County had to battle the full 94 minutes yesterday to come away with a point against a very?very well organised Chorley side.
Despite the overwhelming desire for 3 points ?..which with most of our promotion rivals fairing no better and in the odd case worse, would have been priceless ??1?? whilst being disappointing in the context of a game we probably deserved to win is not the end of our promotion world.
This was not a `must win` match in my opinion, but a `must not lose` one, and despite a second half in which Chorley attacked a fair bit ,we came away with a result that keeps us very much in the hunt for a play off place, although the pressing need for us to start winning games like this now looms large.
It might have been better of course?.if County had made more of possession. We might also have made more of our set pieces, but yet again we failed to do this, and almost paid the price a time or two being caught out on the break.
Thankfully, despite all the organisational nous of our opponents, their up front fire power was scant to non existent, but we do rather need to put these elements right before much more games come and go.
Connor Hampson came closest to a breakthrough for County- two rasping shots from him bringing good to great saves from keeper Ritchie Branagan( one in each half), and Danny Lloyd, who had another decent game, took the sponsors M.O.M award.
But I thought Mark Ross stood out at the back and maybe should have taken it, with Michael Clarke and defensive oppo Chris Smalley in there with a shout too.
Ask me about the referee! On second thoughts do not bother?he was the usual outrageous Division 6 mix of laxity and dithering weakness. Two or three times players in yellow should have been on their way for an early bath.
That only one did and in the dying embers of the game defies belief, and just why ex Hatter Kieran Charnock avoided a red when he felled Kaine Felix , with no covering defender stopping the County man`s break remains another of life`s great mysteries.
`Enough` I hear you cry?and you are correct, and so back to kick off time when with over 4000 in the place County set about what looked like a difficult assignment.
Meppen-Walter and Duxbury made way for John Marsden and a fit again Sam Minihan , as County opened positively with Lloyd ( left) and Ross ( right) using the flanks to good effect . Ross was doing particularly well in the early minutes , and his pass inside to Ball saw his shot fizz inches wide of goal with Branagan beaten.
Branagan looked a touch unsettled at this point, so much so that his next action was to pass the ball straight to Jimmy Ball. It was a definite chance, but Ball slipped on the greasy surface and the keeper was able to recover composure and possession.
For their part, Chorley seemed to have the inclination to break the early County siege, but not much in the way of wherewithal to execute same.
It was early doors though and might change. Meanwhile a run by Robbie McDaid was neatly shepherded out of the danger zone by Ross, forcing the forward to plump for a long range shot which headed our way in the Cheadle End.
Jack Sampson also tried his luck for the Lancashire side, but he found Smalley on his case and soon lost interest. We needed County to show us what they could do in response, but having been put through by Hampson, Gonzales scuffed his shot and any chance was gone!
County applied themselves well after this, but despite winning a couple of corners, and seeing Branagan spill one of them, they could not muster a shot to take full advantage of the keeper`s discomfiture.
That was disappointing and doubly so?as Chorley started to show every indication of wanting to capitalise on our mistakes. Twenty minutes had gone, and McDaid again came to the fore for the visitors, taking the ball past man after man in a run that took him deep into County territory. He was inside the box in fact, and really should have done better than shoot straight at Hinchliffe, but that was what happened , and County had escaped.
Up until this point I thought that referee Paul Brown ( no relation) had got most things right, but he made a wakes of the next action by stopping Marsden in his tracks when well clear, to call for attention to McDaid who had apparently taken a knock.
I have just looked at my notes taken at this point and the words`bounce up b######s` stood out and that`s the way it was?any advantage to County was total shot to pieces. I was still fuming, when, 3 minutes later, Marsden screwed his shot wide when well set again.
County came under some pressure for a time after this, and Clarke did well more than once midst the activity in the County half. In fact Clarke did better than `well`?.joining with Marsden to break clear and send Lloyd on his way. It looked a good shout for a pot at goal, but Lloyd snatched at it and lifted the shot into the empty Railway End.
The pressure continued from County, but without the end product as free kicks and corners came and went without any dividend. Marsden did have a snap shot, bang on 30 minutes, but this flew a foot wide disappointingly.
Chorley came at County after this, Adam Blakeley having no luck with a shot that had us ducking in Row R. Paul Jarvis followed this by winning a corner , but this was defended well by County , allowing Lloyd a chance to break down the right. Again it was a decent half chance, but it faltered near the by-line to usher in another break by the visitors.
McDaid was in the van of this taking the ball wide down the left before delivering a tasty ball across the box with the County defence hurriedly tracking back. The pass was good and picked out the advancing Jack Sampson perfectly, but he seemed unsure as to how to deal with it and when he had decided ?it was too late the chance had disappeared as had the ball!
That was a real chance and we might easily have been 1 down, but there was no time to ponder on this doleful thought, as Chorley were in County`s faces again , most notably Jake Cottrey who was played clear by a free kick.
He might just have made amends for the Sampson blooper earlier, but he didn`t sending his shot straight at Hinchliffe who clutched the ball readily to his chest!
Anger joined disappointment in my lexicon of feelings, with 3 minutes of the half remaining, as Lloyd`s lightning progress down the left was brought abruptly to a halt by a gruesome mugging from Matt Challinor.
Then disappointment surfaced again because again the resultant free kick came to nothing, as did the corner that came County`s way shortly after. There was a cry of `handball` midst all the pressure, but the referee was having none of it, and I would be guessing if I said it definitely was a penalty!
Half time was nearing now and I very much wanted County to snatch a slightly slutchy late goal?the slutchier the better actually, but when Marsden carved a chunk out of the visitors cover and headed for goal, he was upended on the edge of the box by Steve Jordan. Jordan was booked , but again the kick failed to test the keeper, as I began to wish for the break to end the frustration.
End of the half? No?.not quite, there was just time enough for us to snatch that late/ late goal, and we very nearly did, and there was no semblance of a hint of slutch about it either.
Minihan had just tidied up at the back after a Sampson cross had been spurned by his colleagues. The ball made its way to Connor Hampson and he was off and running ending the exercise with a fearsome shot that looked to have `goal` written right through it. It wasn`t a goal solely because keeper Branagan flung himself to his right making a terrific save. Nothing came of the corner and that really was that for the first half.
Within seconds of the re-start Charnock and Branagan were in action denying Lloyd .Then County won another free kick, only to see a push by Gonzales render this useless.
Seconds later Gonzales was hot foot and determined to make amends with a neat break that saw Lloyd blocked by some desperate work from Charnock.
Ball?.following up?..managed to win a corner, but?.despite this kick being perhaps County best of the game, again it mattered not as somehow Branagan did enough to prevent Gonzales from opening his County account, this time around.
County kept the pressure on, but with the same results?.Lloyd lifting a shot over the bar before teeing Hampson up to do exactly the same, with an even better chance.
There was a certain lack of conviction about County`s attacking work, and JG responded to this sending Felix on at the expense of Marsden.
Felix was soon in the mix – Lloyd inches away from turning his cross in!
I liked the idea of Felix being used to test Charnock and company out with his speed, and within 5 or 6 minutes he was doing just that leaving his markers for dead heading for goal. He was past the last man and away when that last man ( the aforementioned Charnock) executed a cynical body check that laid the County man flat on the deck.
It was a gruesome challenge and should have been rewarded with a red, but no??.the yellow that followed allowed Charnock another 28 minutes to ply his ponderous trade before another `indiscretion` finally did for him, but by that time with around a minute left, what did it matter! A red at this point certainly would have mattered!
The free kick was another poor one, but Felix, undeterred ran at Chorley again ,and Dale Whitham only just managed to stop Gonzales getting to his cross.
Corners came and went for County after this, first via a neat Montrose/ Lloyd link up, and then from a fine run by Ross. The first kick came to nothing, and despite an almighty flap by Branagan, and a decent shot from Montrose so did the second.
Both sides leaked free kicks by the barrow load after this ,both with more or less the same lack of results.
With less than 15 minutes left, County engineered another gilt edged chance through Hampson , but again his best efforts were thwarted by those of Branagan who produced a prodigiously good save to keep a blistering drive from the full back out! The follow up corner, won by Ball, came to nothing.
County pressed on regardless and Gonzales had his progress abruptly halted on the edge of the box, by a poor foul as he ran onto Lloyd`s pass. Branagan again did the business keeping the kick out if looking not 100% in control whilst doing so. County kept attacking , but Chorley survived somehow.
The naughtiness however just kept on coming as Walker took Ross out , with a nasty bit of work right under Mr B`s nose. His apology sufficed, but my fumathon continued apace!
Midst this nonsense County almost gave it all away however, as a poor pass out of defence gifted a chance to Blakeman. He wasted it, and hopefully County would now learn from this and tighten up the passing.
We were into added time now and County were still looking for that winner, but Felix again found himself on the receiving end of grossness from our opponents, as Cottrey went right through him in front of the Danny Stand.
The free kick was better than average and although the keeper stopped it ,he needed a second go to totally sort it.
We were now deep into added time?.and County were still searching?..and Gonzales was clattered just outside the box by Charnock , who by rights should have been off 28 minutes earlier. A second yellow saw him on his way, but did not dilute the bitter taste left by the referees earlier failure to apply the rules.
The free kick whistled inches past the post, and that was pretty much that in what had been a grimly fought out encounter.
County`s stock in trade discipline was ill served by the officials in this match, a theme I have warmed to far too many times this season.
Its too much to hope for any improvement from that quarter I guess, but County have their fate in their own hands in the games that remain, and I am certain that James will keep the aforesaid discipline in tact along with our play off ambitions.
See you at Edgeley Park next Saturday, but please note that ,due to the County Quiz Night at the Spinning Top next Saturday, the match report will again be published on the Sunday morning.
[ As ever, all the pics can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Hampson, Montrose, Minihan, Ball, Gonzales, Marsden( Felix 56), Lloyd.
Subs not used; Ormson, Meppen-Walter, Duxbury, Odejayi.
Chorley line up:
Branagan, Challoner, Jarvis, Teague, Charnock, Jordan, Blakeman, Whiham, McDaid( Walker 67), Sampson( Roscoe 92), Cottrey.
Subs not used: Azam, O`Keefe, Beesley.
Attendance : 4073
County 0 Chorley 0
County had to battle the full 94 minutes yesterday to come away with a point against a very?very well organised Chorley side.