An extremely disciplined performance by County saw them share the points in a goal-less draw at the Horsfall Stadium today, against a Bradford Park Avenue side that defended their unbeaten home record with more than a hint of resolve.
Jim set County up to claim a win if one was at all claimable, but despite Brodie and Anoruo having Marsden starting up front with them, this did not quite work out as County wished.
Giant Bradford keeper Jon Stewart was not troubled greatly throughout the 90 odd minutes, but County`s Henderson could say the same also ,with both defences working overtime to stop any trouble at source.
For Avenue I had Jason St Juste in the van of the home defensive effort, whilst for County O`Hanlon made shed loads of neat interventions as did Connolly at RB.
Further forward, for Bradford, Lamin Colley seemed to relish his chance to take a pot at his former employers, but along with his team mates he found chances hard to come by. For County, hard workers abounded but I had Ledsham and Menagh ahead of the pack in this respect.
In the end a share in the spoils was probably about right, if a tad disappointing for anyone making the trip from Cheshire. For myself the whole experience was somewhat spoiled by the intervention of stewards during the first half, but I will say more later on this ???
Back at 3 o`clock , braving the biting Yorkshire winds , a crowd of just under 700 took up their positions, but not before all and sundry saluted the valiant marchers who had made the trek, on foot, all the way twixt Stockport and Bradford in support of Michelle.
County were the first onto the front foot, and a 4 minute period followed in which, with Menagh to the fore, they pushed forward, but they found the home defence, particularly Jason St Juste, resolute in response.
Ex County striker Lamin Colley was the first to raise the siege for Avenue, but his rumbustious run was undermined by a clumsy foul en- route, and County were able to clear from the resultant free kick.
I took Colley`s effort to be a blip for a time, as County went back on the attack through Anoruo who went head to head with the home keeper, urged on by a series of throws from Connolly that had St Juste and company on their toes.
It wasn`t a blip though, and Colley did his best to emphasise this, and O`Hanlon did well to block him and find touch after the number 11 had been picked out by a Craig King cross from the by-line.
It went on with County forced to concede a free kick, that Mike Potts lifted lamely over the bar??then a corner as Luke Dean took a pot from just outside the box.
Another corner quickly followed, and County managed to work this clear and set up a break that Marsden was unlucky to see St Juste in position to deflect wide.
Marsden was on the ball with commendable speed from the corner that followed as well, but his powerful drive carried the bar causing Stewart no issues at all.
After this?? things got a touch irritating,Colley had just seen another shot blocked after King had picked him out from the by-line once more, when I was accosted by a steward( the same steward I had confirmed my Vanarama accreditation to earlier) He was soon joined by a supervisor who demanded that I retire behind the barriers to take my photographs.
I again explained the Vanarama situation and showed both my accreditation confirmation and the emails I had sent to BPA prior to the match( well in advance) as their website instructs.
The Safety Officer ( at the end of an intercom system) was adamant ?.I could not stand on the touchline( which I wasn`t doing at anytime anyway) and anyway` I might get hit by the ball or otherwise injured` the faceless voice insisted.
A full 7 minutes was wasted explaining that I could only get Vanarama accreditation by having insurance ( for £2m )to take account of such a possibility!
They eventually relented, but a large chunk of the game had passed me by, which was very very annoying, particularly as I always advise host clubs that I am covering matches as a courtesy and to comply with my license requirements.
“Enough of this” I hear you exclaim ,and you are correct, so?when I resumed my position I noticed County ,through Menagh and Marsden, push our hosts into their last third again, where St Juste did enough to see the danger off.
Meanwhile Luke Dean worked his way into the box for Bradford only to fall over his own legs and rather spoil it all.
A great block from Ledsham followed, conceding a corner but averting worse as Chilaka was allowed rather too much ground down the right , and when Henderson made one of many confident catches the danger was averted,but it wasn`t?.as first Dean and then Colley came back at County, who were indebted to O`Hanlon whose cool head in a crisis sorted both situations, without cost.
With half time approaching, it was beginning to get a touch concerning,Bradford were steadily getting more time on the ball,and a lot of it was in County`s half of the field, and I groaned as Dean sneaked a cheeky free kick in a decent position. I was concerned, as I said, but I need not have been, as Nathan Turner launched his free kick way over Henderson`s bar.
There seemed little respite from this attacking from the Yorkshire side, only the finishing was missing, but Connolly took no chances, his excellent tackle stopping King before a shot materialised.
Not much came back after this from County before the break?.Anoruo looked on for a break before being flagged offside, and Roberts endeavoured to create something with a couple of throws deep in home half, but the referee soon ended the half and the teams trooped off the park with it still 0-0.
It was Avenue who were first out of the blocks when the game re-started, with the sun blazing down incongruously from behind Henderson`s goal.
The early Bradford flurry took a few minutes to abate, and when it did County almost made them pay, and only the keenest of reactions by keeper Stewart prevented Menagh from opening the scoring for County. It was a close call for sure!
Anoruo was next to bob his head above the parapet, but his shot flew disappointingly wide. Only a somewhat lack lustre effort from Dean came back from Bradford, before Jim made his first personnel change bringing Odejayi on for Brodie.
Things got a tad end to end next briefly , both sides almost working an unmissable opening, but just failing??
Then County began to ease themselves back into the game more ?.free kicks coming their way largely through fouls on Menagh who was getting forward to good effect supported by the likes of Ledsham and Montrose. Marsden had one?two shots?.both decent efforts but dealt with well first by St Juste then Stewart whose reaction save somehow kept it at 0-0.
The County momentum was building now, and Menagh was running the home side ragged down the left drawing foul after foul, and unlucky at one point to be flagged offside when he was nothing of the kind and on for a break!
It was good stuff from County, but Avenue still had an eye to hit us on the counter attack , but no one in white turned up to add a finish to Dean`s cross with about 25 minutes left of the game.
A foul on Marsden was ignored next allowing Dean more time on the ball in the County half. County defended the situation well, but Henderson was called upon to make a save midst the action to keep it at 0-0.
Back came County through Menagh?who was clattered by Turner who was booked for his pains, or more accurately?Menagh`s. Somehow Avenue managed to clear the danger, but with Ledsham doing brilliantly to prevent a break out by Potts?County were back on the attack?.
First off through Anoruo, but he found the route to goal blocked ,then via another free kick that Menagh sent inches wide of goal. It went on,Menagh`s next shot deflected for a corner,Turner hooking the ball clear from under the bar as O`Hanlon`s header came his way.
It was disappointing to see all this attacking come to nought, but Henderson prevented my disappointment getting any worse with a neat stop to deny Turner.
County meanwhile were still trying for that winner, and Anoruo was only stopped from reaching Ledsham`s deft flick on by yet another foul. Charlie Russell came on for Marsden before the kick could be taken , and when is was Stewart was on top of his job and the chance was gone.
Straight off Russell was in the action – his neat work seeing the ball on to Odejayi and then on to Montrose, whose shot was deflected wide.
Nothing came of this latest corner. We had gained a large number of free kicks and corners in this half and not made one count, would we pay the price for this ?
Midst all the attacking excitement, O`Hanlon proved he was still tuned in correctly- inch perfect in his response as Chilaka threatened down the right.
County responded through Charlie Russell who picked Ledsham out with a beautifully weighted cross field ball. Ledsham moved the ball on inside to Montrose who was only kept out by excellent last ditch work from Turner.
End to end?not quite?but Bradford were still trying for that winner themselves,Henderson smothering a shot that Colley for a moment or three thought might creep in, and on hand again to deny Chilaka as his header came at him from close in.
Smith was now on for Menagh, as Roberts headed another effort from Colley out, and I looked away as within a minute another header from the ex County man thudded into the cross bar.
I was looking at my watch now, and hoping that the referee was too, as Dean sprayed a shot into the next County after Chilaka had forced a corner from almost nothing.
Into added time we went( 3 minutes of it) with County coming back at their opponents as Russell combined nicely with Anoruo and Odejayi.
Nothing came of the move?or Montrose ‘ shot that came after. Odejayi did turn the home defence brilliantly at one point only to find St Juste there to block and clear.
County kept having a goal to the death, none more than Russell whose latest run, after winning improbable possession, saw him again upended just outside the box. In Menagh`s absence, Smith took the kick but it went wide, and that was about it?the game was over and the points were shared!
On to Brackley next Saturday then ?will young George be there? I find myself wondering,I hope so!
[ No goals but some cracking pictures all the same can be found here ]
Bradford Park Avenue line up:
Stewart, Patterson, St Juste, Turner, Qualter, Priestley, King, Dean, Chilaka, Potts, Colley.
Subs not used;
Ainge, Schofield, Kebbie, Chipendale, Terrell.
Stockport County line up:
Henderson, Connolly, O`Hanlon, Smalley, Roberts, Montrose, Menagh( Smith 85), Anoruo, Brodie( Odejayi 55), Marsden( Russell 80), Ledsham.
Subs not used:
Attendance : 687