Nuneaton Town 1 County 3
County came back with an emphatic bang at Liberty Way today dispatching hosts Nuneaton Town by 3-1, via goals from Oswell, Stopforth and a second half free kick from Jimmy Ball.
Storm Brian fulminated and raged around CV11 , but County made light of the conditions creating storm conditions of their own with a performance that warmed the perished cockles of every County fans heart in the crowd 737.
To be fair Borough mastered the prevailing winds also and played their part in a thoroughly entertaining game that fizzed and sparkled throughout.
County had the edge however……up front…where a two pronged attack of Oswell and Warburton had the Warwickshire side constantly stretched….at the back where Michael Clarke returned in magnificent style( in a 3 with Smalley and O` Halloran) and was only denied a clean sheet by a late penalty which I am moved to call harsh.
Elsewhere Ian Ormson( or Osman as the team sheet would have it) started and did pretty well- saving the penalty but not the follow up, and otherwise coping with the weather and a determined home side hell bent on impressing temporary boss Dino Maamria.
Ask me to name a M.O.M and I will point you to Gary Stopforth whose contribution lit the place up despite the prevailing conditions.
It was utterly perishing as the game opened with both teams `giving it some` in lively fashion. County had a 3 at the back ( Smalley, Clarke and O`Halloran) with Osman( down as Conan in the team sheet) and Duxbury providing width and extra security, a thing that both managed well enough.
There was no Hinchliffe twixt the sticks for the yellow shirted blues, but I was relieved to see an early strike by Jordan Nicholson fly wide with a couple of minutes gone, after Luke Trotman, who I made Borough`s M.O.M, had worked the opening.
County replied quickly only to watch frustrated as Warburton`s shot drifted wide.
The game continued to swing from end to end after that , and Nicholson might have done better than he did when Ashley Chambers` under hit shot reached him in the box- he shot wide to the disappointment of the home specs.
It went on ….Duxbury lighting proceedings up with an electrifying run down the left( somehow seen off by Trotman)…..then Nuneaton responding through Chambers whose effort was smothered by Clarke.
County stepped it up next -Warburton`s free kick held by keeper Dean Lyness after a foul on Oswell. Then Brad Gascogne did heroics to block Oswell, the wind doing the rest when the resultant corner pinged in.
We reached the 15 minute mark with both teams still acquitting themselves well, but with the score still 0-0, O`Halloran disappointing our hosts with an immaculate intervention to thwart Trotman`s latest bit of work.
Joel Dielma( Trotman`s fellow wing back on the opposite flank) joined the fray but his free kick was confidently dealt with by Ormson.
Not to be out done…Trotman ran at County again with another neat and interesting run. His cross from this was a good one too, but the glancing header that followed from Chambers was again well held by the young County keeper.
Things were now beginning to build a bit for Nuneaton….Nicholson winning possession but then firing wide, whilst Billy Daniels saw a shot deflected for a corner which Clarke and company handled with aplomb.
Play was pretty even for a time after the last action, with neither keeper troubled. Nuneaton threatened to change all this after the half hour, as they forced no less than 4 corners in rapid succession. None of them squared the Nuneaton circle however -the County defence on top of their game!
Eventually County responded with Cowan and Duxbury both pushing the host club back on their heels. Warburton joined in with a purpose , his run being blocked at the edge of the box.
This was a really good game, for sure, and County were making it more so by steadily building up the pressure on Nuneaton- a link up by Duxbury and O`Halloran blocked by Trotman at the last gasp. A corner ensued , but Lyness did well defending this, and I thought , despite the growing County impetus, we just might be unlucky in our quest for a half time lead.
Not so…of course as the next surging attack from County, saw Oswell on the spot to fire the ball home on the turn in front of 400 County fans behind the goal .
The next 5 minutes saw both sides probe the other…Ormson dealing with Dielna`s free kick with some comfort, and Oswell missing out on the end of O`Halloran`s cross for County.
There was a brief excitement as added time was announced , and Ormson was stranded outside his box, but the resultant shot missed the goal, as I settled down resigned to County having a 1-0 half time lead.
Wrong again of course, and big time as County piled forward causing panic in the home back line . It seemed that County had a second….but they hadn`t as Warburton`s shot came out off a defender. County thought that it hit a hand( I could not say one way or the other),and they were still appealing as the ball came down from the raging overhead maelstrom to Stopforth who joyfully leathered it home!
2-0 it was…and that`s how it stayed as the teams left the field for a hard earned break.
The second half opened with Clarke in action heading clear with Nuneaton looking determined to claw back the initiative. County absorbed the pressure nicely, and a third goal looked on as Warburton and Oswell engineered a break that saw Oswell forcing a corner. There was much holding as the kick came over, but unbelievably referee A Jackson gave Nuneaton relief in the form of an unlikely….nay ridiculously stupid free kick.
From that Trotman was in County`s faces again down the right , only for another glancer from Chambers to disappoint again.
Ormson was in action again next, denying Nicholson following good work from Chambers and Elliott. Nuneaton were working hard and doing their best to keep County on the back foot, but County…faced with the home specs now appealing for anything….were defending like heroes.
Nuneaton did get their chances….most notably 2 that fell to Nicholson around this time, but to no avail, and invariably ..when the raid broke down….County had Warburton and Oswell in position to hit them on the break.
Again the duo stretched Their opponents to the limit - again having to settle for a corner as Gascoigne`s last gasper prevailed. Again the corner offered prospects of better for County that were promptly scattered to the four winds when the referee( ignoring more holding from defenders) gave our hosts relief in the shape of another improbable free kick.
We were beyond the hour now and Mc Kenna was now on for Walker, as County`s momentum climbed once more via Cowan 's determined running and Warburton`s predatory instincts which saw his shot saved really well by the keeper.
Meanwhile…Trotman went close for Nuneaton giving them the oxygen of hope with another of his spunky runs. Close is fine…..up to a point…. But Nuneaton needed a goal….and County made them pay for not getting one (and giving away a free kick in a scoreable position).
This chance fell to Ball and he made no mistake smacking a beautiful effort way beyond Lyness`s despairing dive...... into the net!
With the score now 3-0, County pushed on with Cowan forcing the pace down the right, bolstered by Ball`s support en-route.
Briefly, with 15 minutes left, Chambers at last escaped the clutches of Clarke, but he then found the cover from Duxbury and O`Halloran holding immaculately as the half chance slipped away.
Duxbury was then replaced by Hampson, as County defended a determined push from Nuneaton who still remained resolved to get something from the game.
That they eventually got their `something` was disappointing, but the nature of the way they achieved it was doubly so, the referee pointing to the spot as the ball hit a County arm in the box- it was ball to hand . The kick was brilliantly saved by the diving Ormson, only for Nti to follow up and slam the ball home.
Trotman continued to push on for Nuneaton after that goal, but to no avail again, and County were unlucky to see Lyness in position to make the save as Warburton`s shot came his way. Hampson went close too after this , but Winter just missed out trying to force a cross from the excellent Oswell home.
Two free kicks offered Nuneaton hope of better, but it was an illusion, and things might just have got worse for them, as Exodus Geohaghon, received a straight red ,2 or 3 minutes after coming on for a `goal scoring attempt` foul on Oswell.
The kick was lined up again by Ball , but the wall prevailed and it stayed 3-1 as the ball deflected clear off it.
That was a fine result, and JG must be proud of his team.
It sets us up nicely now for the visit of Kidderminster Harriers to EP next Saturday.
See you all there!
[ Those readers who do not suffer from migraines may want to check out the pictures from the game. That yellow kit is... well... judge for yourself here! ]
Nuneaton Town line up
Lyness, Trotman,Dielna, Elliott, Gascoigne ( Geohaghon 86) , Heaton, Mills( Beswick 53), Daniels( Hickey 79), Chambers, Nicholson, Nti.
Subs not used: Taylor, Ball.
Stockport County line up
Ormson, Smalley, Clarke, O`Halloran, Cowan, Duxbury( Hampson 76), Ball, Stopforth, Walker( McKenna 64), Oswell, Warburton( Winter 86).
Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Dixon.