County progressed to Round 2 of the Cheshire Senior Cup, and a tie against either Crewe or Altrincham, with a convincing 2-0 win against Congleton Town at Booth Street last night.
The North West Counties Premier side made a real game of this, holding County to 1-0 until 10 minutes from time when a goal by John Marsden made the game secure for the pink shirted blues in Jim Gannon`s first game in charge, after his very welcome return.
Up until then a fairly decent Tuesday night crowd had watched our hosts plug away gamely without really ever discomforting their opponents.
Sam Marshall and Lee Jackson were the pick for Congleton, but with Danny Morton in monstrously good form for County, Marshall faded as the game progressed.
For County, I have mentioned Morton, and he did play well, and I thought Montrose put in a shift as did Kevin Holsgrove in his first appearance in County colours for yonks.
Elsewhere there was another encouraging, second half, showing from Charlie Russell after he had replaced Glenn Rule at half time, and Roberts found time to replicate Morton and get forward a time or two to good effect down the left where he linked up well with Holsgrove.
I am thinking County`s new Manager will be satisfied with his teams performance overall. They looked secure at the back and generally in control against opponents who were skilful?? determined to make a match of it, and a credit to the NW Counties League.
Back at 7.45, thanks to an early start on the Flyer, we had already spent over 90 minutes enjoying the facilities at Booth Street, and fed well at this interesting and friendly venue, when kick off time arrived.
With Jim Gannon back in charge interest was high and the Manager and his team got an emotional welcome circa 7.40.
There was just one surprise in County`s line up namely the return of Kevin Holsgrove, as over 300 roared the game off some 5 minutes late following a minutes silence in honour of a deceased Town supporter.
County were quick to get on the front foot Morton and Holsgrove pressing diligently down the flanks. A clutch of crosses from Holsgrove provided decent ammunition as pink shirts gathered in numbers in front of keeper Andy Farrimond`s goal.
Rule and Marsden, both saw shots charged down, and Farrimond did well to deny Marsden again when a shot came his way from the County number seven.
Congleton replied, after 13 minutes, through Richard Bailey who made good progress down the right before getting his cross over. It was a decent effort too, but Ian Ormson was on hand to keep Declan Fletcher`s point blank header out.
Brian Mathews joined the fray for our hosts, but his run was foreshortened via an energetic challenge from Gareth Roberts, and with Marshall announcing his intent with a tasty run that saw him shoot narrowly wide, Town enjoyed 5 or 6 minutes of concerted pressure, ended when Bailey shot tamely at Ormson after doing the hard work with a leggy run.
Play switched ends abruptly next as Morton powered his way into the box. His pass to Brewster offered the popular youngster a sniff of goal, but the heavy underfoot conditions did him no favours, and Town were able to fashion a clearance.
At this point I was heartened to see Morton make a concerted effort to have a word with Brewster and it was clearly a word of encouragement and not rebuke! Great stuff, that`s what will see County improve!
Marshall impressed again after this with a run that caused a ruffle or two in County feathers. Jim Blair had set it in motion by winning possession from Roberts, and Mathews` input teed Bailey up for a crack at goal that Ormson dealt with coolly.
Marshall again had a go at probing County`s back line, his control was impressive, but County`s defence waited their moment and dealt with the threat nicely. Roberts then turned defence into attack with a lively run, and his cross saw Odejayi`s header miss out by inches.
County were on the front foot again now, and Farrimond did well dealing with a dangerous ball from Rule after Holsgrove had won a corner. Another flag kick soon followed as Ian Willis was forced to head behind with Morton threatening mayhem in the box.
Yes, the pressure, with just over 10 minutes of the half left, was definitely on Congleton who shipped another corner via a Rule shot that took a deflection en route to goal.
County were up in numbers for this kick, but Sean O`Hanlon was first to the ball, and his half volley gave Farrimond no chance at all, thumping into the back of the net to the accompaniment of loud cheering from the sizeable County contingent.
Credit to Town??they replied quickly, but Mathews shot curled wide of Ormson`s goal after another decent run from Marshall.
County were busy in the final minutes of the half, .Holsgrove still probing, winning corners??Brewster?, was Brewster( hope we can keep him a while longer), whilst Odejayi looked to impress with another effort that missed out narrowly.
One nil to the Hatters at the break represented a good effort from County and was a fair reflection, in my view, of how the play had panned out.
I was pleased to see Charlie Russell on the park on the re-start, in place of Glenn Rule, but the early action saw Ormson in urgent action, going down at the feet of the onrushing Fletcher who had been played in by Bailey.
County soon restored the status quo though, pushing Town back , forcing more corners, but our hosts defended all these with commendable efficiency, and survived still just one down.
Morton continued to power forward and ping crosses over, and Holsgrove bent a shot it .He was not that far away, as was Brewster again not long after this. County needed that second goal to calm nerves and close the game off, but Congleton were not in the mood to concede it!
Indeed they still fancied a goal themselves but Fletcher fluffed his lines on the end of a cross from Jackson, and Marshall found what looked like being a tasty break curtailed by excellent work from Morton, who was beginning to impose himself now at the back as well.
Midst all this Russell was getting stuck in in typically lively fashion and was attracting more than the odd foul on the way, and one such came close lighting young Charlie`s fuse.
What followed had more the whiff of handbags than WW3 , but?that said , Blair really might have seen a red card for his uncalled for contribution to proceedings.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the referee opted for a yellow?end of!
Thankfully that was more or less the end of the afters and stuff as the two teams concentrated again on the real business- that of getting the next goal!
Congleton kept plugging away Fletcher`s shot being charged down by the excellent O`Hanlon from Bailey`s pass. Marshall thwarted minutes later?seemingly home alone only to find Ormson there to make an unlikely save.
With Baggie on for Odejayi, with 15 minutes left, County piled forward and a screamer from Roberts was not that far from causing Farrimond extreme embarrassment.
Yes, County were very much in control, but their corners and frequent free kicks came to nought, indeed one such resulted in a break by Bailey and substitute Luke Sephton which had a distinct look of lethality about it until Morton appeared and stopped the rot with some terrific defensive work! Great stuff!
Congleton held out really well, but with 10 minutes left their dam finally burst. Holsgrove started it and his pass to Marsden set him up with a shooting chance which he executed to perfection, slotting a neat finish past Farrimond to make it 2-0 , and just about make County`s onward progress in the competition assured.
Both teams kept at it after this but there was no further addition to the score, and County left the field to an ovation from their supporters at the end, after what had been a job well done!
It was simply great to see Jim back in the saddle!
See you at Cheltenham on Saturday for more of the same?
I certainly hope so !
[ Pictures from the game can be found here ]
Congleton Town line up:
Farrimond, Haynes, Jackson, Blair, Kenny, Willis, Bailey, S Sephton, Mathews ( L Sephton 72), Fletcher, Marshall( Moores 82).
Subs not used:
Jones, Pretty, Highton.
Stockport County line up;
Ormson, Morton, Roberts, O`Hanlon, Smalley, Marsden, Rule ( Russell 46),Odejayi( Baggie 74), Brewster ( Menagh 87).
Subs not used:
Attendance : 311