[ Written By Ian Brown ]
It’s a while since Stockport County tipped up at Shawe View, and they did so tonight for a hurriedly arranged friendly following the Blues fallow Saturday.
The nicely appointed stadium is always good to visit, the reassuringly majestic trees behind one goal recurring beacons of beauty and hope in a world mostly bereft of same, and when the game is a good as this one was, it’s even more of a pleasure.
Yes….both sides turned up for this one ,giving the crowd real value for their money on what turned out to be a damp Tuesday night weather-wise.
On the field though, it was sunshine stuff all the way as two top draw strikes from new men Devante Rodney and Adam Hammill sent County in 2-0 up at the break.
The goals were superb efforts- Rodney`s a lethal strike that got the County following salivating over what might be to come this season. By now we pretty much know what is to come from Adam Hammill, and he reaffirmed our best expectations with a fantastic lob , to rival his similar wonder effort for St Mirren v Hibs a while back, from within the County half on the stroke of half time- amazing hardly covers it! If we can hold onto these two impressive players for a while , we will have done very well indeed- and JG`s imperious managerial skills in attracting them will have been underlined yet again!
Enter Szymon Czubik as second half substitute for a strangely subdued Frank Mulhern, to combine with Connor Dimaio and a fine strike saw County 3 up.
Trafford meanwhile had by no means been totally outclassed, indeed in the first half their defensive play, with Jole Amado excelling, was impressive, and the second half saw them open up more as an attacking force. County defended well in response, and it took a penalty from Toyeeb Mustapha to get our hosts a goal, but only the direst of curmudgeons would begrudge the Northern Premier side their reward.
The game opened with County defending with 3 at the back namely Cowan, Downing and Garratt. Ben Jackson and Douglas Nyuapembe ( don’t ask…I do not know !) provided the width, Osborne, Dimaio and Hammill manned midfield, with Rodney and Mulhern at the sharp end.
Ian Ormson was between the sticks for the blues and he was fairly under worked before the break as most of the action was at the other end where keeper Matt Cooper was kept busier than he perhaps liked.
Mulhern was first to try his luck for County , but his shot flew wide.
Then Rodney joined in, and Cooper did well to keep his early strike out.
Ten minutes in, and the blues were warming to their task as a neat bit of work by Cowan and Nyuapembe , down the right, brought the impressive Amado into the action for the first time blunting the blue advance.
Another minute and County had the lead as Rodney took the ball from Jackson ( who had as good an outing as I can recall this time) to send a shot of lethal ferocity beyond Cooper into the net.
That was excellent but Trafford tightened up after that early shock and with central defenders Sam Egerton and Sam Baird working hard alongside Amado, nullified much of what County could come up with.
It was another 8 or 9 minutes before County could penetrate the home rear guard, but when they did Dimaio`s free kick flew wide.
Again County were beginning to ramp up the revs, but Jackson`s run, 23 minutes in, was stopped by good work from Ross Davidson, and a cross from Nyuapembe was cut out by a crucial block from Amado.
Still the blues kept upping the ante, a free kick for a foul on Rodney increasing the pressure on Trafford considerably, only for referee Lamb to spoil it by halting Cowan`s run into the box for a perceived infringement.
County were not done, but the 30th minute saw the officials intervene again, as a neat through ball by Cowan saw Rodney clear in the box, only for an upraised flag to end to stop the rot for Trafford.
The pressure was clearly mounting on Trafford , with half time approaching, and Hammill had the keeper stretching to his limits to foil him from a corner won by the steadily improving Nyuapembe.
Nyuapembe was instrumental in increasing that pressure, a further 2 runs adding to the home side`s angst, but facing him Amado was in good nick and on both occasions proved good enough to prevail over the County man.
Somehow Trafford survived a further corner, with 7 minutes remaining of the half, and through Mustapha set about giving County some anxiety of their own, but when a dangerous looking cross whizzed in from the home number eleven, a foul on Downing stopped the rot for JG`s side.
Half time grew ever nearer, and County kept pushing on….going close but without reward.
Nyuapembe was at the sharp end twice in this period, rattling the bar with one effort .
Rodney was not far away either, his run taking him to the by-line before being halted by Amado, who was on hand again a minute later to break up a neat move involving Hammill, Jackson, Nyuapembe and Rodney.
This was good …competitive stuff, but nothing prepared us for what followed as Hammill reprised his St Mirren ( v Hibs) epic goal by lobbing the keeper from the County half of the field- simply awesome!
It was also pretty much the last kick of what had been a decent half`s play, County going in 2-0 up!
Having then headed off for refreshment, it was unsurprising to find none rip off prices prevailing. The £1 I paid for the hot dog being typical of a price list that would have made CSG blush.
If the first half was good, the second was equally so and all the better for Trafford showing us more of their Northern Premier grit in the County half of the field.
Play opened up however with County on the front foot and Hammill inches away from tapping home Jacksons tempting cross.
Jackson gave us more shortly after stinging Cooper`s hands with a firm strike from the edge of the box.
Cooper then pulled another decent save from his locker to deny Czubik who was now on for Mulhern, Amado following this up with a decisive clearance as a corner from Osborne flew over.
Play then switched ends and Salmon looked crestfallen to see his attempt on goal deflected for a corner, County cleared this without issue, and might have been disappointed themselves to see their subsequent reply end with Jackson lifting his shot over the bar.
County were coming more under pressure in this half and were conceding perhaps too many free kicks than was wise- Egerton`s shot from one such missing out by inches with Ormson diving anxiously for it.
Despite the pressure from Trafford, it was possible to conclude that County were husbanding their resources somewhat, and they were certainly not lacking in effort in search of more goals- Rodney on the home side`s case 3 times in this period, being blocked nicely by Tom Schofield once, and shooting wide twice more.
County were willing to harry their opponents, and it was heartening to see Hammill in the van of this activity along with Dimaio and Jackson.
Then…. I had just noted how Curtis Miller was getting in County`s communal barnet, when play switched ends, and Czubik netted a neat finish to polish off a thoroughly excellent bit of work by Dimaio.
There were just 10 minutes left when that one went in, and both sides gave it some in the minutes that followed in an attempt to add more goals. Hammill again stood out for County in this period, Salmon being thwarted again, for Trafford, by Downing as the forward waited for Mustapha`s left wing cross to reach him behind the lanky young defender.
Trafford had been ringing the personnel changes throughout the half and it did not noticeably seem to affect their forward push in any adverse way, and it was really not a great surprise when the goal that they craved, and probably deserved, came.
It was from a penalty, as Mustapha was upended in the box, but a goal none the less, and a good one in the end as Mustapha sent County`s penalty king Ian Ormson the wrong way to make it 3-1.
There was time for a reply from County, but Czubik shot wide and that was a very decent game put to bed.
Trafford FC line up:-
Cooper, Kenny (O`Brien 83) , Amado ( Lees 83), Taylor, Egerton, Baird ( Schofield 45), Jones ( Palmer 68), Davidson ( Roberts 68), Salmon ( Miller 74), Grimshaw ( Gabidon 74), Mustapha.
Stockport County line up:-
Ormson, Cowan, Downing, Garratt, Nyuapembe, Jackson, Hammill, Osborne, Dimaio, Mulhern ( Czubik 45), Rodney ( Wood 87).
Subs not used :- Grimshaw ( GK)