County`s revival under Jim Gannon`s leadership, continued apace at Edgeley Park yesterday where they surged to an impressive 3-0 win against a tough and resilient Gloucester City team that came to win.
In some respects it was the archetypal ‘game of two halves’ as, in the first half, City set their stall out diligently, constantly pushing County onto the back foot with a combination of the pace and trickery of Joe Hanks and Omari Sterling-James down the flanks and Ed Williams and Colby Bishops energy and physical presence through the middle.
Add the fact that captain Mike Green and Spencer Hamilton were able to add further width from the back, at times, and ?potentially, County had problems.
But they addressed these really pretty well, and whilst Roberts was under pressure at times from the runs of Hanks ( and got booked for his pains), the back four, shielded diligently by Tom Field ,Karl Ledsham and the returning Lewis Montrose, coped well with what was thrown at them.
After the break it was another, different story as, with JG ringing the tactical changes, County took the game to their opponents in fine style.
Top marks for me went to John Marsden who was all action and threat from first whistle to last, but Brodie was all we would want him to be too. Both these excellent strikers got a goal, as did substitute Obi Anoruo, with a massive assist from Marsden.
If it was an excellent win, it was also an emotional occasion as it was Karl Ledsham final game before retiring to take up a coaching position in the USA, and the Edgeley Park crowd gave the popular mid fielder an appropriately warm send-off!
There was early action for Ian Ormson as Bishop was allowed to get a shot in from a clearly offside position. The County keeper coped well, the least said about the MS Liner the better!
County replied through Morton, but his cross proved to be too high for Odejayi.
This was proving to be an interesting start and Morton had to double back quickly as the play switched ends. Sterling-James and Green got forward in tandem, and things looked a tad iffy momentarily until efforts by both met with firm blocks from the County number two.
That was good work from Morton but his next was less so, as a foul on Sterling James ushered in a City free kick which again saw Ormson called to action to sort, which he duly did.
Meanwhile Marsden and Brodie had been plugging away ?probing for an opening, Marsden all energy, full of inventiveness, Brodie??just Brodie?as pugnacious as ever ?in the face of everyone and unlucky twice with offside flaggings.
Marsden`s ill luck meanwhile was to be contesting matters with Bishop, who when the ball had departed, clattered the County man.
No matter, Marsden recovered, but Bishop should have had more from referee Scott Oldham than the cursory word that he offered whilst back pedalling away from the errant player.
It was Brodie`s turn next to taste grit , courtesy of Chris Knowles this time, and Field`s free kick was a decent one offering up a chance for Brodie, who duly responded – his shot heading like an Exocet for the far corner of the net.
It was a good effort, no doubting that?but so was keeper Jasbir Singh`s response, and his dive saw him push the ball out to the chagrin of the SK3 locals.
This was not at all bad from County, and a neat cooperation twixt Odejayi and Marsden, resulted in the latter heading goal ward. A swerve one way, a change of feet from right to left, and, a shot whistled inches wide of Singh`s far post!
Good stuff that, but City were determined to be seen as something other than just making up the numbers, and Williams was disappointed to see his effort, 18 minutes in, curl up and over the angle of bar and post.
Gloucester upped their game after that last action and they were victims of the MS Liner themselves ,5 or so minutes later, when Robbie Cundy, arriving late in the box, was flagged rather dubiously offside, after County had been pinned down in the last third by a series of throws.
The tireless Marsden almost got to a canny flick on from Brodie, before City went back on the attack searching for that vital opener.
Bishop was first up, but his header was held firmly by Ormson.
Then Hanks went for it, bursting clear after a neat one/ two with Bishop, only to be thwarted by the man with a flag to my left!
It was at this point that Roberts got his booking for an injudicious tackle on Hanks, and things were definitely heating up at the back for County with their opponents sending bodies forward in numbers.
Cundy and Knowles spear headed the best of the visitors efforts around this time, but Ormson did well to foil the duo , as did O`Hanlon moments later when Sterling-James pinged one in at speed.
It went on with Hanks firing over the top, then? with Williams jinking past Roberts neatly, it looked a touch iffy again for the blues, but Ormson saved the day with a brave save with Bishop running in at him dangerously.
More County angst followed with O`Hanlon in position to clear a shot from Sterling-James off the line following a notable double save by Ormson.
This was real solid pressure from Gloucester, but County stood their ground, and eventually the City storm abated sufficiently for Morton to raise the siege and win a corner with one of his characteristic barn storming runs.
Nothing came from it nor from a delightful Marsden chip that sent Ledsham clear ( he was flagged offside) some time later.
Brodie almost sniffed one in the dying moments of the half, but found Singh in top nick stopping his progress, and it was still 0-0 as the teams trooped off circa 3.45.
County were first out after the break, but we needed them to be faster to the ball and better able to deny their opponents the oxygen of possession in the next 45 minutes.
Well, it did not take them long to start the locals smiling again, but no one was particularly mirthful as Morton`s latest run was interrupted by a foul from Hanks.
This was on the Main Stand touchline, and Ledsham took it sending a real belter into the box where Brodie met it giving Singh no chance with a priceless header!
Two minutes??one goal, what a turn around, but Brodie`s attempts to up that to two were thwarted by an upraised flag within a minute.
Gloucester did get some respite via a free kick ,and whilst this enabled Green to force County onto the back foot for a while, this did not last and it took another diving save from Singh to prevent the blues doubling their tally as a move involving Morton, Montrose and Marsden laid the visitors defensive cover to waste.
County were restricting City to shots from distance more successfully now, and Ormson coped with Sterling-James snap shot on 55 minutes with something approaching ease.
With Brodie as feisty and combative as ever, and now in Scott Oldham`s view finder??JG moved tyo replace him with Anoruo, and straight off the move declared a dividend as he joined a quick County break that saw Marsden latch onto the deftest of flick-ons from Odejayi, before drawing the keeper and beating him with a truly exquisite lob!
That was a brilliant goal, no doubting that at all and the County crowd went AS in response!
Credit to Gloucester though, they tried to respond, and showed no inclination whatsoever to take their foot off the gas, but County were not phased at all, with good work from Roberts and Odejayi, and generally sound organisation, seeing them clear of any danger.
It went on with Hanks winning a corner ,which required quick responses from Ledsham to sort. But from this a shot from Sterling- James went wide, after much good work by Hanks.
Another corner followed as City sent body after hopeful body forward, but again County`s defensive matrix held and Ormson eventually emerged with the ball to loud applause from most of the crowd of over 2800.
Back came County eventually and brilliant work from Marsden ushered in the chance of a third goal as he turned a defensive position into one of attack. In an instant he hurried the ball towards goal where ANoruo lurked.
Unfortunately Singh was in the vicinity too, and he just managed to snatch the ball before Obi could dispatch it gaol ward.
County faced the last 20 minutes with Garvin on for Tom Field. With Ledsham leaving Field is going to be very handy indeed, and he left the field to a generous ovation.
County were now the ones sending bodies forward in numbers and Cundy was delighted to locate the Reservoirs at one point with former club mate Anoruo on the charge.
Garvin then saw a shot charged down, then a cross from him landed nicely at Odejayi`s feet beyond the far post. Deep joy followed as Big K slid the neatest of passes inside to Anoruo, but that is where the joy ended as he fluffed his lines snatching at his shot ?sending the pill wide of a largely un-guarded goal.
On it went, Marsden lashing an optimistic one wide , and Singh again beating Anoruo to one in the box.
Luke Hopper and Green flew the flag briefly and bravely for Gloucester after this, but despite winning a corner and putting County under some pressure for a minute or so, nothing of note materialised from it, and as a result County were able to mount further assaults on Singh`s goal and ,with 2 minutes left, one of them saw the blues increase their lead.
Almost inevitably it started with a Morton run, and when he slipped the ball inside to Marsden, I am guessing almost all of the 2800+ on site expected him to shoot.
Well?he could have, but he didn`t ?instead he turned to cross the ball inside to Anoruo who sent a magic header into the net with Singh dished for once!
That was a really excellent goal and well worthy of a double portion of phots , courtesy of Andrew Machin and Simon George???
The excellent Karl Ledsham was replaced on 90 minutes by Ryan Ellison, and he received an almighty ovation from the crowd as he departed the field of play for the last time.
We wish Karl well in the USA where I am sure that his work ethic will see his future career go from strength to strength!
Gloucester kept plugging away to the final whistle though, Williams and Hopper doing their level best to salvage something from the wreckage of their day, but there was just no way through County`s defensive cover, and it was left to Anoruo to ring the curtain down on an excellent performance with a late run that Sam Avery did well to snuff out at the last gasp.
A mightily impressive win that County, Great stuff!
[ See the pictures from the game, including an impressive Gloucester City flag and also photos of the ‘Big County Quiz’ teams here!
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Stockport County line up:-
Ormson, Morton, O`Hanlon, Connolly, Roberts, Field( Garvin 74), Montrose, Ledsham( Ellison 90), Marsden, Odejayi, Brodie( Anoruo 57).
Subs not used:
D Smith, Menagh.
Gloucester City line up:
Singh, Green, Hamilton, Cundy, Avery, Knowles( Hopper 70), Dinsley, Hanks, E.Williams, Bishop( Hall 70), Sterling- James( Nkunga 81).
Subs not used: