touches brought Hall into the game again , and he did well forcing Ball to concede a corner rather unnecessarily .The flag kick almost caused County more pain , and had Taylor`s header been better it might have been a `game over` situation being 2-0, instead, with the home specs roaring, he sent his header high over the bar.
Back came County , but another corner went begging allowing Griffiths to work the ball clear under very little pressure. County soon applied the brakes on the full back`s run, and a stupid panto ensued near the right corner flag where Curtis had earned himself a booking with some shady work in dealing with Oswell. I was just fulminating( like I do) about Tait ….Curtis and stuff, when Oswell fouled Tait to give our hosts the oxygen of a free kick.
That was disappointing, but not as much as the next action that saw a loose ball from Minihan set Taylor up again! It looked a shoo in….but it apparently wasn`t as the forward lifted a poor effort way over the bar.
It needed County to snap out of what seemed to be a certain lethargy, and I was cheered to see Oswell try a snap shot from just outside the box. It carried the bar but……………..
We needed a lift almost as much as Town gagged for that game ending second, and this was exemplified by the next action which saw Warburton`s run blocked by Dixon at the cost of a corner, but this was another poor kick which saw the ball flash from Griffith to Johnson and on to Taylor- Hinchliffe d
id the biz and sorted this one, but clearly …if County could not score…..Town just might!
Hampson came on for O`Halloran , but the prevailing pattern of play remained the same…..County having a go……Oswell fouled en-route….the free kick a poor one…cleared by Griffiths forcing Cowan into action to deny Hall on the break!
Stephenson and Oswell were thwarted next by Chris Chantler and Lowson respectively- in Oswell`s case…..twice in rapid succession.
Then Curtis slung the ball clear and Town went at us again through Taylor who maybe now had his best chance of the game . He had Walker for company but managed to get his shot off bringing a decent save from Hinchliffe in response as he pushed the ball around his near post!
He punched clear under pressure from the kick, and was clearly, and ridiculously, keeping County in the game.
There were just 17 minutes left now ,as Oswell made it to the by-line finding no takers for his cross into the box. I was disappointed with that, but cheered up with the sight of Warburton rounding on the ball just inside the crowded box. I looked up to see his shot thud into a post with Lowson helpless.
County just could not force the ball home….but they kept pushing forward and gained their reward when Hampson was upended in the box by Hall.
The referee pointed to the spot in an instant…and surely we would now see County claw their way to parity!
Hmmmm…………….up stepped Warburton hitting the ball to the keeper`s right, but Lowson was again County`s nemesis …his dive seeing the ball in his arms as County fans behind the goal went slightly AS!
Corners and free kicks came and went for County after this - they went close but there was still no cigar to drag on, and what was worse…Town still fancied a second, and Minihan did well to head clear under pressure with Hall buzzing in front of the County goal.
McKenna came on for Walker with 5 minutes left and went close with one effort almost at the death.
Added time saw Town still looking for that second….Hall all late running…Taylor drilling another effort wide, but the game ended with Town about to mount one last charge after County had won ( and wasted) another flag kick.
Game over…match lost.
That`s no shame and no reason for undue panic, but we do need a response from the team on Tuesday- that`s where JG comes in , and I am sure he will sort it.
See you Tuesday.
[ Pics from the game can be found here! ]
Spennymoor Town line up:
Lowson, Griffiths, Chantler, Dixon, Tait, Curtis, Hall, Ramshaw( Orrell 90), Taylor, Johnson( Henry 66), Foley.
Subs not used: Mason, Porter, Dowson.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, O`Halloran( Hampson 63) , Duxbury( Walker 45/ McKenna 85), Winter, Minihan, Ball, Oswell, Warburton, Stephenson.
Subs not used ; Ormson, Smalley.