[ Written by Ian Brown ]
It was not a great day at the office for County today, at Victory Park, where Chorley inflicted a 3-0 defeat on them.
There seemed to be a massive reaction to a run of stamina sapping / nerve end shredding games the Blues have put away recently. This reaction was almost entirely a negative one as, apart from Thomas, it was below par performances all round as far as County were concerned.
Defensive errors served to underline the parity of County`s showing, in a game that it was hard to argue anything other than Chorley deserved to win.
That said-we were always going to lose games at this level, in our first season back, and nobody likes losing, but we just have to swallow it, and come back again with renewed fire and recharged batteries- something that, under JG`s wing County are well capable of doing!
It was 3 at the back for the Blues ( Cowan/ Palmer / Keane) with Minihan and Jackson operating as wing backs , with a start for Joe Piggott as play got underway with Chorley attacking.
There was no place for Bell, which surprised me, although he was on the bench.
An early shot from Holroyd, who was to prove a pain all afternoon, took a deflection for a corner, early doors, which Osborne headed out.
It was all `vicars tea party` stuff after that action, with no real hint of what was to come- that is to say, a sizeable County calamity as an intended clearance was charged down into the path of Holroyd who made no mistake from close in.
One down within 5 minutes was not great, but there was time to put matters right!
County`s response to this setback was disjointed though, as whilst Thomas was making himself available big time, the tight cover offered by the home back line, in which the usual suspects Meppen- Walter, Teague and Leather looked impassable, ensured there was nothing in the way of affective support materialising from Adam`s colleagues.
A foul on Jackson, 10 minutes in, offered up a notional chance, but this was caught by Crellin in the Chorley goal, to end any thoughts of a quick equaliser.
Another free kick , just 1 minute later, again put Chorley under pressure , but this was but briefly , the raid foundering on Meppen- Walter`s head, and this was to be a recurring theme throughout the game – County lifting balls high at Chorley, for Meppen- Walter , Teague or Leather to feed hungrily off.
But…perhaps I was being hyper critical, as County again had a free kick, as Walker was fouled whilst trying to instil life into a County raid that was fading fast. Turnbull took this, Palmer reached it but headed the ball wide.
A period of blue pressure ended with Thomas`s cross whizzing across the face of goal with no takers. This cross was from the left, much of Thomas`s earlier work had been on the right- he was putting in a tremendous shift already!
A response was due from our hosts, and it came in quantity with Challinor and Alex Newby organising things. The pressure was on the blues and both Palmer and Walker got good defensive headers in to stem the tide.
Thomas meanwhile, was back on the right, and a feisty tussle twixt him and Leather, ended in the defender`s favour, but not by much!
Then Chorley came back at us, through Newby only for him to shoot wide after getting in behind County`s cover.
Oh…and Thomas was still plugging away, his cross 21 minutes in, being held confidently by Crellin.
Then, on 25 minutes, County spilled possession again allowing Challinor to send Holroyd in again to double the home side`s advantage.
That was a blow, County did try to respond, 4 minutes elapsing in which they probed for an opening without success, but this was followed by a mix up twixt Cowan and Hinchliffe that could have been costly with Newby about. It cost a corner, and this was cleared, but it again did not augur well for the remainder of the game.
We needed the blues to focus, as they have been doing game after game thus far this season, but instead the ball was given away again, being fired over from the right to where Carver lurked in front of goal. It was a shoo in, but somehow the big forward contrived to put his header over the bar.
A let off for sure!
We were beyond 30 minutes now, and County were trying to sort the situation, but Crellin was continuing to get in their way- catching Jackson`s cross, under pressure from Piggott, on 31 minutes.
A foul on Thomas by Meppen-Walter, ushered in hopes of County nicking one back, but despite Piggott going to ground in the box, a penalty was never really on, and with half time nearing, it was still 2-0 to Chorley.
Much Chorley pressure followed – Newby`s cross disappointing the incredibly quiet locals after he had done the hard work to get himself in a decent position.
A free kick on the edge of the box increased County`s anxiety, and it took much good work under pressure from Turnbull mainly, to keep Newby at bay.
With 5 minutes left of the half, eventually County replied through Thomas whose exuberant running forced Leather to concede a corner. This should have offered County an opportunity to at least put Crellin under pressure, but instead I looked left to see Cowan do wonders to cut O`Keefe off as the flag kick saw the Magpies fashion a break from nowhere.
That was pretty much it as far as the first half was concerned, and the hope was for better things from County after the break.
When the teams re-emerged for the second half, Bell was on for Jackson, and it looked like we had reverted to a back four, with the versatile Cowan now on the left.
The early moments offered hope, as Bell was inches from Thomas`s latest offering, kept from it by a clutch of defenders.
Thomas was continuing to be a blue beacon midst the storm but try as he might, he could not prevent O`Keefe from tracking back and making the clearance to foil County`s latest raid.
County pressed for a while after that action, but a break from deep by O`Keefe seemed to scupper the blues as Cottrell went down under pressure from Bell giving Chorley a free kick in a central position. It was a decent chance, and you would not put it past the old war horse to put it away, but instead Meppen-Walter lifted his kick out of the ground!
Perhaps buoyed by the escape, County rallied, but Bell`s run was thwarted by Challinor`s good work. Teague joined in, making light work of keeping Piggott out after Thomas had force O`Keefe to concede a corner.
The Blues kept pressing though, but despite Minihan winning a corner, good defensive work from Leather and Meppen- Walter eventually saw off the danger for the men in black and white.
And County kept trying- Crellin not cooperating at all by holding onto Bell`s shot.
Unfortunately however, they were also now giving free kicks away, and it was fortunate for County , that Chorley were proving hopeless at executing these-the latest from Newby flying straight into Hinchliffe grateful arms.
Osborne headed wide, with about 20 minutes left, but the free kick`s were racking up for Chorley, the latest being worked short by Alex Newby and Challinor ,only for Baines to head over the bar on the end of it.
With 15 minutes left JG replaced Minihan with Curran, and in rapid order I imagined things were on the upturn as County surged onto the attack, but it was an illusion as shots from both Bell and Osborne were comfortably held by the home keeper.
Two things enlivened the scene , with 10 minutes left, first off Crellin treated us to a horrendous fumble , under pressure from Bell- a free kick to Chorley soon ended my interest, only for it to be ignited again with a PA announcement that “ all pies were now £1.50”, as Crellin made a routine catch from a Piggott effort.
I had had my pie( meat and potato) circa 2 o’clock, but I could imagine others would be simply unable to resist the offer!
But…..County now had Dimaio on for Osborne for the last 5 minutes , but surely the game was Chorley`s at this stage!
Certainly if County continued to give the ball away it would be, but Carver`s shot twanged the bar after he had glided clear down the left.
Then late substitute Elliott Newby was played through, but Palmer was on top of it and blocked his man. A corner followed, but the pain was eased for County by a free kick with Chorley wanting a third.
Six minutes added time was announced ( what about the pies I urgently enquired to myself)as Piggott headed over from a Thomas cross.
Into added time we went with Chorley still looking for that third goal, but Hinchliffe held onto Baines` shot on 93 minutes.
Another 2 minutes and that Chorley wish was satiated, as with County failing to clear, Elliott Newby took advantage to drill a neat shot home.
It was 3-0 and there was no time to sort it now.
Thomas did try of course, but a foul on him, and a free kick, failed to get even a small reward for the blues.
Game over…..locals overjoyed…County chastened, but with rested limbs and James on the case ,do not bet against a County response on Saturday against Aldershot- in fact rely on it!
See you there.
Chorley line up:-
Crellin, Challinor, Teague, Leather ( Ross 78), Meppen-Walter, Baines, A Newby ( Doods 85), O`Keefe , Carver, Holroyd ( E Newby 88), Cottell.
Subs not used : Massanka, Blakeman.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Cowan, Palmer, Keane, Minihan ( Curran 75), Jackson ( Bell 45), Turnbull, Walker, Thomas, Piggott, Osborne( Dimaio 85).
Subs not used : Ormson, Arthur.
Attendance: 2693 ( 1220)