County 1 Gainsborough Trinity 0
County kept up the good work today at sun baked Edgeley Park running out deserved 1-0 winners against a less than scintillatingly good Gainsborough Trinity side.
The score, as I say, was 1-0 but it could quite easily have been 4 or 5 nil as County's second half command saw them squander a veritable raft of good chances.
The winner ,almost inevitably, came from Jason Oswell, but others, most notably substitutes Darren Stephenson and Tom Walker might have done better with really nailed on chances in a second half that saw County queuing for shots on goal.
In response, I am told that Trinity had one shot on target in the whole game, and I am currently straining to remember just when that was. The County defence pretty much had the visitors attack in their pockets- Clarke and Smalley seamlessly going about their business to Trinity's cost.
I was delighted to see Sam Walker earn a start, and win the sponsor's M.O.M award, but I think that the excellent Scott Duxbury , whose second half showing in particular was a master class of Premier League type passing , could not have been far behind. It certainly was no fault of Duxbury that County could not add to Oswell's goal.
With Sam Walker back there was a greater cohesion about County's work, which saw to it that the absence of skipper Harry Winter was not too decisively felt. If Warburton was a touch quiet, Oswell more than made up this with a header that went in from an astonishing angle- just when County needed the added impetus of a goal most!
If there was some disappointment in the chances that went begging, there was solace as well.....Stephenson , for me looked 100% better operating through the middle where he ran Ioan Evans ragged. Just the shooting boots were absent from Darren's game , and the same was true of young Tom Walker who might have, no should have, scored with his first touch. He didn't but did show enough to indicate why JG likes him .
No Winter for County then, as the teams took the field, and no Stephenson also, although whilst injury kept the skipper out, Darren had a place on what looked a strong County bench.
`It's an ill wind'.....of course, and the above meant places for Ben McKenna and Sam Walker , who lined up with Jimmy Ball who slotted into the defensive midfielder role, and the duo linked up neatly early on, bringing McKenna into the mix- the cross that followed was cleared, but that looked a promising start to me.
Walker stepped up, 2 minutes in, with a a free kick that again gave McKenna a chance to shine. He did so, and the cross was a good one, only for Evans to block Oswell's path in front of goal.
Oswell went close again a couple of minutes later, being inches away after Clarke had done well to clear his lines( taking a knock in the process).
I liked the freshness I imagined that I saw in County's play now, and at least some of this was down to Walker's input , his latest being a neat cross field pass to Cowan , and the mother of flapping sessions ensued next as Cowan's cross pinged in from the right. Trinity survived.....but........
Whilst all this was going on, the seethe factor was steadily building in me, thanks to Referee James Oldham who mantra seemed to be......' If it falls down...and is in a yellow shirt....award it a free kick' and so he did...repeatedly, and Ashley Worseley's dive 10 minutes in, gained him a free kick as per the afore mentioned mantra, but it could...nay should ...have been worthy of an Oscar...so brilliantly was his fall to earth choreographed.
The quarter hour mark saw Oswell to the fore , on the end of another Walker/ Ball move, but keeper Hendrich Ravas was able to snuff out the danger.
McKenna was doing OK , wide left, and Minihan and Cowan were both out of luck as both saw efforts charged down from McKenna's work.
Oh....and 2 Trinity free kicks in as many minutes revved up the seethe level again, conjured from his imagination by the Referee.
That was irksome in the extreme, but another McKenna run from deep offered relief. The pass inside to Ball offered even more, but the ex Staly lad sent his shot disappointingly wide.
It was fully 25 minutes before Trinity really managed to make any headway at all , and whilst Bradley Wells did well to make it into the box, the County cover ,marshalled unobtrusively well by captain Clarke, did its job and any danger soon passed.
Have I said that the seethe factor was present?
Well......it most certainly was...still.... as McKenna's latest break saw him felled by someone in yellow- a clear foul and probably a booking, but not only did the official not award County a free kick, but barely 30 seconds later sprung to animated life to penalise Walker as Worsfold treated us to another Tom Daley special.
The free kick was nothing for Trinity to write home about, and was cleared without issue by the County back line.
County steadily built the pressure up after that last action, and a lovely Walker ball sent Oswell surging to the by-line. County were out of luck however with Minihan just stopped by Evans from converting Oswell's pass , and Ball lifting his follow up effort over the bar.
The blue momentum was building fast now, evidenced by a Ball/ Warburton/ Minihan move that ended with a defender getting a touch on the ball to stop Minihan's effort from going in.
The corner that followed was best forgotten, but the pressure continued with Warburton and Oswell going close.
Warburton's delivery from the next flag kick was better but despite good work from Walker and Oswell the score line remained blank.
A Ravas save from Warburton's shot, followed a booking each for Trinity and County( Gater for the visitors and Ball for County), and soon enough the half was over, leaving us to await the results of JG's latest half time team talk.
I had no doubt that we would see an early dividend from said talk, and McKenna almost squared County's circle within a minute, his run and cross seeing Minihan's instinctive first time effort soar our way in Row R.
That was closer than I have made it appear, but it was also still 0-0, despite the fact that County were pretty much camped in the visitors last third. Shane Clarke then upended Minihan , teeing Warburton up for a free kick .This was whipped over at speed, but eventually cleared by the hard pressed Trinity back line.
County kept the pressure on....Ball forcing another save from Ravas...Warburton close again with another free kick.
Then....just when maybe thoughts of a 0-0 finish surfaced...they vanished as quickly as they had arrived, via a run by McKenna that just ignored the defenders in his path. From the by-line McKenna fired a fierce cross towards goal where Oswell was surrounded by defenders at the by-line just beyond the near post. Oswell got his head to it, but despite there being no sort of a chance of the ball going in from that ridiculous angle...it did.....and the old place erupted!
That was simply amazing, and Ravas did well to prevent it becoming 2-0 ,within a minute, his quick wits and reactions just thwarting Minihan who was looking dangerous in an attacking midfielder role.
It was clear, that the Trinity back line was struggling to physically deal with County, and as a result a series of fouls by them only served to increase the pressure on them. But County were not making anything of the kicks, so the visitors still retained hope of salvation .
But County were by no means down, especially Duxbury who gave us 2 special runs in 2 minutes, the second of which teed Warburton up for a cross which Oswell very nearly managed to put away.
JG replaced McKenna with new lad Tom Walker just after the hour, and it looked an inspired move, as within a minute young Tom was played in on goal by Warburton. He shook his cover off and headed for goal , but with the keeper beaten, then side footed his shot against the far upright! Chance gone- ball cleared.
Another change not long after saw Stephenson on for Oswell who had sustained a knock earlier, and Stephenson too had an early chance to claim some glory- being blocked by Ravas on the end of yet another gloriously deft pass from the on fire Duxbury.
We were into the last 20 minutes now ,but Worsfold still knew the script and a peach of a dive had the referee bursting to award Trinity a free kick. Craig King whipped that over at pace , but again the County rearguard was not unduly troubled and County's lead remained intact.
Subs Collins and Wafula worked a corner for the visitors , as Gainsborough , realising that they were ( however ridiculously) still in with a chance, started to push forward when they could. Still...I could not see Hinchliffe being troubled as County's cover remained serenely tight and oblivious to pressure.
County at the other end looked to have worked out their opponents weaknesses and the route to goal through the middle looked a potentially lucrative furrow to plough, and I thought that we had sorted matters when, with just 10 minutes left, a ball from deep sent Stephenson heading for goal, and rounding the keeper in the proverbial jiffy. However...having done the hard but...Darren then lifted his shot over the bar to the consternation of all. I was pleased however to see Michael Clarke offer encouragement to the striker in his moment of need!
Hampson, who had replaced Warburton, 10 minutes earlier, went close after Stephenson's hold up play set him up nicely. A corner followed and another `might have been' moment as Clarke's header thudded into the bar before being hacked clear.
Amazingly it was still only 1-0......and my incredulity increased as Stephenson bamboozled keeper Ravas again before setting Tom Walker up with a neat pass. It was another chance , but Tom's shot drifted agonisingly wide .
I think the next action was the Trinity shot on target I was struggling to recall. It stemmed from a run by Worsfold that won his team a corner. The ball then found its way to Collins whose shot, whilst being technically `on target' lacked any semblance of power and thus did not concern Hinchliffe at all.
Back came County with time ebbing away with Trinity's chances of snatching something from the games wreckage , but they still did have a chance as long as it stayed 1-0, thus County kept their foot on the gas- Ravas relatively un-troubled by Ball's free kick after the rampaging Duxbury had been felled by Wafula.
It went on....Duxbury in overdrive with a scorchingly good run that might have notched up a game ending County penalty for hand ball in the box as Duxbury found Minihan in the box.
We were into added time now , and still the blues pressed for that elusive second goal, but with no discernible increase in luck, but credit was also due to Ravas whose late save denied Minihan who had been put through by Ball.
There was time for Hampson to go down under pressure from Ellis Storey, but this went the way of others before it, perishing midst a cacophony of ribald voices in and around Row R.
Game over...points won, job done.
That will do us nicely ahead of Monday's encounter with Tamworth .
With shooting boots on, expect something from County...a point would do I suppose....but then so would 3 !!!!!
[ Pics from the game... get 'em here! ]
Catch you on Monday!
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, Smalley, Duxbury, Ball, Walker S, Minihan, Oswell ( Stephenson 65), Warburton(Hampson 74), McKenna( Walker T 62).
Subs not used: Ormson, Brazel.
Gainsborough Trinity line up:
Ravas, Lacey, Storey, Clarke( Collins 65), Jacklin, Evans, Wells( Wafula 68), Gater, Jarman, Worsfold, King.
Subs not used; Stainfield, Simmons, Jones.