[ Written By Ian Brown ]
Despite doing enough to earn at least a draw from today`s game, Stockport County were unable to end the long-time hex that Aldershot Town have over them, going down 1-2 to Danny Searle`s side at a damp Ebb Stadium.
It was an awful game in my view, and one decided, in massively controversial fashion by an awesomely grotesque parody of a decision by referee Richard Hulme that pretty much presented the match and the points to County`s opponents on a Yuletide platter.
County had failed to make any headway in a first-half desperately short on the ingredients that draw us into football stadiums on days like this one! They missed a couple of chances, were largely second to the ball to Shots, and…..they let Town nick one to boot- a result of poor defending, and go in one ahead at the break.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were every bit as forgettable as the previous 45 had been, but a Shots foul ushered Osborne centre stage, and his free-kick saw Rodney make it 1-1.
At that point I could sense County`s fortunes on the rise, cue Mr Hulme`s moment of utter madness ( of which more later) and 1-1 became 1-2, and County heads understandably dipped after that, and with Aldershot fired by Mr Hulme`s Xmas gift, there was never any real way back for County- a fantastically poor return for the 202 who made it to the Ebb to support County!
Minihan for Cowan was the sole change in County`s line up as they entered the fray bedecked in green and black.
Within seconds of the kick-off County could…..probably should….have been one up, but Osborne slipped in the act of shooting sending the ball flying over the bar!
That was the prelude to 5 minutes of, more or less , solid attacking from Aldershot. “ We just cannot score!” a local opined to me before the game, but whilst they didn`t in those 5 minutes they looked good in not doing so, County`s defence having to work hard to repel corners and free kicks.
Jack Powell went closest for Shots in this period, his effort being deflected for a corner which Max Hunt could only head wide.
County eventually got back into it, but without ever looking that likely to nick one. In this respect Lewis Kinsella, at the back for our hosts, was instrumental in breaking up at least one potentially interesting County move, but we needed the green-shirted Blues to take advantage of any scraps that came their way, but when Osborne forced Finney to concede a corner, it was wasted as TW lumped a poor kick out of play.
Still…..I was feeling better about County`s chances though as Mitch Walker in the Shots goal, did well to keep a shot from Keane out, after Bully had relentlessly refused to allow his team`s attacking momentum to subside!
Then Frank was a fag paper`s width from applying a finish to Rodney`s incoming cross on the quarter-hour.
That was satisfactory…..and then it wasn`t…as County totally failed to clear their lines affectively, allowing the Shots M.O.M Craig Tanner to fire home unattended from close in.
Then a shot from another Walker……Aldershot`s Lewis….. whizzed an inch or so wide with the sodden home specs hyperventilating in unison, whilst in reply, County could not capitalise on pressure that secured a couple of corners.
Osborne did go within inches of getting to TW`s cross , on 29 minutes, but Mitch Walker was first to the ball and the chance was gone.
Twice after this County had their supporters cheering. First off Frank`s run threatened to carve a mighty hole in the home defences, but it held firm as TW`s shot was blocked.
Rodney would not let our hosts off the hook, but when his cross reached TW his shot hit the wrong side of the netting!
Minihan then had a shot pushed over the bar by the home keeper, but at this stage referee Hulme was accepting all the decisions offered his way by the liner to my left and he had seen a `foul` by Osborne en-route, and the pressure was thus off Town via the resultant free-kick.
That was irritating, and more followed as County almost gave a second goal away- a slip and a miss kick offering Town a chance that they regally refused to take!
The closing minutes of the half saw County still trying to put matters right, but somehow Mitch Walker managed to twist in mid-air to push a tasty shot from Keane over the bar. Arthur went close from the corner, but not quite close enough, and the teams went in with Aldershot still one up!
The resumption after the break saw no improvement in the play or weather – a relentless drizzle was tormenting anyone foolish enough not to be encased in multiple (preferably waterproof) layers, and the play was no better with Aldershot enjoying more possession than I would like.
I clung in desperation to that “ We just cannot score” bit, but they already had one, but I was consoled by the fact that 55 minutes in that goal was all that they had scored, and consoled further as Hinchliffe managed to push a Tanner effort around a post!
Meanwhile, my well known blind optimism surfaced again, fanned by a grade one tantrum by Dean Rance upon Town shipping a free-kick. They defended that one well enough, but I hesitate to guess at DR`s state of mind next as another free-kick saw his fellow defenders transfixed in trying to block the incoming from Osborne. This was just enough for my County M.O.M Devante Rodney to latch onto the ball and slot it masterfully home!
Great…..fantastic…..again I felt we could do well from here, but we had to lock that back door however and it wasn`t and Hinchliffe had to pull off a decent save to prevent Tanner from doubling his and his team`s tally as he went through the County defences like a fox in a hen coop.
Not long after Bell came on for Mulhern, which I thought was well worth a try, but that back door…..it was ajar again and a cross from the left saw Mo Bettamer fire it home from almost on the line.
Glee for the home specs was instantly replaced by gloom as the liner I had spoken of earlier had his flag up for a fairly obvious offside!
Probably a couple of minutes elapsed before the home specs were cheering again as the referee had belatedly overruled the liner.
My entry for the `Understatement of the Year` competition `diabolical` as a description of that abysmal decision , could be bettered I am sure, but really I am getting way beyond being reasonable with some of these abject whistle carriers!
“ Enough, move on….” I hear you cry, and you are right….maybe!
The home keeper was a busy lad for a time after this, with Bell giving him much to think on. In this respect the keeper got valuable assistance from Alex Finney- just enough to safely see off the County threat.
Thomas was now on for Osborne, and not long after Sam Walker for Minihan, as Bettamer went close for Aldershot. He got another chance, an altogether better one, with just 6 minutes left of normal time, but he blazed this over the bar wantonly, being substituted a minute or so later.
Both keepers had saves to make in what remained of normal time, and the 4 minutes added time was spent with Aldershot occupying space near County`s left corner flag. Free kicks and corners supplemented this effort, but without ever looking likely to add a third goal.
For County , the game was lost, to Town the spoils….again.
To all who made the trip to support the team…well done one and all.
It is certain that JG and his staff will address anything that needs addressing, and I would like to wish them and you a belting Xmas and a very happy 2020!
And….I would like to also thank Andrew Machin for his magnificent photographic contributions throughout the year – now an essential element of the blog’s output!
[ See here for the excellent photos ]
Aldershot Town line up:-
M Walker, Tinkler, Kinsella, Rance, Finney, Bettamer ( Whittingham 88), Chislett ( Santos 72), L Walker, Hunt, Tanner, Powell ( Panayiotou 77).
Subs not used : Lyons- Foster, Shields.
Stockport County line up :-
Hinchliffe, Minihan (S Walker 79), Palmer, Arthur, Garratt, Turnbull, Keane, Osborne ( Thomas 71), Mulhern ( Bell 61), T Walker , Rodney.
Subs not used : Ormson, Cowan.
Attendance : 1891( 202)