Date: 17th July 2016 at 10:19am
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County entertained League One opposition yesterday at Edgeley Park, in the shape of Keith Hill`s Rochdale side.

For the last few days social media has been alive with speculation as to what strength the Dale side would be bearing in mind that they also had to send a team along to Curzon Ashton. Well?I never thought there would be any doubting that they would send a very strong side to take on County, and the presence of Hill in the dug out area confirmed as much.

It was great to see that the visitors had ex County favourite Jim McNulty in the starting 11, and he looked as sharp as he has ever done and lasted the full 90 minutes.

The game was another severe test, but County shaped up to it rather well. They had Danny Lloyd appearing in the blue for the first time, Adam Thomas starting again, and Montrose and Amis back after taking heavy knocks in the rough and tumble against Barrow on Tuesday, so we were giving ourselves every chance.

The rest of the team was pretty much the mix as before and it held together well, the game only slipping out of County`s grasp in the last 10 to 15 minutes when Dale`s full time fitness began to take its toll.

Man of the Match by some way for me was the increasingly excellent Scott Duxbury, who just gets better and better every game. The rest of the back line( Minihan/ Clarke & Ross), shielded diligently by Meppen- Walter, looked immaculately unruffled all game long .

It took a penalty however to win the game for the Lancashire side , and despite the disappointment of conceding late on, County made a good fist of trying to pull the game out of the fire. It was not to be?but again it was a very worthwhile 90 odd minutes against a side way higher in the football pyramid, that will stand us in good stead come the start of the National League North season.

The game opened with excitement in the air as Danny Lloyd, twice in as many minutes, took the game to Rochdale. James Hooper was the unlucky defender hustled out of his stride as the home specs applauded loudly.

Two minutes in and Rochdale fashioned an early attempt at goal, it came from Aaron Morley, at least I am guessing it did because two players in red had neither names nor numbers on their backs. The absent numbers were an irritation ?..the fact that the shot was blocked and cleared by Clarke was altogether better.

On it went with County getting forward well, none more so than Lloyd who made it to the by-line down the left before pinging a neat cross over. Niall Canavan got his head to it for Dale, but the clearance was not that great and Minihan was not that far away either with the effort that followed.

Thomas was in the mix as well, but his first cross of note found Joe Rafferty on hand to clear.

The County pressure continued via Lloyd who gave Andy Cannon a torrid time down the left. Nothing materialised from this however and County were forced back onto the defensive where good work from Montrose and Minihan sorted matters.

This was not a bad game thus far, and almost got better as Lloyd, Minihan and Thomas combined to put together a move that nearly saw Thomas in. In the end he just could not pull the trigger and get his shot off, but it looked promising!

County were not letting up at all and Canavan was forced to concede a corner as Minihan went close. Another corner quickly followed with County sensing opportunity beckoning, but when Meppen- Walter`s shot headed off towards the Bung, the moment passed.

There was stuff to take in at both ends next as Ross did well to snuff out a run from?err?..Morley(OK?.I admit it?.I am surmising again!)at one end, whilst at the other? Thomas saw a decent cross from him gobbled up comfortably by Tim Dieng the Dale keeper.

Play was switching ends a bit at this point and the place erupted as Duxbury pulled out an immaculate tackle to stop the other numberless forward (who by process of elimination must be?.) Theo Robinson who had burst clear into the box. A corner was the only cost therefore when much worse had beckoned, but after Meppen-Walter had conceded another flag kick and this was cleared without trouble, 25 minutes had gone by, and the score was still 0-0.

Good work at the back by Clarke preceded more attacking from the blues, but again Meppen-Walters effort was high and wide after Thomas and Lloyd had won a corner.

A poor foul by Rafferty on Marsden momentarily brought back memories of the horrors of meeting Barrow on a Tuesday night, but Dale proved altogether less unnecessarily physical than our previous opponents, but I guess at this point Marsden was inclined to wonder!

Just a couple of minutes went by after the abortive free kick that followed, before the stadium erupted again?.and once more it was Duxbury at the epicentre of the eruption , producing a magnificent tackle to cut Hooper`s progress short. Momentarily ?it got even better as Scott then released a beaut of a pass into Lloyd`s path, and it took a good save from Dieng to keep it at 0-0.

This was good?.County were again making a good fist of things against supposedly mightier opponents!

Amis and Lloyd were next to show for County and Dieng had to go full stretch this time to ensure his team stayed on level terms with County.

The blues looked on fire now and it was a massive disappointment to see the liners flag end a seemingly excellent County move, as a simply brilliant ball from Meppen- Walter sent Lloyd clear on goal.

Amis suffered similarly moments later, but this time I had to admit the liner probably got that one right.

The pressure continued with Dieng punching clear under pressure with commendable composure, and then excelling himself with a superb save to deny Montrose.

Next off?Minihan crossed a lovely ball into the box ?and Marsden lifted it high and wide, and that was that for the first half as the teams left the field to applause.

Lloyd was quick to test the visitors back line when the game re-started. Amis followed suit with some tidy work straight after, but a block by Rafferty stopped the rot for Dale, who survived both attacks without conceding.

A decent move from Lloyd and Montrose came next, but was brought to an abruptly disappointing end, when Referee Richard Wild penalised Montrose for a perceived foul on Reuben Noble-Lazarus.

Rochdale replied, some 5 minutes into the half, through Kelvin Andrews who made it to the by-line in decent time and order, but having got there he found Clarke in his path , and the County man did the biz nicely winning a goal kick?.except the referee saw it as a corner. County defended the kick well however to save me further angst.

Play opened out a touch again, for a time after that last action, but County still seemed the likeliest to spark something of note, that said. Lloyd did his best to test the Dale defence down the right, only to find McNulty on his case with a well timed tackle.

The pressure continued from the blues who were visibly trying to rev the level up. Amis forced his way clear, setting Lloyd up for a strike that thudded into a defender with some pace.

Past the hour mark and slowly ?.Rochdale began to make their full time status tell. County were by no means cowed or remotely out of it, but runs were beginning to materialise from the likes of Andrews who made it to the by-line before being expertly dealt with by the impressive Minihan.

Minihan found time to get forward as well, as he has done in previous pre-season games this term, and his link up with Thomas deserved better than the parlous finish that Montrose applied to it, sending the ball high up into the Cheadle End.

Again Rochdale probed the County defences, and Hinchliffe made a good stop with his legs to keep Andrews out, and better to deny Robinson not long after, advancing from his goal and doing just enough to put the forward off his stroke.

With 66 minutes gone, County rang the changes with Glenn Rule and Craig Carney coming on for Courtney Meppen-Walter and Danny Lloyd, but after Marsden had won the blues a corner, play switched rapidly to the other end where a shot from Robinson crashed into the crossbar.

County were under some pressure now, but resisting it pretty well, finding time to produce the odd move of note to cheer their supporters- Carney, Minihan and Amis unlucky with some enterprising play.

With just 15 minutes left and the score still 0-0, a good result looked on the cards, but Dale were continuing to increase the pace of their work and Hinchliffe had to pull off a really excellent save to keep a shot by Noble- Lazarus out.

That really was a top class save?.but with Dale in full flow , that they should eventually nick one was not that long odds , and with 14 minutes left they did as tired legs saw the blues concede a late penalty which Andrews put away with some authority.

That was a pity, as County deserved something from this game but despite late run outs for Ryan Ellison, Godwin Abadaki, Kayodi Odejayi,George West and Adam Etches, this was not to be.

To County`s credit however, they kept trying right until the death forcing a fair few corners in the process, but without really testing Dieng though.

There was warm applause at the end and rightly so?.it had been a decent game and County had played their full part in it, deserving something more from it than they got.

Blackburn on Saturday, and Wigan after that will prepare us well for a trip to near neighbours Macclesfield in 2 weeks time.

All quite testing games, that will prepare us well for the start of season 2016/17 in the National League North.

[ For more pictures of the game, and once again I must shower compliments on that new top, please click here! ]

Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Minihan( Etches 87), Duxbury, Clarke, Ross, Meppen- Walter( Rule 66), Thomas( Abadaki 77), Montrose( Ellison 77), Amis(West 80) , Marsden( Odejayi 77), Lloyd( Carney 66).

Sub not used:

Rochdale line up:
Dieng, Cannon, Rafferty, McNulty, Canavan, Hooper, Morley, Noble-Lazarus, Andrews, Allen, Robinson.

Subs not used:
Thompson, Stewart, Evans, Kearney, Prescott.

Attendance 744

Ian Brown


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