County 3 Spennymoor Town 2
Wow……..err…well perhaps Wow is overstating it a touch, but this game had masses going on sufficient to keep even the most serial of insomnulents awake.
There were goals….5 of them……comebacks….winning County comebacks!......comedy refereeing, and the input of some seriously over sauced sponsors at one point.
The football it must be said was not that great at times, the passing , from both sides particularly, but there was plenty of energy and effort on show, and having sufficient of both of those was what saw County over the line, in a closely fought and keenly contested battle with archetypal battlers Spennymoor Town.
Town had snatched a 1-0 win at their place in the first game of the season, so it was particularly pleasing to see County put things to rights this time, but they had to work really hard to do so, winning 3-2 eventually against a Spennymoor side that fought right up until the final whistle.
The victory was in no small measure due to a fine hat trick from Jason Oswell, which somehow or another did not swing him the M.O.M award( of which more later).
A good win for County therefore , against another team keen to make it up a division, but back at 3 o`clock the focus , under the Cheadle End roof, was on trying to keep warm as we took in the County starting line up.
There was no Matty Warburton for obvious reasons, Darren Stephenson starting in his place, but there was a rare start also for Harry Winter( who had the captains arm band),and one for Michael Clarke who slotted back in beside Chris Smalley in central defence, with Stephen O`Halloran moving over the left back.
Based on the visitors form against us and since in the division, I fancied a close encounter of the extremely difficult kind was in the offing as play commenced with snow swirling around the old place, and the writer totally unrecognisable under vast layers of clothing.
The opening minutes tended to confirm my pre match thoughts, as Town were in County faces and spreading passes about in lively fashion. Not all of these were 100% accurate, which was a relief, but then …countering…County were having great difficulty in finding a man themselves, which was not.
A poor pass from County lit Spennymoor`s fuse, and Glenn Taylor was the one to gain, but despite getting the drop on County`s re-shuffled back line, the number nine saw his shot hit a defender and go behind for a corner which the blues sorted without hassle.
Oswell strained to reply almost immediately but was just unable to convert O`Halloran`s cross into anything worthwhile, Chris Chantler doing enough to keep him out.
County pressed for a while after this, but poor delivery at a corner( a recurring theme) rather ended their early impetus, setting the visitors up for a counter, when Winter lost possession in the Town half.
Matt Dixon was away and looked well set, until he came to shoot, and whilst his radar was working, his power supply was not, and Hinchliffe did not have to move to make the save.
This early slackness from County was worrying, and another 2 minutes…....and another example occurred. This time Rob Ramshaw was the beneficiary , but he was no better at finishing than Dixon had been, in fact he was worse- missing the target completely when reasonably well set up.
I was alarmed still, but then assuaged somewhat as Oswell , working hard, found Stopforth with a pass that sent him on a run. Gary then picked out Stephenson, but despite trying there was no way through. It was a start though.
It was nip and tuck for a minute or three after this, and then things took a turn for the worst for the blues, with Taylor attacking down the right. In a trice he was in the box and beyond O`Halloran, but with chances of a shot presumably receding….he flung himself to earth. I saw no contact whatsoever…..neither I fancy did referee Aaron Jackson, but that did not prevent him from pointing to the spot.
County protested….it made absolutely no difference….Jackson stepped up and put his side 1-0 up from the spot!
County tried to reply ,but the inaccuracy of their corners did nothing for their cause , and we reached the 30 minute mark with the score still 1-0- Hinchliffe having prevented a second Town goal with a smart bit of work after having been left in the brown stuff with Hall and Foley spearheading a neat raid for Town.
That escape maybe shook County a touch as they responded, Mantack`s cross inducing a lively melee in front of keeper Shane Bland`s goal.
There was no sign of an equaliser though, and then it was presented to us on a silver platter, courtesy of Mr Jackson, who seemed to be just playing the occasion for laughs. Maybe the lad had a conscience though( I am struggling for another explanation) as there seemed to again be no contact twixt Stephenson and Curtis as the County man went down in the box.
This apparent fact failed to deter the man in black from giving us another comedy classic by awarding his second penalty of the game.
Still….we`ll take it will we not? And that`s just what Oswell did smashing his kick home with some emphasis.
County set about building on the 1-1 score line next, but despite going close a time or two, it was still 1-1 just 4 minutes from the break.
There was a late first half flurry of excitement( at the wrong end)with half time almost upon us. Hall and Foley were in the van again, but once more they could not apply a finish, after O`Halloran had been by-passed en-route.
Oswell was inches from Smalley`s delivery from a free kick, right at the death, but the teams went in with honours even for a warm and a chat.
There was a growing intensity about the falling snow, threatening to blanket SK3 as the teams came out again for the re-start.
County opened brightly, but the impetus created by Oswell`s lively break, dissipated when his pass inside went behind the advancing Mantack.
The break had done nothing meanwhile, to dim Town`s keenness for the fight, and Clarke did really well to cut out Kallum Griffiths` through ball with the number two making inroads down the County left flank.
This was quite a battle, with both teams working hard to make the next ……….perhaps vital…breakthrough. For their part Town were showing a willingness to pass their way out of difficulties at the back, but there was also a tendency for them to opt for the sly hack or nudge and the constant rash of free kicks did nothing for the games shape.
County were working every bit as hard as were Town, with Ball, Stopforth going close….in Stopforth`s case….twice.
Things were definitely taking shape now for County, and with their attacks ever more frequent, they took the lead for the first time in the game.
It was pretty much smack on the hour mark when a cooperation twixt Oswell and Stephenson opened up the visitors defences.
The initial thrust was repelled, and there was still much to do when the ball reached Oswell again and he did it to perfection sending the neatest of shots in off the keeper`s left hand post! County had the lead, but could they hold onto it in the face of a retaliatory onslaught from Spennymoor?
Well….first impressions were not greatly encouraging in that respect, as said onslaught , saw Ramshaw make it 2-2 with an unchallenged header with County standing off in numbers, not long after.
That was a real disappointment, and JG reacted quickly swapping McKenna for Stephenson, and Thomas for Mantack in rapid succession.
The fresh faces seemed to work wonders and Stopforth was unlucky to see his shot turned around a post by keeper Bland.
It got even better next, as the ball whizzed in from the left to where Oswell was seemingly held in check by Joe Tait who had replaced Chantler earlier.
There seemed absolutely no way that Oswell could even think of getting a shot in, but Oswell is Oswell…. and one last humungous effort and he was free of Tait`s grasp and the ball was in the net via the most excellent of Oswell headers!
That was absolutely top draw and no mistake, and well worth a M.O.M award any day of any week, but somehow the sponsors managed to give same to Stephen O`Halloran.
Even Stephen laughed at that one as did most of SK3….but there is a more serious side to such jokey intellectually iffy decisions…. They are very public decisions and tell our players much about how they are regarded- did this ridiculous M.O.M award decision help Jason decide where he plays next season….lets hope not!
Less vino more commonsense please in the hospitality suite in future guys and gals!
Stopforth meanwhile was doing his level best to build on that County lead, but having broken clear nicely he was promptly felled from behind by Dixon, who was replaced shortly after.
The free kick came to nought however and he had `taken one for the team` as the turgid saying goes!
McKenna and Thomas, particularly the former, were causing some alarm at the back to Town, and the product was another gem from Oswell that Bland somehow managed to tip over the bar at the last gasp.
County were warming to their task now, but unfortunately Mr Jackson was still away with the fairies, as with Clarke about to put a corner away at the back post, with Mr J just a yard or so away in full view, he was held back as Curtis took a hefty tug of Michael`s shirt.
The result was that the header went wide, but it also should have been a penalty, but no….the referee thought `goal kick` and that was what it was!
Curtis was skating on very thin ice, but despite another poor foul minutes later, no card was waved in his direction. Was he booked for the earlier penalty?
If so….that would explain, but not excuse the referee`s weakness- it was b@@@@y annoying none the less!
Things had looked pretty good for a while for the blues, but they got a rude awakening , 81 minutes in, when substitute Anderson clipped the bar with a dipping drive .
This signalled a recharge of the Town batteries and Hinchliffe , did massively well, having been sold very short indeed by his defensive cover.
Ramshaw had fashioned a break and picked out Griffiths in absolute oodles of space down County`s left. An equalising goal was on for sure, but the County keeper`s dive saw the ball pushed up and over the bar much to his team`s relief. He got up to punch the resultant corner clear afterwards, allowing Clarke to find touch.
County were under the cosh big time now and much of their preoccupation was in merely clearing their lines- coherent moves were not on the agenda, which was understandable, but meant also that the pressure came back on quickly, and County were relieved to see Taylor`s header, with a minute left, clear the bar.
Town piled the pressure on as, a ridiculous 5 minutes of added time was announced by Kenny on the PA.
Corners….free kicks……lifted crosses from deep…they all pinged over to no avail for Spennymoor- County`s defending might have been of the desperate nature at this point, but they had done the job well, and the points were ours as the referee at last blew for time signalling great applause from the County part of what was a very good pre Xmas crowd.
I am full of praise for the County effort- a very good win against a very good side, so I am looking for some of the keyboard warriors to now lay off the manager, and let him do his job!
Meanwhile …you will have noted the lateness of this report, which was due to my attendance at the Supporters Cooperative/ SCAN event at the Spinning Top.
It was a brilliant evening and it was so great to see Les Bradd, Tony Coyle, and Mark Leigh at the event, and here is a glimpse of what went on….
.... and I leave you with a photo by Gordon Cundhill taken of EP in the winter darkness on his way to the Spinning Top( thanks Gordon !).
See you all at Lancaster next Saturday!
[ Photos, including from the increasingly popular post-match Spinning Top can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, Smalley, O`Halloran, Winter, Ball, Stopforth, Mantack( Thomas 69), Oswell( Dixon 89), Stephenson( Mc Kenna 63).
Subs not used: Ormson, Duxbury.
Spennymoor Town line up
Bland, Griffiths, Mason, Chandler, Chantler( Tait 60),Curtis, Hall, Dixon( Anderson 78), Taylor, Ramshaw, Foley( Johnson 70).
Subs not used: Porter, Fewster.