[ Written By Ian Brown ]
County`s first visit to Laithwaite Community Stadium for some time seemed to be going so well, as a bright start saw Danny Lloyd claim his first goal since his return to County colours giving James Gannon`s team a lead within 4 minutes of the start.
Alex Wall equalised , for Woking ,6 minutes later but, whilst the games flow was constantly being interrupted by a stream of cheap free-kicks for precious little, there was every indication that County had the measure of their red/ white-shirted opponents.
Enter Referee Alan Dale to thoroughly banjax thoughts of a County triumph, with a display of one-sided reffing that left memories of the Harrow Horrors worst offerings against us, in the shade looking like the epitome of correctitude and fairness when held up against Mr Dale`s performance today.
It was quite simply awful to watch violent fouls on Walker, Minihan and Keane not even pick up a card for the perpetrators, whilst County picked up a plethora of late bookings ( Bell and Lloyd)for fouls that were largely committed on them!
I must calm down ……and try and remember other aspects of the game, but that is not easy this being written within an hour of the game`s finish!
Well, there was the Lloyd goal- a real belter……and an outstanding display by Jordan Keane who I had as County`s stand out performer at both ends of the park, and overall I did feel that, given a level playing field, the green & black-shirted Blues would have held sway!
I always felt we could nick one late on, but with every County break flagged offside to add to the officials roll of dishonour, and their forward momentum constantly being disrupted, long before added time it became plain that this was a mere pipe dream on my part!
Over 300 County fans made the trip to Surrey to support their team giving their heroes as warm a welcome as they came out, as I can recall hearing for a while!
After some initial probing from both teams it was County first on the offensive, but Lloyd`s surging run was cut out by a neat last gasper from Jack Cook. County piled forward from this, but more disappointment came their way when Keane took an elbow , going down when he was looking likely to get a shot off. Violent conduct in my view, but although the referee gave a free-kick nothing at all was the outcome as far as Wall was concerned- diabolical!
The free-kick came to nought, but County , via good work by McAlinden, won themselves a corner as Woking defensive linchpin Moussa Diarra did brilliantly to deny the County forward.
Up stepped Sam Walker to replicate last Saturday`s delivery for Hogan`s goal with a kick that flew off Thomas`s offered head to the lurking Lloyd who slammed a belter home!
County were energised by this , but home keeper Craig Ross dampened their ardour with a neat save to keep Keano`s effort out.
This was sparkling stuff from County, but McAlinden shot wide on 7 minutes to again take the edge off slightly.
Then it went a bit pear-shaped.
It started with County conceding a throw that was hurled a prodigious distance into the blue box, where Wall forced it home with County way too slow to react.
No matter, I thought, County had the power with them, but no one had told Cook and another neat tackle by him stopped Lloyd`s latest run.
There then followed a tiresome period of petty fouls and none fouls countered by free kick after free kick ( for both sides) that left us a poor spectacle to witness, if we could score from one such…….but…..after Thomas had forced a corner, Keane following up almost put Lloyd in again, only for the home defences to deny him, after a most unholy scramble in front of the Woking goal that saw Cook in action yet again clearing the ball off the line.
We were beyond 30 minutes now, and County were still striving for that second goal, and striving hard, only for Minihan to become the latest player to take an elbow in the face from Wall. It was so …so blatant, and the referee cannot in all conscience, say he did not see it because he gave County a free-kick, but that again was all he did…ok he did have the briefest of words with Wall but really…………… Keano and Minihan`s travails were by no means the only ones, Walker`s later, being uppermost of the others being comprehensively mollied and forced to leave the field following treatment ( briefly ) after hearing that the free-kick went to Woking.
This was beyond annoying, and my concentration was shot now, as I watched an Osborne shot fly wide from McAlinden`s pass.
County had some defending to do also with half time nearing, as a series of free-kicks pinned them in their last third. The inconveniently monikered Max Kretzschmar went close in this period and a shot from Jamar Loza was deflected onto the top of the bar, but despite a clutch of late corners the first half ended with it still one apiece.
I hoped for better from the second 45 minutes, but without holding my breath at all.
Cowan and Thomas were replaced by Jackson and Bell when the teams returned to the action, and County were quickly forced to survive an early reprise of Woking`s equalising goal, as the ball was again hurled deep into the County box by the men in red and white- County survived the experience fairly comfortably.
But it was alarming to see Woking on the front foot and Hinchliffe did well to keep a shot on the turn by Tarpey out.
Eventually County came back at their opponents, and Ross did well to make a save at the foot of a post with black/green shirts hungrily on his case.
Osborne found his route to goal abruptly cut off just inside the box next, but I was unsure as to the legality of that tackle so I will leave it at that.
On it went with County attacking but Mc Alinden was halted as he entered the box at speed by a no-nonsense limb threatener from Gerring. This looked to be both a penalty and a sending off for me…every day of this and every other week!
Nothing was given of course, and Keane had to produce some excellent work under pressure when our hosts hit us on the break almost immediately.
Corners came and went for County with no reward for good work by the likes of Lloyd, Osborne and Jackson, and it was not long before Woking responded via free-kicks and corners that pushed the Blues onto the back foot.
County defended well it must be said, but JG moved to bolster the defensive element( and acknowledge the basic nature of the challenge on McAlinden by replacing him with Festus Arthur for the last 20 minutes).
Festus was in the mix straight away heading another troublesome Woking throw out of harm`s way.
Having said I thought County most likely to win, the 71 st minute ushered in a moment Wall, for Woking, will want to quickly forget.
The neatest of through balls saw him one on one with an exposed Hinchcliffe, who was long odds second favourite in the encounter, but he dragged the poorest of shots well wide – a real chance gone!
Then Osborne broke clear…offside we were asked to believe…..
Woking were under severe pressure now, and then they were not as Mr Dale saw the danger off with a blast of his whistle and a free-kick to Woking.
In rapid order both Osborne and Lloyd were mugged without redress, then Bell was hauled down and to our utter amazement was then booked with Woking getting the free-kick.
I am aware at this point, how this sounds…`it`s old hedgie`s paranoia `you will be saying….how dare you !
But please…anyone who was there… how did you see it all?
Meanwhile Mr Dale went from exceedingly bad to considerably worse by speaking to JG – what a nerve the guy has!
A cheap free-kick…followed that, and a clutch of awesomely bad decisions- corners that in actuality should have been goal kicks……..County had much defending to do as the corners came and went, and `went` they did as Woking were woeful finishers, Wall adding to this view by sending a poor header wide from another of those wind-borne throws.
At last County got a free-kick and it almost resulted in a goal as Ross just kept Osborne`s goal-bound effort out. He held the corner to boot as well.
The last gasp in normal time saw Neufville nip to the by-line and then make a total wakes of his shot that went out for a throw-in.
Then …deep in added time…I lost interest in the proceedings as Mr Dale donned his pointy shoes and revolving bow tie to perpetrate his worst one yet…
It was a lulu….Lloyd had just shown the ball to Kane Ferdinand before leaving him for dead, except as Lloyd made to dart away the defender attempted a shirt exchange, stopping Lloyd in his tracks. Any rational man would have seen it as it was and shown Ferdinand the appropriate coloured card, but Ferdinand seasoned the mix somewhat by falling to earth and not budging other than to clutch his face.
Well eventually the referee did book Ferdinand, but not before carding Lloyd first-totally and utterly absurd!.
What a nonsense…Jackson`s free-kick saw Bell`s shot whiz inches wide with the keeper beaten.
The game was over and the points shared,despite being a decent effort by County under almost impossible circumstances, it almost felt irrelevant…………………
Why ? well….Liam McAlinden was revealed to be in hospital after coughing up blood- a sad indictment of the total lack of protection extended to County today by Mr Dale!
We wish Liam well!
Woking line up :-
Ross, Cook, Casey, Gerring, Diarra, Tarpey ( Neufville 75), Ferdinand, Kretzshmar ( Poku 75), Dempsey, Loza, Wall.
Subs not used : Howes, Collier, Donnellan.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Hogan, Cowan ( Jackson 45), Walker, Keane, Thomas ( Bell 45), McAlinden ( Arthur 69), Ossborne, Lloyd.
Subs not used : Ormson, Dimaio.
Attendance : 2189 ( 310)