[ Written by Ian Brown ]
County faced down a considerable physical challenge from Chesterfield today ,inflicting a first away defeat of the season on the Spirites at sun kissed Edgeley Park, to emerge with 3 points from an encounter that will have done nothing but good to the Blues morale as they proceed along the giant learning curve that is the National League.
Backed by a large and noisy following, the Spirites went for it from the off, dominating most of the possession in the first half, restricting County to just one half hit strike, from Osborne, late on in the half.
I think it was Confucius who would oft times opine that ` what use was it to exist continually pumping long hopeful stuff , at big guys yonder, when there`s nothing else in your bag?` A modern sage might shorten that to `where`s the beef` and that about summed the visitors up. Faced with implacable defence from Keane and Palmer and busily wonderful midfield magic from Turnbull, there was indeed nothing in the Spirites bag!
Keane and Palmer were immense, but I am going to invent a word to describe Turnbull`s contribution……he was immenser……a master of the middle of the park, with a steely eye for a defensive intervention that was never found wanting!
That was the defensive base with which County faced down all that their opponents could muster against them. Then they struck within an instant almost of the second half starting, as Osborne`s lightning reactions saw his snap shot fizz home off someone or other!
The large away following, so loud earlier, were quiet now and even more so as Nyal Bell`s introduction saw him add a second goal via the deftest of link ups with another substitute Connor Dimaio.
Credit to Chesterfield- they kept plugging away- or pumping those high / long one`s over, but with no success at all faced with a County back line that, to a man, was the essence of excellence!
Back at kick off time, County took to the field with 2 changes to their starting line up from Saturday- Kirby coming in for Jackson and Walker for Dimaio.
Straight from the off however it was the Derbyshire outfit on the front foot, every one of their number looking at least a foot taller than their blue counterparts.
They soon had a free kick in a handy spot, but Ben Hinchliffe made light work of Joe Rowley`s kick.
The pressure was on County, but Turnbull was already emerging as the man of the moment, a neat defensive header ,4 minutes in, seeing off the threat from a clutch of bean-pole forwards.
For sure, it was a lively start from Chesterfield, one given fulsome support by the large away following.
At this juncture however I was drawn to notice the `usual suspects` in Pop Side Yellow Block( or consistently misplaced persons, as they are sometimes known) who had been penned into a single block. Lesser in numbers than the travelling fans, they still made a terrific noise, as did the youngsters in the Cheadle End Upper Tier, who survived a move to the centre of the stand to give their usual fine support!
But the pressure was not going away from the Spirites who had Jon Smith in the van, slipping a neat ball to send Jermain McGlashan clear. A corner resulted as McGlashen`s progress was halted by an imperious intervention by Keano. Palmer headed the kick clear, and for a short moment or so I fancied that County were away.
They were I suppose, but the break by Kirby and Osborne quickly broke down in sight of the oppositions box.
On it went….Chesterfield with the ball…..pinging it high into the box from distance, for Palmer to head out!
Then, after 12 minutes of almost total attacking from Chesterfield, the away end roared in unison as Rowley won a corner. Perhaps we would see what the Spirites were made of from this…..but of dear…..the kick flew straight out of play.
Now 14 minutes had gone by, and still it was all Chesterfield, but the 15 th minute offered up a ray of hope for County fans in the shape of a free kick after Smith had up ended Thomas. It was a decent enough position in which to get a free kick, and Osborne and Walker took their time over the usual pre kick conference. Then it all went pear shaped as Walker`s kick failed to test the visitors back line at all.
It was one way traffic, but without the usual in built danger factor, as the visitors looked decent in everything bar finishing, but that said, Hinchliffe did have to dive to push a shot from McGlashan around the post after he had scooted clear, on 20 minutes. The corner was poor, and any County angst banished.
We needed something…anything really from County in the way of a response, but when Kirby went for it, a last ditcher from Tony Gerrard stopped him ( fairly )in his tracks.
It went on….the 28th minute mark seeing Mike Fendop- Talom fail to test Hinchliffe after his side had won another corner.
We were past the half hour now, with the pattern of play the same, with Palmer still getting his head to incoming hopeful stuff- the latest cross from wide right seeing McGlashan`s header cleared by Palmer. Smith kept County pinned back, but the latest Spirites move ended in the same depth of despair as Cowan did just enough to ensure that Fondop- Talom could not get an accurate strike off.
Then I began to wonder as McGlashan made it to the by-line before sending a neat ball across goal to Maguire who lurked at the back post. It looked a decent chance to me, but his header cleared the bar, and it was gone.
There was no noticeable change in the pattern of play as half time neared, but Chesterfield , through the wily Fondop- Talom had themselves a late free kick smack in front! ` Another chance` I hear you offer, and you would be correct but Maguire`s kick could not circumnavigate the County wall and the game stayed scoreless.
In the dying embers of the half, County , at last, started to nibble away at the visitors under belly, first off Turnbull turned defence into swift attack with a beaut of a ball , but Osborne was inches from getting to Kirby`s final ball on the end of the move.
That disappointed, as did Osborne`s half hit effort in added time, County`s only one on target thus far, as keeper Shwan Jalal had little to do to keep it out.
That ended the half, and within a minute of the re-start County showed their opponents just how it`s done, as County`s second shot of the game went in!
Osborne was at the hub of the action, his lightning reactions completely wrong footing Chesterfield, his shot from just outside the box flying into the net off a defender.
Ruthless, hardly covers it…..brilliance gets some way there, but who cares it was 1-0!
This triggered a reaction from Chesterfield, but twice they were denied by superb defensive action from Turnbull.
McGlashan then shot wide for Spirites, Osborne likewise for County, his effort inches from making it 2-0.
There were inches in it again moments later as Mulhern strove in vain to apply a finish to Thomas`s cross, and not much more than that shortly after as indecision by Jalal almost let Thomas in. Gerrard`s last ditcher stopped the rot for the visitors on that one, but County fans in the crowd of not far off 6000 were suitably encouraged!
Not long after, Bell replaced Mulhern, and Nyal was in the action straight away , appearing to have been hauled down in the box pretty much under referee Tom Reeves` nose. It was no penalty apparently, and when the loose ball ran on to Kirby, he lashed a powerful drive just wide.
Spirites replied, but Turnbull saw them off with the minimum of fuss.
And they replied again, within minutes, Rowley winning a corner, but this ended as all others before it had, with Will Evans heading over from the flag kick.
If Chesterfield were still getting time on the ball, in the County half, it was not at all on the same basis as had been the first half. County were still largely restricting their opponents to stuff from distance, but they were also adding quality at the sharp end as well, and in this respect Bell looked particularly lively firing a shot wide after Kirby had seen his effort charged down.
Liam Manderville came on for Chesterfield in place of Maguire, and he was soon in the fray , but whilst he seemed to offer something different for Spirites , was this but an illusion, as on the end of his early work Fondop-Talom`s header soared in familiar fashion up and over the bar.
County in response looked increasingly goal hungry, and Turnbull joined in being just inches from Thomas`s cross- just foiled by decisive late action by Rowley.
Not content with that, Bully was in action at the other end, and Osborne continued to hunt a second goal without success, his latest effort climbing into the Cheadle End.
County were piling it on now, and Cowan was their latest defender to join the fray, his run taking him to the by-line and just inside the box when his cross struck Josef Yarney`s hand. ` Penalty` thinks I ` `Not so` the referee responded and that was that.
Still that County momentum steadily grew, but that second would not come- Kirby`s latest shot fizzing its way just beyond the post.
With 20 minutes left, JG replaced Walker with Dimaio , and he instantly gelled with Bell , the unlikely twosome combining neatly , before Bell was blocked by Evans.
Oh…and those high and hopeful balls I mentioned were still pinging over, Hinchliffe having no difficulty in dealing with Yarney`s header from the latest of them.
I noted that Osborne took time out to help out at the back, and he did well at it too. This is just one sign of a County mentality that will serve them well this term!
Something else that just might serve them well, is that Bell/ Dimaio link up. and another sample of that, saw Dimaio narrowly thwarted this time.
Meanwhile, Chesterfield still looked for salvation, but they found Minihan in excellent form under pressure, thus Hinchliffe was protected again.
Almost 10 minutes remained when County sorted a second goal.
Bell had just ruffled Spirite feathers but been denied, when he joined again with Dimaio, whereupon the deftest exchange of passes twixt the duo ended with the sweetest of finishes from Nyal that had the ball nestling in the back of the net before Jalal could move!
It was 2-0, but not the end…as with Arthur on for Osborne late on, County saw the game out, fielding the seemingly never ending stream of high balls into the box .
Even 6 minutes added time did not aid Chesterfield, although Hinchliffe was called on for a decent late save to deny McGlashan as he cut in from the left.
Soon enough it was `game over` , and a good game it had been too for County who had once again showed their metal when it counted.
More to come of course this season…much more….starting with next Saturday`s challenge against Wrexham.
See you all there!
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Keane, Cowan, Turnbull, Walker ( Dimaio 70), Thomas, Mulhern ( Bell 54) , Osborne ( Arthur 81), Kirby.
Subs not used : Ormson , Jackson.
Chesterfield line up:-
Jalal, Buchanan, Yarney, Evans, Maguire ( Manderville 61), Rowley, Gerrard, Mc Glashan, Boden ( Weir 70), Smith, Fondop-Talom.
Subs not used: Coddington, McKy, Hollis.
Attendance : 5578