[ Written By Ian Brown ]
County gave a muck and nettles performance at storm-ravaged Edgeley Park today, which served to see that even Storm Dennis couldn`t stand between them and what was, in the end, a deserved victory.
It was deserved too, as whilst Hinchliffe was undeniably the busier keeper on show, and County`s M.O.M, with Bromley 7th in the division and toted by some as the top outfit in the National League ( nah…I still go for Barrow) any narrowness of scoreline needs to be taken in along with those points.
The scoreline was narrow….1-0, but it reflected what was, for the most part, an evenly contested match in the direst of conditions, and what a joy it was to see Liam Hogan score the winner on his debut.
County undoubtedly played their best football in the second half, and it was fascinating to see Lloyd giving Brommers loads to think about as much in the 88th minute as in the first 10. With a touch more luck he might have nicked one.
I also thought that the midfield of Keane and Walker did well, particularly Keano who, similar to Lloyd, did much good work late on, and Thomas ran …ran…and ran some more …pretty much as per!
So…when County have taken onboard the realisation that they really can compete in this division, and we have seen as much on multiple occasions earlier in the season, I can see us finishing in or around the playoffs, which would be a fantastic performance in our first season back in the highly competitive National League.
Back at 3 o`clock, well over 4500 were inside Edgeley Park as the rain lashed down borne by the fiercest of winds.
In short…it was not nice out at all, but with a decent number travelling up from Bromley, hundreds of children & families attracted by the Club/ Supporters Coop ticket initiative in the stadium to get a taste of things County, and young County fan Akito Aoki making the trip from Japan we really needed the game to be on, and County`s superb ground staff surprised nobody by producing a terrific playing surface to make it so!
There were quite a few changes to the County line up, injury to recent signing Lois Maynard gave Sam Walker a welcome start, whilst Clarke, Bell, Arthur and Dimaio found themselves on the bench with Osborne, Minihan, McAlinden and new man Liam Hogan taking their places.
County were first to show through Thomas but Walker`s corner saw him head wide, with barely 2 minutes on the clock.
Not long after Bromley began to show us what had got them to seventh position and Hinchliffe had to react swiftly to deny Luke Coulson after his run to the by-line produced the tastiest of shots, and the blue backline cleared their lines after the County keeper had beaten the shot out.
Play swung about a bit even at this early stage, and Thomas was in the van for County, but despite winning a couple of corners in rapid succession, no one in blue could apply a finish.
Osborne saw a shot saved by keeper Mark Cousins, 10 minutes in, but this was followed by a period of pressure from the visitors that County did well to resist.
Tenacious work from Walker then set County up for an interesting free-kick as Osborne was fouled en route to goal. The free-kick might have ushered in a real chance, but …delivered to the back post and limply attacked, it did not, the ball going out.
We were 20 minutes in now, and Bromley were not giving County an easy ride, in fact, Hinchliffe twice had to pull out all the stops to stop Jordan Higgs and then Michael Cheek.
It was a stark warning …..as were a couple of Bromley corners that followed that action quickly, but thankfully without the goal that the visitors craved.
Hogan received a booking at the 30-minute mark, for a tackle that Tom Parsons, the Referee, deemed to be foul. Hmm….possibly…any way Liam would have to tread eggs here on out.
County came back at their opponents with Osborne doing good work down the left, but despite winning a corner and a free-kick, the Blues could make nothing of either.
We really needed to though, because Bromley were still looking for that goal, and a darting run from Corey Whiteley very nearly produced it. His run perhaps deserved a better outcome but, happily for us, the ball drifted wide.
With half time 5 minutes away, Lloyd came as close as anyone in blue had up until that point, his shot ruffling the side netting having ricocheted out off a defender.
The corner from that last action came and went without changing the score, as did a late/late free-kick to Bromley that County cleared with some ease.
Half time saw Vernon doing his best to raise the spirits of the youngsters, and despite the foul weather his work seemed to be well appreciated again!
The re-start saw County under pressure for probably 4 or 5 minutes.
Nothing of any note was coming back from County, and then it did……
First off Minihan and Thomas managed to force a corner. Walker stepped up to take this ……. Hogan arriving late and perfectly to direct his shot home at the back post.
That was a class strike and well worth the celebrations that followed!
County had a valuable 1-0 lead, could they hold onto it?
Well not if substitute Billy Bingham had any input they wouldn`t, and he had not been on the park a minute when he treated us to a surging run and shot that was heading for the top corner when Hinchliffe`s superb diving save saw the ball pushed over the bar!
Wow….no more like that, please !
Thankfully Neil Smith`s team were unable to capitalise on the resultant corner!
Meanwhile County were beginning to slowly build up a head of steam, and Lloyd was first amongst equals in this respect, his run, around the hour mark, seeing Cousins holding onto the shot on the end of it!
County were getting forward on both flanks now Thomas winning a corner down the right, and Keane seeing his shot not long after deflected for another- both came to nothing though, although wrestling fans would have perhaps enjoyed Chris Bush`s blatant attempts to interest Hogan in a second yellow. The ref saw it all and contented himself with a bit of a lecture!
Dimaio was now on for Osborne, and I was pleased to see County absorb more pressure from their opponents before hitting back on the break, through Lloyd, but Cousins did brilliantly to rob him before he could get his shot off!
We were into the last 20 minutes now, and Dennis was raging still as Whiteley`s latest effort smacked into the side netting.
Again County quickly responded….and again it was Lloyd, but his shot drifted tantalisingly wide.
It went on…..Keane doing excellent work to send Lloyd darting clear once more, only for his shot to narrowly miss out.
There were just 15 minutes left now and County were definitely looking for a second goal that would kill the game off, but it wasn`t coming instead Cheek cleared a County corner and set about prizing open County`s back door, but Minihan did well to track back and save the day with some excellent work.
But Bromley were not done, especially Coulson, and a veritable screamer from distance from him should have….would have…equalised had not Hinchliffe`s dive seen him push the shot around the post!
Brilliant stuff! …………and Cousins followed the Hinchliffe example thwarting Lloyd on the break with some brave keeping with a goal looking odds on!
That second goal simply would not come….and Lloyd and Keane were certainly trying to get it, the latter sending the former scooting clear again only for the ball to skid wide by the width of a fag paper!
Bugger…. 10 minutes left now…then 9 as Frankie dragged a shot wide for Bromley.
Another minute and Bell was on for Thomas, but it was Hinchliffe having to work holding onto Clifton`s header with some comfort.
Two more and Coulson saw his shot saved neatly by Hinchliffe.
The 86th minute saw Bush booked ….at last…..he was a very lucky lad for sure, but having done the deed and `taken one for the team` he would have been pleased to see Walker`s free-kick land the ball high up in the Cheadle End.
Arthur came on for Lloyd with added time beckoning, and Festus made a brilliant block almost immediately as Bromley piled it on in the game`s dying embers.
Bingham twice went close deep /deep into added time, and Coulson went closer still having cut inside and got his shot off, but it went wide, and County saw the game`s last gasp off without conceding which was a decent showing, one deserving of the applause it garnered from the supporters after the final whistle!
That was, in the end, a decent result against a decent team, and it sets us up nicely for a couple of testing away games.
There might just still be seats left on the Flyer for Woking…go for it!
Up yours Dennis!
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Hogan, Cowan, Keane, Walker, Thomas ( Bell 82), Osborne ( Dimaio 65), Lloyd ( Arthur 90), Mc Alinden.
Subs not used : Ormson, Clarke.
Bromley line up:-
Cousins, Kizzi, Wood, Higgs ( Bingham 55), Winfield, Coulson , Frankie, Cheek ( Clifton 80), Bush, Whiteley, Rees ( Williamson 64).
Subs not used : Holland, Huddart.
Attendance : 4611