Stockport County stormed on in the FA Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory against media darlings Salford City at Edgeley Park.
If goals by Danny Lloyd and Michael Clarke were enough to secure the win for the blues, it was also a performance of some substance underpinned by a commanding back four that were especially well served by Skipper Mark Ross and the incredible Sam Minihan who scooted away with the M.O.M award after playing out of position but also out of his skin!
Yes??there was lots to praise about County`s work, and the midfield of Stopforth , Meppen-Walter and Montrose must have pleased County`s manager no end playing some neat football at an unhurried pace that looked top notch from way back in the Cheadle End.
Elsewhere?..Josh Amis ran and ran without so much as an ounce of luck, and then there was Danny Lloyd who gave us another all action?up and at ’em showing that must have made the Beeb think a bit as their well laid FA Cup plans went up in smoke!
A special mention also to Craig Carney who looked absolutely on the money when he came on, and with a shade more composure might have added a goal to the shed load of intelligent play he laid before us!
There were over 3000 in the place as the game commenced with Salford kicking towards the Cheadle End, shortly after 3 o`clock.
County were first to show , 3 minutes in, when Jimmy Ball sent Amis clear in the box, but the young forward`s shot missed the target.
Salford`s account was tentatively opened a minute later via James Poole, but he did no better than had Amis, and his shot failed to test Hinchliffe at all.
The visitors kept looking for scraps after the last action, but Billy Priestley`s shot was no great shakes, joining us in Row R to much hilarity.
County came back at their opponents next as a throw and a cross from Ross put City under pressure. Meppen-Walter joined the fray in impressive style , but when his cross headed into the box, Amis could not force it home.
It was nip and tuck really?.both sides sizing the other up, and Jordan Hulme thought he was on a good thing down the right until Minihan showed and the whole thing very nearly went pear shaped for the Manchester team, when Meppen-Walter took a hand?winning a free kick, that ended with Lloyd`s shot flashing across goal, narrowly missing out at the back post.
County were well served down the flanks where Minihan and Ross were winning just about everything going. Midst this a Meppen-Walter shot was deflected for a corner that Lloyd almost scored from.
Just 10 minutes had gone, but already it was possible to think that today could be a good day for County, and Minihan underlined this thought with a sterling bit of work to sort Mike Pheonix as he threatened on the break!
Yes?..there was a good feeling about, and the flames of this were fanned frantically by Meppen-Walter whose pass to Lloyd saw the ex Fylde flyer turn his man inside out on the proverbial sixpence!
He could have been greedy and shot?..but he didn`t passing instead to Ball who should really have done better than he did. Ball was slow to react and allowed the men in white to clear their lines.
On it went with both teams still looking for an opening, and although County were getting themselves in the better positions going forward, the finishing still left something to be desired.
That said?it was action at the other end of the park that had us out of our seats next, as County surrendered possession allowing Hulme to dart clear. He looked offside, but the liners flag stayed down, and it looked odds on an opening goal for City as the number eleven advanced to goal with only Hinchliffe in his path.
It was a very good chance?..and to be fair Hulme did get his shot off?.and it would have hit the target had not Hinchliffe intervened with a crucial save to deny him!
That was possibly a pivotal moment in the game as?within 5 minutes?County were in front!
Almost inevitably it started with a Ross throw?.a corner followed, and City struggled to clear their lines and put a coherent move together. On the other hand?.County had Minihan and Lloyd , and the dynamic duo tore the right side of the visitors defence to shreds with some excellent play.
Lloyd was unstoppable ?so he was fouled and the referee saw it and pointed to the spot!
County had a penalty and it was a no brainer?.Lloyd would take it and he made no mistake beating the keeper`s dive with the coolest of kicks!
The goal was the trigger for a spirited response from Salford, but County`s spirit was not to be sniffed at either, and Ross did particularly well to rob Pheonix with a cracking tackle.
County were under pressure for sure but their response was top notch as central defenders Clarke and Smalley took their cue from Minihan and Ross locking up the way to goal.
Clarke was temporarily incapacitated at one point, but Ross again proved the man for the job- heading clear as Michael Nottingham ( a dangerous operator for City) pinged a cross over. Yes?Salford were definitely looking to score??.
However?.so were County, and it was annoying to see Lloyd`s latest run cut short by Scott Burton taking him out!
Nottingham made a better impression on us than had Burton, but he found Montrose in great nick clearing up field from the full backs cross.
Burton did try to impress, but he rather fluffed his chance, and muddied his nice clean orange shoes in the process, by lifting the poorest of shots high and wide.
Credit to Salford?..they were still trying for that equaliser?..and?.by and large?.they were not disposed to kick us off the park?..which was a refreshing change after the horrors of last Tuesday!
Part of the reason why we were not quite as angst ridden, owed something?I think to the fact that Paul Newhouse was refereeing, and ?by and large?.he did not get too much wrong! Another refreshing change!
With less than 10 minutes remaining of the first half, County found themselves under the cosh a bit with Pheonix bearing down on goal having bullied his way into the box with a string of blue shirts trying, but failing, to block his run.
It was a chance for sure, but not for long as Hinchliffe ventured off his line to save the day with a confident save.
Add some neat work by Minihan to stop Hulme, and a shot from Nottingham that he dragged wide, and it was a relief when County were able to work the ball clear eventually.
County replied through Minihan who in rapid succession almost put both Amis and Ball in with decent chances.
The half ended with City pressing, and Ball and Stopforth combining to clear their lines after a shot from Huddersfield had been deflected for a late corner!
One nil to County then at the break and the teams went in with applause ringing in their ears.
Into the second half then, and the first chance fell to Amis whose header was inches from glory from a neatly taken free kick by Lloyd ( Mr Newhouse had originally awarded the kick to City, but then changed his mind, and perhaps would have ignited WW3 had Amis`s header gone the other side of the post).
Salford ,for their part, were still set on obtaining that equaliser?Minihan and Hinchliffe were called on in rapid succession to shore up at the back for County with the visitors piling forward looking for a goal.
Seven minutes into the half and County showed their teeth via a Meppen-Walter through ball that sent Lloyd darting into the box. Lloyd had ex Hatter Harry Worley for company and the pair came together briefly as they surged into the box.
“Penalty” cried almost all of SK3 ?and it must be said I would have given it?.but Mr Newhouse didn`t and gave us an annoying mime to tell us so!
Back came Salford?.and a couple of corners seemed to momentarily pep their effort up a touch, but Hinchliffe having punched the first one away from the danger zone?the second saw Burton blast another poor effort way wide.
One nil was one nil?.but there was still much to play for, for both teams, and County set about ending all argument with a decisive second goal. Meppen-Walter did his best, but saw his shot was deflected for a corner by Bradley Barnes.
Meppen-Walter was in the mix again when the kick came over, but his shot was charged down, and despite heroic efforts from Smalley at the back post, the ball was cleared and the chance was gone.
County were definitely building a head of steam now, and Amis`s energy looked on to capitalise on this until he was brought down by Priestley. The free kick was taken by Lloyd and it was a belter, and almost went in without assistance?however ace sniffer..Michael Clarke made sure and prodded it home from close in!
That was excellent and 2-0 nearly became 3-0 within a couple of minutes when Ball darted clear down the right before sending Amis away with a neat ball. But Amis could not put the chance away and it stayed 2-0.
Despite that set back, County were flying and Jas Lynch did well to grab the ball under the bar, after Stopforth had crossed from the by-line.
County looked on for a handsome win now, and this prognosis looked smack on the money when Worley sent Amis clear with a lulu of a pass. Now?.. Amis did the difficult bit?he drew the keeper?.but then hit the man with his shot rather than the net!
The blues pushed on ?..Amis unsuccessful appealing for a free kick on the edge of the box after he had combined with Lloyd. Then Ross got us going again with a peach of a ball out of defence which saw substitute Craig Carney scoot clear.
He was in on goal in a heart beat, but in another the chance was gone as a moments hesitation allowed keeper Lynch to deflect the ball behind for a corner, and whilst Meppen-Walter went close from the kick?..it was not close enough and City survived.
The onslaught continued with Priestley blocking Lloyd`s shot at the last gasp, and Meppen-Walter combining with Minihan to switch play to Carney, wide right. Carney was promptly fouled, and County had a free kick, but this ushered in more angst as Amis narrowly failed to head home at the back post.
Lloyd was in his element running at the City back line that at times looked bemused at best particularly Lynch who was fortunate to escape one spill with 14 minutes left that almost saw Lloyd in again?.and another with Amis and Carney in his face not long after.
Marsden replaced Lloyd a couple of minutes later, as a rare attack by City ended with Richard Allen shooting wide.
Marsden went close for County, as did Allen again for the visitors who were kept at bay by a brilliant save from Hinchliffe just before this.
If Salford were working hard to get back into the game, so County were looking ever more dangerous on the break, and some excellent work came next from Carney who brought the ball out of deep defence in fine style before releasing a near perfect pass to Marsden on his left.
Marsden was away and did well, under pressure, to get his cross over and it flew low and hard across the goal where Amis was speeding towards it. Amis flung himself forward?but without avail as the ball eluded him by the narrowest of margins.
Another intelligent run from Carney and normal time was done with.
Salford were put under severe pressure in added time as an up and under from the Lancashire side was turned on them by Carney who sped clear once more.
The pass from Carney was good and Meppen-Walter the recipient, but his luck was out and a matter of inches deprived him of the satisfaction of making it 3-0.
There was time for JG to pull of a nice stroke by introducing young Jordan Downing on late on?.so late on in fact that he managed a mere 5 seconds of action before the referee drew a veil over proceedings!
Game over?..game won?..the FA Cup Draw beckons.
Well played County- they really turned up trumps today AGAIN, and thoroughly deserved their win!
What of our friends at the Beeb? Will they come a calling come the next round? Perhaps?however??like myself?.perhaps you will not be contemplating holding your breath awaiting that decision!
No matter?our season continues to prosper under JG`s guidance, and it is so good to see so many happy smiling places about the old place again!
Long may it be so?.see you next week!
[ Tremendous live action shots from the game can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Ross, Clarke, Smalley, Minihan, Meppen-Walter, Montrose, Stopforth, Amis( Downing 94) , Ball( Carney 63), Lloyd( Marsden 78).
Subs not used;
Ormson, Cartwright, Spencer, Odejayi,
Salford City line up:
Lynch, Nottingham, O`Halloran( Warburton 65), Burton, Worley, Priestley, Barnes, Walker, Pheonix( Wellens 58), Poole( Allen 80), Hulme.
Subs not used:
King, Johnston, Hine, Gootson.
County 2 Salford City 0
Stockport County stormed on in the FA Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory against media darlings Salford City at Edgeley Park.