Were you there dad? Amazing County come back!
"Were you there dad?"….that will be the plaintive enquiry from kids to dads the length and breadth of way beyond SK3 as word of this epic Country victory spreads via excited mouths.
There were 1131 lucky people inside an Edgeley Park locked in an Arctic blanket of numbing coldness, but they will answer positively" Yes son , I was!" and be justly proud of the fact.
It was a stupendously excellent win for Jim Gannon`s men who, to a man put in massive shifts.
In a way though…County had no right to end up winners of this one…..they had produced all the quality on show in the first half, very much like the first game, but unlike the game on Saturday could not convert even one of their many chances into the gold of goals. So…. Instead of 3 or 4 up County were level on the re-start and 2-0 down within 15 minutes of the game recommencing.
Shot then some mused!................and the thought lingered , as…with just 9 minutes left it was still 2-0 in favour of Maidenhead whose magnificent fans ( real supporters all 21 of them) were making a depressingly great noise at the far end of the Pop Side.
Then it happened ….Jimbo started to shuffle his pack, bringing Stopforth on for Oswell, and within 3 minutes the excellent Darren Stephenson had pulled a little belter back for County.
County`s subs were to play a major part in the game`s transformation. Stopforth had already given us a sample, but with Bohan Dixon on after 88 and George West a minute later, County were on fire as young George nicked one with just seconds left of the game.
That must have slammed United a mid ships, but they rallied and before you could implore the referee to blow his whistle, the visitors had it on the break via Harold Odametey and he looked on to snatch it from County. Now….Bohan Dixon is not everyone`s cup of java, but credit where it is massively due, and he tracked the United man right into the box where the bravest of interventions from Bohan robbed the crestfallen attacker of the ball- a game saving bit of work…..excellent!
More excellence followed as Stephenson set Jimmy Ball up to give County the lead just 5 minutes into extra time- a lead they would never relinquish which was no thanks to referee Mathew Dicicco who added to a dreadful performance from him by showing Harry Winter a second yellow ( County`s first dismissal in 2 years) for a tackle that Odametey made a five course meal with all the trimmings and added champers of , a couple of minutes later.
The rest is more history, as County battled bravely on to gain a most famous victory to send their supporters home deliriously happy.
There was just one change from Saturday in County`s starting line up as Jimmy Ball came back in for Gary Stopforth.
The pitch was looking terrific as County ,playing towards the empty Railway End went on the attack- Ball testing the visitors resolve with an early run down the left.
Jake Hyde was busy early on for the Magpies, but found Hinchliffe in the County goal well able to deal with his shot, and it soon became clear that United were not going to take the Hatters lightly- Hinchliffe and Duxbury doing well to sort potential issues raised by more promptings from Hyde, but with the young Pop Side émigrés from the C/E Upper Tiers in good voice, County would have felt fairly chipper at this point.
Stephenson certainly looked chipper, and he was unlucky as he rounded off County`s best move so far, with a crisp shot with 20 minutes gone.
By way of response, although you could see the power present in the visitors, they did not look a real threat when push came to pull where it counted, and this was shown to perfection, just a minute later, when Hyde scuffed his shot when a half chance presented itself in the box.
County meanwhile …were revving up noticeably. Oswell and O`Halloran surged forward , but keeper Carl Pentney beat the eventual shot out. Warburton`s follow up was charged down by one of a line of harassed defenders, teeing Adam Thomas up for a chance to shine, but he scooped his effort over the bar to end what had been another tasty move from the blues.
It went on with Hyde still busy for Maidenhead, but the quality was coming mainly from JG`s men. We just needed a finish to go with all the fine approach play, but instead the 31st minute saw Warburton pull his shot wide when set up nicely by Stephenson.
Odametey stretched his legs next and offered a real threat, as his powerful run took him into the box leaving 3 men in blue trailing in his wake. Thankfully…the fourth …Harry Winter had young Harold`s card marked and within seconds had whipped the ball off him to great applause!
Oswell stole possession twice after this setting chances up that sadly went begging, and both Stephenson and O`Halloran were denied by Pentney.
That was 40 minutes in……another 60 seconds and we had a touch of controversy as Ball majestically turned defence into attack surging into the box in irresistible style, only to be brought down by Ryan Peters. I saw nothing other than a foul in that one, but the hapless Mr Dicicco waved play on ridiculously!
That would have set County up nicely for the rigours to come in the second half, but it was not to be, and Hinchliffe had to make a couple of good stops in the minutes that remained of the half to deny Peters and Steer.
All that said….County finished the half in bullish style- Oswell robbed by the roughly hewn Alan Massey ( who again spent the game up Ossies back passage without check or hindrance from the officials)on the end of another very good blue move, and Stephenson was again unlucky having splintered the United cover comprehensively with a jinking run that said everything about his game
Nil / nil then at the break, and as at their place, the Magpies came at County on the re-start- Stephenson doing great work to track back and run the ball clear after County had been put under the cosh.
There was work for Pentney to do, on 52 minutes, as Warburton sent Oswell in, but the keeper`s dive saw the chance off, setting his side up to hit us on the counter.
Whilst it had to be said that the visitors defence, faced with quality work from the blues, looked well capable of messing things up, we needed to consistently apply the pressure…and find a finish from somewhere, but instead it was United on the front foot with the hour mark approaching- Goodman and Peters not making anything of 2 reasonable half chances.
Then the unexpected happened…County were the side to `mess up` and it was the otherwise excellent Chris Smalley who did the deed seriously under hitting his back pass to Hinchliffe.
It sold the County keeper well short and he had no chance of stopping Hyde who skipped past him to score. He might have brought him down…..but a wise old head prevented this one happening, so we were 1-0 down with still a chance rather than down to 10 and struggling!
Odametey sprayed an awful shot into the Bung Car Park next, before things got worse for the blues as United doubled their lead.
County looked a tad crestfallen at this point, and Alan Devonshire`s side were looking fired up by way of contrast and first to most balls now. No one in blue could stop Odametey from pinging his cross in, after 61minutes, and no one anticipated Sam Barratt`s reactions either as the ball headed his way a yard out. Barratt flung himself forward to head the ball spectacularly into the net.
A fine finish, which might have been cut out, but a fine finish never the less and County had a metaphorical mountain of some difficulty to climb now and just 29 minutes in which to do it.<<
It was an unlikely scenario wasn`t it….. a County come back I mean…..well…the guys/gals in the Pop Side didn`t think so and this blackest of periods saw them rise to great heights in supporting their team- really rousing stuff…could the Cheadle End and Danny Stand follow suit?
The response from County was just how it should be…they redoubled their attacking efforts, as Winter and Warburton continued to drive them forward.
The pressure was on Maidenhead for sure now, but there were less than 15 minutes left as Oswell`s header, from Stephenson`s pass, carried the bar. This happened again a minute later but with Cowan supplying the cross.
It was a brave fight by County, but who thought a comeback was at all likely? Well Jimbo probably did and moved to back that thought up by swapping Stopforth for Oswell, with 12 minutes left.
This saw Ball push further forward, and within a couple of minutes the switch worked as Stephenson surged unstoppably into the box to slam a belter home making it County 1 United 2.
There were 7 minutes left….surely not…………………..
Well Massey for one thought it just might be possibly on the cards and he hurriedly aimed his swing of the boot to send the ball anywhere under pressure but preferably over the Pop Side roof. The ball just kept coming back his way though, be it via Stephenson or Duxbury or someone else in blue.
Massey for all my criticism was keeping his side afloat, as JG acted again sending Dixon on for Cowan.
This preceded another massive chance for County dished by another fine save by Pentney as Ball`s snap shot headed goal ward from Stephenson`s latest cross.
There was a minute left now, and County were still 2-1 down, as JG`s last throw of the dice saw George West on for Warburton, who had done well to last so long.
The first action however was at the wrong end as Odametey sped clear from deep with no cover at all up the park in front of Hinchliffe. It looked 3-1 for sure as the lanky number 4 charged on, tracked now by Dixon who was making ground rapidly to his rear.
"Don`t foul him……don`t foul him" I urged as the two met inside the box….and he didn`t ……..the cleanest of clean interventions saving the day for County- simply superb from Dixon!
But it got better, and quickly……as County piled back onto the attack, West latching onto Duxbury`s lofted cross to smash the ball home off a defender.
Wow……how excellent was that….very very .
County might have feared the 5 minutes of added time Mr D found for us, but instead it was they who might have clinched it in the time that remained- West twice unlucky at the death.
Oh…..and the Cheadle End were singing now too….and Stephenson was running………. Tackling, and there was now hope…real hope!
Extra Time then…..and it took County just 5 minutes of that to take the lead , and it started with captain Harry Winter who turned defence into brilliant attack by bringing the ball out from the back before sending Stephenson on a run. Dazzer then exchanged passes with Jimmy Ball before the latter fired home to send the EP faithful wild with excitement.
In the latter stages of the first 90 minutes, Maidenhead had briefly courted hugging the corner flag to spend some valuable minutes, but there was none of this now, as men in black / white shirts sped the ball to Hinchliffe to helpfully speed on his goal kicks! Lovely stuff!
County wanted a fourth and deciding goal for sure but both Stephenson and Dixon were luckless with shots shortly after, but the more important action happened at the other end where Odametey under the lightest of pressures from Winter went down like the proverbial ton of bricks right under the referee`s nose.
Now Saturday`s excellent referee Mr Samuel Allison, when faced with having to give a United player a second yellow ….did not…..now this was hardly any foul at all , and common sense dictated that Mr D follow Mr A`s example….but he didn`t and Harry had to walk condemning County to playing 20 minutes plus with a man short!
Hinchliffe saved the free kick though….and now the Danny Stand was making great noise as all 3 sides of EP gave it up for their team!
It was effective too- as Pentney somehow kept a rocket from Stephenson out with 3 minutes left of the first half of extra time.
Stephenson followed up with a fine bit of defensive work to stop Odametey with County under pressure.
This was brave…brave stuff from County…and if Stephenson was the stand out M.O.M the whole team were contributing- Smalley and O`Halloran doing really well to stop Steer from snatching the equaliser .
Into the second half of extra time we went, and it was still 3-2 to County-Dixon inches away with a flicked effort 3 minutes in.
Maidenhead still fancied their chances and the extra man must have given them confidence, but where was County`s confidence coming from- bottle it James and we`ll make a fortune!
With 8 minutes left of extra time Hinchliffe was exposed, the aforementioned, extra man telling seemingly. Marks was clear and the goal gaped when Hinchliffe went down to make the save, but Marks was airborne however and his 2 feet slammed into the County keeper as he made the save.
Well….Mr D …being a stickler……but no…..Marks stayed on the park- simply unbelievably bad reffing!
Still with 11 men on United got increasingly anxious- pumping ball after high ball into the box, as the referee obliged with a series of free kicks that added to the pressure on County`s heroic defence.
Hinchliffe was defiant in response -punching clear under pressure and solidity itself with his handling.
We were into the last minute or so now …..and….. unbelievably perhaps, County were in the Magpies last third taking the game to their opponents.
But Mr D was there too and he found another late/late free kick to turn a County attack into defensive action on their part. They were up to it…all of them…and Dixon proved it by emerging with the ball to snuff out another determined raid from the visitors.
One minute of added time saw County bat away 1….2….3….more high balls flung from distance into the box, and it was soon all over and the celebrations could begin.
And celebrations were well deserved and no one left before saluting a heroic team performance!
Really excellent stuff…. a team effort in every sense…….team…..all 3 stands…. the ground staff, well done all!
Here`s to the Quarter Final and a toughy against Brackley, but before that a National North game against Nuneaton this Saturday….will you be there or that one?
[ Photos from this amazing game are here! ]
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan( Dixon 88), Smalley, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Winter, Ball, Thomas, Oswell( Stopforth 74), Warburton( West 89), Stephenson.
Subs not used: Ormson, Clarke.
Maidenhead United line up
Pentney, Steer, Odametey, Massey, Comley, Hyde( Marks 88), Barratt, Clifton( Smith 78), Upward, Peters, Goodman( Kilman 80).
Subs not used; Owuso, Pritchard.
Attendance : 1131