[ Written By Ian Brown ]
County battled hard to again come back from 0-1 down to secure a valuable point today at Huish Park against Yeovil Town.
This is the second time in two games, James Gannon`s County side have done so against teams that just a few months earlier were 2 divisions above them.
Compared to Tuesday in Nottinghamshire, this trip to Somerset had the look of a vicarage tea party about it with the 270 hugely supportive County supporters who braved the gruelling trip via M6 M5 etc ,split twixt terrace and stand, still hoarse from earlier in the week.
That was off the park- on it, proceedings resembled a war zone at times as Referee Samuel Allison was kept busy booking pretty much all the home side, at one time or another- such was the ill-discipline shown by Darren Sarrl`s side.
By way of contrast, and as usual, the blues retained their focus throughout, and after conceding a first half goal from Courtney Duffus, struck with typical aplomb with just 2 minutes left via a superbly executed ( Thomas) and initiated ( Dimaio) goal.
County deserved no less, and they might have snatched a full haul of points with a shade of luck in what remained of the game.
I did not have a M.O.M but thought Palmer, Keane , Cowan and Turnbull were impressive throughout, and JG`s substitutes were top notch- Thomas & Dimaio in particular- Thomas running for ever seeking scraps from nowt and nicking one in the process, and Dimaio who was in sparkling form on getting on the park, claiming the assist!
The Flyer got us to Huish Park for 2.15, which with not that much to do thereabouts , that was just about right.
It was interesting to note that JG, after the encouraging display in Tuesday` second half, was opting for 3 at the back ( Cowan, Palmer and Keane) with Minihan and Jackson providing width as wing backs. Up front there was a two as Bell and Mulhern were paired together.
These were good moves in my view, attacking moves, and well worth a try, but we would see just how it panned out as the game got underway.
Amazingly…after travelling through constant rain and wind en route to Yeovil, the ground was bathed in sunshine as the game got underway.
Neither keeper were at all troubled in the first 5 minutes as both sides tentatively sought an opening.
Town were the first to look anything like dangerous, a long throw putting County under pressure until a neat bit of work by Hinchliffe stopped the rot.
That was 7 minutes in, one minute on, and County had a free kick to defend, but they did this without alarms to at last strike back.
Cowan was instrumental in this, as he would be throughout the game, and Mulhern might have turned Dan`s pass into a golden first goal, had not Albi Skendi ( Town`s top man for me) made a crucial intervention- his first of many!
From Skendi it went to Courtney Duffus, and Town had a break on, but only until Keane arrived on the scene, and the danger departed.
It was an interesting if not incredibly exciting game, and already it was notable that the home side wanted something from it, and Palmer and Keane were to prove an essential element in County resisting this.
Tom Whelan joined the fray for the Glovers, his pass sending Lee Collins clear, but Walker did well to stop his run albeit at the cost of a corner. This briefly offered Town hope of something to cheer, but a foul on Hinchliffe negated said opportunity.
By now …..18 minutes had gone, and it was getting all `Emergency Ward 10 `ish ( sorry young un`s -ask your dad!)as a promising break by Osborne was met by a limb threatening foul challenge by Collins. OK…we now had a free kick, and it was about 5 yards outside the box, but the break had looked good, and the kick by Osborne went down keeper Nelson`s throat, to stoke up the angst!
Osborne was looking in decent nick again, but less than a minute later his snap effort was deflected around the post for a corner, that saw Nelson lucky to escape a prodigious flap under pressure. The ball was hooked clear by Skendi and the chance was gone.
A period of County pressure gave way, 20 minutes in, as Town got a rare free kick. They wasted it, but from it managed to nick one.
There seemed to be no danger when Craig Alcock got the ball, even when he took a pot at goal as his effort was blocked. But the ball, instead of being cleared, ran on to Duffus who slipped a neat finish under Hinchliffe`s diving body into the net!
That was a blow, and County to their credit replied quickly again being thwarted by a foul as they shaped a break. This brought a corner in its wake, but no more for County who looked to be in trouble as Lawson D`ath broke from deep for the men in green and white. It did look interesting from a locals point of view, but it all went pear shaped in familiar fashion as Duffus went into the Referee`s book for a wince inducing foul on Bully. Had Town`s discipline held……….
Meanwhile County were the epitome of discipline, with a touch of bite in there too, but Bell`s shot, 26 minutes in, fizzed inches over Nelson`s bar.
County were building the momentum now and Skendi did brilliant work for his team stopping another Cowan gem from reaching Bell in front of goal. The corner that followed offered another chance for the blues, but with Bell putting muscular pressure on the home back line, Minihan hooked the ball over the bar.
Yeovil were by no means completely out of it, indeed between the periods of blue pressure, the Glovers enjoyed more time on the ball than perhaps was comfortable for County and their supporters.
Handball by Murphy brought a raid by Yeovil to an abrupt end, on 37 minutes, and the home specs angst increased with another County free kick for the umpteenth foul on Osborne as he broke from deep.
It was getting tiresome now, and we needed County to punish this nonsense, and their intent to do this was evident as, after Osborne had taken the previous kicks, Walker stepped up for this one, and their was an immediate divi in prospect as Palmer made to get on the end of it, only to be impeded by one of several defenders in front of goal.
It looked a foul….a penalty…to me , but Mr Allison thought otherwise, and over all I have no complaint about this custodian of whistle and notebook !
It went on…..County pressing with absolutely no luck at all….Osborne taking more painful knocks….County getting more free kicks, without making the home defenders pay for their ongoing indiscretions.
The blues kept pegging away though, and Skendi again did wonders stopping Bell from snatching that equaliser close to half time. But…hang on….the move was still alive , and the ball was with Mulhern, who leathered it goal ward in fine style. It was going in…it was…it was…. but Nelson threw himself sideways to tip the pill over the bar!
Bugger……there was time for more County pressure, but Palmer`s effort cleared the bar and the teams went in with County still trailing Yeovil by 1 to nil.
There were no changes in County`s line up upon the re-start, but there was a determined look about them as Skendi continued to thwart the blues by preventing Mulhern`s incisive pass from teeing Bell up in front of goal.
A corner resulted but this was cleared, ushering a reply by Town that saw D`ath`s strike fly well wide.
Back came County through Osborne but a coruscating drive from him saw Nelson dive to tip the ball over the bar! Corners followed, but no goal despite both Minihan and Jackson getting forward to good effect.
Was it all County?
No…..Town did reply, but not that impressively as Murphy dragged poor effort wide on the break.
On it went, with Frank almost rounding the keeper from one of Hinchliffe`s long one`s.
County were warming to their task now, and Bell was ever so unlucky to see a thumping drive just clear the bar.
Some brave County defending then kept a determined reply from our hosts at bay, and Skendi did likewise as County hit Town from deep.
Beyond the hour County had Thomas on for Bell, and Kirby for Walker, but this period was notable mostly for Nelson getting into trouble with the admirable Mr Allison. It was a matter of ball placement…. but amicable agreement could not be reached on the matter thus the Referee carded the keeper much to the amusement of the 270 to the left and right of me.
The fresh legs, brought added impetus to the County forward push and Minihan and Thomas were getting forward nicely as was Cowan, as the blues sought that equaliser.
Skendi`s foul on Frank , 67 minutes in, almost saw Palmer in from the free kick, but it was still 0-1, and we needed a goal and maybe quickly.
As at Nottingham on Tuesday, our opponents continued to have their moments, but still without any real venum at all- Hinchliffe catching well under pressure from Hutton`s lofted ball to the back post, and then pulling off a decent diving save to push a shot by Worthington round the post.
That was about it as far as Town were concerned, as County continued their quest for an equalising goal- Nelson and Skendi doing well to stem the blue tide as Turnbull and Cowan , aided by Thomas`s chase everything ethic, put the home side under the cosh.
The 77th minute saw Hinchliffe in action again, but so was Nelson and his was a good stop to deny Thomas.
With 11 minutes left JG made his last change, bringing Dimaio on for Minihan, and within a couple of minutes Connor was mere inches away with a drive on the end of a fine move.
Again Dimaio won the ball only for Collins to block Mulhern`s attempt to get on the end of the resultant ball.
Some quality moves were going down now, but without so much as a scintilla of luck, as in rapid order the offside flag did for County raids!
I began to wonder…..would we make it…..but I looked around to see Nelson tip Osborne`s goal bound shot over the top. I was looking forward to the corner, but the liners flag was up again …for offside!
I was still bemoaning that last action when matters suddenly improved beyond measure as Dimaio slipped the ball to Thomas who rounded the keeper to slot the equaliser home.
Cue…. celebrations, and rightly so, that was well deserved and brilliantly worked for and executed!
Into added time we went with Kirby going close twice, and Mulhern and Thomas close too.
The last action saw Osborne win the ball at the back , and get a foul for his pains as he fashioned a break. The kick flew harmlessly wide and that was the game put to bed!
Not the best game I have ever watched, but a decent performance by County in difficult circumstances, and for sure…a good result upon which to build on as we acclimatise to life at this level after 6 long years languishing in Division 6!
Keep the faith !
See you Tuesday!
Yeovil Town line up:-
Nelson, Alcock, Collins, Worthington, D`ath, Murphy, Duffus, Skendi, Bradbury, Whelan ( McCoy 88), Hutton.
Subs not used ; Seager, Ojo, Shako, Driscoll.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Palmer, Keane, Minihan ( Dimaio 79), Jackson, Walker ( Kirby 64) Mulhern, Bell ( Thomas 59), Osborne.
Subs not used: Ormson, Arthur.
Attendance : 2606 (270)