Date: 9th February 2017 at 10:05am
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Two goals in the first twelve minutes put paid to County`s brave defence of the Cheshire Senior Cup last night, as full time Football League outfit Crewe Alexandra went into an early 2-0 lead.

For a time ??.. a rout looked in prospect as Crewe ran through their repertoire of silky skills, but it takes more than just the silkiest of skills to win a match and County did their darndest to shrug off these early setbacks , and a goal by Jimmy Ball was no less than a spirited performance deserved.
It was 2-1 to Crewe at the break, and despite a lot of possession the hosts just could not add to their lead in the second 45.

To Crewe?.a passage into the next round?to County much praise for a gritty effort from a scratch outfit on the coldest of Gresty Road nights. .

Yes? was as cold as a Wetherby Road welcome as the game commenced, with around 400 specs restricted to the main stand. .

County were faced by a confident Crewe side that surged forward from the first blast of the referees whistle.

Dan Udoh, an impressive performer for the Railwaymen, was first up, but his shot flew way wide.

That was the first 2 minutes sorted, and the third ushered in a real chance for County to strike first?..two chances in fact!

The first fell to County`s best player on the night, Kaine Felix, but keeper Dave Richards just managed to fend the shot off with his legs. County were not done though and nor was the raid, as the ball reached Kayode Odejayi , who shot firmly in the direction of goal.

It was 1-0 for sure?and then ?not so? as Oli Finney charged the effort down to keep it 0-0.

There was a prompt response from Crewe, but again, without a decent finish, and Finney lifted his chance over the bar.

5 minutes had gone and a decent?open game was in prospect- at least that`s what I told myself, and no sooner had I scribbled just that than my alleged Jonah qualities were confirmed as County leaked a goal.

It stemmed from a pulsating run from Jamie Wilkinson down the right, and a cross that Lewis Reilly found impossible to miss?.0-1.

With a decent and loud response coming from the County fans following this set-back, County hit back through Charlie Wardle, but after he had won a corner, the chance drifted away when Courtney Meppen-Walter sent his shot wide.

Some decent football followed from the Crewe side, and it resulted in more disappointment for County, as Owen Dale doubled the Crewe lead with a firmly struck shot.

Crewe swapped keepers next – Richards being replaced by Wardley following a clash twixt Richards and Wardle- a lively youngster with an obvious desire to do well. I doubt his desire was at all lessened by the booking he received from the referee for his part in the clash.

After this, Crewe buzzed a bit??Ryan Wintle lifted a shot high and wide, and Harry Pickering headed wide after much good work from Dale, but it was County who altered the score , and deservedly so, with 15 minutes left of the half??

Felix did the damage with another lightning strike that had the Alex back line dizzy?so much so that a foul stopped the Crewe rot and Felix in his tracks. It was smack central and on the edge of the box?and?..yes?..the referee had awarded County a free kick.

A Yaltaesque conference then took centre stage, minus the international angst and political posturing. Any of about 3 or 4 in blue fancied a pot with the kick, but Jimmy Ball held sway, and made it count by smacking a lovely strike past the diving Wardley to make it 1-2.

This buoyed County, and after Wintle had wasted a chance at one end, the other end saw County striving to equalise, but Ball saw Wardley pluck his header out of the air with confidence, from a Felix cross.

Felix and Ball applied the pressure again in double quick time and set Wardle up nicely, but he lifted his effort over the top. That was disappointing from Wardle , but he made up for it almost immediately with a looping strike from way out wide, that clipped the bar with keeper Wardley a spectator.

If luck had been with County, they might have levelled things, but it wasn`t ?and we consequently didn`t.

Crewe did try to increase their lead in the remaining minutes of the half?Ormson saving well to deny Callum Ainley, and again pulling a top draw save out to stop danger man Udoh who was played clear, but it stayed 2-1 to Crewe as the teams left the field for the break.

When the game resumed, we saw Crewe on the front foot doing their utmost to put the game to bed, but County`s solid defensive response , in which Tom Whitty and Liam O`Brien earned plaudits, saw to it that it was 6 minutes into the second 45 before Crewe managed a shot, and this?from Wintle, cleared the bar before heading off into Gresty Road.

If Crewe were enjoying possession , County had the pace and guile of Felix with which to counter it, and he was a real threat forcing more than one foul from a harassed Crewe back line, not all of them spotted by the officials. Perry Ng`s lumbering thump administered almost on the hour, was spotted and, Cartwright`s free kick brought a decent save from the keeper to keep it at 1-2.

After the hour the County pack took a shuffle with youngsters Jordan Peach and Callum Scott coming on for Meppen-Walter and Ball.

This was a pretty inexperienced County side out there now, but still the side in blue were holding their own reasonably comfortably, and Crewe continued to have to strain mightily for the slightest of scraps they were sparingly offered.

Corners came and went without reward for the Railwaymen, with Ormson and his co- defenders on their toes.

It was clear that the extra full time training that the Football League side enjoyed was ensuring that fuel stayed in legs longer, but despite this fact and the usual array of Crewe football skills ?with less than 15 minutes left?.there was still only 1 goal in it!

Another County youngster, Will Holt, was now on for Odejayi, as County continued to frustrate Crewe, who were still no closer to finding a finish that would end the angst.

For County it was a case of defend in numbers where necessary but keep attacking options open, and in this respect it was good to see them keep 2 up field when defending- Felix and Scott. This was great to see as was the input of the young substitutes and I was particularly impressed by the work of Jordan Peach.

As late as the 86th minute Crewe tried and failed to puncture the County back line, only managing again to send the ground staff into Gresty Road and beyond to regain possession of the match ball.

County kept plugging away though and a late/ late free kick gave hope of an equaliser and some bone chilling extra time, but Cartwright`s strike only managed to inspire Wardley to make another good save, and it stayed 2-1 in Crewe`s favour.

I thought that was a good effort from a scratch County side, and a decent effort from the County contingent in the crowd- more than 50% of the numbers present for sure, and 100% the loudest for longest on a coruscatingly cold night!

James and the boys can now concentrate on their number one target?.promotion?.starting with Alfreton on Saturday. Snow and other such wintry stuff is forecast but, in JG we trust, and County fans will be there to support the team in numbers!

[ Photos from a chilly evening in Crewe can be found here including a photo of three wartime leaders. No, honest! ]

Crewe Alexandra line up:
Richards( Wardley 21), Wilkinson, Pickering, Finney, Sass- Davies, Ng, Dale, Wintle, Udoh, Reilly, Ainley.
Subs not used: Walley, Griffiths, Lynch, Offord.

Stockport County line up:
Ormson, Ross, Cartwright, Meppen-Walter( Peach 63), Whitty, O`Brien, Felix, Ball( Scott 63), Odejayi( Holt 77), Marsden, Wardle.

Subs not used: Smith.
Estimated attendance : 437 ( 311)

Ian Brown

Ian Brown


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