Well?..this game started with as brutal an opener as you might wish never to see, when??with seconds only on the clock Matthew Flynn spread Odejayi`s limbs all over the Tameside Stadium in a totally unprovoked assault.
A dreadful foul for sure ?.but one punished only by a free kick which was the first of many disappointments on a thoroughly frustrating afternoon, as County comprehensively dominated play for long periods without finding that elusive finish in the final third.
Actually?..that`s not strictly 100% correct?..Odejayi was unlucky to see a header thud into the woodwork at one point, and at another Evans did score a perfectly good goal, only to see the liner on the far side raise his flag for offside ,which the match video will fulsomely expose as another gruesome distortion of the facts!
Those moments apart however?..despite several new faces in the starting line up( Lamin Colley in for a welcome start & Blackburn youngster Mo Cham debuting),
County had a now familiar lack of precision in the last third. Convert the chances you make, and refereeing `mistakes` become irrelevant?…alas?County did not and paid the price.
This was hard on the County defence that had shown its usual solidity, over the 90 odd minutes, in front of Ian Ormson who was again in commanding form between the sticks!
It was ever thus I suppose?.and I am sure the Manager is working on the striker issue, meanwhile??. back to 3 o`clock, and about 30 seconds, and I winced to see Odejayi laid out in front of the main stand by the crudest of assaults from Matthew Flynn.
It should have been a straight red, but in fact referee Backhouse contented himself with giving County a free kick, and no more than a word to the offender.
The free kick put Curzon Ashton under pressure, which continued for quite a while, but without any end product to show for all the dominance.
Colley did break clear, 5 minutes into proceedings, only for the near side liner to blot his copy book by flagging for what his mime tried to convince us was a `push`.
Hmmmm?..I was still in grumble mode when a raid by Jordan Wright and Joe Guest threatened to rain on County`s parade. Ian Ormson did really well in response?snuffing out the danger by going full stretch to deny Guest at the death!
That was a warning perhaps, but County pressed on looking for that opening goal, and Colley was unlucky to see keeper Hakan Burton dive to tip his header over the bar, after good work from Montrose. From the corner?.Odejayi found himself `decked` `again( I didn`t clock the felon this time, and neither it seems did the ref), before Danny Shaw was able to clear up the park.
There was a frequency about County`s attacking that hinted at something decent afoot??Morton evaded a `studs up` jobby from Guest to set Roberts up for a shot. Burton dealt with that easily enough but looked more troubled, 15 minutes in, when faced with new boy Mo Cham on the break, but the County number 11 failed his first test by lifting his effort over the bar.
By the 20 minute mark the pattern was pretty well set?..County pushed on forward whilst Ashton awaited the odd opportunity to hit us on the break through Guest and Wright.
For County, Micah Evans was beginning to emerge as a threat down the right, and I gasped in amazement as he threaded his way into the box before being hacked down by Hampson. This latest no-brainer was apparently nothing of the kind as Mr Backhouse awarded Hampson`s team a goal kick!
In deep distress I looked up to see Curzon Ashton break down the right where Wright`s cross landed smack on cue with the advancing Niall Cummins.The distress was short lived however, as the forward`s diving header missed the target by a distance. Thankfully this was to be a feature of Curzon`s play for the whole game -their finishing pretty much mirrored ours.
To emphasise this County had themselves a decent chance almost immediately after the one that fell to Cummins. It landed at Colley`s feet and he looked on to prosper until ?requiring too much thinking time?..he saw his effort blocked as the raid fizzled out!
Add another Wright/ Guest combo that ended with the latter blasting his shot high and wide, and an Evans effort that carried the bar with the home defences split asunder?..and we had the makings of a decent game I thought, with 30 minutes gone.
Montrose went close with a snap shot, and Colley looked about to go even closer shortly after, only to be sent sprawling by the none too particular Alex Brown , who at last found his way into the referee`s book. He had, in time honoured fashion, `taken one for the team` of course?.and it worked 100% as, despite maximum effort , most noticeably from Sean O`Hanlon, the kick came to nothing.
County pressed and pressed after this as shots from Evans and Colley took late deflections. But ?as before County could extract no advantage from the resultant set pieces and we approached half time with the score still 0-0.
We had occasion to thank Ormson , late on in the half, a lesser keeper might have been caught napping by Hampson`s quick break up field- instead his one handed diving save spared County`s blushes.
Regrettably ??the iffy tackles were still coming in from County`s opponents, and I had just cooled down after seeing Hampson haul Colley to the ground and get away with it, when WW3 threatened in front of the Ashton goal.
Moments before this Odejayi had taken an elbow in the face from Jon Hunt, and I am guessing that this memory lingered as more tasty stuff went down in the box with County pressing. We needed County to not respond and thankfully that`s just about how it panned out?.but it was a close run thing!
Evans continued to present the clearest danger to the home side`s peace of mind, but ?with half time almost on us?.. his luck was out, and the half ended with Ormson in action punching clear from a rare home corner.
That was good to see, and the half time whistle was good to hear, and was a chance for County hopefully to re-group and re-charge!
Evans resumed where he left off upon the re-start, his runs down the right causing Ashton an issue or two, but as in the first 45 minutes neither side showed any real idea when faced with a chance in the final third- this regrettably again being underlined, on 53 minutes, when Cham ( clear, and free of markers) contrived to blaze his shot over the bar with Burton donning the brown trousers on the line!
It was frustrating?.Montrose would set up a raid neatly?.Evans would beaver his way clear?..then a corner would result and the danger would dissipate.
Colley left just before the hour to warm applause, being replaced by Garvin.
Garvin`s busy input was welcome, but the umpteenth foul on Evans saw Connolly`s effort miss out narrowly from the Garvin free kick that followed, and I was alarmed to see the mother of all scrambles take place at the wrong end of the park next – a mini siege of several corners ending when somebody in pink ushered the ball away off the line, when all looked about to be lost!
For 6 or 7 minutes after this County came under a fair bit of pressure – Warburton going close at one point, but things stabilised rapidly with the appearance of Andy Robinson with just over 20 minutes left to play. Andy replaced Wade Joyce who had worked hard, and the ex Leeds star was soon involved leading from the back and spreading play enterprisingly.
Robinson and Roberts pushed Ashton back ?then Robbo and Montrose, but I was spitting feathers once again to see the referee ignore a blatant foul on Montrose at the crucial moment in the raid.
County were trying a bit for sure, and Burton did brilliantly to keep an Evans shot out with his legs after the home cover had been comprehensively shredded.
On?..on?it went?..and I was convinced we would take the lead, only to see Odejayi`s powerful header crash into the bar and fly clear, from a Roberts cross!
There was a brief moment for us to check our enthusiasm though, as our hosts hit us on the break through Brown- only a brave diving save from Ormson stopped County going behind- great stuff Ian!
Even I am sometimes tempted to think that I am biased??.”no?no ?surely not” I hear you respond?.and you may be correct! But?I will relate the next tall tale and leave it with you!
With 10 minutes left we had one of those endearing` only against Stockport County` moments! County were attacking but the keeper grabbed the ball before belting it up the park?except that`s just what he didn`t do?.instead he hung onto it?..and hung on??hung on?..30?.35?..40 seconds passed before the referee asked the keeper to hurry up, but then quickly let him hang onto the ball ( remember Gainsborough anyone?) stopping play to allow the Ashton full back to put his shoe back on!
Mr Backhouse has refereed at a higher level than the one we are currently at, but is drifting down the leagues?Sadly his performance does not greatly mark him out as especially poor, he fits in nicely, I suggest we just keep on taking the tablets!
If I was at all tempted to relent in my view of the officials, the events with 7 minutes left to play cured me of this lunacy! County were attacking( sorry to keep repeating myself!)and a Garvin cross headed into the box where , with a defender twixt himself and goal, Evans stabbed the ball home to send the 1200 County fans in the crowd of 1400 ecstatic with joy.
It was 1-0?.game won?except the liner across the pitch ( where the home fans were) had his flag up and the goal was ruled out. Offside it wasn`t?.but please ?..please?. do not take my word for it take to You Tube and see the video!
That was a cruel blow?..County ?..driven on by Andy Robinson?did their best to make matters right, but despite a flurry of shots?.free kicks?corners?.it stayed 0-0 and the points were shared.
[Now, some of you may be disappointed with the result but you will not be disappointed with the pictures from this game, including one of the legendary ‘Man In A Hat’. Have a look here!]
Curzon Ashton line up
Burton, Wright, Guest, Hunt( Watson 86), Flynn, Shaw( Rowney 68), Tomsett, Brown, Cummins, Warburton( Payne 78), Hampson.
Subs not used:
Stockport County line up
Ormson, Morton, Roberts, Connolly, O`Hanlon, Joyce( Robinson 67), Colley( Garvin 56), Montrose, Odejayi, Evans, Cham.
Subs not used:
Hurst, Ellison, West.