Curzon Ashton 1 Stockport County 1
Somehow County managed not to win this game…..a game that they might have been 4 or 5 up in by half time had luck and a linesman not intervened.
With Darren Stephenson roasting the Nash with a terrific display, County went into a 1-0 lead in pretty short order. The margin of their superiority over the home side really merited a greater return however, but despite peppering the Nash goal with a humungous number of shots, it stayed 1-0.
That said…..they did score a perfectly valid second goal when Oswell fired home from Ball`s effort, only for the referee, the abysmally poor Dave Underwood, to follow the lead of his erring liner and rule it out.
That was a poor decision…..the first of many in the game from a referee who seemed hell bent on dishing County when at all possible- a plethora of fouls particularly by Jamie Stott on Oswell in the first half, being ignored in terms of attracting a card- the referee`s first booking being that of Oswell as he was upended in the box late on.
Not long after this bit of obnoxious panto villainy….Mr Underwood finally crowned a lamentable performance by obliging the home specs with a penalty, that owed more to dextrous athleticism on the part of the home forward than any foul from County.
Niall Cummins duly put the spot kick away, and County had been punished for not finishing their opponents off when it looked like they could.
The home goal took another battering late on, but………. …try as they might a second just would not come County`s way, and one point was all they could take away from a game that looked theirs for the taking earlier.
Duxbury for Clarke was the only change for County as they took the field to do battle in front of over 1400 at the Tameside Stadium. Independent sources confirm 1207 to be present supporting County, and they were making a terrific noise as the game opened with the white shirted blues piling forward.
Right from the off it was apparent that Stephenson was in amazing form, and the early County attacking saw him in the van. Mantack was getting forward nicely too, getting to the by-line within a couple of minutes of the start only to see Oswell`s effort from his cross, blocked ushering in County`s first corner.
It was the first of many and a second resulted as Ball`s header thudded into the bar, and Stephenson`s follow up effort was touched over the bar by keeper Cameron Mason. The corner had Nash reaching for the brown trousers as Stephenson made no mistake slamming the ball home in emphatic fashion to put County 1 up.
Nash were under massive pressure after this and fortunate not to go further behind, particularly 10 minutes in when Oswell latched onto the ball and prepared to fire home , only for the near side liner to erroneously flag him offside. That was not a good decision, even allowing for my( alleged) bias, but the lad was just warming up…he had much worse in store for us later!
That was a rank bad decision, and no mistake, but we needed to ignore it and concentrate on getting a second thus making the pantomime decision making from the officials less relevant , but Stephenson`s next effort screamed inches wide of Mason`s goal with the keeper a helpless spectator.
Guest and Clark did have efforts to relieve the home gloom a tad in between County raids, but Hinchliffe was not troubled by either as County continued to weigh into the task of putting this game out of their opponents reach.
The County forward push continued unabated with Oswell and Stopforth combining nicely to push the Tameside team back on their heels. A corner was all that came of that raid, and Mason snaffled that without alarms.
Stopforth was central again not long after, on the end of Mantack`s pass inside following another run down the right flank. Gary`s shot was inches wide though and Mason had escaped again.
Meanwhile Jamie Scott had now settled on just how to cope with Oswell who was as usefully awkward to handle as ever…..he would foul him….and he did just that- Oswell`s header from the free kick being comfortably dealt with by Mason, with 20 minutes gone.
It looked only a matter of time before the home defences would buckle under the mounting pressure from County, but Matt Regan held his game together just long enough to thwart Stephenson and prevent him form reaching the product of good work by Mantack and Stopforth, and Duxbury then saw his shot charged down to add to a growing sense of unease with so many chances coming and going without altering the score line.
It went on…..Mantack clear….his shot drifting wide…..Oswell`s blistering drive just clearing the bar after another brilliant break from deep by Stephenson.
This was becoming a feature now…as along with his increased input in front of goal, Stephenson was proving deft at relieving pressure by carrying the ball out of defence up the park.
We were beyond the half hour mark now, and County were still piling the pressure on, and Mason could but parry a shot of coruscating power from Ball-the pill coming out to Oswell who slammed it home.
Two nil then…except it wasn`t as the young liner had his flag up, the referee wasting no time in confirming that the goal did not count. Have I pointed to that being an abysmal decision? Well….it most certainly was, and did not fill me with confidence that we would get a square deal from this set of officials.
Meanwhile Stott continued his Widow Twanky audition with a pitiful attempt at winding Oswell up.
He avoided sanction from the benevolent Mr U, only to rather overdo it by slamming into Oswell almost immediately giving the referee no option but to give County a free kick. No booking of course…and no goal from the subsequent Ball free kick, which was disappointing.
Our hosts managed a short period of pressure themselves with half time nearing , making Hinchliffe earn his corn with a decent save, but with Stephenson on hand the pressure eventually eased as he took the ball out of the danger zone to applause from the large County following.
Stephenson was in top nick, for sure, and on hand to add his four pennyworth to Cowan`s cross 2 minutes from the break. He met the cross with immaculate precision and the ball flew into the net. Briefly we again thought it was 2-0, but it wasn`t….the liner had his flag up again, and this time, in my opinion, he was correct!
The half ended with Stopforth sending Mantack clear , but Kallum screwed his shot inches beyond the far post and we had been thwarted once again.
County continued as they had left off in the first half, upon the re-start- Stephenson making it to the by-line setting a series of chances up, with Duxbury, most notably for Stopforth and Harry Winter.
Oh…..and the mistreatment of Oswell was showing no sign of abating…only the miscreant changed as Clark took his lead from Stott hacking the County number nine down. The free kicks were mounting for County, and from yet another of these Mason did well to push Duxbury`s effort over the bar.
Jordan Wright managed to break clear 55 minutes in, but O`Halloran sorted the danger with some very good work.
That was not typical of the action, which was taking place at the other end of the rapidly cooling park, where Mason held onto Mantack`s shot.
Duxbury had to look sharp to cut a break by Dan Shaw off, but again this proved a bit of a blip as County maintained their pressure on the home defence. I was tempted to be surprised when Mr U excelled himself…after failing to produce a card midst the routine brutality that was CA defending…by booking Oswell as he went down in the box.
In view of what was to come not long after, this was very very rich indeed!
The 68th minute saw Stephenson replaced by Thomas, going off to a well deserved ovation.
The first action after this had me reaching for the BP pills as Baillie handled the ball smack in front of the referee. If falling down is a book-able offence than maybe…no…surely…deliberate hand ball is too!
But no…..no booking for the CA man, which again needs putting in context with the next action.
The free kick was cleared comfortably enough by County`s opponents, who sorted a rare raid that maybe should have been mopped up before the situation developed. Well it wasn`t, and whilst Ball was thinking about it Brooke flung himself forward in spectacular style.
It was an immaculate dive….but no penalty…..but I was only mildly surprised to see the referee point to the spot.
Cummins put the kick away to level the scores at 1-1, which was a gruesome travesty of justice, but then when ever was football 100% fair and just?
With 13 minutes left Dixon came on for Winter, and he immediately had an impact …seeing a shot deflected for a corner…..being tripped not long after as he cut inside on a neat run……having his free kick then deflected behind again.
It was exciting …….if frustrating stuff….and the frustration mounted as from that last corner the ball was scrambled off the line by one of several home defenders.
Have I said that Dixon was also brought down in the box? Well….he was…..but …..again no prizes for guessing it was no penalty ( according to Mr U ).
The angst went on…..Mantack to the by-line….Duxbury on the end of his centre but aghast to see his shot come back out off a post!
Oswell went close, and maybe should have put that one away, and Mason continued to lead a charmed life- Dixon seeing another effort deflected wide. From the resultant corner County again had the ball in the net, only for the pantomime to take over again as the referee ignored the `ball in the net ' bit and instead stared to the touchline where the home side were preparing to waste time by bringing on a late/ late substitute.
This went on for an age, and the corner was ordered to be taken again( no goal in case you are wondering) the home defence somehow and improbably holding out.
More time wasting ensued in what remained of the game….Cummins going down for a rest…….Nash breaking clear only to then hug the corner flag irritatingly.
It was affective though and Mr Underwood did the rest…blowing for time to end the angst.
Disappointing of course, but some things to be cheerful about within the game…Stephenson`s re-emergence after injury…..Duxbury`s return to the starting 11 with a solid showing…..and Cowan was as quietly excellent as he has been consistently of late, so my notional target of 7 points from the 3 games ( including today`s) is still on.
We need to apply a finish to all our good work….and I back County to do just that!
[ To see the pictures from this game, and I must say I love the black and white change strip, please click this link! ]
Curzon Ashton line up
Mason, Shaw, Regan, Hunt, Stott, Wright( Marshall 88), Guest, Baker( Baillie 28), Cummins, Brooke( Madeley 82), Clark.
Subs not used; Wharton, Thornley.
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Smalley, O`Halloran , Duxbury, Ball, Winter( Dixon 77), Mantack, Oswell, Stopforth, Stephenson( Thomas 68).
Subs not used: Ormson, Clarke, Mc Kenna.
Attendance : 1473