Country 4 FC United of Manchester 1
County brushed aside the challenge of FC United of Manchester ,with something approaching disdain, at Edgeley Park today, dispatching them 4-1 in front of over 4000.
As in the first FA Cup game against the same opposition a while ago, County were cruising 3-0 up at the break, but therein ended any similarity with that unfortunate outing.
This time there was no second half cave in…….no FCUM come back for their largish travelling following to gloat over, as County defended well and attacked with a freedom that we have been waiting to see for some time.
Thus….when the visitors nicked a goal back( a somewhat fortunate affair) ….County were able to score again, as Oswell was felled in the box ( one of umpteen crude FCUM fouls that littered , and threatened to ruin an otherwise decent game )allowing the endlessly energetic Warburton to restore County`s 3 goal advantage from the spot.
More goals might have come County`s way as FCUM wilted under pressure late on, but it stayed 4-1 which was a satisfying outcome on a cold day, which had seen Stopforth substituted early on after a nasty late challenge by Connor ended Gary`s ability to continue.
Connor was just one player in red whose approach left a lot to be desired, and it is to be hoped that, if and when FCUM make a managerial appointment, that individual concerned changes the prevailing modus operandi at Broadhurst Park which favours the overly robust rather than a reliance on silky skills.
In Warburton, Oswell and Stopforth , before his early departure, County had skills in abundance, and they also had Bohan Dixon, who was in excellent form in the first half. He faded a shade second half, but overall he looked the part.
Warburton took the sponsors M.O.M award, and I can understand that, but I had O`Halloran in there too, and his second half showing firmly answered the critics ( including myself) who had questioned whether he had 90 odd minutes in him.
County`s substitutes did well too……Thomas , largely operating on the left offered penetration to spare, whilst Kallum Mantack added a neat goal to a lively debut appearance occasioned by Connor`s assault on Stopforth. It was good to see Sam Walker on also, but he appeared much too late to make any sort of impact on proceedings.
An impressively dignified ceremony preceded kick off, and the participants left the field to thunderous applause from the crowd.
It was an irritation to see that County were kicking towards the Cheadle End first off, but I pushed that thought to the back of my mind as Warburton treated us to the first of many incisive runs. FCUM were happy to concede a corner from this, and even happier when County elected to take a short one, and rather messed it up.
Only a couple of minutes had gone by, and County were looking good and ex Hatter Jordan Fagbola did well to cut Oswell off , as he ran onto a neat through ball from Cowan.
Another couple of minutes of County pressure ensued, with Dixon showing us some neat touches, and his passing was beginning to offer up thoughts of better things as he sent McKenna darting clear. Another lad not unknown to us, Tom Walker……..surfaced at this point and his slider stopped McKenna`s gallop and this County raid.
The problem for FCUM was that another one came along straight after via Duxbury this time, and Scott Kay and Mike Connor got themselves in a rare tangle trying to block young Scott`s run.
Duxbury`s cross was eventually cleared, only for Duxbury to pop up again and draw a tackle from Joel Logan that brought the white shirted blues a welcome corner…except it didn`t …as somehow Referee Martin Woods saw it as a goal kick.
That was disappointing but the feeling did not linger long, as County`s next raid was served well by Dixon who picked out Warburton with a neat pass. Warburton was off and running and did the rest…..his shot beating Lloyd Allinson in the FCUM goal to give County an early lead.
Allinson was promptly back in action almost immediately, and he did well to beat Oswell to the ball after he had slipped clear of Fagbola.
The County pressure was pretty relentless, but Oswell just failed to capitalise on a half chance 10 minutes in. The sighs and groans had hardly dissipated when County went 2 up as Oswell slid in to force Warburton`s pull back from the by-line, in off the underside of the bar.
Ten minutes gone… 2-0 up…how good is that?
Pretty good actually, but we had been 3-0 to the good earlier in the season against this outfit, and frittered that lead away…we did not need a repeat!
To be fair there did nor seem any indication that we would similarly implode this time around, indeed the travails of the visiting back line were beginning to set the prospect of further goals racing in my head as back passes went astray….the keeper ended up on his back side having sliced a clearance into touch to the amusement of most of the 4000+ in the ground.
There was a gynormous divot left where Allinson had come a cropper, and I fancied that Mike O`Brien would not be best pleased with that one at half time!
The above mentioned difficulties notwithstanding, the visitors managed to break what had seemed like a perpetual siege, and County were caught napping to the extent that Duxbury got himself booked in his efforts to keep FCUM at bay.
The free kick put County under the cosh, a situation eased by Hinchliffe`s punched clearance under pressure, and final put to bed when the follow up raid by Gilchrist and Greaves fizzled out faced with a resolute County defence.
We were almost 20 minutes into the game, when Stopforth, fouled earlier, had to be substituted, being replaced by Kallum Mantack, interestingly fresh from a loan spell at FCUM.
Slack work at the back by County set Craig Lindfield up nicely 23 minutes in. He was foiled by Hinchliffe`s quick reactions, but it was to be hoped that the blooper was but a rare blip and nothing more lasting!
New boy Kallum Mantack meanwhile had only been on the park for 5 minutes when he was away down the left, and unlucky not to nick one. Ball was even less fortunate, having taken a gruesome `tackle` from Connor and been laid out.
The free kick from this was well above average and McKenna, as a result, was in behind the visitors back line. It was a good chance, and his shot was on target, only for Allinson to tip the ball over the bar at the last gasp!
County piled it on after the last action…Warburton unlucky not to prosper- his latest run having taken him to the by-line and within sniffing distance of Allinson`s goal.
Oswell joined the party…latching onto a through ball following some neat play by McKenna and Ball, but he was foiled by Allinson`s quick responses.
It was looking like a goal would not be far off coming…..but instead I watched as Allinson pulled off another save to deny McKenna, and County just failed to force the ball home from Warburton`s free kick following a foul by Logan on Dixon.
Time passed, and it was beginning to seem like a third County goal wasn`t in the offing after all, and then…with just 4 first half minutes left…it was. Warburton and Oswell started it all, their forward thrust causing the visitors no end of trouble.
They were in disarray, and whilst Allinson was able to keep out the initial strike he could not react swiftly enough to prevent the on rushing Mantack from opening his County account with a neat finish from close in.
Three nil was good, but County were striving for more and Warburton was desperately unfortunate to beat Allinson`s dive with his shot, and see the ball then whistle inches beyond the keeper`s far post.
Four minutes added time came and went, with Hinchliffe having to make a rare save from a Gilchrist shot , but it was 3-0 to County as the teams trouped off for the break, and to allow Mike time to sort that divot!
A glorious ball from Michael Clarke opened the second half .and it signalled a neat move as the ball flew twixt Mantack and Warburton, but it was undone by Ball`s slow reactions and any chance was gone.
Dixon took up the cause next, his run seeing Warburton then Mantack probe for an opening, but whilst Mantack`s cross was good and had Oswell`s name on it at the back post, he could not force it home to keep it at 3-0.
Hallucinations were rife next as a rare raid by the Moston based side ended in them getting a corner when Duxbury had very clearly played the ball out off Logan. No matter….in mid fumathon…I was pleased to see O`Halloran on hand to sort matters and see the corner off!
That said…FCUM were trying a bit now, and Cowan had to hastily concede a corner as an incoming shot ricocheted his way off Hinchliffe`s chest. Frith`s effort from the corner was a poor attempt going well wide, but County were beginning to struggle a touch now, and the visitors maybe had the whiff of the turning of the tide in their nostrils!
Well….possibly….and County, for a moment, did nothing to dispel the away side`s growing confidence, with the loosest of back passes. But…they seemed to have survived that trauma , but they hadn`t, and Lindfield`s follow up cross picked out Gilchrist perfectly requiring the merest of touches from him to see it beyond Hinchliffe and into the net.
It was now 3-1, and a touch disappointing, but there were over 30 minutes left to play and plenty of time for County to reassert their superiority.
With Thomas on for McKenna that`s just what they did.
County were defending, and O`Halloran did well to stem the tide of FCUM attacking. He did better as well…sending Thomas clear. The cross that followed picked out Oswell nicely, but so did Hughes and he treated the County number nine to a terrible potential career threatener laying him out.
Somehow Hughes stayed on the pitch, and Warburton eased our angst by beating the keeper from the spot to give County a 4-1 lead.
Not long after this, FCUM fancied that they had made it 4-2…a rapid break ending with a ball into the box by Logan, which Gilchrist got a touch to, pretty much on the line. The ball was in the net alright, but the liner`s flag was up ,and the effort was ruled out for offside.
That seemed to buoy County, and their opponents came in for some pressure in the minutes that followed- Allinson somehow keeping a Warburton shot out with a reflex save after 65 minutes.
Corners proliferated for County after this, but County still had to be watchful for the odd break, and two such came within 5 minutes…..
The first involved Gilchrist, who felt he was unlucky to see Hinchliffe make the save after a break by Logan.
Hinchliffe was there again within minutes, diving to tip a shot from Greaves over the bar. Dixon and O`Halloran pulled out all the stops from the resultant corner, and Logan`s follow up effort.
It went on…Cowan blocking another Logan run…..and Thomas back defending and doing well at it as well….. but his clearance saw Oswell again crudely assaulted this time by Kay, and the referee unbelievably deemed the blame to be equally divided twixt tackler and tackled…both saw a yellow…..incredible hardly covers it!
FCUM were getting ever more desperate…in their tackling and in their attacking- and Clarke did well to block Frith`s shot with 10 minutes left. Clarke and O`Hanlon did further good work to thwart the Manchester sides efforts to reduce the arrears.
It was an uphill task for them however, as County steadily regained their hold on the game Mantack side stepping inside passed 1…2…3 defenders before shooting wide.
Warburton was not done either- his shot beaten out by Allinson after Mantack had tore into the FCUM back line down the right.
County had their opponents on the rack for long periods after that, but with 4 minutes left, they might have shipped one…had a Kay effort gone in……had a wild slice by Ball ended up in the County net, or had Hinchliffe failed to fall on the ball at the end of a spell of FCUM attacking!
Sam Walker came on for Warburton with a couple of minutes left, but for FCUM it was `no change at all` indeed their ` none too particular` approach to discipline was seemingly ratcheted up a notch or three as Oswell`s head was almost removed from his body by a wayward swing of a defender`s boot.
Four minutes added time saw no change in the score line…..Hinchliffe had to make a save from Gilchrist`s shot, and Cowan twice ran himself into trouble when putting boot through ball would have been better advised.
O`Halloran meanwhile finished the game in as good a nick as ever …and Oswell continued to be frustrated at every turn…being flagged offside for the umpteenth time!
Game over…all the points deservedly ours, and it only remained to applaud the team off and walk home through the lines of policemen and women in Hardcastle Road , which I did in fairly short order.
Next up its Boston away on Saturday 11th, so I will see you there !
[ Great photos of County at home in their away kit (!) can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, O`Halloran , Duxbury, Ball, McKenna( Thomas 56), Stopforth( Mantack 19), Oswell, Dixon, Warburton( S Walker 88).
Subs not used; Ormson, Stephenson
FC United of Manchester line up:
Allinson, Brady( Senior 63), T Walker, Kay, Fagbola, Hughes, Logan, Connor( Frith 30), Greaves, Gilchrist, Lindfield( Jones 74).
Subs not used ; McCarthy, Glynn