[ Written By Ian Brown]
County progressed to Round 3 in the Cheshire Senior Cup last night, with a business like performance at Edgeley Park, but had to weather a considerable storm to do so against a decidedly spirited 1874 Northwich Victoria side.
I am not talking about the weather, at this point, although it was bone piercingly cold and grew colder as the night went on.
No, I am referring to Northwich’s resolute efforts to get something from the match, that lasted 90 odd minutes- they defended like demons all game long, and worked a chance or two for themselves as well.
Reduced to 10 after half an hour, things looked a touch bleak for our visitors, who came to Edgeley Park backed by a decent following that was loud in support of the Vics throughout.
Responding, County refrained from going gung ho in favour of steady build up, which was good, but the reduction in numbers did not seem to greatly weaken Northwich’s resolve, and the second half saw Ormson make two or three saves, as Vics hit us on the break, that in the end proved crucial to County’s progress.
It was late on, into the 90th minute, and it was still 0-0, and the prospect of penalties loomed large, as thoughts of a cosy warm fire receded ever further from our grasp.
And then …salvation arrived as, with irony abounding, County surged clear on the break to snatch the win with a firmly struck effort from Elliott Osborne.
The cold had descended on SK3 long before the Help the Hatters team who were sponsoring the match did, but I was looking forward to seeing the mix of experience and youthful promise that JG would turn out.
The team sheet told us that Sajjad ElHassan, and Festus Arthur were in the starting line up. Sajjad had lit up Warrington in the First Round with a fine late cameo, and is a player of exceptional ability, whilst Festus started then and was solid as a rock, as usual, in central defence. There was more quality young players starting for County with highly promising Will Holt and Josh Robinson, topping a bill that included Thomas Whitty and Alex Jackson.
Add Ormson, Osborne, Bell, Dimaio and Cowan in the captains spot and all looked good as the match got underway with Josh Robinson running at the visitors defence down the left.
More from Robinson saw Matthew Woolley, who I made stand out man for Vics, clear the danger.
County’s cover held as 1874 gave us an early glimpse of what they could do up front.
What they did at the back impressed too early on with Woolley already imposing himself on proceedings for 1874, with good support from Jack Irlam and Danny Meadowcroft.
The 5 minute mark saw County attempting to open their account, but Holt’s shot went wide.
Play swung from end to end for a while after this, the next action of note coming from ElHassan whose shot on the end of a typically feisty run, went close to giving the Blues the lead.
County seemed to be building a decent momentum now, and a free kick saw Arthur in the mix jostling for a ball that 1874 keeper Dane Rigby claimed decisively.
ElHassan was in lively form at this point, and Mason did well to stop him with a decent block on the edge of the box, 20 minutes in.
This was a promising start, and it continued but without a much needed goal to calm nerves- Bell twice went close around this time, and 1874’s Paul Connor excelled in stopping another run from the lively Robinson.
Nothing so far indicated that County would not prevail, although 1874 were showing growing confidence when they got forward.
Cowan pushed on now down the right winning a corner which Jack Tinning managed to block, before some good defending from the visitors saw the danger off.
The 29 th minute saw 1874’s best moment so far, best chance anyway, as Callum Gardner’s fine run set him up with a real chance. It was an early sniff for them, but when Gardner shot straight into Ian Ormson’s waiting arms… it was gone.
The next minute ushered in a potential game changing moment, as Mason went straight through ElHassan with a two footed tackle. In response Referee Richard Woodward red carded the offender, notionally making County’s task that much lighter with 1874 now down to 10.
I said notionally, and that turned out to be how it was, as there was no sign thereafter that 1874 were cowed or disheartened in any way, indeed they must have been disappointed to see Meadowcroft head wide from Hale’s free kick 3 minutes later, after Tinning had cleared up field from a run by County’s Alex Jackson.
On it went, Dimaio warming Rigby’s hands with a shot at one end, whilst Ormson impressed at the other tipping Koral’s shot over the bar, before the teams went in with the score still 0-0 and all still to play for.
Help the Hatters are to be congratulated for attracting a crowd of 452 to the game on a brutally cold evening, and most of these were in the County Museum at half time enjoying free refreshments provided by Fitzy’s team.
The second half opened with a Rigby save to deny Osborne, and a tasty run from ElHassan that won a corner, but this came to nothing when the ref fancied he’d seen a foul by Festus as the pill came over.
Things were looking quite promising at that stage for County, but they were again unable to capitalise from Cowan’s good work in winning a corner.
Jackson did show the way with a run and shot from Robinson’s cross, but the shot cleared the bar, as did one from Cowan a minute or so later.
Then with County attacking, 57 minutes in, a loose ball almost undid it all for the Blues who were scrambling back having left the back door open for 1874 to take advantage of.
Kennerley did just that, but somehow Ormson managed to parry the shot, but the ball then ran to Gardner, and surely he would put the chance away, but no. Ormson was in prime form again with a massively good save.
This spurred County to a response, but despite the best efforts of Dimaio, Cowan and Bell nothing materialised, the final ball lacking the required extra zing and accuracy.
Max Greenhalgh replaced Sajjad ElHassan just beyond the hour, as County piled on the pressure- Cowan winning another corner with his powerful runs, and a shot by Osborne was almost deflected in off a defender.
If that was disappointing, the next action was even more so, as from Rigby’s clearance County were again in full flight trying to get back with the back door ajar once more. This time Koral was on the case for 1874 darting clear at pace to slam a neat drive goal ward. It was a decent effort, but so was Ormson’s response and he did brilliantly to push the ball over the bar. The visitors shot wide from the resultant corner, and the Blues angst was sorted, although it was back on again some 5 minutes later following a free kick conceded by Cowan, necessitating more good work from Ormson to see off the danger.
Back came County through Jackson, and his run and pass inside to Dimaio ushered in a chance for JG’s team, when he was fouled. The free kick was fairly central but the 1874 wall held, and the chance was gone.
The (erroneous) thought of extra time and pens filled the freezing night air with fear with old bones creaking painfully behind the goal.
We needed something, anything…from someone to get us over the line,into Round 3, and in front of that fire!
But, more angst was narrowly averted as Ormson just managed to nip out of goal to snatch the ball off McGowan’s toes.
County did rally noticeably though,Bell’s run denied by good work from Woolley whose engine was still enabling him to excel late on. That was 87 minutes in, another minute and Dimaio saw his shot, saved by Rigby.
Meanwhile, 1874 kept trying to nick the game, a corner and a couple of free kicks being testimony to their resolve, but the quality was lacking in the finishing department, and when Festus Arthur headed the free kick out, a break was on for County!
It seemed to have been stemmed when Woolley’s intervention blocked the initial forward push, but the ball ran on to Osborne who turned to slam an emphatic drive into the net beyond a distraught Rigby.
There was just time for Dimaio to be replaced by Cavan McDonald (Michael Gaskell had replaced Whitty earlier), but no time at all for the visitors to come back again and force penalties (not extra time as I thought).
Game over, game won, and for County it was definitely ‘mission accomplished’ if a touch late on.
Round 3 beckons now after what had been an intriguing tussle in front of a feisty and fair sized crowd. 1874 will be disappointed, but we wish them well for the remainder of their season.
[ Pics from a chilly Edgeley Park can be found here! ]
Stockport County line up:-
Ormson, Cowan, Robinson, Osborne, Arthur, Whitty ( Gaskell 80), Jackson, Holt, Bell, Dimaio ( Mc Donald 90) ElHassan ( Greenhalgh 62).
Subs not used : Wood, Willan.
1874 Northwich Victoria line up;-
Rigby, Connor, Tinning ( Waite- Jackson 77), Mason, Meadowcroft, Irlam, Gardner, Woolley, Koral ( Mc Gowan 80), Hare, Kennerley.
Subs not used:- Ormrod, Phipps, Coates.
Attendance ; 452