County went down to a 2-0 defeat against high flying AFC Telford at the Bucks Head Stadium today.
The blues fought hard, but the home side had far too much savvy for them, and despite periods of County pressure, looked comfortable enough in the end.
The defence, with Duxbury again playing a blinder, defended doggedly, and well at times, but they needed the forwards to put some concerted pressure on our hosts, but despite 45 minutes from new man Battersby ,and a late run out for Liam Dickinson, they never really tested Bucks keeper Ryan Young , thus with ex Southport tyro Andy Owens running the Telford show, all the points went to the midland side.
A crash on the M6 resulted in the kick off being put back to 3.10, but quick action by the wily Lou, saw a neat detour take the Flyer clear of any carnage, and as a result there was plenty of time to take in the scenery, and the news that Mark Battersby was on the bench for County, but this cheery tit bit was balanced by the knowledge that Andy Owens and Shaun Whalley were starting for the Bucks and thus a real tussle was more or less guaranteed!
Pretty much all the noise, at kick off time, was emanating from the away end, but not all of this was as great and wonderful, in my opinion, as the vocalisers thought.
Instance…..I wonder how singing ” Get your tits out for the lads” motivates a female referee in terms of any 50/50`s – I am guessing it does not do us any favours, so why do it?
The game opened with Telford on the attack, but Wes Baynes was stopped by an inch perfect tackle from Kyle Jacobs just outside the box.
The pressure continued as ex Sandgrounder Shaun Whalley, joined the fray, lifting a ball into the box for Andy Owens to chase. He did……but so did Cowen, and he won out- his header clearing any danger.
I was looking for a response from County, but this would have to wait as Telford pushed on again forcing Cowen to concede a free kick 10 yards out in a central position. Simon Grand followed this in, but Dibble beat him to it nicely.
End of pressure?…..no…..not quite and Duxbury had to do some top class policing on Mike Phenix ,who was to emerge as the games most irritating waste of green space with a match long series of utterly boring dives.
Referee Sian Massey bought a fair few early on, but gradually sussed the divers out later on to a degree anyway.
Jacobs and Churchman at last managed to get County pushing forward next- Jacobs whipping a decent cross over, but Jevons was unable to make anything of this and it stayed 0-0.
This only served to coax Telford back onto the offensive, and Lees did well to nip a Whalley run in the bud with some neat defensive work.
The ball came back via Owens, being cleared again by Lees, and then Moses, but, with about 10 minutes gone it was already urgent that County get `time on the ball`….preferably in Telford`s half!
What we got ,for now anyway, was an Owens long throw ,and Grand got up well for this, but did less well with his header which went wide.
I was still waiting for that response from the blues when Owens cut inside past Jacobs within sniffing distance of goal.
It was a chance only briefly, as Lees tracked back to tidy up and rescue the situation.
Fifteen minutes had now gone by, and almost nothing had come back from County as yet and I winced to see Phenix dart clear, being thwarted only by the surfeit of oomph in the final ball from Baynes.
Then I winced again as Owens treated us to a flamboyant dive that referee Massey bought entirely! It was another potentially dire moment, but Dibble came out confidently to punch clear-situation sorted!
At last…on 19 minutes something stirred from County and it was Duxbury doing the stirring with a tasty overlapping run down the left.
The move ended with Howard`s over head kick missing out by a fair bit…but it was a start! Meanwhile another dive from Owens duped the referee setting Telford up with another free kick in an interesting position.
It was an interesting kick too, but Dibble was again in position to see it away, after an initial header by Cowen, keeping the score line blank!
County tried to respond but both Oates and Moke came unstuck trying to work something for County, resulting in another break by Whalley for Telford.
In no time he was on the edge of the box and then he was down, and the away end was howling in protest to a man/woman as the referee gave the home side a free kick in another kickable spot.
Benjamin took this, picking Lever out in front of goal, but Dibble`s dive saw him push the ball to safety and County breathed easily once again.
Relief was but temporary however ,and Owens really should have scored, on 22 minutes, having sneaked clear of his markers and having only Dibble to beat, but he snatched at the chance and stabbed the ball wide of goal, much to mine and County`s relief.
The relief was but brief however and the pressure was back on when a foul on Owens by Lees gave our hosts another free kick.
The kick was cleared comfortably enough, but trauma was around the corner and it started with a County attack. Moses had the ball……Howard didn`t and what`s more he was marked by at least one man who was breathing menacingly down his neck.
It was not the time for Moses to pass to the ex Chester man, but he did and unsurprisingly he didn`t get it…..Telford did and in a flash a break was on as Phenix went clear down the right before slipping a dangerous cross into the box.
No one in blue could react quickly enough, and Owens slid in as a consequence to force the ball home.
County were a goal down, and they needed to re-group rapidly, but it was not immediately happening, indeed a long ball saw Owens beat Duxbury and Cowen, forcing Dibble to tip the ball over the bar at the very last moment.
The corner then became a free kick when Lever went to ground, under pressure from Oates, but County survived with a mixture of good fortune and resilience.
Then….County replied with Moke inches from reaching a loose ball in the box, whereupon Oates went down like a ton of the proverbials, but the referee was unimpressed and the game went on.
It was at about this point that Telford propensity for things theatrical came back to bite them.
Dibble made an excellent save to keep Owens out, but before this Whalley had gone down under pressure from a County defender- there had been some contact…..and I have seen them given…..but the referee waved play on and that was that.
Had she sussed them? Possibly! Meanwhile County engineered a quick break as Telford indulged themselves in a seetheathon aimed at the referee – Jevons seeing his shot blocked first off, and Howard shooting wide with the follow up.
Good…I thought…let`s see more of the same, and they tried to oblige via Duxbury who followed neat defensive work with an incisive ball delivered into the box with something resembling precision.
Oates went for and got it, but his first time effort carried the bar with a bit to spare.
Duxbury was continuing in prime form and the 41st minute saw him stop Farrell with some excellent play after Cowen had been filleted well and truly- he then went on to make Phenix look a prime chump as an encore.
Into the last few minutes of the half and another prize chump revealed himself for Telford in the shape of Whalley who spoiled some otherwise excellent approach play by collapsing in an untidy heap when Jacobs took the ball off him with an immaculate tackle.
This was all happening under the referee`s nose in the box, and credit to her she had seen it clearly and didn`t award a penalty.
She did not book Whalley either, but she had got the penalty thing right so I was reasonably happy, as the teams went in at the break with 1 goal separating them..
When County returned to the fray they had Battersby on in place of Moke, but play opened with Lees acting quickly to stop County leaking an early 2nd goal, with County`s back line briefly in doze mode.
County survived the corner that followed……..Moses then got booked after an immaculately executed dive from the increasingly irksome Phenix had duped the referee, which was exceedingly annoying.
Things improved slightly though via a Duxbury ball into the box which went to the back post where Young just kept it out with Oates thundering in at pace to get it.
Now…..that was better, and more followed as a foul on Jacobs teed a free kick up for the blues smack in front of goal albeit outside the box. Lees fired a decent strike in from this but force of numbers told for Telford and County were thwarted.
Both sides took turns attacking, but without success-Farrel missing out at one end, and Howard at the other, but County were ever so gradually building up some momentum, it was just that nothing was really happening at the sharp end. Duxbury and Cowen by contrast kept the neat and tidy stuff coming in front of Dibble, and when they didn`t, on 64 minutes, Jevons was there to usher a shot off the line.
Things then were more or less OK at the back, we just needed a break at the other end, but instead we looked on impotently to watch Byrne find touch as Jevons found the route to goal blocked.
With Dickinson on for Howard, County had to soak up some pressure for a time , and they did it well, or so I told myself, but with just over 15 minutes left they leaked a further goal , as substitute Sean Clancy punished slackness from County by beating Dibble from close in.
Oates……Dickinson, and Duxbury all had efforts go close- Duxbury`s effort almost sneaking in under the bar, and corners came and went for the blues, but still it stayed 2-0. …..and again, as Oates lifted a chance over the bar, with about 5 minutes left.
Telford had their moments too late on, with Byrne missing the target with a free header, and Clancy stopped by a fine Dibble save after the number fifteen had tricked his way past a line of blue shirts.
County kept trying to the final whistle, but without looking that likely to reduce the arrears.
Three points lost to Telford is disappointing ,but not totally unexpected, County are still well placed to finish the season in a decent position in the league.
The push start next Saturday against Solihull Moors- see you there!
County line up;
Dibble, Jacobs, Duxbury, Cowen, Lees, Moses, Churchman, Moke( Battersby 45), Jevons, Oates , Howard ( Dickinson 67).
Subs not used; Ormson, Lofthouse, Fagbola.
AFC Telford line up;
Young, Baynes, Lever, Byrne, Grand, Benjamin, Whalley, Barnett, Owens, Farrell, Phenix.
AFC Telford 2 County 0
County went down to a 2-0 defeat against high flying AFC Telford at the Bucks Head Stadium today.