Date: 27th November 2016 at 12:17pm
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County fought hard to grind out a welcome 2-0 victory against visitors Bradford Park Avenue , at a chilly Edgeley Park this afternoon ,thus quickly avenging the reverse suffered at the same hands just 7 days previously.

A classic encounter it was not, not even a typical cup tie?in fact at times it was all a touch tedious to watch, but in similar circumstances, on occasions past?..County have failed to put their opponents away.

They did today however, and for that I give them full credit, and it was particularly good to see Scott Duxbury get time on the pitch and make full use of it. John Marsden made a welcome return to first team duty also , and whilst his contribution was disappointing at times, he hung in there right to the death where his goal killed any hope Bradford had of staging a late/ late comeback.
The first goal had come via another returnee- Sam Minihan, who JG played at the expense of Mark Ross, and owed much to Danny Lloyd`s energetic input.

For their part, Bradford obviously came with the plan to again play some football , as they had done so successfully last Saturday, but whilst the approach play from them earned plaudits again, the same could not be said for their finishing. Indeed ?with the score still 1-0, deep into the second half, danger man Emile Sinclair missed a sitter, that would have sent us on our way to Yorkshire on Monday had it gone in!

That was about the sum total of the visitors chances- County took theirs?.`nuff said!

Bradford had ex County man Chris Sharp in the starting line up, and following an early free kick for County that came to nought, Sharp showed a clean pair of heels to his former employers as he glided neatly to the by-line, forcing a corner off Smalley. The kick saw anothet ex Hatter, Nicky Boshell, shoot wide, but as an early statement of intent, I felt it was worth not ignoring!

Play switched ends almost immediately , and Lloyd gave us an early token of his intent forcing keeper Jon Worsnop to a finger tip save to keep the ball out of harms way. Pressure mounted thereafter, as a throw, won by Felix, caused a flutter or two in the Bradford last third, where Adam Nowakowski did well to keep Odejayi from a tasty looking ball by Minihan.

This was looking promising ?and more so as Nowakowski waded in again to head Lloyd`s follow up cross out, but the danger would not go away, and Worsnop had to pull out all the stops to beat Lloyd`s final effort of the raid out.

It went quiet for a minute or so following which it got a little heated briefly, as Nicky Boshell earned a booking for as poor a tackle, on Minihan, as you would wish not to see. Cartwright`s cross following the kick, promised much, but Odejayi narrowly failed to reach it with the Cheadle End willing the ball in!

A loose ball from Minihan put pressure on County for a while afterwards, but the liner`s upraised flag signalled relief for the blues, with Sinclair apparently offside!

Time again then for County to get forward, and Lloyd was again to the fore- his shot on the end of a surging run, bringing another good save from Worsnop, and a corner that ended with Felix firing wide of the target.

On it went in much the same vein, Lloyd in concert with Cartwright, pushing Park Avenue back .Nowakowski again did well, stemming the County tide with a clearance, but the ball just came back again via Stopforth who was in the box in an instant and on the deck in another!

Hmmm?.Stopforth ( and me) appealed for a penalty, but with Danny Boshell doing his `choir boy` impressions, this was never on and Mr Edwards waved play on.

Fifteen minutes had gone now, and it was time for Bradford to show what they could do, and another good run from Sharp did just that, but Clarke ushered the ball out of play, and the move ended when Nicky Wroe latched onto the ball from the subsequent throw planting his shot wide.

That was a poor end to a neat Bradford move, but County offered the visitors encouragement as a climb by Cartwright on Sharp gave the Yorkshire side a free kick, not that far outside the box. County defended this well?but then conceded another free kick, and it was fortunate for us that Bradford gave us more evidence of their lack of firepower, as after much pressure the raid broke down.

Sinclair did rally his troops again not long after, but with County back in numbers, and Minihan on his case, the threat again dissipated.

County replied through Odejayi, but his flick on was not put to good use by Felix.

Marsden offered encouragement, but his firmly struck shot took a deflection ushering in a corner. The pressure was on again, but a throw was County`s only reward from the flag kick- Montrose lofting his final effort high into the Cheadle End.

The next action was good to watch, as Odejayi treated us to some delightful play crowned by the neatest of balls to Lloyd, who was off like a rocket! Ryan Toulson and Danny Boshell stood in his way, but he beat them both before sending Cartwright away.

This was excellent stuff and Cartwright capped it with a lovely cross, as did Odejayi with a header, but the ball flew inches wide with Worsnop beaten, and it stayed 0-0.

Odejayi was having another terrific game, his skills winning County a free kick ,31 minutes in. The County number nine got on the end of it, when the kick came over- the ball flew wide, but again there was much to admire in the approach play.

County had the whip hand at this point, and they kept their opponents pinned down in their last third- a throw here?a free kick there?.then a scurrying run from the effervescent Lloyd and Park Avenue were dished as his shot was helped on by Minihan , who turned jubilantly towards the Cheadle End as the ball thundered past Worsnop into the net!

County were one up, but they were not about to let the celebrations continue. They needed a second goal, and Marsden`s run shortly after the goal offered half a chance, if only Worsnop had not been that shade faster than Felix as Marsden released his pass!

Despite doing well so far, County were also still conceding too many free kicks, and from one of them Chris Sharp almost equalised- County needed to tighten up and cut the unnecessary free kicks out.

Lloyd went to ground in the box next, surrounded by 3 defenders, but again Mr Edwards was not impressed. I was not sure either way, but Lloyd does go down easily and rather makes the referees mind up for him sometimes.

Oh?.back to those free kicks?..and County conceded another one with around 5 minutes left in the half. I must say that this one was something of a cheeky one `stolen` for Park Avenue by Wroe, after Sinclair had run at County with a purpose. Fortunately for County, after the world`s worst pre kick mime, from Wroe and Nicky Boshell, the ball headed off into the empty Railway End. There was much mirth in and around Row R at this, but ?those free kicks??.

The last few minutes of the half were a bit of a Danny Lloyd benefit, as Worsnop somehow pushed his shot over the bar, after Stopforth had carved open the Park Avenue defences. The corner saw Smalley, Odejayi and Cartwright all vying for it at the back post, but the keeper won out!

The half ended with Marsden sending Lloyd clear and a bicycle kick from Felix ending up with us in the Cheadle End.

It had not been a particularly brilliant 45 minutes, but County were 1 up, and at this stage I would take that for sure!

The second half opened with Park Avenue on the offensive, but when Sharp made good ground down the right, and crossed the ball, Sinclair could only place the ball into Hinchliffe`s waiting arms.

Felix saw a shot drift out 6 minutes into the half, and Marsden dragged his shot disappointingly wide, after being set up by Odejayi, some 3 minutes later.

After a quiet start to the half, County were began to motor a bit now, but another run from Marsden ended with Worsnop in position to deny Lloyd on the end of Marsden`s pass. The pressure continued until Marsden lifted another effort high and wide. That was disappointing and there was more when Lloyd sent Marsden through only for him to again drag his shot wide.

There is a fund of goodwill towards Marsden from County fans, who desperately want him to start scoring again, but so far it was just not happening for him.

It was time for a reply from Bradford ,and they went as close as they would all game next as Odejayi made a brilliant last ditch tackle to stop Nicky Boshell forcing the ball home after a shot by Luke Dean had crashed into Hinchliffe`s right hand post!

Did I say that that was as close etc etc? Well they will say they went closer, and not long after as well, as Dean had the ball in the net having drawn Hinchliffe to him. He was offside however, and I did not see a protest as the liner`s flag told him the sad news!

Ross was on for Felix not long after that last burst of action, and he took the captains armband from Clarke, taking up position on the right behind Minihan who was now occupying an advanced position down that flank.

Not long after that, JG acted again bringing Ball and Duxbury on for Odejayi and Lloyd. This was interesting as Duxbury set up shop ahead of Cartwright on the left.

County now had a whole lot of full backs on the park, but the move was anything but a defensive one as Duxbury and Minihan pushed on up the flanks, and County were only foiled by the offside flag after Marsden had seen a shot blocked.

Marsden certainly wanted a goal, and was trying hard enough, but another run by him ended badly, as did a fine run by Stopforth that was not well served by Ball who planted his shot well wide.

County persisted though, and Duxbury was unlucky with a run, and then he was in the thick of things at the other end clearing his lines from a corner after Smalley had done well to save the day with a last ditcher.

We were now just 5 minutes from the end, and Bradford were beginning to work up a head of steam again in search of that vital equaliser which would send us off to risk frostbite or worse on Monday in Yorkshire.

Toulson was working as hard as anyone and his ball in from the right seemed to have given Sinclair a chance of glory, and he shaped to take advantage by slipping neatly past Clarke on the proverbial sixpence!

The rest was simple?or should have been?having turned towards goal ?he would then plant the ball into the net, but despite Hinchliffe being stranded, Sinclair instead stabbed the sort of nervous shot I( long ago) specialised in, inches wide of the post!

Press as Bradford might after this, they perhaps knew that their chance had gone- just to be sure Cartwright and Duxbury were combining really well at the back to deny the Yorkshire side a sight of goal.

Stopforth provided relief in the form of a break from a deep defensive position . This took him just inside the box where he promptly slid the ball to his left to Marsden who slammed a lethal left foot strike home.

It was 2-0 now and the game was up for Park Avenue, with the game already into added time.

Marsden went off with an injury after the goal, not to return, but County were in no mood to allow the visitors back into it, and Cartwright and Duxbury again took a hand?the duo winning the ball at the back, before Duxbury took time out to get forward, and it was great to see Duxbury stretch his legs on a lung bursting run that took him into the box.

The eventual shot went wide?.but no one looked to do anything other than applaud!

Not a bad end that to a keenly contested game, and definitely a good result for County, as they look to progress in the Trophy competition for the first time.

Really looking forward to the draw for the next round now- see you at Cheltenham next Saturday then!

[ Great pics again – and please County, never go for the away kit BPA wear – see here! ]

Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Clarke, Smalley, Cartwright, Montrose, Stopforth,Felix ( Ross 65), Odejayi( Ball 69), Marsden, Lloyd( Duxbury 69).

Subs not used: Ormson, Meppen-Walter.

Bradford Park Avenue line up;
Worsnop, Toulson, Hill( Spires 82), Dean( Davie 77), Killock, Nowakowski, Wroe, D Boshell, Sinclair, Sharp( Cofie 50), N Boshell.

Subs not used: Sanchez, Hall.
Attendance : 1164

Ian Brown


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