[ Written By Ian Brown ]
County had to settle for a hard earned point from what turned out to be a fair old battle at bitterly cold Nethermoor Park today, against a combative Guiseley side.
The final score of 1-1, would not have been anyone’s forecasted result after a first half that saw County almost completely outplay the Yorkshire side, scoring one and having a further effort dubiously ruled out. However, the re-start saw a complete turnaround as Marcus Bignot’s side took a leaf out of County’s playbook, defended high up the park, and harried everything in blue that moved.
County’s goal was a smart finish by Darren Stephenson who took advantage of a spill from keeper Marcus Dewhurst, whilst Guiseley’s equaliser was notched by their stand out performer George Cantrill, but whilst one point might be viewed as a disappointment it did see the gap twixt us and leaders Chorley narrowed by 1 as they went down 4-2 to Southport, and it also keeps the unbeaten run going.
Top man for the Blues, for me, was Sam Minihan, and he was involved early doors, as Warburton went close after excellent work from Sam had put Guiseley under the cosh.
Cantrill eased that pressure by heading clear, but the issues only returned for our hosts via Stephenson who was distinctly unlucky with a run down the left.
Six minutes of almost constant blue pressure was rudely interrupted in the seventh as Rowan Liburd failed to test Hinchliffe, having been gifted possession by some lax work from County.
Duxbury resumed hostilities and Cantrill did really well to deny him.
On it went, Stephenson taking a neat pass from Mulhern to head for goal, only for his progress to be halted by Cliff Moyo. Corners followed as County ratcheted up the ante, and Guiseley were rattled and it showed with a rash of County free kicks. It was also apparent via Kennedy Digie’s plight, and he was finding facing Mulhern, Stephenson and Duxbury down the left massively difficult, and his already strapped up left leg seemed to be not lasting the pace as he spent more time on the deck than on his pins in the first 20 minutes or so.
The tenth minute ushered in a neat moment for County, or so it seemed, as the latest Guiseley indiscretion ( a foul on Warburton ) gave us a free kick just outside the box. Instead of a shot at goal, the ball was played across the box to where Palmer met it heading home.
One nil, except it wasn’t as the far liner had his flag up, and the goal was ruled out! That was an incredibly bad decision and probably cost us the game – I saw no offside, not a whiff of it, although the liner may have got a whiff of Ash’s after shave ( that’s all I can think of)
County were not downhearted, indeed Warburton ( combining neatly with Mulhern) was only just kept out by Langley.
Meanwhile 2 home defenders were on Duxbury, and his latest run saw one of these foul the County man, but the referee was oblivious to the foul and allowed play to continue, much to the ire of the large County following that had spread itself loudly around 3 sides of the ground.
On… on… the County forward push went, a lengthy siege ending with Dewhurst saving from Stephenson. The pattern remained the same as we passed the half hour mark, but we did get a brief reminder of the need for vigilance, when Hinchliffe could not hold a cross from Liburd. This brought former Hatter Kayode Odejayi centre stage, but he could not force the ball home, and the chance was gone.
I took consolation in the notion that that last action was unrepresentative of the action generally, and great work by Mulhern tended to reinforce this view, and might have done so to a greater degree than it did had not Langley intervened to block Thomas.
Warburton was inches away, with 10 first half minutes left, and Duxbury was denied by the combined talents of Cantrill and Moyo a couple of minutes later.
It all looked likely to build up to a goal for the Blues, but when Stephenson’s run set Warburton up, Moyo was again able to impose himself and see the danger off.
Into the last 3 minutes of normal time in the first half we went with a Baines header held comfortably by the keeper.
Guiseley did reply through Will Hatfield, but he dragged his shot well wide after Cantrill had engineered a break for his team. That was pretty much it then as far as the first half is concerned……was it?
Not a bit of it!
Warburton, for one, was not about to settle for his half time orange ( do they still have that tradition ?) and a comforting word from JG ( yep… they still have those ) and he rattled a rasping drive goal ward where Dewhurst met it but saw the ball thud into his chest and run clear. Happily (for County) Stephenson was following up and wasted no time at all in side footing the neatest of finishes into the net to give County a lead to take in at the break.
There was time for Odijayi to fire high and wide following a brief melee in front of the County goal, and for Walker to narrowly miss out as his free kick went inches wide, and that was all for the first half in which County really deserved to be more than the one goal up.
It all changed after the break as straight from the re-start Guiseley upped the ante, forcing County back deep into their last third where corners and long throws just increased the angst.
Hinchliffe emerged with the ball after a period of pressure from the Yorkshire side, and a Minihan / Thomas combo offered real hope, until the final ball from Sam picked out Dazzer and the liner flagged him offside.
Liburd and Cantrill were causing County problems. Liburd forced a corner with a run to the by-line, but Cantrill went even better, ending a run down the right by cutting inside to draw Hinchliffe before slamming the ball home.
That was just 10 minutes into the second half, and another 5 minutes saw Turnbull on for Warburton, in an attempt to stem the tide of Guiseley attacks. But the tide would not turn, as corners came and went for the home side for whom Odijayi should have probably done better, 62 minutes in, than heading over the bar from a corner.
Hinchliffe was busy at this point and did well under pressure, but County were finding it increasingly difficult to put meaningful attacks together, despite the industry and graft of Minihan, Thomas, Walker and others. And, as the temperature dipped, so the tackling from our hosts got ever so slightly tasty, Cantrill receiving yellow for a wild tackle on Mulhern as he started a break. Then Walker got even worse treatment from Moyo (a truly bad assault), and it was disappointing to see the free kick come to noting from this.
The yellow cards were coming thick and fast for County’s opponents- Hatfield earning his with a glorious dive in the box as Guiseley looked vainly for a penalty.
Gradually, County began to piece together moves midst the card carnage, but the final ball was lacking, Minihan’s cross too long for everyone in blue from Mulhern’s pass, and another free kick was sent tamely into the keeper’s arms.
We needed some inspiration from somewhere, someone, but shots were going close, but, typical of this was a break from Stephenson, followed by a pass to Minihan, but his shot was inches wide…
Walker was similarly out of luck, seeing his effort cannon back out off a line of defenders from Minihan’s pass. It was at this point, with around 2 minutes normal time left that Kirby replaced Walker, who was no doubt still smarting from his earlier treatment by our hosts. Osborne had come on earlier for Mulhern, but, whilst County were beginning to work at a winner, still it stayed 1-1 as the home keeper saved Duxbury’s shot after yet another raid engineered by Minihan and Thomas.
The effort was there, but our recent prime form was just off the boil a touch- maybe the fact that Guiseley were well rested after 2 weeks off influenced this, .anyways, it was so.
And no matter how County tried, they could not alter it, not Osborne whose shot from a Thomas cross deep in added time was charged down, not Minihan whose latest surging run saw a harassed defender take aim for the Leeds City Centre with his hurried clearance, not Duxbury who headed wide from a high ball from Turnbull at the death.
Yes, that was that, the spoils were shared, and the unbeaten run maintained.
A sense of perspective is required I think in assessing this result, which came on the end of a ten game winning streak ! That is no mean feat and should not be forgotten. County have not suddenly become a poor side, and I look for them to come back strongly next time out!
No doubt I will see you there then !
[ Some brillaint pictures from the game can be found here! ]
Guiseley line up:-
Dewhurst, Moyo, Heaton, Digie ( Purver 41), Langley, Halls, Cantrill, James, Liburd ( Clayton 78), Odejayi, Hatfield.
Subs not used : Thornton, Green, Morrison.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Baines, Duxbury, Walker ( Kirby 88), Keane, Thomas, Mulhern ( Osborne 80), Warburton ( Turnbull 59), Stephenson.
Subs not used : Ormson, Cowan.
Attendance : 1296