Brackley Town 3 Stockport County 2
County had 102 year old County Legend George Haigh supporting them , at a damp St James Park today and an unbeaten run that took in the whole of November behind them.
It was perhaps just as well, because their opponents , Brackley Town ,lay 3rd in the table, and apart from being unbeaten at home, their last 3 home games had yielded 10 goals without reply from any of their opponents.
It was a tough game on paper then, and in reality it proved just the same, as Brackley set about matters as though another 4 goal tally was their aim.
In response, with Warburton again in precocious form, County gave as good as they received in the opening minutes, but….just as I was complementing them on sound defensive work allied to lively attacking ideas, the 17th minute saw a mistake at the back cost us, Shane Byrne taking advantage making it 1-0 to Town.
That was a shock, but County were playing with such style and confidence, that it was no surprise at all when they equalised just 5 minutes later through Smalley.
A terrific strike from Warburton ended the scoring in the first half, County looking good value at the break for their 2-1 lead.
The second half saw Brackley re-double their efforts to get back in it and two goals from Aaron Williams were enough to see them home in the end, despite an almighty effort from the yellow shirted blues who played the last 10 minutes with 10 men after a poor tackle by James Armson had rendered Warburton unable to continue with all County`s subs already on.
County had the same team out as had started on Wednesday at Southport. Michael Clarke was on the team sheet, but only as a substitute as County set off against promotion chasing Brackley.
Brackley did look very purposeful and together in the opening minutes with the likes of Ellis Myles and Matt Lowe combining usefully trying to work an opening down the right. Mantack was again employed as wing back on that flank, and it was already clear he had another job on his hands today.
That said….County did enough in the first 10 minutes to instil at least some confidence in their sodden supporters who spread out around this unpretentious ground.
The pitch looked a difficult one to negotiate to me, very much a product of Division 6, but County joined their opponents in making light of this fact- Warburton 's energy putting Town in difficulties early on. Stopforth and Cowan kept the supply going to Warburton and Oswell, who were beginning to look a very decent front 2 now.
Somehow….despite corner and free kick….Brackley survived, and were able to head off up the park where Jack Byrne saw his shot deflected for a corner.
Hinchliffe did well to punch this out under pressure, but Town came back for more via the industrious Myles, but his cross failed to pick out a red/ white shirt prompting Lowe to entertain us with a most excellent dive in front of goal. I was about as amused and impressed as Referee Ricky Wootton was, that is to say not at all…..it was no penalty!
County for the most part were doing OK, and Mantack along with O`Halloran were finding time to get forward and supplement the efforts of Warburton and company, and at one point O`Halloran`s good work set Warburton up nicely.
His effort was blocked, and the subsequent corner forced keeper Danny Lewis to go full stretch to keep County at bay.
Seventeen minutes had now elapsed since the start, and as I say…..County were not by any means looking second best at all, and it was disheartening to see Dixon lose possession to the mindlessly voluble Gareth Dean who quickly transferred the ball on to Shane Byrne who beat Hinchliffe with a cool finish.
Just one moment of slackness had been punished, but it was ever thus so, County had to forget it and sort a goal from somewhere in response.
Twice Oswell set others up with some neat work after this, but no takers showed in County yellow for either.
The twenty second minute saw a change, and this was initiated by McKenna whose run with the ball won County a corner. County went close from this, only to see the ball ushered away off the line, but only into the path of the onrushing Chris Smalley who made it 1-1 with a neat finish.
County oozed confidence after this, Warburton going close more than once, and looking every inch the formidable striker we signed a while ago, in doing so.
It was only a mild surprise, with half time approaching, to see Warburton nick a second goal for County, and it was a belter! Receiving the ball deep, Matty wasted no time with the niceties, instead looking up before blasting a powerful drive beyond Lewis into the net.
Warburton continued to be lively right up until the break, which came with County leaving the field 2-1 up, a position that did not flatter them at all!
The second half started with the rain still as relentless as ever, and County looking to add to their first half tally, but they were unlucky to see Warburton`s best effort , on 50 minutes, curl an inch or so beyond the far post with the keeper stranded.
Hmm…that was unlucky…..but Brackley were beginning to look for goals themselves and County found the action taking place increasingly in their last third- Hinchliffe making a neat save from Armson.
It was true to say that, as at Southport on Wednesday, County were increasingly able to hit their opponents on the break, but Warburton was beginning to lack support, and thus Town were soon attacking again, and Hinchliffe was in action once more to keep Jack Byrne`s header out.
The pattern developed…and kept on…Town attacking….County defending deep but well, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to convert the deep defensive positions to attacking sorties, and the 58th minute saw us again pay the price for not dealing with a ball into the box.
And…..when Williams latched onto it…he was allowed to turn on the ball, before hitting his shot goal ward. OK……the shot then hit a defender and went in, and the deflection was a cruel blow to County , but we needed to be quicker to the ball and we weren`t, and it was now 2-2.
With Brackley pressing on for a winner now, JG rang the changes bringing Duxbury and Winter on for McKenna and Oswell presumably with a view to stemming the growing tide heading Hinchliffe`s way.
The pressure continued however, and the 72nd minute saw the home side take the lead again through Williams who slammed the ball home from in front of goal.
Stephenson came on for O`Halloran ,with 15 minutes left, and this was the signal for County to mount a series of attacks, but Stephenson was unlucky a couple of times - Lewis saving with his legs on one occasion with the County sub baring down on goal.
County were trying hard, and Warburton more than most, but when he burst clear, rounding his man, he was felled mindlessly by James Armson. Armson got booked but Warburton was unable to continue ,forcing County to play on with only 10 players on the pitch.
Dixon`s kick meanwhile hit the wall, as County piled forward making light of their reduced numbers.
Had Warburton still been on, he would have probably been able to profit from some of the late /late pressure that County exerted on their opponents, but as it was their luck was out.
Chances did materialise…..to Stephenson who again went close……then in front of goal as Duxbury`s corner saw Lewis flap prodigiously at the ball under the cosh.
The game ended with County still pressing and Lewis on the deck keeping another shot out.
Game over….points lost…..but against such a decent side not a bad showing at all.
The defensive lapses need ironing out, but then we probably knew that anyway didn`t we, and against a side as thorough as this Brackley one, any blemishes were sure to be pounced upon, as they were.
We will need to be on our toes for the visit of Spennymoor Town to Edgeley Park next Saturday, but there is sufficient there to build on meanwhile to make it so.
See you there then , but please note that, due to the SCAN/ Supporters Cooperative join event at the Spinning Top ( featuring Les Bradd, John Rutter and Terry Park from 5.30) the match report will not be published until Sunday 10 December.
[ Pictures from the game are avaialble here! ]
Brackley Town line up
Lewis, Myles, Gudger, S Byrne, Franklin, Dean, Walker, J Byrne( Ndlovu 69), Armson, Williams( Brown 90), Lowe.
Subs not used: Diggin, Tilney, Graham.
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Smalley, O`Halloran( Stephenson 75), Mantack, Ball, McKenna( Duxbury 60), Stopforth, Oswell( Winter 64), Warburton, Dixon.
Subs not used : Ormson, Clarke.