The Hatters soared to a heady fifth spot in the division and made it 5 wins in five last night with a 3-2 win against Tamworth at Edgeley Park, securing another 3 vital playoff points in the process, sending their supporters home happy once more.
Tamworth came billed as `fairly easy meat` in some folks eyes, having had a really moderate season, but that tag was not one thought up by anyone with a real appreciation of how things are and pan out at this level. And?? hadn`t the Lamb`s hit a bit of form scoring 4 just a few days ago?
Yes? they had and whilst it was against North Ferriby, and at home, four goals are four goals and scoring in bulk can become a habit once indulged in, so respect was perhaps called for in acknowledgement.
So?complacency was unlikely to be a factor, under Jim`s stewardship, for County, indeed ?.in the event, the blues went about their business with all the apparent ease of a team in top nick?bossing play and making an early goal look something of a formality.
In fact, it was 21 minutes before a goal materialised, and it came Tamworth`s way as an uncharacteristic loose ball from Warburton threatened to undo all County`s hard work teeing Jed Davies up for a neat finish.
That was a blow, but it took County just 7 minutes to equalise and another 5 to take the lead, both goals sharply executed efforts, the first via Oswell?.the second Warburton, and both the result of considerable assists from Turner.
A second from Oswell after the break seemed to have settled matters at 3-1, until a soft late goal from Angus re-installed some urgency in proceedings. County saw the remaining minutes off fairly comfortably, but under a referee more competent than Aaron Jackson, County`s task might have been all that easier as his propensity for letting awful challenges go lightly punished ensured it was 11 against 11 until the close whereas 2 Tamworth players should have seen early baths for their work.
Back at 7.45, there was a poignant ceremony acknowledging the recent loss of Mike Hopper, Sue Cordon, Mike Kershaw and Geoff Holker, involving a minutes applause. Perhaps the saddest of many such recent acknowledgements, and responded to well by all present!
There was a decent crowd inside the ground at the start, somewhat down on what it would have been had it gone ahead on Saturday, but decent none the less.
Proceedings started with County looking confident on the ball, but the early exchanges saw their final ball less potent than their approach play- Turner putting too much oomph on a cross after Thomas had sent him clear??and Winter screwing a poor effort wide when set up by the busy Warburton.
Winter was doing OK though ( and indeed had another terrific game), and this was nicely emphasised next as his alert intervention prevented Steph Morley from profiting from a break after being allowed room and more by others in blue.
The next 10 minutes saw County push on, winning 4 corners, but with no sign of a goal for their efforts.
Warburton was still busy and a neat run from deep by him stretched the Lamb`s defences to the limit- his shot taking a late deflection off a defender with keeper Jack Stevens looking on anxiously- Warburton shot wide from the resulting corner.
Then it all went a bit pear shaped, starting with the surrender of the ball by Warburton to ex Hatter Aman Verma. From Verma it went via Donohue to Asante and on to Jed Davies who sent a sweet strike past Hinchliffe`s dive into the net to give Tamworth a shock lead.
Duxbury and Winter were instrumental, after this reverse, in pushing County forward again, but we needed to be wary of being hit on the break, and Stott did well to charge an Angus shot down in just such a situation 24 minutes in.
Stott was there again within a minute with a fine tackle to stop another Angus run, with Connor Taylor on hand should a chance appear.
So?..watchfulness was the by-word then, with Tamworth occasionally seeking a second goal that would make matters altogether more difficult for County!
County kept the pressure up, however- Warburton not far away with a free kick with 26 minutes gone.
Another 2 minutes and County had their equaliser, and it came via excellent work, wide left, by Turner whose cross picked out Oswell in front of goal. Oswell did the rest with an immaculate finish?? it was 1-1 and all to play for!
With the crowd roaring them on, County won a succession of corners after this- Thomas and Warburton to the fore, and it was not long before they had the lead and it was almost a repeat of the first County goal?.
Turner again started it with a neat run and even neater cross, which Warburton put away with aplomb from close in.
County now led 2-1, and that was no less than they deserved, but Tamworth still looked interested, and Clarke and Thomas did well under pressure as did Hinchliffe – his timely action foiling Donohue`s late run in the box.
Halftime was still 4 minutes away when I fancied that County were about to nick another goal. I was confident?..Thomas had just surged into the box and been felled by Morley ushering in a welcome penalty! But no?. Mr Jackson, the official so very fussy about centimetre accuracy on throw in`s ( except when he isn`t) was happy with the challenge. An abysmal decision!
The latter minutes of the half were proving interesting, and at both ends as Warburton and Ball combined to thwart a Tamworth break following another refusal by the referee to penalise a foul on Warburton on the edge of the visitors’ box.
Good defending served County well as they came under pressure a time or two at this point.
The last action saw Warburton go close with a good effort, and that was that for the first half.
Warburton, Turner both went close after the re-start, and Ball might have done had the Danny Stand liner not intervened with a wave of his flag.
What about Tamworth?
Well, ?they still fancied it, but the execution was way off the expectation as Angus fluffed his lines when a half-chance came his way following loose play at the back from the blues.
County were in the business of getting that vital third goal, and I was more than slightly disappointed to see Mr Jackson again reach for yellow when Jack Lane pulled Oswell back as he broke clear.
The keeper claimed the ball from the kick, but with County sensing their chance, he could do nothing to stop the next action.
It began with another surging Thomas run down the right, and a cross that Lane did well to beat Oswell to. It was a corner then, and no one could stop Oswell this time as he fired home from close in to make it 3-1.
Stephenson was on now for Turner, and County, with Clarke and Oswell going close , and Stott turning defence into neat attack, looked well capable of adding to their tally.
But?.despite a clutch of County corners, it stayed 3-1, Stevens doing particularly well to stop Oswell reaching Duxbury`s cross at his near post
Although County had most of the play, it was by no means all them, indeed, with better application it might have been 3-2, 20 minutes from time, had Verma done better than shoot tamely at Hinchliffe after Angus had made it to the by-line.
Turnbull was now on for Winter, and Tamworth looked to be tiring, as loose ball`s started to creep into their play- Stephenson just foiled trying to take advantage of one, Warburton following suit, his shot being charged down.
There was still 10 minutes left, but things looked comfortable from a County perspective, albeit Hinchliffe was called on to make a save after County had conceded a free kick.
With just 8 minutes left, O`Halloran came on for Oswell- this allowed Duxbury to push forward on the left, but it was the other flank that saw the next significant action, as Cowan surged clear, to be pole-axed by the latest of challenges from behind from Verma. Again it looked a no-brainer?.. a straight red?. but again Mr Jackson bottled it and waved yellow!
That was simply awful, but I contented myself with the knowledge that we were still 3-1 up and safe as houses?
Hmm?.then we weren`t as the ball came in via a throw on the left with 3 minutes left to play. One???.. two County defenders might have?.no?..should have cleared it?but they did not and Angus slammed the ball home to punish the slackness and make the final minutes interesting.
County had much to do in what remained of the game, with Tamworth doing their utmost to spoil County`s party.
They were profiting hugely from Mr Jackson`s largess, and he showed us more of it deep into added time as Thomas darted clear only to be hacked down from behind by last defender Taylor. Need I say that it was a yellow card that was produced?
That was truly forgettable officiating, and served to increase the pressure on the blues as the minutes ticked away with Tamworth going long?and Hinchliffe staying focused, catching everything that came his way through the cooling evening SK3 air.
Cowan joined in cementing another solid showing from him with some firm defending under pressure, and the game was over?County had won?claimed 3 invaluable points, and surged to fifth spot in the division.
Great stuff boys.
I could list my preferences for M.O.M ( note the plural), but I had 5 vying for the award that went, probably deservedly, to Oswell, let’s celebrate another good team win.
Not perfect?a bit of tightening up required, but County are giving their supporters a real lift just now with their play which is so great to see!
Next stop North Ferriby on Saturday- see you there!
[ Pictures? You got ’em here! ]
Stockport County line up
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Clarke, Stott, Duxbury, Winter( Turnbull 72), Ball, Thomas, Oswell( O`Halloran 82), Warburton, Turner( Stephenson 64).
Subs not used: Ormson, Smalley.
Tamworth line up
Stevens, Burns, Morley, Davies( Shaw 46), Kettle, Lane, Taylor, Verma, Asante ( Knights 73), Angus, Donohue( Powell 63).
Subs not used; Upton, Steer.