Stockport County 4 Barnton 2
County made their way into Round 2 of the Cheshire Senior Cup last night, with a thrilling 4-2 victory against an excellent Barnton FC side who made them fight all the way to the final whistle.
James Gannon`s young side came back from a 2-1 half time deficit, that might have been greater had the plucky visitors finishing in the half`s closing minutes been more precise.
As it was………… buoyed by two fine goals from George Webster, Barnton forced County to battle for their spoils , and this they did splendidly, a brace from the very lively Ben McKenna , and one each from Harry Brazel and County`s new professional Szymon Czubik( both excellent finishes) securing the win.
Barnton will be disappointed, but they shouldn`t be as they proved worthy opponents in a very entertaining game.
For County I have probably already mentioned their top performers, but I was also struck by Tom Whitty`s contribution , and an eye catching late cameo from Sajjad Elhassan who, along with goal machine Czubik, looks a definite find!
From the off it was apparent that County had a real game on their hands as a foul by Harry Brazel offered the Villagers an early chance to shine via a nicely placed free kick.
County defended this well , but that fact failed to quell the North West Counties Leaguers enthusiasm , captain Chris Smith heading wide in the next attack.
Jason McShane was next to show for Barnton, his shot being charged down in the box, and the first 12 minutes had elapsed with Steve Lloyd`s side having given as much as they had taken in a very competitive game.
Gradually County started to show, and Ben McKenna looked in top nick, a pacy run needing the best of responses from Niall Ford( who I thought was arguably Barnton`s M.O.M) to stop him.
McKenna was unlucky from the ensuing corner, his shot coming out, almost on the line, off Chris Yearsley.
Considering he had Mc Kenna to watch I thought that Patrick Hamid , at right back, did well at times ,and he and George Webster were able to push on more than once to relieve the County pressure.
The 20th minute saw Tom Whitty surge forward to test keeper Robert Cooke with a decent effort- the keeper was up to the challenge, Barnton replying via Hamid whose forward run and ball to the back of the box threatened County`s peace of mind. But Brazel and Clarke sorted matters before Jack Irlam could gather his thoughts sufficiently to muster a shot.
That was probably a pivotal moment in the half, as within a couple of minutes, County were ahead when Mc Kenna burst into the box to send a blistering drive beyond Cooke`s dive into the net!
That was fine strike, and McKenna was clearly in top form, and he was unlucky to see Cooke keep another effort out not long after.
Barnton continued to push County hard, Chris Smith and Sam Houghton doing well in this respect, but it was Ryan Malone who had by far the best opportunity to shine for the visitors, as his run carried him into the box. A shot was on………and Malone did not falter in that regard, but he dragged his shot a foot wide of Ian Ormson`s far post which was a let off for the blues.
Beyond the half hour mark and it was still possible to say it was `end to end and anyone`s`. County`s best effort in the minutes immediately following being a decent shot by Brazel that Ford and company charged down in front of Cooke`s goal, whereas at the other end, the highly promising Josh Robinson, saved the day with a crucial intervention with Houghtom straining to reach McShane`s thoughtful ball in the box.
It really was a good match!
County did have their chances to make the ` anyone`s` bit redundant, but having won a free kick in a decent position Sam Walker wasted it with a poor kick.
Cooke did well to head clear with County looking likely to score again, but this did not happen….indeed it was Barnton who did the deed instead. It came from a corner, which County failed to clear, the ball reaching Webster who slammed a fierce drive home from close in.
There were just 2 minutes left of the half when that one went in, and Barnton piled onto the attack as a result with Malone and McShane both going close in short order.
Barnton would not be denied, and a further wave of attacking saw Webster double his tally and give his side the lead with a glorious drive that gave Ormson no chance at all.
Amazingly County were 2-1 down, but you could not deny that Barnton were worthy of the lead, in fact they might have increased it with a modicum of fortune….had Irlam`s shot gone inside Ormson`s far post instead of wide of it….but it didn`t, and I was not alone in being relieved to hear referee Daniel Mitchell blow for the break.
I must say I thought the referee was really good throughout, and I cannot really remember much of note being missed by him.
Help the Hatters were excellent too and looked after the fans with refreshments at the break in the Museum. Well done lads and lasses!
Clearly there was a need for County to up the work rate to counter Barnton`s continuing buzz and energy, and the early moments of the second half hinted that they were doing just that Yearsley doing well to deny Adam Etches….and Cooke holding onto a effort from Sam Walker.
Meanwhile if you are tempted at all to think that Barnton were about to lie down…don`t…they weren`t…..Mc Shane running onto Malone`s pass to bring a fine save from Ormson in response.
All the above being said, I WAS expecting that perhaps Barnton would start to tire and County`s better conditioning come to the fore, and the fact that the Villagers were beginning to shed free kicks and corners like confetti at a wedding, was perhaps a indication that this was starting to be a factor.
We needed County to capitalise on this but Cooke did for the best of the free kicks, pushing the ball around the post from Walker`s kick, after Szymon Czubik`s clinical pace had drawn the Barnton foul.
The thought that it was not going to be long before County would equalise, was proved to be correct , but with Barnton defending doggedly, it took a fine run by Brazel to open them up, his ball inside offering one of three County forwards a chance to do the honours……Mc Kenna accepted the honour with the neatest of finishes.
Not long after JG made a change swapping Sajjad Elhassan for Adam Etches, and the diminutive Elhassan was in the mix straight off showing some neat touches, going close 5 minutes into his stint, denied by excellent work from Ford in particular.
Still……I found myself not entirely discounting Barnton`s chances…..and Malone indicated why this was so making it to the by-line with some neat work. County cleared the danger eventually but…………..
Joshua Kavanagh was now on replacing Patrick Hamid for the Villagers, and Mc Kenna switched flanks to welcome Joshua to the game.
We were into the last 10 minutes now, and County`s momentum was building fast .Brazel was unlucky to see a shot whiz inches wide from a Walker free kick, as was Elhassan- his snap shot rising over the bar from smack in front .
It went on….Brazel again close…..Elhassan ditto with time drifting away.
There were just 7 minutes left when County finally squared their circle. It was a Mc Kenna cross that set it up. Elhassan was first to have a go at it, but could not quite make contact, but the ball ran on to Brazel who could and he slammed a drive of coruscating power into the net to give County the lead.
Barnton kept defending like lions after this, and it was another 4 minutes before County could add to their lead. This time it was the product of a beautiful Czubik/ Elhassan cooperation…..the latter threading a lovely ball to the former who slotted an immaculate finish home to cap an excellent showing.
After this…County pressed on…..Ford doing ever so well to McKenna`s latest incisive cross from one or other blue shirts in the box.
And…. If I was at all tempted to think that Barnton were spent….Malone and Smith disavowed me of that one, each going close to reducing the arrears- only denied by the classiest of double saves from Ian Ormson!
Kaithen Farnworth came on for Szymon Czubik at the death getting involved nicely.
Mc Kenna continued his involvement right until the very end, and he might have had a late/ late penalty as he surged onto Brazel`s ball into the box where a push saw him off. No matter, as I say the ref did well, and before long he had blown for time to end what had been a terrific game!
[ Pictures from this Edgeley park night game are here! ]
Stockport County line up
Ormson, Brazel, Robinson, Peach, Clarke, Whitty, Etches ( Elhassan 65), Walker, Czubik ( Farnworth 89), Jackson, Mc Kenna.
Subs not used: Downing, Willan, Kershaw.
Barnton FC line up
Cooke, Hamid( Kavanagh 74), Crofts, Webster, Ford, Yearsley, Malone, Mc Shane( Woolley 83), Smith, Houghton, Irlam.
Subs not used: Kiernan, Mc Kay, James Mc Shane.