Leamington 2 County 3
Think `Apocalypse Now` …..`Fargo`……`Breaking Bad`….and then forget them all, as this game had more drama, in the last ten minutes or so than all 3 put together as County , 2-1 down with just 3 minutes remaining to play, again showed what they are made of, coming back to win 3-2.
All the goals for County came via Welsh Warrior Jason Oswell, who put away 3 close range belters- each one a peach of a typical strikers finish! Other factors contributed to the deserved victory as well however- especially the bravery of Michael Clarke who had a long period of treatment after an elbow from Colby Bishop who was more than a touch fortunate to stay on the park. In fact he did not even get a booking off Aaron Jackson- a rather dismal referee.
If Clarke had gone off at that point, and the head injury looked as bad as that, County , having used all their subs ,would have had to play on with 10 men. He didn`t…and the 11 County heroes on the park responded massively well squeezing the pips of the home defence with a willingness, and fervour, that rather spoke volumes for their earlier lack lustre showing that had surrendered an early 1-0 lead.
Play down the flanks was a feature of the first half with Stephenson and Minihan providing much of the impetus for County in that respect, but, after the first goal went in, they took their collective foot off the accelerator and slowly the initiative switched to a Leamington team that, apart from a remarkable capacity to fall down and feign injury, looked decidedly under par.
Late on , County`s substitutes came to the fore, with McKenna and Duxbury getting through a huge amount of work down the afore mentioned flanks.
For a time however, especially with Clarke lying prone for what seemed an age, the game looked up for County, until the blues summoned up all their will power , and not a little skill, to keep Leamington pinned down in their last third. Oswell did the rest …and brilliantly!
A word of caution….did we really need the one man pitch invasion? In my view…no, and we will almost certainly now see the Club penalised either with a fine we cannot afford…or a points deduction which would be even more unaffordable!
The inconveniently named `Phillips 66 Community Stadium was bathed in glorious sunshine as the game got underway pretty much on time, with County on the front foot from the off.
Stephenson`s run , with Winter adding a late surging burst through the middle to it, saw County claim the earliest of corners- but without being able to add an early goal to the mix.
Indeed …all that said…it was Leamington who served up the clearest chance, and it fell to Ahmed Obeng. The lanky forward took advantage of some lethargic defending from County to bear down on goal .He might have….nay perhaps should have scored but instead he failed to put the chance away missing the target with abysmal lack of precision!
Warburton replied, going close from a Stephenson cross, and Oswell`s run looked a tad tasty until stopped by Joe Magunda`s good work, but all this whilst raising a smile or two, never really convinced that a goal was coming any time soon.
And…..at the other end that man Obeng worked himself another half chance - again missing out thankfully, so it was something of a surprise , despite County looking the stronger of the 2 sides, when they opened the scoring.
It started with another run from Stephenson, who was promptly, and arguable typically, upended just outside the box. Mr Jackson gave a free kick, and Oswell did the rest forcing the ball home from the mother of all melees in front of the home goal.
More County pressure, and umpteen corners followed next , only for Leamington to break clear via Bishop. For a moment or so it looked a touch iffy, until Clarke came to County`s aid with a neat bit of work to deny the forward a punt on goal.
We were now more than half way through the first half, and Leamington were now racking up a run of free kicks, which they would then promptly waste. Whilst that was good, we should really not be giving them the chances by conceding the kicks, and not all of these were the result of Mr Jackson`s shortcomings.
Warburton managed to make it to the by-line, his pull back winning County a corner, but with keeper Tony Breeden making a confident claim the impetus went from County forward push. Clarke did see a shot charged down, and Warburton saw his follow up run foiled by the keeper, but the real excitement, with just 8 minutes left of the half, came at the other end where , with County committed to attack, the home side made some hay…..or tried to….
There was not a massive amount of control in the Leamington attacks up until this point, and whilst a whole lot of verve went into the play as they circled the County box, there was precious little else , and definitely no luck, as Obeng surged into the 6 yard box before hitting the cross bar. Out it came …but to Bishop and it looked easier to score than to miss, but he did…miss ! Chance gone then….but no….soon enough the ball whizzed in from the right for Bishop to apply the finish and equalise…except he hadn`t as the liner had his flag up and the effort was ruled out for offside.
That was a let off, but could County learn from that and ensure it didn`t happen again? Well….possibly, but with Leamington pressing again, 2 minutes later, and Obeng in Cowan`s face, County`s slowness to clear their lines came back to haunt them with a vengeance as the home wide man , under minimal pressure, plummeted unconvincingly to the ground! Mr Jackson pointed to the spot and Rob Thompson- Brown did the rest, beating Hinchliffe from the spot to make it 1-1.
Both sides had their moments in the half`s dying embers, but it stayed 1-1, which with all things considered was something of a disappointment.
Duxbury was on for Stephenson when play resumed after the break, and the half did not start particularly well from a County view point, as Bishop beat Cowan and Clarke before testing the County keeper with a decent shot. Thankfully Hinchliffe was up to the task and his save kept it at 1-1.
County regrouped after this near setback, but despite getting another free kick when Hampson was fouled just outside the box, nothing came from this and we really needed something to have! Minihan made rather more of Ball`s pass than it rightly deserved next, and when Hampson was again upended, this time in the box, on the end of this, a County second, via the spot, looked on, until…incredibly…..Mr Jackson looked away and let play carry on!
That was disappointing to say the least, and Leamington started to ring the changes bringing Liam Canavan on for Obeng.
Canavan was in the action almost immediately, being denied by excellent work from Duxbury, who followed that bit of work with another that saw his shot test Breeden in the home goal.
Leamington persisted pinging the crosses in from deep positions, and Smalley did well to stop Bishop on the end of the latest example, some 65 minutes in.
A hint of the drama, I mentioned earlier, came next as , with Minihan winning a corner, and County looking about to at last to claim a second goal, Callum Gittings treated us to some pre yuletide pantomime , by collapsing to the ground having headed clear. An immense expanse of time elapsed before play resumed, and for a time delay followed delay as from keeper to striker the home side indulged in some blatant time wasting tactics.
It was annoying to watch this nonsense acted out, and it was being acted out, but Walker was now on for County replacing Hampson, although for a time we did wonder on what looked to be an innovative move from JG , as Ormson was announced by the PA. Ian`s a good lad and as decent player, but thankfully he remained on the bench, as County attempted to get their lead back.
With about 10 minutes left the drama was back centre stage as Clarke was pole axed by an elbow from Bishop. Getting on for 10 minutes elapsed before Clarke was able to resume- his head swathed in plaster/ bandages.
It was a crucial decision to keep Clarke on, and a brave one from Michael who by any yardstick should have been off the field. It was vital County had 11 on the park and not 10, but before we could ponder this further County shipped a goal . It came via a corner which substitute Canavan headed home unattended giving Leamington a somewhat undeserved lead.
There were 7 minutes left…..then six…five…four..three…and County were pressing …winning corners…trying for that equaliser…when the latest flag kick saw Oswell force the ball home from almost on the line.
That was excellent…but what followed wasn`t as play was delayed for another age as a County supporter entered the field of play to confront the home keeper. That was quite simply stupid and will cost us, will the pitch invader care though?
When eventually play resumed…County resumed attacking , and they were unlucky not to get a penalty when Oswell was brought down by Magunda.
That was irritating , but the angst lasted but a short time as a cross from the right headed into the home box where, faced with 3 or 4 defenders on the line, Oswell again did the biz slamming the ball home to send the large County support into ecstasy, and County into a deserved 3-2 lead.
Eight minutes added time seemed like about 28 ….as County defended with purpose- Duxbury more than most…heading clear as a corner pinged in from the right.
.A certain amount of panic was now seeping into the Leamington game plan- their blatant time wasting now paid back in full. The keeper pinged one long, but being way out of goal was hard pressed to stop Warburton who was running onto Hinchliffe`s reply . Somehow he was kept out, but a foul was needed to stop the Walker / Ball follow up.
A free kick followed, but Ball cleared the bar with this, to end an epic County come back!
Great stuff in the end from County , and well deserved.
For me…I will keep taking the tablets, and see you for hopefully a less traumatic experience at Edgeley Park on Saturday when we take on another tough National North cookie in Gainsborough Trinity.
See you there!
[ Gorgeous pics from the game can be found here ]
Leamington line up:
Breeden, Taundry, Gudger, Clarke, Hood, Magunda, Thompson-Brown, English, Bishop, Gittings( Butterfield 72), Obeng( Canavan 61).
Subs not used: Moore, Revan, James.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan( Mc Kenna 66), Clarke, Smalley, Hampson( Walker 72), Winter, Minihan, Ball, Oswell, Warburton, Stephenson( Duxbury 45).
Subs not used: Ormson( honest!), Brazel.
Attendance: 844 (360 away fans)