What a week…….I didn`t water `the rose` result it bloomed magnificently
I did though join the `Pastafarians` signing up for their `Gospels` or more accurately their `We`d Rather You Didn’t`s` and I bought a cullender!
So…I was well set up for a visit to the Horsfall Stadium!
Having previously made umpteen visits to this dank and dismal Yorkshire outpost, with differing outcomes, I was not wholly certain what to expect this time. County had opened the season pretty well, but Park Avenue were showing signs of early life under new management.
In the event it was a game that County should have won. They had the lions share of the chances and always looked the side most likely of the two to score, their moves having much more about them than those of our hosts.
They had the opportunities too, most specifically almost bang on half-time when Kirby was fouled in the box by Clee. It should have been 1-0 then, but the tamest of kicks by Warburton ensured that it wasn`t.
Some 35 minutes later it was 1-0 as Warburton rifled home a beauty from Bell`s pass, but County failed to press home their advantage, and worse…..neglected to do the basics and clear their lines cleanly, and were punished when Adam Nowakowski scored from close in with just 2 minutes of normal time left to play.
I could mention pitch invasions ( 2 ), but really it’s getting too tiresome to waste time and energy on these again.
There were changes in County`s starting line up as the game kicked off, there being no place ( except on the bench) for either Cowan or Stephenson, and Palmer was again absent due to injury. This brought starts for Dimaio, Smalley and Kirby which was interesting.
Even early on County looked lively and dangerous, with Minihan linking up with Warburton and Dimaio to good effect, and with Keane looking immense at the back and Turnbull busy as ever further forward, there was much to be hopeful about in those first few minutes.
Park Avenue did get an early corner, but this was defended well by County who immediately countered, winning a free kick as the home back line lapsed into panic mode.
The fifth minute saw Minihan whip a cross over to where Kirby lurked in the box. A quick turn on the ball saw Kirby fire in a shot that required a decent save from Avenue`s experienced keeper Steve Drench to keep it out.
Then…yet again County lost a key man early doors as Mulhern took a heavy knock and had to be substituted with 10 minutes gone, Bell coming on in his place.
County were unsettled by this, and Jamie Spencer nicked a corner as a result.
There were 3 ex Hatters in the BPA starting 11, and one of them, Mark Ross, fancied his chances from the flag kick, only to send his header wide.
Back came County, almost inevitably initially via Minihan, but Warburton`s effort from Sam`s pass was charged down in the box, as Minihan, Bully and Warburton all took turns to probe the home back line without conspicuous success.
There was no doubting that Minihan was on song…..up to the by-line one moment but failing to test Drench with his shot….then almost immediately back at the other end finding touch to stop a BPA raid.
Eighteen minutes had gone, and County were playing some neat football, and all in their opponents half, a link up twixt Bell and Dimaio seeing the latter go close, the ball coming out off a post amidst some confusion at the back for Avenue. Havern eventually ended their angst by executing the required clearance.
The 20th minute saw a rare half-chance for Bradford, but it fell to Nicky Clee who having seized on a loose ball just outside the box, then sprayed a poor effort well wide.
That served to emphasise the lack of firepower coming from our hosts, and more evidence of this would emerge throughout the game from another former blue, Ben McKenna. Ben looked hyper all game long …on the ball for quite a lot, but without anything in the way of artillery to follow the possession up with.
County looked altogether more tuned up, and I was not that convinced, 24 minutes in, that Oli Johnson had not handled the ball whilst stopping a run, in the box, by Warburton.
Kirby was getting forward with something approaching regularity, and the latest run from him had the home defence decidedly not in a good place- Drench easing matters somewhat with a good save that saw him push Kirby`s second effort in a few moments around the post. The corner from this saw the lively Dimaio almost set Kirby up with a shooting chance, but the home back line held out and it stayed 0-0.
On it went in much the same vein …..Havern foiling another Kirby run……..Drench beating Bell to Dimaio`s superb through ball, and Dawson doing well to block the path to goal as Kirby and Warburton bore down on same.
We were getting close to halftime now, and it looked too good to be true when Clee lumbered into Kirby bringing him down in the box!
James Bell, the Referee, wasted no time in pointing to the spot, as I clambered for as good a position from which to capture the moment! Well…..the moment arrived…and I captured it, but it was a considerable let down to see Warburton`s kick saved by Drench.
That was so disappointing and must have buoyed Avenue up a tad, as Bully`s free-kick rang down the curtain on the first half with Smalley and Bell straining unsuccessfully to beat the keeper to it.
The second half opened with County blazing away at the home goal……a Dimaio volley carrying the bar from an early County corner, and Shane Killock, who I made a key man for his side, doing enough to stop Kirby`s run just 2 minutes into the half.
County continued to dominate possession- Minihan active at both ends of the park putting himself constructively about.
It really did look just a matter of time before County would score, but after Agnew had won a corner Branson`s headed clearance saw to it that County had to wait for that opener.
Drench was a busy lad and did well to keep Dimaio out just before the hour mark, Walker going close from outside the box not long after.
Some pressure followed on County …briefly via a free kick, but this soon went away with the white-shirted blues defending doggedly.
Up the park things were continuing in the same vein with Havern blocking Dimaio in the box, and Killock getting another vital headed clearance in, to ensure Askew`s cross came to nothing.
It was at this juncture that a pimply youth thought it amusing to snatch my hat, and head off with it ( held by 2 stewards). As I say he thought it funny…it wasn’t, and neither will anyone( other than our promotion rivals) be particularly tickled if that `pitch invasion` and the larger one that followed later, cost the Club.
Stephenson was now on for Kirby, but Askew needed to do good work to deny a Ross/ Knight link up as the duo pushed on down the right.
County responded winning a corner through Askew. Dimaio took the kick, only to see Stephenson`s effort come back out off a defender.
It was pretty much wall to wall County attacking now…we just needed a goal…and there was beginning to be an element of urgency about it too!
Askew was still trying, Warburton as well, but had no answer to Killock who made a decisive clearance as he made to head home Askew`s cross.
There were 15 minutes left now, and there seemed to be plenty of urgency about County`s work – Walker driving them on, and Bell unlucky to see his shot charged down.
Credit to BPA however…they knew that despite County`s domination of possession, they still had a chance in the game as things stood, and Askew again did good work under pressure, but alarmingly County then contrived to give the ball away to bring the pressure back on again!
County survived that little difficulty, as JG brought Mantack on for Dimaio .
This signalled a fresh wave of County attacking as the ever-energetic Keane saw his shot whistle inches over the bar!
Yes…Bradford were under the cosh, and at last, with 11 minutes left, they cracked!
The ball found its way to Bell some 30 yards out, and he slipped it neatly inside to Warburton who was not much nearer to goal when he let fly with the fiercest of drives that took off and almost took the netting from its supports. It was 1-0…. And the game was County`s for the taking!
This did seem to give County a lift, and after the pitch invasion had been sorted, Warburton returned the compliment to Bell only to see him lift his effort over the bar.
There were around 7 minutes remaining when Bully got a booking for a little bit of trouble twixt him and McKenna.
McKenna was continuing to try to get something from the game, but there were no takers, in the 85th minute as his cross whizzing across goal from the left.
That was slightly alarming – one touch and …1-1.
We survived though and again as McKenna combined with Clee down the left.
Four minutes left then became three as Askew again did good work to block Knight who threatened down the right.
Then……with just 2 minutes left…..it happened. Keane had just made a decent headed clearance under pressure, but I waited in vain for anyone in white to react and clear their lines, but it did not happen and Adam Nowakowski forced the equaliser home from close in.
That was disappointing, and despite much late effort from County involving free kicks…corners and much sweat being produced and lost, we just could not snatch the game back, indeed a late/ late rally by BPA, with the added danger of a cloud hugging long throw, might have made matters worse. It did not though…County held out for a point!
It’s a moot point as to whether it’s a point won or two lost- you pays your money……..
Whichever view you take, we do still have an away point to our credit, and we are still up there in sniffing distance of the top, so, Palmer back, and eventually Duxbury and we will have every chance.
It’s much too early in the season to be pessimistic- there are 2 tough games coming up in the next nine days, and County need our support!
[ Great pictures from Bradford (including htat rose (and cullenders?) can be found here ! ]
Bradford Park Avenue line up:
Drench, Ross, Clee, Branson, Killock, Havern, McKenna, Dawson( Wroe 54), Beesley, Johnson( Knight 58), Spencer( Nowakowski 72).
Subs not used: Atkinson, Boshell.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Keane, Smalley, Askew, Walker, Turnbull, Dimaio( Mantack 75), Mulhern ( Bell 11), Warburton, Kirby ( Stephenson 63).
Subs not used; Ormson, Cowan.