County`s plans for 3 points from last nights game with Guiseley AFC, to boost their assault on the top of the division, took a knock at the hands of the determined Yorkshire side who came away from Edgeley Park with a not undeserved point from a 1-1 draw.
The evening did not start well for County , indeed before a ball was kicked we sort of sensed that Lady Luck was already preparing a swing or two of her fashion accessory in our direction and the carnage had begun with the news that both County’s central defenders from Saturday, Chris Smalley and Ash Palmer had picked up injuries on Monday and would not play.
Just what we did not need added to the forced absence of Scott Duxbury.
This meant a debut at centre back for Jordan Downing alongside Jordan Keane who slotted back alongside him. The duo were flanked by Cowan to their right and a second debutant in Josh Askew, here on loan from Salford City to fill some of the gap left by Duxbury`s injury, to their left.
So…..not good…..and it soon got worse, as after a period early on where County pushed on looking for an opening goal, Guiseley took the initiative and, driven on by ex- Hatters Kaine Felix and Kayode Odejayi, who were simply excellent all evening, proceeded to impose themselves on an increasingly diffident County side.
This resulted in Marcus Bignot`s team taking the lead 23 minutes in, via brilliant work from Odejayi rounded off by a smart finish from Felix.
That was a shock but another almost followed in short order and only desperate defending by County kept the score at 1-0.
Somehow County did not concede again in the first half and, having weathered most of the storm they managed to emerge at the other side and claim the equaliser via a superb free-kick from Sam Walker.
Walker did well, and for energy …work rate and quality I thought Dan Cowan was not far behind him in the M.O.M stakes. Elsewhere Keane did good work, and Minihan ran and ran, and Warburton foraged hungrily, but did this further and further back as the pressure on County`s makeshift back line increased. Perhaps one or two too many suffered the ` Tuesday after Saturday blues’ struggling for the required energy levels so close to Saturday`s exertions. But we will need them to sort that issue sooner rather than later if we are to progress, this season.
Edgeley Park was a picture circa 7.45…….the Cheadle End , except from the upper tiers, nowhere near full but lively. Traditionally less so is the Danny Stand , which was somewhat fuller, the Pop Side less full than all of them but making a disproportionate amount of noise.
The same was so of the clutch of 65 real supporters from Guiseley tucked away in the far end of the Pop Side. They too made much noise in support of their team, and it was disappointing to see the stewards take up position, in the stand, in front of the away support late on, blocking their view of the game, when there was absolutely no indication that I could see that anything remotely resembling trouble was brewing from them.
Not a welcome sign that! But the away fans behaved with restraint in response which WAS welcome!
It was a shock to see the enforced changes in the County back line, but the blues attacked early on taking the pressure off them.
Minihan, Cowan and Askew were prominent in this respect, the first real chance falling to Mulhern who saw his effort smartly saved by visiting keeper Jon Worsnop.
I told myself that it was a surprise that Guiseley won their first corner 6 minutes in, but was it? Already Odejayi and Felix were revving up a head of steam and in County`s faces, and Mulhern did well to usher the pill out of the danger zone.
County continued to press, and Guiseley gradually started to defend further and further up the park, and this brought more work Downing`s way and he did well to turn defence into attack at one point, his work being undone via good defending from the visitors , most notably Cliff Moyo who I thought had a decent game.
The eighteenth minute saw County emerge from a rather tentative period, inducing a roar from the Cheadle End as Warburton pinged a cross into the box where Walker was advancing on it along with Worsnop. In the event, the keeper did just enough to put Sam off and he lifted his shot over the bar.
That was both disappointing and encouraging, and more followed quickly as Worsnop again went head to head this time with Stephenson, again winning out!
Then County shipped water and the catalyst for their angst was former Hatter Kayode Odejayi who drew 2 defenders to him with speed and skill down the left. Space created……….. he then slipped a pass inside to Morrison and County were dished as he passed to Felix who beat the overexposed Hinchliffe with a cool finish.
That was 23 minutes in, and two minutes on from this almost saw Guiseley double their lead, again through Felix who darted clear through the middle with alarming speed and ease. Somehow Hinchliffe managed to stop him scoring ( a fine bit of work) and Walker further emphasised his value to the team by blocking the follow-up effort.
Guiseley had clearly not come to make up the numbers, and Hinchliffe was again in action not long after, out of his box to head clear with Odejayi almost in again!
It went on, the County keeper just keeping the ball out from a Guiseley free-kick just after the half-hour mark.
County`s hard-pressed defence needed respite, some period where the action was at the other end of the park, but when it was so there was no end product, corners coming via good work from both Minihan and Stephenson but with little of the danger so present in similar set pieces against FCUM.
There was just one more chance that came County`s way in the first half, started by Askew on the left, but upon reaching Mulhern with his cross, the forward headed past the post with Guiseley on the rack.
County opened the second half on the attack, but there was no sign of a breakthrough with the Guiseley defence resolute in its response.
As in the first 45…..Odejayi continued to present County with problems to solve and thankfully Keane did just that stopping Kayode`s run to the byline down the left with the neatest of tackles. The subsequent corner saw Jack Dyche`s shot climb into the upper reaches of the Cheadle End much to the ire of 65 visitors to my right.
Soon enough 10 minutes had gone by of the half without addition to the score, and while both teams were sniffing for a goal, Guiseley`s keenness in this respect was somewhat alarming.
Stephenson went close for County at this point, but then so did Felix for the Yorkshire side and only a fine block by Downing saved the blues from going 2 down.
Guiseley were working like beavers for a second goal, none more so than Felix who saw his shot blocked, just before the hour, and another fly wide. Odejayi was no less combative still, Cowan doing brilliantly to usher the ball off the line with the Guiseley number nine looking like scoring.
A reply from County saw Warburton brought down unceremoniously, as Dimaio came on to replace Downing. The free kick brought Walker centre stage, and from under the shadow of the Danny Stand he whipped the cruellest of kicks way beyond Worsnop into the net.
It was 1-1, and a massive relief!
Notionally County now had Cowan at CB and Minihan slightly further back at RB, as County continued to attack – Warburton seeing his free-kick bounce out off Worsnop`s legs and stay out.
County were really showing up now, and Dimaio was in the van of this sending Askew in with a sweet ball that saw the full back`s shot go out off the keeper`s right-hand post.
Mulhern joined in only to find Moyo on his case with a cool bit of work that saw any danger off.
With 15 minutes left Mantack replaced Stephenson, as County continued to benefit from Dimaio`s drive and energy, his intuitive pass sending Askew in once again, being thwarted by good work from Niall Heaton.
The score, with 10 minutes left, remained 1-1 and either side could…..might …any minute end the others hopes with a second goal, but Bully did well to get a vital block in as Guiseley pushed County back into their last third.
We needed some inspirational stuff from somewhere…someone….but free kick and corners brought no reward for County, and Guiseley were still in there with a shout- Hinchliffe finally emerging with the ball after Garner`s shot had been deflected for a corner.
With Bell now on for Mulhern County still had work to do and pressure to soak up as Morrison`s shot took a late deflection…. and Felix saw Hinchliffe tip his effort over the bar at the last second.
County rallied though as Walker ran the ball clear, but Bell slipped and the first response was done.
A second followed and it was via Dimaio whose shot was saved by the keeper, the late/ late blue rally continuing with Walker going close, and Worsnop in action punching clear under pressure as a series of corners were racked up by County.
Try as they would…..County just could not prise open a stubborn Guiseley defence, despite the best efforts of Dimaio and Minihan particularly.
It ended 1-1 then……by no means a catastrophe, a disappointment…yes…but one tempered by the knowledge of the effect of the forced defensive changes.
Onward then to Bradford on Saturday, so ignore the weather forecasts….pile on those layers, and get behind the blues at the Horsfall Stadium.
See the photos here http://hedgegrower.blogspot.com/2018/08/stockport-county-1-guiseley-afc-1.html
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Keane, Downing( Dimaio 60), Askew , Minihan, Turnbull, Walker, Mulhern( Bell 84), Warburton, Stephenson( Mantack 75).
Subs not used : Ormson, Kirby.
Guiseley AFC line up:
Worsnop, Moyo, Heaton, James, Garner, Halls, Felix, Hatfield( Purver 40), Odejayi, Dyche, Morrison.
Subs not used: Thornton, Liburd, Thompson, Clayton.
Attendance : 2923