Stockport County swept into the final of the Cheshire Senior Cup last night with an emphatic 3-0 win against a Northwich Victoria side that battled hard for 90 odd minutes.
With County showing the visitors maximum respect by fielding the strongest possible eleven, the odds were always going to be stacked against Jim Gannon’s former club, and goals from Marsden, Odejayi and O’ Hanlon were enough to book County’s place in the final at Gresty Road.
It was a decent showing albeit one against a side two rungs below us in the UK football pyramid, and there was much to be happy about- a fact confirmed by the enthusiastic applause that rang out around an increasingly rain sodden Edgeley Park from a neat crowd of 517.
Morton ran off with the M.O.M award, and I would not greatly argue with that, but for me I was impressed with Ledsham’s non stop work ethic once again, whilst I thought Smalley just edged O’Hanlon out of the defensive honours in a very satisfying game.
More satisfaction came from seeing the ridiculously under used Ryan Ellison get a run out after recent injury- it was only 15 minutes but it’s a start and confirms that Ryan will get a fair crack from Jim.
Oh……and have I mentioned Ian Ormson ?…..Well…I should have….he was in brilliant action again…..saving one penalty….hexing the taker for a second….and , almost routinely ….recording another clean sheet!
For Vics I had full back Alex Brynk as their top man and he was in the action early on bringing a save from Ormson with only 2 minutes on the clock.
County had the majority of the ball in the opening minutes however, with Brodie and Odejayi pressing on and looking to link up as they had so effectively , at times, on Saturday.
The first real effort on goal though came from County hot shot John Marsden , but this crashed into the boards inches wide.
Morton and Roberts both took time out to harry the visitors down the flanks, whilst Ledsham joined Odejayi in trying to prise the Vics defence open down the middle…..but it took a defensive mistake from the visitors to ignite County’s fuse, and?? as they failed to make a clearance …so Marsden latched onto the loose ball to slide it home from outside the box.
Thirteen minutes gone…. and County were now 1-0 to the good, but the game wasn’t over and Northwich did their best to emphasise this with a period of pressure, the best of which came via James Ball and that man Brynk.
This lasted for 5 or six minutes whereupon County hit their opponents on the break forcing Scott Duxbury to resort to a foul to stop the rot.
However….the rot was not stopped as County had a free kick.
They also had a small queue of people wanting to take it….Menagh, Ledsham and Field, and it was the latter who eventually took it and with Lewis King and his defenders again not dealing properly with the threat, Odejayi ( another player enjoying a massively new lease of life under JG) nipped in to make it 2-0.
Northwich came back at County immediately …first through Brynk, and then Howard , but Smalley and O’Hanlon saw them off to keep it at 2-0
More spirited attacking followed from Northwich , again through Iain Howard, after good work by Gary Burnett and Alex Brynk down the right, but Ormson was on his toes and they were denied.
Howard and Richard Bennett both worked themselves decent positions after this , but Smalley reacted quickly to snuff out Bennett’s run, and Ledsham’s vigilance stopped the rot as the ex County man ran on to a dangerous ball from Burnett.
County weathered the attacking storm fairly comfortably though, and the back four looked to be pretty much untroubled for much of the time. That said…they were indebted to Ian Ormson in the dying embers of the half for another of his special saves!
Brodie had just set Marsden up for a snap shot, with some excellent work under pressure from Cedric Kroll, when the action switched ends and Burnett`s ball sent Howard in.
He looked on to score until Ormson advanced before diving to snatch the ball off the forward’s toes.
It was an excellent….brave…save, but the referee for some reason pointed to the spot, ushering in a penalty to Vics and…. perhaps significantly….no booking for Ormson.
No matter Ian had a spot kick to deal with, and he did so brilliantly…diving to his right to beat Howard’s kick out. That was simply excellent and the crowd let Ian know so in the minutes that remained of the half.
Those last minutes mainly saw County on the offensive -urged on by Ledsham and Odejayi, but there was no further addition to the score, and the teams trooped off to a decent reception from what was a very decent crowd.
Northwich opened the second half brightly, but after 5 minutes of pressure from the visitors, and Ormson did well to dash out at one point and dispossess Richard Bennett as he charged through the middle.
For County, both Menagh and Ledsham went close without adding to the score .The combative Michael Roddy had a hand in dishing Menagh`s effort, and Ledsham was just unlucky with his shot from a corner.
Meanwhile?.Odejayi was proving more than a handful for the visiting defenders and I was dismayed that the referee failed to notice him being hauled down in the box just before the hour mark by Kroll.
The Vics number 4 stopped Big K again without minutes, this time 100% legally, as a Morton run threatened to set another goal up.
Brodie and Marsden combined nicely next to try and convert a free kick into a third goal, but Brodie`s hard graft went un-rewarded when Marsden`s drive carried the bar.
Vics now had all their substitutes on and one of them, Josh Amis, linked up nicely with Brynk to cause County an issue or two down the right.
For a moment or so this looked a tad dangerous, but this feeling passed when first off Roberts intervened to concede a corner, and then a foul on Ormson, by Bennett, completed County`s escape.
Brodie was still working hard deep into the last quarter of the game going close with a shot that took an unlucky deflection en-route to King`s besieged goal , and disappointed again having a penalty appeal turned down by the referee.
It was not long before County ‘s subs were all in place?..Garvin was first on for Roberts, followed by Ryan Ellison ( Marsden) and George West ( Odejayi).
As I said earlier it was particularly good to see young Ryan in the mix, and I am far from the only one with that view point!
Meanwhile King was in action, with a firm stop to deny the energetic Brodie. A corner resulted ?..and then a third goal as O`Hanlon joined his forward`s to head home to general acclaim!
Game over?…………….maybe?..but no one had told Northwich, and Garvin was reduced to fouling Brynk as he made ground down the right. This offered Vics a chance to reduce the arrears, but this chance vanished when Ledsham arrived in the box and made the clearance.
Game over now then????..?……err?.no??as back came Vics again( rather inconveniently as I was stranded in the Cheadle End ) as they pushed County back and Morton slid in to take the legs of an attacker.
I saw the referee point to the spot as I turned the corner twixt Cheadle and Main stands, and there was more than the odd mirthful chuckle in the air as I finally made it to the half way line as Josh Amis prepared to take the kick.
But??.Ormson had the hex on Amis who lifted the poorest of kicks way over the bar. Oh?..and I got a photo of sorts??.
The final action saw Ellison`s shot carry the bar at the now empty Cheadle End, and that really was game over, and it had been a pretty good one!
I am looking forward to Gresty Road and the Final, and wish Vics all the good fortune in the world with the off the park issues they are currently dealing with.
Meanwhile see you Saturday for County v Gloucester City.
Please note though that the match report will be delayed ( probably until Sunday morning) due to hedgegrower being on duty at the `Big County Quiz` at the Bungalow.
The Quiz starts at 5.30 after the match finishes, so why not pop in, and help boost the Players Fund as the 50p arrangement is in place for this event.
[ Photos from last night? Simply cick here ]
Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Morton, O`Hanlon, Smalley, Roberts ( Garvin 70), Field, Menagh, Ledsham, Marsden( Ellison 75), Odejayi( West 80), Brodie.
Subs not used:
D Smith, Joyce.
Northwich Victoria line up:
King, Brynk, Duxbury, Kroll, Clarke, Regan, Ball( Cook 65), Roddy( Summerskill 65), Bennett, Howard, Burnett( Amis 58).
Subs not used: