A point was all that County could muster from a lack lustre affair at Edgeley Park today, against Colwyn Bay.
`Ding dong merrily on high` it decidedly was not, and it took County 30 odd minutes to shake off the Xmas lethargy and take the game to the Welshmen.
Unfortunately…..by that time the visitors were in front, and an awful goal it was too, of which more later, but a goal nonetheless, and it took a tactical re-jig by A.L. and almost 45 more minutes for the blues to get back on level terms, through a strike from Churchman that Josh Ollerenshaw in the Bay goal, got to but could not hold.
After that, barring a scary last 2 or 3 minutes when County ran out of steam a touch, with their opponents looking just about the most disjointed side ( at the back) I have seen for a while, the second half was largely County`s, but with luck in as short supply as consistently good refereeing decisions , a winning goal eluded them in steadily worsening weather.
Bright spots for County? Well……Belezika, played well and took the sponsors M.O.M award, but Tunji Moses could not have been far behind him- he really has come on a ton lately, and Lees once more looked real class!
County`s passing improved markedly with Milligan and Churchman on after the break, but why did we have to wait so long for this to be so?
Back at 3 o`clock there were queue`s outside and a buzz inside E.P. as County kicked off with new boy Danny Glover wearing number eight, and the news that Jack Ryan was back with us on loan for 7 weeks, still being digested!
Almost immediately a rude awakening beckoned in the shape of Obi Anoruo who quickly went one on one with Hurst in the box. Hurst won out……but it was not the type of start I was looking for.
It got better……Mark Lees, luxuriating in his midfield role, surged into the Bay box…..he was eventually ushered away, but I liked that a lot!
What I was less happy about, was a free kick awarded to the visitors for precious little that I could see, and Gregson had to look lively to get in the path of the incoming kick and head clear.
It came back again via Jack Truelove, whose effort was thankfully deflected for a corner. A clearance at the near post by Duxbury…..and a solid catch from Truelove`s follow up by Hurst, and the danger was averted.
County seemed content to allow their opponents time on the ball, and Hurst again had to react quickly as a slip by Gregson allowed Anoruo to sneak clear.
Again …Hurst got in there first, but it was close….probably a tad too close!
If we could just tighten up a touch, I was reassuring myself that things just might work out well for County, with Moses and Lees looking so at home in the middle of the park!
That comfy expectation, sadly fell at the first hurdle as the visitors took an unexpected lead on 17 minutes. Louis Moss applied the finish, but it was Anoruo who started things off by thoroughly mugging O`Halloran just outside the box.
It was a County free kick ,and the whole of the Cheadle End told the lamentable Mr Scragg and his liner so, but they looked unconvinced, thus Anoruo ran on to the by line, with O`Halloran still munching mud!
Anoruo got his cross in and although Mendes looked odds on to score, somehow Belezika obliged with another of his speciality goal line saving tackles, and kept it out.
The odds however were still stacked against County, and with the arrival of Moss they tilted unmistakably Bay`s way as he forced the ball home!
All around me were simply incandescent with rage at that goal, and only slightly assuaged by the next action that saw Sharp narrowly prevented from getting a quick equaliser, by Dan Taylor`s outstretched leg!
On it went, with Colwyn Bay getting a fair amount of possession, none more so than Anoruo, who was beginning to look something of a threat.
Unfortunately, he also was an enormous pain, spending more time on his back in the 90 minutes than Linda Lovelace spent in her career!
He was a riot….running into O`Halloran( again)…….going down , and getting the free kick! O`Halloran re-grouped sufficiently to head the kick clear, but already a frustrating afternoon looked on the cards for us!
The rest of the first half was taken up mainly with County trying to prise open the Bay defence…..Lees went close….then Belezika( twice).
Spencer joined in probing nicely down the left, almost in on the end of a Glover ball, and Gregson saw a header fly wide from one of a number of corners, as County lay siege to the Colwyn Bay goal.
Some decent play surfaced from County towards the end of the half, and Sharp was unlucky to see his shot deflected for a corner following a Spencer through ball.
From the flag kick, Spencer and Sharp combined again to good effect and more ill luck came Sharp`s way with half time almost on us, when his firm header was pushed out by Ollerenshaw on the line!
There was still time for Belezika to ping one over and for Sharp to whip a shot in at speed, but it drifted out beyond the far post and it stayed 0-1, despite this and a late/late Spencer run that made it to the by-line and no further thanks to Ollerenshaw`s alert work!
The second half opened, immediately offering us a reprise of the first as Belezika piled forward, being blocked on the edge of the box.
Prince Haywood then lifted a shot woefully high and wide, but Anoruo almost punished us again – just being beaten to a somewhat loose back pass by Hurst.
Then the angst levels rose again as County surged forward only for the referee to halt the move by calling for attention for Moses who lay prone on the ground.
I am not sure if it was a head injury or not, but for sure Moses recovered quickly enough , and we had to endure watching the pantomime of the referee asking Colwyn Bay to lump the dropped ball way back to Hurst in the distant murk!
Twice Belezika got in good tackles at vital times, but County`s luck still seemed to be out, as Sharp narrowly missed out getting to a neat back heeled pass from Spencer.
That was Sharp`s last contribution of the afternoon, as A.L. then replaced him and Lofthouse, with Milligan and Churchman.
This was not like for like, but it was interesting, and more so as Milligan`s first 3 touches were seamless inch perfect passes!
A foul on Lees gave Milligan his fourth touch, but Tony Stevens managed to keep the kick out.
That was good from Stevens, what followed wasn`t, as he went to ground as Spencer surged past him. Instantly the liner`s flag went up and ridiculously Bay had a free kick, and the Spencer threat had been nullified!
The Cheadle End was still in `seethe mode` from the last atrocity, when another chanced our way, via Jon Royle, who appeared to have a `hand to ball` ( well….arm really) with Spencer on his case in the box!
Myself and 3140 others thought it was a penalty, but not Mr Scragg…..not his stand side liner, so Bay had escaped!
Oh……we did have a corner, and Glover went close from this, but despite another corner following, and a spill from Ollerenshaw, Bay survived and it stayed 0-1.
We were past the hour now, and from a refereeing perspective matters were not great…….along with all the nonsense I have sketched out for you, we had another infuriating instance of play delayed whilst an opposition player tied up their shoe laces!
But it plunged ever deeper towards farce next when Belezika and Chris Noone collided near the corner flag.
Both lay prone for a while….Belezika on the field of play….Noone off the pitch.
Eventually the referee became aware of this and allowed the Bay physio to treat his man, who I repeat was not on the pitch.
The referee was seemingly going to stop play to allow the Bay man to be treated ( off the pitch), but alerted to the absurdity of this by the crowd, motioned for play to continue, but not before instructing Belezika( who at no time left the field of play, or was treated by a physio) to leave the field, and trot to the half way line where he would eventually be allowed back on!
Totally…..mind numbingly stupid!
Things meanwhile were improving for County….the moves were slicker….the passes more precise, and Glover was distinctly unlucky to see his header strike a defender on the line at one point!
County`s luck was still out though, as a Milligan free kick saw Gregson head wide…..or so I thought……until….enter Chris Churchman who latched onto a loose ball just outside the box to drill a shot in on goal.
It looked a good effort ,but Ollerenshaw for a moment looked to have got to it, but he couldn`t keep it out and celebrations followed for County as the ball nestled at the back of the net!
On we went into the last 15 minutes with Bay looking more and more flustered as County increased the pressure- Milligan going close with a free kick, after Moss had set about Moses with a will!
Both Taylor and Truelove had clearances to make as Belezika and Lees kept the pressure on.
It began to look to me that we would eventually prevail in this game, as twice Spencer almost made it through the last vestige of Welsh defence!
A corner was the only reward for this action, and this was short lived as, with Spencer and Lees looking set to convert, the referee blew, giving Bay a free kick for……eh……
Despite this latest disappointment, County piled forward again…….Lees…..Belezika….Spencer all in the mix doing their bit to prise open what looked to be an increasingly vulnerable opposing defence, but it only ended in the angst levels being yanked up once more with the sight of Spencer`s latest run being halted by the liner`s flag.
Add a Milligan free kick, and a neat knock down by Gregson, and another upraised flag (off side apparently) and, when after this both Belezika and Spencer saw efforts charged down ( one with another hint of hand to ball about it), we rather knew that there wasn`t going to be a second County goal this day!
There just might be one at the other end though, and Hurst did well to thwart Mendes after a decent run by Taylor had caught the blues out.
Anoruo then ensured that Hurst needed to do nothing next as he lifted his shot well wide, but it was worrying to see the chance offer itself to Bay.
County kept trying to play…..Spencer going close once, and Churchman sending Glover through. The Colwyn Bay response was to put the ball out of play and play for time, which was annoying if understandable!
Into added time things threatened to get a tad tasty as a neat wall pass off referee Scragg saw Anoruo set up for a shot on goal.
He fluffed the chance….lifting it way over the bar, but we now needed the whistle to go with something approaching urgency.
The visitors attacked County in the time that remained, giving the likes of Moses and Lees the chance to show us their skills again, which they duly did.
Eventually the whistle went and the wet trudged home could begin.
Not the result we wanted, but a point will have to do us, hoping for better at Bradford on Sunday, should the rains relent and the game be on.
See you there then!
( Want the photos from a cold and crisp Edgeley Park? All things Stockport County will show you here! )
County line up:
Hurst, Belezika, Gregson, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Moses, Lees, Lofthouse ( Churchman 55), Glover, Sharp( Milligan 55), Spencer.
Subs not used:
Ormson, Hancock, Russell.
Colwyn Bay line up:
Ollerenshaw, Taylor, Truelove, Stevens, Royle, Noone( Hopley 66), Moss( Olapade 76), Haywood, Anoruo, Mendes, Baynes.
Subs not used;
Sanna, Sinclair, Hodgeson.
County 1 Colwyn Bay 1
A point was all that County could muster from a lack lustre affair at Edgeley Park today, against Colwyn Bay.