[ Written by Adrian Caville ]
Many moons ago when your article writer was an embryonic audit manager for a national company he was given some advice by his then Finance Director: “at some point you will fail, fail quick and learn from it, don’t doubt your own ability and above else keep going”.
Well, having witnessed our beloved Hatters fail to conserve a two-goal lead at Hereford just 75 hours prior what resulted at “The Deva” stadium was a performance of awesome quality that utterly destroyed the opposition.
County’s previous 6 -0 thumping of lowly Ashton United last December was a thing of beauty but with due deference to Ashton they are a side in all likeliness heading back to the glue league. Chester FC were within touching distance of a playoff berth. In my humble opinion, Chester’s first-half performance at EP earlier in the season was the best I have witnessed from any opposition. So, come 7.45 last night some trepidation filled the air.
A return to Bumpers Lane after an absence of more than a few years saw County make 3 changes from last Saturday’s starting eleven with Sam Minihan back in the right wing-back role, Paul Turnbull making a start and Matty Warburton also featuring from the onset. A strong bench with Frank Mulhern dropping out of the squad.
County were backed by more than half the 2565 crowd when proceedings got underway as the spring sun dropped behind the Welsh Hills.
The opening stages were a little disjointed and no real quality from either side ensued. That all changed on the tenth minute. County, kicking towards the home standing end, sent a deep cross towards the far post. Adam Thomas then outjumped his marker and had the foresight to direct the ball towards the predatory Nyal Bell, who, with defenders for company steered the ball into the back of the net……………….. 1-0.
There followed half chances for both sides with Chester forcing a couple of corners through their wide men Mckenna and Mahon, the latter probably Chester’s best player on the right. On the twenty first minute County swept the ball up the field and Adam Thomas`s low cross from the right found Sam Walker whose low shot from the edge of the box hit the back of the goal perhaps having took a slight deflection ………………………2-0.
At this point, the stadium announcer made the strangest of requests in that any sort of flash or light driven photography under no circumstances would be permitted – cue around 600 visiting supporters switching their phones to flashlight mode!
Well, if I was a little underwhelmed last Saturday for just the two goal return at half time I need not have worried as on thirty four minutes Nyal Bell received the ball in a fairly central position, advances, again with company and leathers the ball past Shenton in the home goal …………………3-0.
At last at this point the home side did put some pressure on the Hatters, again Mahon the chief tormentor and his stream of crosses caused more than a little activity in the penalty area, Asante failed to capitalise and then Ben Hinchliffe produced a wonderful save, tipping over Livesey’s header.
James Bell, our referee for the night then decided that the sporadic ‘rough stuff’ that Chester were metering out was no longer to be tolerated and booked Roberts for a poor challenge on Sam Walker.
Stockport were out early and the second half commenced kicking towards the County following.
Sam Minihan had an early chance, but the shot was well saved by Shenton resulting in a corner that came to nothing.
On fifty three minutes the home side made a couple of changes taking off Mckenna and Dudley replacing them with Waring and Howson. County responded and Jordan Keane replaced Matty Warburton with Dan Cowan coming on for Sam Minihan five minutes later. Darren Stephenson who tormented the home side all night had a half chance but put his snap shot wide.
The home side then showed some initiative but failed to trouble Ben Hinchliffe. Nyal Bell looking for his hatrick perhaps should have celebrated it but sends his shot from eighteen yards out over the bar. No matter because two minutes later the County faithful were sent into raptures as Darren Stephenson clinically connected with a low pass ten yards out……………… 4-0.
Chester replaced ‘danger man’ Asante soon after but to no effect and Daz Stephenson should have added to his tally but fires straight at Shenton in the home goal.
Ten minutes to go and Darren Stephenson is penalised for leaning into a Chester defender on the edge of the home penalty area and Mr Bell whom I thought was excellent awards a free kick to the home side.
Sixty seconds later the Chester player McAllister leans into Daz in a similar fashion but made the mistake of doing it on the edge of the six yard box and Mr Bell does not hesitate to award the penalty kick which after some delay Sam Walker sends Shenton the wrong way …………….5-0
The ecstacy continued when a smart ball across the edge of the home sides penalty area saw Jordan Keane drill a shot past the wrong footed Shenton from twenty yards out………………. 6-0.
Some five minutes after this Mr Bell brought an end to the game.
Difficult to pick a man of the match, they were all superb. Chester themselves and to their credit gave it to their ex player Nyal Bell.
Although the stars of stage and screen Bernard and ‘Jonno’ will point to an abject performance from their own side, nothing should detract from the clinical way Jim Gannon’s side dismantled and dispatched Chester.
If I have one complaint it is that, in over fifty years of watching County I have never seen us score seven, maybe one day I will. At risk of over using cliches this result aside from putting County at the top of the division, makes a massive statement of intent. It whittles Chorley’s goal difference from nine to just three.
This result is, of course only brilliant if we beat Blythe next Saturday and so on.
Football being football there will be further intrigue to come, nothing worth while is easy, nothing is simple but I feel if this side apply the principles, discipline, hunger, desire and awareness that the manager and staff have instilled we may well be waving goodbye (at last) to this division some time soon.
Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Minnihan, Duxbury, Turnbull, Palmer, Stott, Thomas, Walker, Bell, Warburton, Stephenson. Subs: Ormson, Gilchrist, Keane, Cowan, Osborne
Referee: Mr James Bell