Written by Ian Brown
County suffered a fairly emphatic defeat today at the hands of a determined Boston United side at rain-sodden Edgeley Park.
The score of 2-0 in the Lincolnshire side`s favour did not unduly flatter them, as they held sway pretty much from 1st to 95th minute.
In between times they were quicker to the ball than County throughout and used it far better when in possession of it, but I would have been more fulsome in my praise of Craig Elliott`s side had they not treated us to a repeat of last season`s ` Festival of Time Wasting`. This thoroughly ruined the second half , but I suppose can be justified, at least in Elliott`s eye`s, by virtue of the singular fact that it earned them 3 points.
For County, though it was a day, not to forget….but to think on hard, as there was little constructive play surfacing twixt hard-pressed defence and isolated attack. And the defence were hard pressed at times thus on umpteen occasions the likes of Mulhern and Bell would have to chase after balls delivered under pressure from way back…… heading their way in the air.
County did have their chances but these came largely as the game headed into added time and there was not enough sharpness about from those in blue to ensure these came to anything.
There were no changes in the County starting line up from Leamington, which meant no return for a batch of injured players , although Minihan and Duxbury gained a place on the bench.
That County kicked off towards the Railway End was welcome but the sight of yellow and black shirts circling menacingly around the County last third decidedly wasn`t- an early free kick to Boston causing a flurry or two before Smalley headed clear from under the bar.
This went on for 3 minutes or so, before the blues could engineer a reply , a reply temporarily halted by a foul on the marauding Bell. Walker pinged a decent delivery over from the free kick , only for Ben Middleton to step up and just beat Bell to the ball.
A series of free kick`s and corners followed for Boston and County had their hands full keeping them at bay- Hinchliffe doing well more than once , one punch out under pressure being of particular note worthiness.
Soon enough 10 minutes had gone, and much of that time had seen the ball in County`s half, ex Pilgrim Jordan Keane getting volleys of ripe abuse from those behind and to my right who had voted him Boston`s Player of the Season last term.
Things looked to be improving , almost 15 minutes in, when Mulhern earned a corner , but Walker`s in-swinger saw Middleton in position to head clear.
Credit to the blues…they kept pressing their opponents back into their last third , Cowan doing really well bursting into the box on the end of a mazy run from deep. He was blocked however, and Mulhern kept the move going by picking Dimaio out with a neat /short pass, only to see the Irish Under 21 man lift the ball over the bar.
We were soon back to Boston pinning County back with corners and free kicks, and Smalley did well to concede one corner and then manage to sort matters when it came across.
Smalley`s next work though almost upset the County applecart as he lost the ball, smack in front, to Max Wright, and the Hatters were fortunate to escape unscathed as the chance went begging when Nick Walker blazed his shot wide with Hinchliffe unprotected.
Then Palmer joined in , his hesitation under pressure almost seeing us one down. Thankfully Walker again missed the mark …….his shot whizzing across the face of goal and out -the blues had escaped……but………..
It was not great to watch and I winced as the seemingly profligate Nick Walker headed goal ward again less than a minute later. The forward`s instincts and reactions were spot on this time, but so was the response from Hinchliffe and the County keeper did enough to concede a corner and then deal affectively with it when it came over.
We were half way through the first half now, and needed County to reply, but when they did ( Mulhern sending Bell clear)the move foundered on Ashley Jackson`s sound defensive work.
Then worse followed as Boston hit us on the break, only the bravest of saves from my M.O.M Ben Hinchliffe prevented County going one down with Ahkeem Rose bearing down on goal at a rate of knots.
Danger over…..but …oh no….it wasn`t as County had no answer as the swiftest of moves from Boston ended with Nick Walker pinging a pin point cross right onto Rose`s head , and it was 1-0 to United as the ball spiralled goal ward soaring into the far top corner of the net!
It went on… the ball whizzing sweetly twixt Thanoj, Walker N and Rose whose shot was thankfully deflected for a corner when an altogether worse situation beckoned.
The corner was cleared but not the subsequent free kick and Rose was there again getting head to ball and only just missing out.
County were trying for sure, but the first 30 minutes had been pretty much all Boston, and the 31st was no better Nick Walker shooting wide from Wright`s pass.
County`s best period of the half came between minutes 35 and 42 , during which time Bell went close and Stephenson won a corner that had Pilgrim`s keeper George Willis in real difficulties. Bell also had an effort deflected narrowly for a corner from Dimaio`s pass, but this had come to pass via a break up the park from deep by Stephenson after Palmer had headed clear.
And the need for County to be constantly on their toes at the back was game-long as Boston always looked the likelier lads when it came to putting dangerous moves together . To this moment only one such move had declared a divi…how much longer would that situation prevail?
Well…….the question was still hanging in the air as Thomas headed out off the line, and Hinchliffe followed this up with some quick reaction stuff denying Rose the ball as he tried to get to one of a series of decent crosses from Ben Davies.
We went into added time with Hinchliffe there again thwarting Walker, the half ending with the tamest of free kick`s from County`s Walker flying out.
That pretty much summed up County`s first half, we could only hope for better after the break.
Duxbury was on for Smalley when the teams returned to the fray, with County attacking , and they looked distinctly up for it, Thomas seeing 2 early crosses put Willis under the cosh. A third followed and Stephenson was a whisker away from putting that away.
This was encouraging, and more so as Thomas pinged another in from the right forcing Tanoij to make a desperate last gasper to keep the ball out!
The pressure was on Boston at this point for sure, but that old familiar theme returned to Boston`s play as wholesale time wasting saw player after player plummet to earth when not within yards of a blue shirt. It was straight out of Boston`s 2017-18 `Waster`s Handbook` and was bloody annoying!
The purpose was no doubt to disrupt County`s play which was just beginning to show the odd sign or two, and it also, with a suitably gullable Referee, would see vast amounts of time nullified.
A panto preceded each subbing as well, and there were a few of these after the hour from United.
County kept their cool midst the nonsense , only for Willis to make a save to keep a strike from Bell out.
Then…with 20 minutes remaining……Boston again hit County on the break – it did look a determined and neatly put together move, but that said….County should have denied the visitors their second goal. Palmer and Cowan both had opportunities to clear their lines…didn`t and this resulted in Nathan Arnold being able to slot the ball home to the obvious delight of the Boston following.
County rang the personnel changes after this with Warburton on for Mulhern, and Minihan for Keane which gave the blues new attacking options.
Bell meanwhile was hell bent of adding to the goal he got last week, and a powerful run from him laid waste to a line of United defenders. Attempt after attempt to hack him down had been unsuccessful whereupon one such did the trick sending Nyal to the deck.
The free kick was in a good position, but after Walker and Warburton had done the obligatory pre kick mime, Walker took it sending a disappointing effort over the bar.
We needed that to have gone in….we did not need what came next as another Boston Panto ended with Wright getting the County Walker booked. Boston might have done better from the resultant free kick, but with 2 or 3 black/yellow shirts playing ` after you Claude` in front of goal, none obliged and it stayed 0-2.
Time was running out now, just 2 minutes left of normal time, as Willis rose to push Bell`s shot over the bar. Palmer headed over from the corner.
I fancied we probably have about 20 minutes added time but somehow Mr Herczeg managed to make do with 5 !
It wasn`t enough was it?
But County made a brave fist of making that statement look silly…….Warburton seeing a shot charged down from a Palmer lay off, and then looking shell shocked as his next effort whizzed inches wide.
Dimaio went close also and Duxbury twice might have got one back with better luck. He might just have had a penalty too , but it was not County`s day and the penalty claim went unheard .
That was disappointing and it will need a big effort from County at Telford next week to start to put matters right.
That said, they can do it, but they will need our support.
I will not insult you by asking you to get behind the team, I know you will instinctively do that, see you next Saturday then.
Stockport County line up:
Hinchliffe, Thomas, Palmer, Smalley( Duxbury 46), Cowan, Keane( Minihan 76), Dimaio, Walker, Bell, Mulhern( Warburton 71), Stephenson.
Subs not used: Ormson, Downing.
Boston United line up:
Willis, Davies, Jackson, Tanoj( Wafula 62), Middleton, Qualter, Wright, Abbott, Rose( Celsay 60), Walker, Arnold ( Lees 93).
Subs not used ; Marriott, Margetts.