County opened their pre season campaign in fine style today, delighting their travelling fans with a well deserved 2-1 victory against FC Halifax Town of the National Premier at the Shay Stadium.
It was a chance for those supporters, who had made light of England’s game being so close , and made the journey down the M62 to support their team, and get a first glimpse of several new faces and also to check out how James Gannon’s judiciously recruited new boys gelled with County’s established favourites.
That glimpse was quite interesting and told me anyway that we look well set, albeit this is County’s first toe in the 2018/19 pre-season water.
Of the new men I particularly liked Frank Mulhern who proved an energetic front man in the 45 minutes he had to show us what he could do, scoring a fine goal.
At the back both Jordan Keane and Ash Palmer looked impassable, and should fit in very nicely thank you- Keane pushing on up the park more than once to indicate good things ahead this term from him.
Of the new men that leaves Connor Domaio and Nyal Bell, and whilst Bell struggled to make an impact after the break, Domaio showed some good things at both ends of the park.
Of the old guard, Warburton was Warburton, and it was great to see Sam Walker looked in the groove for 70 minutes he was in action , doing much good work including having a hand in the second goal. Wing backs Minihan and Duxbury were excellent, Stephenson lively, and Cowan and Thomas everything I remember they were last season. And….captain Paul Turnbull capped a decent showing with a fantastic strike for County first goal.
Both keepers got 45 minutes in and did nothing wrong at all.
Add the fact that all JG’s young guns got a run out getting valuable first team minutes in and the fact that Town were able to claw one back late on to dish our clean sheet does not overly dishearten , indeed this was a good win…an excellent start.
The Shay was baking as the game got underway about the time most people would usually be looking for sustenance.
Stephenson was quickly into the fray and several runs from him , down the left, looked to seriously trouble the triallist wearing 7, so much so that he upended the Stockport man , 3 minutes in, giving County a free kick just outside the box.
The kick was headed clear and keeper Shaun Rowley dealt with Sam Minihan’ follow up shot confidently.
Just a minute later and Halifax forced a corner , and looked likely to dint County’s early confidence, until another triallist , wearing 19, pushed his header wide. That maybe should have been cut out, but there were no further alarms , saving a knock that Ash Palmer took that saw him replaced by Sam Walker with 10 minutes gone.
But mainly the vibes were good heading our way from on the pitch, as Warburton gave Rowley work to do with a shot that the keeper did well to smother, and went close again not long after.
The strength of County’s attacking was really vexing Town as Stephenson and Duxbury set in train a continuous flow of probing attacks down the left.
Again Halifax were forced to concede a free kick, and Mulhern was not far away at all with a shot after the free kick had struck the Town wall.
Soon 20 minutes had gone ,and I was liking what I was seeing, particularly from Mulhern who was denied at the far post by Rowley as the County number nine went for Duxbury’s cross.
Twice after this Stephenson almost sneaked one, and it was good to see Palmer back on now allowing Warburton to get a break.
Things did not get any better for the Yorkshire side, and they were in disarray as Duxbury refused to go away, pinging over yet another fizzing whizz bang of a cross. Rowley flapped a touch at this one and a corner resulted, then another , but County just could not square that circle and snatch one.
Or could they?
Well…yes they could….and I was just about to take up a position directly behind the goal, when …annoyingly perhaps…..Paul Turnbull hit a strike of beauteous lethality into the net- nothing better at Russia 2018 believe me, and yes…..no photo!
That was brilliant from Paul and no less than County deserved, and it got better, but not before Dan Cowan did good work to block new Town signing Mekhi McLeod as he darted clear.
Thirty six minutes had gone when County doubled their advantage. It started with Sam Walker on the ball which went from Sam to Jordan Keane, and then on to Frank Mulhern who simply buried it behind Rowley in the back of the net- an excellent strike…and a neat/neat move beforehand.
Palmer powered his way forward next only to be fouled en-route. From this Warburton tore into the Halifax back line with a purpose , crossing from the by-line for Thomas to narrowly miss out with his header.
Kosylo went close for Town ( only their second goal attempt) and Warburton did likewise for County, and that was that for the first half!
JG was using his subs intelligently and , more than once, a player who had been subbed would be brought back on, but the re-start saw Domaio, Bell and Ormson on for Stephenson, Mulhern and Hinchliffe, and the early minutes seemed to indicate that Town would be making a concerted effort to claw their way back into this game.
In this respect it was good to see Ormson in early action to deny the triallist wearing 4 what would have been a decent goal.
It was apparent that the second 45 minutes were going to be a closer affair than had been the first 45,
It was good again to observe Keane driving forward up the park scattering Town defenders like straws in the none existent wind before him. It was less good to see Bell pulled up for a debatable offside ( when palpably not), but generally speaking, notwithstanding Halifax’s increased oomf factor, County were giving as good as they were receiving and it took a boring foul by a distressed Ryan Sellars to stop Minihan in full flight.
Minihan’s runs were discomforting Town , and Warburton combined nicely with Thomas to set up a chance only to find no takers in front of goal to feed on the cross.
To underline the more even flow of things in the second half, Alex Whittle, on with Stephenson for Duxbury and Thomas, almost put Domaio in for County, and Walker did really well to track back after some neat touches up field, to stop Sanmi Odelusi from lighting his Town debut up with a goal.
Odelusi must have wanted that one badly, as he went down rather too easily next( think Neymah with less on the ground histrionics). Nevertheless he got a free kick but no more as Ormson sorted that out with no fuss at all.
For the last 20 minutes County had youngsters Jordan Downing and Szymon Czubik on for Warburton and Walker who had both earned a rest, and Adam Etches joined the fray also not long after in place of the industrious Cowan.
Halifax were trying a bit for sure, but Domaio did well to nip their latest raid in the bud, turning defence to attack with a long ball that saw Czubik denied by the keeper.
Etches went lose with 10 minutes left, but it was Ormson who was busiest for the yellow shirted blues keeping a shot from Dayle Southwell out at the last gasp.
With Turnbull now back on , with 7 minutes left, and Stephenson harrying the life out of the home defenders , it looked likely that County would take a very good 2-0 win away with them, and I was still reasonably confident of this as Whittle did brilliantly to clear off the line from another Southwell effort.
This feeling persisted as Czubik and Domaio surged forward to the by-line before providing Bell with the sustenance of a neat cross. He fluffed it , and it stayed 2-0.
We were into the game’s dying embers now and some, with a view to England’s chances were eyeing the exits…..not Southwell and he looked on in anguish as Ormson kept his shot out following Jacob Hanson’s pass.
Game over then…….but no….Halifax wanted something from this game, but they got nothing from 2 corners in rapid succession- Ormson doing excellent work to tip Triallist 19’s header over the bar. It was however third time lucky for Town, and with Niall Maher perfectly positioned when the final corner came over , he headed home beyond Ormson’s dive to make it 2-1.
That was pretty much the game’s last gasp, but it had been a good one and one well worth getting to.
Well done County….more of the same please against Stockport Town at their place next Wednesday.
FC Halifax Town line up( including substitutes):-
Rowley, Triallist, Brown, Triallist, Maher, Triallist, Triallist, McLeod, Kosylo, Triallist, Preston
Johnson, Hanson, Triallist, Triallist, Sellars, Staunton, Odelusi, Tomlinson, King, Southwell.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer, Cowan, Thomas, Turnbull, Mulhern, Warburton, Stephenson.
10- Walker for Palmer, 23- Palmer for Warburton, 40- Warburton for Stephenson, 45- Domaio, Bell & Ormson for Stephenson, Hinchliffe & Mulhern. 63- Stephenson & Whittle on for Duxbury & Thomas, 70- Downing & Czubik for Warburton & Walker, 75- Etches for Cowan, 83- Turnbull for Keane.
Attendance : 403.