[ Written by Ian Brown ]
In Memory of Hannah Twynnoy,
Who Died October 23 1703 Aged 33 Years,
In Bloom of Life She`s Snatched From Hence,
She Had Not Room To Make Defence,
For Tyger Fierce Took Life Away,
And Here She Lies in a Bed of Clay,
Until Resurrection Day.
That cheery eulogy is from the gravestone of Hannah Twynnoy, who was unlucky enough to be drinking with friends in the Blue Boar Pub in Malmesbury, one afternoon in 1703, when a tiger from a travelling circus parade burst in and laid into her.
You just cannot get unluckier than that can you? Although the players of Curzon Ashton might just disagree as they had Stockport County to contend with today at the Tameside Stadium as County, building on Tuesday’s excellence, cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win against their Tameside neighbours.
I say comfortable because that was exactly how it panned out, James Gannon’s side extending their impressive unbeaten run to 9 games courtesy of a slickly taken penalty from Sam Walker, just before halftime, and a classy finish from Elliot Osborne in the second half.
The blues played with a confidence that should see them in good stead for the season’s run in.
Early doors County set their stall out……establishing a firm grip on proceedings at the back, as a springboard for releasing Minihan and Duxbury at a Curzon Ashton defence that lost its discipline almost from the first kick of the ball.
The result was a raft of County free kicks, as our blue shirted hosts tested the referee’s resolve. They tested Thomas too, with a succession of fouls that started early as he scooted clear along the touchline urged on by a magnificent County following, continuing up to and beyond the moment, 72 minutes in, when Cameron Mc Jannett comprehensively carted him, earning himself a deserved red card.
In response County’s discipline remained intact, and it was a major surprise to see referee Ben Speedie card Bell for pretty much nothing, necessitating that JG took him off as a precaution shortly after the re-start.
If this was another excellent team performance, I insist that the County support be included in the praise as I thought they were terrific today….present in big numbers (a massive majority of those present)………..loud in their support ……….. and surprisingly in tune with the constant singing. Add the fact that we had no sign of flares/smoke bombs, and County fans did not invade the pitch even though the stadium offered good opportunities in this respect- the fans get stick – a fair bit, but today their support and behaviour was exemplary!
Curzon Ashton’s best spell was arguably the first 5 minutes, when they buzzed enthusiastically about the County box, playing some reasonable football.
In response, County were coolness personified, Stott epitomising this with an assured header as a cross pinged in from the left. A corner ensued from that, and our hosts thought the circle was squared as they had the ball in the County net, just 6 minutes in, only for frustration to set in as the liner signalled the b******g obvious, namely that Morgan was offside.
County set about putting their hosts in their place, Thomas launching himself on numerous runs that had Mc Jannett in all sorts of trouble. Keane proved a useful provider sending Thomas clear with a superb crossfield pass after 11 minutes. Thomas won a corner, but this was taken short, and easily cleared by the home defence.
Some fairly steady pressure followed from County, Warburton and Osborne combining nicely after Duxbury had won a corner, but County`s opponents survived.
They survived again ( 20 minutes in ) and this time they were distinctly lucky to do so, great opportunism from Warburton winning the ball and setting Bell up with a chance that he scorned his miscued effort missing the target.
County kept the pressure on…..Duxbury (left) Thomas ( right) and it was a major surprise to see the referee book Bell for an innocuous ‘coming together of bodies’ that should not have even warranted a second glance!
If it had any negative effect on Bell, it didn’t as far as the overall County effort was concerned – Dan Shaw doing well for Curzon to keep Warburton from a Duxbury cross.
Not a lot was coming back from Curzon meanwhile, but Mc Jannett did dash clear, with 7 minutes of the half left, only to see his shot go wide with Hinchliffe covering every eventuality.
Duxbury was his usual self at this stage…..back making a decisive block and clearance on 40 minutes as Mc Jannett almost sent Rowney in, and up the other end not long after, winning a corner which sadly came to nothing along with a subsequent free kick ( no prizes….no guesses please….it was McJannett on Thomas) .
We were one minute from halftime now, and………yes…you guessed correctly….. Thomas was launching himself on another irresistible run. He was accompanied by Mc Jannett who promptly sent him sprawling.
Walker’s free-kick was a belter and in their anxiety to clear same, Curzon pushed the goal hungry Palmer to the floor. Justice was then done in every sense as Walker stepped up to drill the perfect penalty past the keeper to give County the lead.
There was time for Curzon to sneak a corner, and for Ali to head over the bar, before the teams went in with County 1-0 up.
I wondered whether JG would feel compelled to sub Bell with Mr Speedie on his case, but Nyal was in position as play re-started on time.
Thomas was again in a good position also and unlucky too to not claim a corner with just 3 minutes gone of the half.
For Curzon, Connor Hughes looked handy enough on the ball, and was trying to urge his team mates on, a pass from him setting Brooke up with a chance that saw Hinchliffe excel himself by tipping the shot over the bar in spectacular fashion. Ben clearly wanted another clean sheet and others in white did as well, and the corner was defended well as a result which more or less doused the Ashton flame.
County’s meanwhile was burning brightly as Joe Guest clears his lines with the white-shirted Blues trying to profit from a free kick after Bell was fouled just outside the box.
After running that danger away, Guest then joined the list of people wishing Thomas harm, earning a yellow for a crude assault on the County number seven.
JG took the moment, before the free kick was taken, to replace Bell with Mulhern. Using every other criteria barring the referee’s fragile temperament as a yardstick, Bell would have stayed on, but James knows his refs and Nyal had to don the unwilling sacrificial lamb garb and trek off the field of play.
Curzon probably expected this switch to signal respite from torment, but Mulhern just offered an alternative strategy/approach not a weaker one, and the home side continued to be under the cosh, keeper Cameron Mason doing well to punch clear as an Osborne ball allowed Duxbury to ping one of his speciality crosses over. The punch was partially effective……partially…. and Mason did well again to make a save to deny Mulhern.
The pressure was on for sure as Warburton saw a shot charged down, and Mason pushed a Mulhern header over the bar with men in white shirts queuing for a pot at goal.
Corners started racking up for County as the minutes ticked away, and they so …so…wanted that second goal to cut off any ambitions that may still linger with the home side, but shots rained in on Mason’s goal without the much-coveted ruffling of the netting behind him occurring.
On it went….Osborne disappointingly lifting a shot high and wide, and Thomas`s latest sortie up the park was thwarted when a perfectly serviceable cross from him was volleyed clear by Jon Hunt the Curzon skipper.
The 68th minute ushered in a ‘ooooo moment’ as Mason somehow survived the combined attentions of Mulhern and Osborne with County straining every sinew to get that second goal.
The County following (well over 2/3rds of the 1500 present) were still giving the team magnificent support, and it did the trick.
Not immediately, as initially, it was ‘sharp intake of breath time’ as Thomas was laid out by a wince-inducing limb threatener from the awful Mc Jannett.
Thomas needed treatment, and got it, but the referee, having taken an age over producing Mc Jannett`s second yellow and red, then unnecessarily complicated matters by insisting that Thomas then left the field and awaited his instruction to return from the touchline. Not only was that infuriating but (say please if I am in error folks) but a card having been shown for a foul, then it was not a requirement that Thomas leave the field!
I am really trying with referee`s……honest…but really….some of ’em !
Well…no matter….my ill humour lasted about 2 minutes, whereupon the sun shone brightly in my head again as Osborne glided clear and guided a marvellously controlled shot past the distressed keeper into the net!
Great celebrations followed from team and the County following, and as far as the latter goes, it all took place on the terraces- brilliant stuff!
Osborne off/ Dimaio on, after 78 minutes was JG’s next change, and this only served to reinforce the County forward push as corners came and went with no addition to the score- Duxbury putting the home defence in a tizz with another of those specials of his. Again no further goal materialised, but for a moment Mulhern must have fancied he’d nicked one only for his header to crash into a post and fly out anywhere but where Frank wanted it to.
That was 6 minutes from the end of normal time, another 2 minutes on and County were unlucky again. Thomas was the initiator here, and whilst his run was a cracker, he just might have considered a pass on to Warburton who lurked in a good position to do the biz just beyond Mason. In fact, Thomas elected for a shot and Mason was able to smother it as Warby inwardly wept a yard from goal.
Hinchliffe did have to make one save late on, after Minihan had been hustled off the ball, the County keeper getting down nicely at the near post.
Another clean sheet would surely be very welcome, but then so would a third goal, but Mason again thwarted this worthy ambition, holding onto a shot from Duxbury after good work from Mulhern.
Into 5 minutes added time we went with Hinchliffe diving to beat a shot from Crankshaw out. The corner that followed might have ushered in a much desired ( by them) consolation for Curzon, but the flag kick was poor and County`s defending sound, and that eventuality was never on.
It may even have been 3….or even 4-0, had Mulhern put away the two late chances that came his way deep in added time, but he didn’t and 2-0 was a good result anyway and no one I met after the game felt that disappointment featured at all in their post-match feelings.
This win instils more confidence that the league run in can go our way, and almost as importantly it sets us up nicely for our FA Cup clash with FL outfit Yeovil next Saturday.
We play Warrington on Tuesday of course, in the Cheshire Premier Cup, so here’s to 2 more wins in the week to come.
Curzon Ashton line up:-
Mason, Rowney, Mc Jannett, Hunt, Shaw, Morton, Guest, Hughes, Brooke, Morgan( Crankshaw 75), Ali.
Subs not used: Cummins, Fawns, Khoury, Wall.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Stott, Duxbury, Keane, Thomas( Stephenson 92), Walker, Bell ( Mulhern 54), Osborne ( Dimaio 78), Warburton.
Subs not used : Ormson, Downing.
Attendance : 1487