[Written by Ian Brown]
A confident Stockport County squad continued their run of impressive pre-season form with a landslide 10-0 win last night at Stockport Sports Village against Stockport Town .
The North East Counties side would have been pleased with how things went for the first 20 minutes of the game, in which they kept County at bay with a determined display that saw them defending particularly well as a unit, and with Will Smith Cunningham linking with Kyle Foley to offer counter attacking possibilities- a close encounter looked on the cards.
Then the dam burst as , almost inevitably Ash Palmer got on the end of one of a plethora of County corners to head the blues into a 21st minute lead.
Town did well to limit County to a 4 goal lead at the break, and much of the credit for this goes to their young keeper Andrei Stinka who performed really well. Andrei`s brother Nicolae also did well after the break when County`s reshuffle saw Saturday`s mix of new faces and less used players playing out of their skins for James Gannon under the Woodley lights.
In the end there was a brace of goals each for a distinctly in form Jake Kirby, Connor Dimaio and Nyal Bell whilst Sam Minihan, Michael Elstone and a determined Elliott Osborne added to Palmer`s opener.
Additionally we got a look at Alex Curran playing in what is assumed as the `first team` in the first half, and I personally liked what I saw. He is what `it says on the can` …seemingly…..namely a player who gets involved and goes looking for possession and maybe goals. A goal did not materialised this time, but there looks to plenty in there for sure!
County , had Mulhern messing Town`s metaphoric hair with his inventive skills that complemented Kirby`s fire to a tee. Add Minihan who was again a power house, and I reiterate that our hosts did well to keep County out for the 20 minutes that they did!
Once again County`s back line of Minihan, Palmer, Keane, and Cowan shielded by Turnbull had `shut out` on their minds and did the biz brilliantly, to keep Hinchliffe`s work load to a minimum, although Foley did bring a good save from the County number one before half time.
After the break, with the back line of Thomas, Downing, Arthur and Golden, things stayed much the same. Town did get forward a touch more ,spending more time deep in blue territory , but the young County defenders stood up to their task nicely looking in control throughout, and at the other end of the park Czubik ,Elstone, Dimaio, Bell and Osborne gave the home side no respite at all!
The game opened with Nicolei Stinka in action tipping Turnbull`s ace strike ( reminiscent of FC Halifax last pre-season) over the bar, after Minihan and Curran had vied for a shot on goal. Fullback Josh Robinson ( well known to County fans) did well to block Curran from the resultant corner.
The corners mounted up with County pushing forward and looking good whilst doing so, and it took another fine block, this time by another familiar name ,Tom Whitty, to stop the already rampaging Minihan.
The defensive work from Town was good with numbers back all working for each other- this was going to be a real game perhaps?
Kyle Foley clearly wanted to make it so, but his run from the back saw his cross attract no takers, being cleared by Curran.
That was 9 minutes in, the tenth brought Stinka to the fore once more with a really good diving stop to keep the on fire Kirby out!
Meanwhile the thinking man`s centre forward Frank Mulhern, was buzzing smoothly about his business- Stinka needing to again be on his toes to keep it at 0-0 with Frank`s sites on a goal.
Tom Greenfield was next in red & white to step up and a firm block from him kept a threatening run by Curran out.
It was pretty much all County, with 15 minutes gone, but with Foley looking lively one could never be quite certain that this would continue to be so. He was stopped by a foul next and Hinchliffe had his first real action of the evening in the shape of a decent save to keep Jack McConnell`s free kick out.
Clearly though the pressure from the blues was mounting in unison with the corners that Town were happy to concede in extremis. Inevitably I suppose, one of Walker`s `tasty specials` found Ash Palmer`s forehead and the ball soared from thence into the net in time honoured fashion!
That was no more than JG`s team deserved , although Town must have been downcast having worked so diligently to keep it at 0-0 for almost half the first 45.
County were not going to show any sympathy…..far from it….Kirby wanted a goal almost as much as a permanent hold on that number 11 shirt, and Greenfield looked aggrieved when his `vigorous` tackle was adjudged to be foul on the edge of the box by Referee Joe Hull. The free kick was repulsed by Towns` still resilient defence, which continued to hold the collective fort against a wave of County corners and building pressure.
A brief flurry of attacking resistance was added to Town`s mix just before the half hour, but a neat block from Palmer saw off Kiarno Samms thrusting break from deep.
With Kirby , Thomas and Minihan working the flanks nicely ,surely goals would come soon…I thought, but Palmer`s latest exertions from Walker`s delivery was denied by a combination of ill fortune and competent defending on Town`s part.
County continued to pile forward and Stinka did well to punch clear under pressure, but the pressure went on and he could do nothing to stop Kirby heading home as the ball came to him smack in front of goal.
That was good work and the thought was that probably the home resistance would crumble soon, as County …within 3 minutes….added another goal this time via Minihan who refused to be kept at bay , his surging run ending with him slotting the ball home like yer regular striker!
But Town were not done….Foley being played in on goal by Smith- Cunnington, shortly after the third goal went in. It was a great ball and a decent chance, but Hinchliffe spread himself and made the save to break Town hearts.
Kirby by this time, was in imperious form …sniffing for the smallest of scraps, and just a whisker away from putting Cowan in with the neatest of through balls.
Stinka then saved a Kirby flick on that on another night might have been worth a goal, but he could do nothing with Kirby`s next effort .
It was a magic goal…..the product of more footballing conjuring tricks from Frank whose brilliant ball fed the fired up Kirby perfectly.
He was in on goal and Stinka had no chance as County`s number 11 slammed the ball home to make it 4-0.
In the 5 minutes that remained of the half following the fourth goal, Skelton twice had a nibble at County`s back line – his best effort seeing his shot charged down by Keane on the edge of the box.
Kirby went close again for County, and I thought Kiarno Samms for Town, was unlucky to be adjudged to have fouled Palmer at the death.
With the teams off at the break with the score 4-0 to County, controversy rage in the main stand where Man in a Hat was seen improperly dressed….without a hat, continuing to sell the excellent SCSC Football Calendar!
I also spotted Lou Spalding who confirmed that the Fingerpost Flyer was taking bookings for the opening away games at Notts County and Yeovil.
Back to business and wholesale changes were again the order of the day when the teams returned with Thomas the sole survivor of the first 45 for County.
County set off at a blistering pace and before I could blink the impressive Michael Elstone had made it 5-0 with a cracking drive just a minute or so into the half.
Another 60 seconds and it was 6-0 as Bell surged clear to thump a coruscating effort beyond Nicolae Stinka`s attempts to save!
Wow…what a start and it continued with Elstone, Osborne and Dimaio in particular looking fired up and then some!
Lee Constantine made the mistake of dwelling on the ball on the edge of the box just a tad too long, and Dimaio was on him…..stole it…..and smacked a beauty into the net!
Fifty two minutes……7-0, which was better than good, but County wanted more and Osborne was unlucky to see his shot deflected wide following a lively run by Czubik.
Lewis O`Connor fashioned a corner for Town next and the home team made a decent fist for a time of taking the game to County, but the cover from the young blue defenders was strong and stayed so throughout. I have said before how I like Festus Arthur, but Jordan Downing did well alongside him last night which offers County the possibility of decent cover for the centre of their defence.
Stinka meanwhile managed to foil both Czubik and Bell in short order .
Twice more Bell went close – foiled again by Stinka, then inches from Elstone`s cross.
The Town back line were under severe pressure and Connor Hancock had to find touch fast as Elstone powered into the box.
County wanted that eighth goal all right, no one more than Osborne, but his drive, 65 minutes in, and his follow up missed out.
The next few minutes were probably Stinka`s best of the game as twice he advanced to the edge of his box to deny the charging Czubik bravely- the second occasion on the end of a rakingly excellent ball from Arthur!
Thomas took a well earned break , with Cowan coming back on, with 20 minutes left, but County kept at it Stinka again excelling himself in keeping Elstone`s shot out. His purple patch could not last though and the weight of County`s pressure told next as Dimaio capped what for him was a good night`s work, with a neat strike from a difficult angle.
It was 8-0, and almost 9 as Stinka kept an attempted repeat from Dimaio out with a fine save.
Credit to Town…they were still trying to get forward, but still the County cover kept Ian Ormson`s burden light to none existent.
But…for Stinka …the work continued as he could only parry Czubik`s shot, recovering well to hold onto the follow up by Elstone.
Everyone in blue wanted in on the action now and Arthur went on the rampage up the park ending with Osborne`s shot whistling inches past the keeper`s left hand post.
Seconds later and Osborne had his reward though, receiving the ball from Elstone before dispatching same with a firmness that brooked no argument into the net !
Into the last few minutes we went with County 9-0 up…would they ease off?
No chance at all…..Czubik went close, before Bell surged onto a through ball to finish the scoring off perfectly after drawing the keeper to him!
Still…even after the tenth went in….County wanted more…..but Jack Taylor stepped up and ushered Czubik`s urgent cross to safety.
Corners came and went in the game`s dying embers but with no further addition to the score.
It had been a good work out for both teams and I thought Town were a credit to their management team – always staying honest and never resorting to anything dubious even when tiredness might have tempted them to do otherwise- good stuff!
For County there is stronger opposition this Saturday at Curzon Ashton.
I will hope to see you all there for that one, meanwhile, courtesy of County Historian Ian Watts , and in response to enquiries about County new faces , here is some detail on two of them…
A forward who was born in Stockport in October 1998 and was with Crewe Alexandra as a schoolboy. On leaving Alex, he joined Bangor City for the 2015-16 season. He signed a two-year scholarship deal with Fulham in July 2016. Released at the end of his Fulham contract he signed for Marine in December last season.
Deven started playing football with South Carolina based Coast Football
Alliance in the USA, along with his younger Brother who is now on the
books at Wigan Athletic. The family moved to England in 2008, initially
settling in Ipswich before the move to Manchester which led to Deven –
Being picked up by Rochdale at Under 14 level. After leaving their
Academy he failed to gain a Scholars contract despite trials at several
clubs And started to work his way through non-league football with
spells at Hyde United and from January 2016 New Mills. Last season he
started with Atherton Collieries. And went on to play with Wythenshawe
Town and Abbey Hey.
[ Get an eye-full of the action with pictures here ]
Stockport Town line up:-
A Stinka, Robinson, McConnell, Constantine, Greenfield, Whitty, Mullarkey, Skelton, Samms, Foley, Smith- Cunnington,
Subs : N Stinka, Hancock , Widdowson, Taylor, O`Connor, O`Shea, Salmon.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan , Palmer, Keane, Cowan, Turnbull, Walker, Thomas, Mulhern, Curran, Kirby.
Subs at half time:- Ormson, Arthur, Downing, Golden, Osborne, Bell, Czubik, Elstone, Dimaio, Mulgrew
Sub 69 minutes: Cowan for Thomas.
Attendance : 520