County 3 FCUM 3 ( FA Cup 3QR)
I really hate the sad old cliché `Game of 2 Halves', but this was very much that, with irritating knobs on!
The first 45 minutes consisted of County in cruise mode coasting silkily to a 3 goal lead which they held until the break.
The anti Gannon brigade will latch onto Jason Oswell's half time substitution as the reason why that 3-0 lead vanished in its entirety in the 45 minutes that followed, but is that enough of an explanation? It was a collective failure for me, particularly defensively, and what is the Manager to do when a player indicates a tight hamstring? Keep him on and risk it...surely not!
Oswell's replacement Harry Winter should have insulated County against any FCUM comeback, instead there was a procession of second half attacks from the men in red and white that at times had us in knots.
That said.....the equaliser was as good an example of pantomime refereeing as I have seen. Mr Doughty fell over himself to award a late/ late penalty to FCUM after Tom Greaves finally remembered to go down half a yard after Hinchliffe's challenge, which made little or no contact with the player anyway .
The constant rain was as dispiriting as our second half performance, but without Mr Doughty's intervention we just might have been saved a trip to Moston this coming Tuesday!
Back at 3 o'clock the first disappointment of the day came with the realisation that County were kicking our way in the first half.
Still....maybe we could score a bag full and cruise through the second 45 and into the next round.
The early minutes saw County attacking so I was not disavowed of those thoughts at this stage- as Warburton ( on fire if the opening minutes were anything to go by) lifted an opening effort over the bar.
Warburton was quickly back again and Scott Kay conceded a corner when much worse looked to be on the cards for the men in red. Keeper Lloyd Allinson caught the kick that followed and the immediate threat was over, allowing FCUM to construct an attack . County conceded what looked to be the cheapest of free kicks during this, but despite the kicks central position, the visitors could make nothing of it.
Ball saw his shot drift wide, 10 minutes in, from a free kick after Cowan's run had been halted by a foul.
This was not a classic encounter at all, indeed the welter of free kicks were a constant irritation. County's attacking play won them a series of corners too, Thomas doing particularly well with a pacy run down the right. Allinson's response to the first of these corners, from Walker, was a prodigious flap, and from the second FCUM escaped when Smalley's header cleared the bar.
Ball meanwhile, was looking in his element back in midfield, and he must have been miffed to see Oswell flagged offside on the end of one of his neat passes.
That was 16 minutes in, the seventeenth saw Warburton in behind the visitors back line. He looked well set, but he again lifted his effort over the bar. That one was closer.....but we needed an opening goal to silence the largish FCUM following.
I was bemused to see O'Halloran booked not long after, but relieved to see the Moston team fail to press home a notional advantage from this, Duxbury being able to run the ball clear under pressure.
The next action was a tad worrying as Walker and O'Halloran managed to tackle one another, letting Kallam Mantrack claim possession and break up the park. This was a half chance probably , but it was another one that was not taken, and they were quickly punished for their profligacy!
Out of defence...County were suddenly attacking, and both Oswell and Warburton fancied it as the pair surged on into the oppositions box. It was a chance for sure, and Warburton claimed it slamming a fine finish into the net to loud acclaim from the County support.
County were one up, and it was the signal for frenetic action in the box in front of Allinson's goal.- Thomas winning a corner with his energetic play from which both Walker and Oswell went close, but there was no cigar for County and it stayed 1-0.
The County pressure continued, but without much in the way of luck accruing with it as Thomas was adjudged offside having burst clear( hmmm).....and Warburton saw a certain corner, after Zac Corbett's block had sent the ball behind, magically become a goal kick at the hands of Mr Doughty( hmmm again!).
My angst was somewhat lessened with the sight of Duxbury's cool work disposing of a potentially lethal break from Mantack, and totally banished , 34 minutes in, with a second County goal.
FCUM had put a move or two together in the preceding 3 or 4 minutes and I was a touch concerned should they nick an equaliser against the run of play, but County were attacking again and Thomas was still busily pinging in the crosses for others to feed off- one such seeing ex Hatter Jordan Fagbola earn a rebuke from the referee along with a card.
It was a free kick then , and from it Warburton curled the ball beautifully beyond the keeper's best efforts to deny him, and into the net! It was now 2-0 to County and quite a decent position from which to dictate matters here on out!
But County were not content to rest on their laurels and set about increasing their lead which, with just 2 minutes of normal time remaining, they did.
Duxbury's run did the spade work, taking him to the by-line whereupon he slid the ball inside to Oswell who stabbed the ball home from half a yard out!
FCUM seemed to be falling apart at this juncture.....Corbett following Fagbola into the referee's book. They held out until the break however, the teams going in with the score still 3-0 to County.
There were multiple changes when the teams returned. I expected perhaps some reaction from FCUM, and there was a big one...... Greaves, Hughes and Nicholas, coming on for Connor, Fagbola and Senior, but County also made a change, and it was to swap defensive midfielder Harry Winter for scorer Jason Oswell. What was that all about? Well it could only be injury or a move to safeguard against such, and that's what was confirmed later( tight hams) .
Thomas and Warburton were up front now for the blues, and I was not unduly worried or downhearted even when Hinchliffe had to exercise himself to keep a shot from Steve Irwin out.
No...County were doing much of the attacking still...Duxbury was probing diligently...Stopforth was a busy lad buzzing about hither and thither and then some, and I fancied that Winter , with 11 minutes gone of the half, was settling in well on his return.
Hmmm........... not unjustified in my opinion all those last comments, but we needed to keep and use the ball ,and suddenly we didn't giving possession to Matt Hughes , who wasted no time at all in picking Jason Gilchrist out, and the score was pegged back to 3-1 as the forward beat Hinchliffe conclusively with his finish.
From a position of first half dominance, County were now looking likely to implode, and it was a relief next to see Irwin's shot miss out by inches with Hinchliffe exposed.
County weathered the storm sufficiently to allow Duxbury to run at their opponents causing more than a little concern for them. Duxbury was looking in great nick again and it was an earth shatterer to see him felled by a rank bad challenge from Kay. Kay was booked...County got a free kick, but by far the more salient point was that Duxbury had to be stretchered off.
We just did not need this type of ill fortune, and I would say that this was as telling a moment as was Oswell's subbing in deciding County's fate.
Connor Hampson replaced Duxbury , but in short order County's lead was reduced again as Mantack and Gilchrist were allowed space to spare in County's final third. The ball found its way to Greaves and it was 3-2 as he drilled another neat finish home!
We were up against it now, and FCUM clearly had wind in their sails , even so County had their moments that might have been, notably 78 minutes in as Warburton was felled in the box on the end of Hampson's pass, only for the visitors to get a free kick( it's that after shave again Matty!)
From the kick County almost let FCUM in , more specifically Gilchrist, who was only denied by Hinchliffe's prompt action in leaving his area as the forward was played clear.
Twice after this Gilchrist went close- his shot thudding into the boards a foot wide after 78 minutes, and narrowly short of getting to Irwin's final ball thanks to Hampson's intervention.
County were under much pressure now, their cause not aided by ,shall we say some eccentric decisions from the referee- one such that had County defending a laughable free kick awarded against Cowan on what could only be a whim!
Hinchliffe held the resultant header from Corbett.......
.......but when the County keeper repeated the remedy a couple of minutes later- it was 3-3.
Unaccountably.....with FCUM attacking ,and Greaves unconvincingly going to earth as Hinchliffe dived to make a save , the referee pointed to the spot to howls of protest from most of the 3000+ crowd.
It was a poor decision , but it stood, and a replay was earned as Irwin kick went straight as a dye into the net !But...poor as the refereeing decision was, fingers also need to be pointed at the defence who allowed Greaves into the box.
County tried to square the circle in the little time that remained, facing some particularly iffy challenges en-route as they went- Dixon scythed down near the touchline.....Thomas felled in the box to no redress.
OK....Hinchliffe had to make another dash out of the box to save the day with Greaves dashing clear, and O'Halloran's late headed clearance did for a dangerous Mantrack cross, but it was still a disappointment for it to finish level albeit on the balance of 90 odd minutes a neutral might say that was fair enough.
Moston on a wet Tuesday evening is not an immediately appealing prospect, but I hope to be there, and hope you will be too!
[ Colourful pictures from the game here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Smalley, O'Halloran, Duxbury(Hampson 69) , Ball, Walker, Thomas, Oswell ( Winter 46), Stopforth, Warburton( Dixon 78) .
Subs not used; Ormson, Clarke, McKenna, Czubik.
FC United of Manchester line up:-
Allinson, Brady, Wisdom, Kay, Fagbola( Hughes 46), Corbett, Senior( Nicholas 46), Connor( Greaves 46), Gilchrist, Irwin, Mantrack.
Subs not used; Logan, Braid, Jones, McCarthy.
Attendance : 3034