County upped the class of the pre-season opposition a touch again today, entertaining Premier League Everton’s Under 23 side at Edgeley Park.
For the yellow shirted blues to get anything at all from this game would have been an exceptional result, and as it was James Gannon’s new charges led 1-0 at half time thanks to a decent 45 minutes of effort and energy topped off with a fine finish from Frank Mulhern.
They had looked pretty good in reaching that point…..Minihan looked a danger from first to last kick, and elsewhere the defence coped really well with everything the young toffees could throw at them. In this respect I liked the input from Smalley and Palmer particularly, and Duxbury played Danny Bramall so well that he was subbed at the break. The midfield worked hard as well with Turnbull and Walker involved 100%, but all in all no one in yellow shirked a shift.
After the re-start though Everton upped the pace of things and , whilst some of their second half goals owed more to fatigue induced errors from County rather than absolute quality, they ultimately ran out comfortable 4-1 winners thanks to goals from Ouzounidis, Sambou, and 2 from Broadhead.
There was a reasonably good crowd in for this one, mainly under the Danny Stand roof , but with the visiting specs allowed to sample the delights of the Pop Side.
Straight from the off Everton took the bit twixt their gnashers and had a go , but despite showing a good turn of speed Harry Charsley ( who I had as the Merseysider’s M.O.M) found Hinchliffe in position to deal decisively with his first time effort.
Danny Bramall joined the fray next but Chris Smalley gave us the first of a few examples of how to sort developing situations out.
I was liking what I was seeing, and more so, as having snuffed out a repeat raid from Everton , Smalley then picked out Mulhern with the neatest of balls. Minihan was to Frank’s right and quickly received the required pass from County’s number nine, and the cat was amongst the Everton pigeons as Sam’s cross spread panic as it whizzed across the face of goal. Sadly no one was able to apply the needed finish , but Minihan’s obvious menace augured well for what was to come!
Duxbury added to Everton’s discomfiture by comprehensively turning Bramall inside out, before being a fag papers width from reaching the onrushing Mulhern with his pass.
This was good, as I know I have already said, but it was….and Brendan Galloway did exceptionally well to rescue his team as Minihan turned the cover to shreds down the right, before Galloway denied Stephenson possession of the subsequent pass.
County had to be content with a corner, and Walker’s effort from this went wide, but still a feeling of confidence abounded from those in yellow as the sun dared to peek through a hitherto impenetrable bank of cloud.
It went on with Stephenson going close after a close cooperation with Warburton.
And then….a spark was lit and unsurprisingly perhaps it started with Minihan who surged beyond his marker for the umpteenth time of asking. An outstretched leg made a throw seemingly County’s sole reward, but no….from this Minihan had the ball again…and then he hadn’t as he had whipped it into the box where Mulhern did the rest…..turning on the ball to fire a neat finish beyond keeper Chris Renshaw’s dive to put County 1-0 up.
Only 16 minutes had gone when that happy set of circumstances was played out, and within a couple of minutes Everton replied , helped by one of not a few joke free kicks awarded by Referee Joe Johnson to Everton. This one was from a goodish position , but whilst he met it well enough, Dennis Adeniran lifted a poor effort way over the bar.
Miffed perhaps by that indignity, Adeniran then carted Sam Walker. That was annoying , but the sight of Warburton and Walker pondering who should now take a nicely positioned free kick, was interesting. Walker took it in the end only for the keeper to hold onto it and keep it at 1-0.
Eventually ( 26 minutes in) Everton started to begin to force County back, and Ash Palmer earned himself a chat from the man with the whistle , and Everton a free kick, but Hinchliffe excelled himself with a fine save from this.
Yes…..the visitors fancied one before the break, but they again found Hinchliffe in their way with another neat save as Sambou sent Hornby charging clear.
It was beginning to build a bit from David Unsworth’s side and Palmer did well to apply the block to a shot from Charsley.
There was less than 15 minutes left of the half as County came back at their opponents , and it was that man Minihan once more- his pace and power just too much for the toffees. Again a throw was conceded by the harassed Merseysiders, after Minihan’s through ball had just been kept from Mulhern, and this saw Stephenson’s header narrowly miss out, and again it stayed 1-0.
Everton, with Bramall bursting the proverbials to get one back before the break, did everything bar score in reality…Duxbury conceding a free kick, then doing enough to see this off.
If that free kick was a valid one the next one wasn’t and I was mightily relieved to see Hinchliffe pull another one from out of his bottomless locker to ensure it was County 1 Everton 0 as the teams went in at half time.
Everton brought on Broadhead and Ouzounidis for Bramall and Galloway for the re-start and from the first kick it was clear that they meant business.
That said…it was Stephenson who was looking `the most likely to ` early doors but he was sadly stopped by the not always too brilliant near side liner, whose upraised flag begged us believe `offside’
As I said though…Everton meant business, and another free kick seemed to have teed up an equaliser for the Lancastrian outfit, until Hinchliffe’s dive saw him tip the ball over the bar.
Charsley was now operating down the right and looking lively- Palmer heading his effort out 55 minutes in.
Nathan Broadhead then drilled yet another free kick over the top keeping it at 1-0.
It was just before the hour….and still 1-0 to County, as Hinchliffe had just dived to push a shot from Sambou ( from a Charsley pass) over the top.
County had defended corner…..free kick….ad nauseum up until this point, but possibly the combination of being faced with freshly energised young legs and their own fatigue at last told on County, as when Charsley again lifted the ball to the back of the box, there was no reply when Ouzounidis rose to head home!
It was 1-1 now, and this just served to energise Everton further , and with another couple of minutes they had taken the lead.
County, through Stephenson, had been probing moments earlier, but the impetus just fell away in a welter of tired legs as possession was surrendered allowing Broadhead to force the ball home from close in.
That was disappointing but none more so than seeing Bassala Sambou treat us to some ace theatricals to thoroughly dupe the dupable ( Mr Johnson) and `earn’ a free kick. Thankfully the kick stunk the place out, but still I thought ill of Mr J.
A double switch came next for County as Mulhern and Stephenson were replaced by Bell and Thomas with about 25 minutes to play.
Charsley was in a groove now…….pinging `em over for fun , but they deserved better but instead Hornby could only head over.
With 20 minutes to go Kallum Mantack came on for Walker.
The new faces were still bedding in when it went 3-1 to Everton , as Sambou took advantage of confusion at the back for County to stab home the easiest of chances.
Credit to County…..they did not completely fold….they did come back at their opponents. Mantack did well to run the ball clear from deep after Tony Gordon and Fraser Hornby had engineered a corner and much pressure for Everton.
Running the ball up the park, Mantack was fouled and he and Bell were unlucky following the subsequent free kick, and was I alone in noting a naughty hand to ball moment in there involving a defender? Hmm…..neither the Referee nor the near side liner ( “pay attention man” a spec to my left offered perfectly reasonably in the liners direction ay this point) reacted at all , and when a follow up effort from Bell was cleared that more or less was that as far as a grandstand finish was concerned.
The last few minutes saw Minihan and Cowan replaced by Czubik and Downing, but there was no way back now for County, and more so as Broadhead added his second just 3 minutes from the end from Shayne Lavery’s cross to make the final score 4-1 to the visitors.
Fair do’s……….. Everton probably deserved that win , if not the final winning margin, but it was another good test and will set County up well for the rigours ahead of them in Division 6.
Catch you Tuesday then, at Warrington !
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan( Downing 80), Duxbury, Turnbull, Palmer, Smalley, Minihan( Czubik 80), Walker( Mantack 70), Mulhern( Bell 64), Warburton, Stephenson( Thomas 64).
Subs not used: Ormson, Etches.
Everton Under 23 line up:
Renshaw, Denny, Foulds, Markelo, Browning, Galloway( Broadhead 46), Charsley, Adeniran( Gordon 74), Hornby( Lavery 80), Sambou( Mampair 80), Bramall( Ouzounidia 46).
Subs not used : Hansen, Kiersley, Mathis.
Attendance : 771