[ Written By Ian Brown]
County served up a rousing barnstorming finish, with a dash of the fairy tale about it away to FCUM today, as a late goal from Jamie Stott in his last game for the Blues (for a while anyway) made it 2-1, and won the game for James Gannon’s team.
It was a good win, but one that looked in doubt when the Moston side took the lead 9 minutes in.
After that County did most of the pressing, but the more infrequent attacks from the home side seemed to be more incisive, thus it was more than a slight relief when chief nicker of trifles, Frank Mulhern, poached the equaliser smack on half time.
That revitalised County, who had the game by the scruff of the neck upon the restart, with Thomas, Mulhern and Warburton in particular leading the Rebel Reds a far from merry dance.
For long periods it looked like a County goal was inevitable…but it just would not come – and to make matters worse FCUM were getting potentially lethal assists from the officials in the form of late free kicks of dubious origin – egged on by irked home specs.
Nervous minutes followed with FC somehow holding out as shot after shot rained in from County… and then the pressure told and, at last a ball into the danger zone lit the fuse and Jamie Stott did the biz imperiously beating a clutch of red and blue shirts to the ball – his glorious effort sending County fans into raptures !
What a finish, well it was not quite finished, there was still time for the home side to pump hopeful balls into the box, all dutifully seen off by County’s immaculate defence.
Back at 3 o’clock County were unchanged again, and my notes were yet to be turned to an almost indecipherable mush by the incessant rain that was to follow, and it was not long before the Blues were on the front foot- Warburton shooting wide after Duxbury had seen his shot pushed out by FC keeper Lloyd Allinson.
Another minute, another shot on goal, this time by Thomas, but his side footed effort went wide after Stephenson’s low cross had opened the home defence up for him.
Hopefully that would not be a costly miss, and I took comfort in seeing Jamie Stott deal brilliantly when under pressure near the left corner flag. Sam Walker lit a flame also, in an afternoon he was to light them all over the show, but this time his shot was charged down by one of a line of red shirts.
Then it all went slightly pear shaped for County as a lightning raid by the home side saw Willoughby latch onto Donohue’s brilliant through ball to slam an emphatic finish beyond Hinchliffe into the net.
Just nine minutes gone, and County were 1-0 down, and the tenth did not improve matters as a screamer from Warburton fizzed an inch or so over the bar!
I thought that, for the most part in the first half, Joel Senior played Duxbury as well as anyone has thus far this term, but Scott still had his moments, his run just a few minutes later seeing Mulhern and Thomas vying for a chance to convert a notional chance in front of goal. In the event it was all in vain as the referee ‘saw something’ and awarded FC a life-saving free kick.
Stott went close, shooting wide from a corner 21 minutes in, and Warburton was earning browny points for work rate (no surprise there then) as he energetically went deep for possession converting defence into attack in so doing.
All that was good, but County needed a goal, but when Mulhern’s run won a corner, and Allinson flapped at it and failed to get to it, the ball evaded all other in blue and red so any chance was gone.
FC came at County after that action, and Keane did well to head Donohue’s effort clear. Senior impressed for FC next but his cross from the by-line whizzed across goal with no one in red able to make contact with it.
Hmm, warnings… both of them, and another was averted as Stott dealt majestically with a potential situation, making two neat blocks as County defended a free kick from FC.
Credit County, if they were not quite into their accustomed easy attacking style, they were at least attacking, and Stephenson’s run, with around 10 minutes of the half left, set up a period of intense pressure that yielded 4 corners to the Blues- Mulhern and Stott seeing efforts saved by Allinson.
Almost immediately that siege ended, FC replied via Kurt Willoughby whose run sent Bannister clear. The cross that followed picked Whitham out perfectly, but his header went wide, much to County’s relief.
Both sides had their moments with half time approaching…..Allinson doing well to punch clear under pressure….and Hinchliffe excelling with a terrific save as Donahue was played clear and came at him with the goal seemingly at his mercy. I thought ‘2-0’, but instead Hinchliffe’s heroics enabled Minihan to welly the ball clear.
That Hinchliffe save just might have been a pivotal moment in the game as within a couple of minutes County were level.
It started with an FC foul, and a free kick which Walker lifted into the box where Palmer headed it on. Stott was next in line and he leathered it goal ward seeing the keeper save the shot but only parry the ball. That was an enormous, if understandable error, as Mulhern was in the vicinity in search of scraps and duly pounced larruping the pill into the far corner of the net in authoritative style!
That was the second pivotal moment, as from this point on County went up a gear and the game was all but lost for FCUM if they did but know it!
Time for Frank to head wide from a late Duxbury cross and the first half was over, as County’s support sent their team in at the break to a rousing reception. Its at this point that the notes start getting difficult…
Although County were quickly into their stride upon the re-start, FC still kept their end up and Hinchliffe had to make a fine save, just 3 minutes in, from Chris Sharp.
It was mainly County doing the attacking though, both Stephenson and Mulhern going close. Thomas had been on fire for the most part, but with Cowan on him as first County change, Minihan could now push on forward, and he did as a welter of attacking play from the Blues had the red back line in a jittery mood, happy to find touch when far worse beckoned.
At one point earlier I had seen Thomas tie Harry Winter in knots just a foot or so from me, and if ever an effort deserved a goal that did, but nothing seemed to square that particular circle and FC, despite their travails were still level!
The best from County came from Mulhern whose classy through ball would have seen Warburton in but for Senior’s blocking tackle. County wanted a free kick for that but Referee Tom Parsons would have none of it, thus FC survived.
They survived again not long after as a rash of shots rained in on Allinson’s goal, and again as more brilliance, near the by-line, from Mulhern had a mere corner as reward, and Frank’s header from this went wide, so it stayed 1-1.
On it went… Warburton supplying the brilliance this time, in the form of a neat through ball that Stephenson lifted over the bar.
Keane joined in, but could only send his shot a foot or so over the bar, and Winter earned a booking for a foul on Warburton as the County assault continued apace.
The fact that after all this attacking it was still 1-1, and technically still anyone’s game, was unnerving, except this is a decidedly different cut of County team to the usual variety, and this inspired confidence, in situations where it is normally in short supply.
It did not help that the far liner (the one with the noisiest FC fans to his back) was flagging for some improbable calls – free kicks all and in FC favour. County defended these well, but one slice of ill fortune, one piece of ill judgement from the men in black and maybe.. maybe not..
Probably the last credible FC move of substance came with 10 minutes left, but Cowan managed to deflect Sharp’s shot wide and Walker headed the subsequent corner clear.
Walker’s clearance sent Warburton on the charge, but somehow Mr Parsons managed to miss the mugging that Zehn Mohammed dished out to Warby stopping his run.
Kirby was on now for Stephenson and was linking nicely with Cowan down the right – and doing OK at the back as well – both he and Palmer getting crucial clearances in as FC attempted to hit us on the break.
Walker saw a shot miss out with 5 minutes left, and the ensuing minutes were a procession of County attacks, all just missing that crucial final ball of quality.
Then, one more push, one more corner, and Walker stepped up to take it, lifting a beauty to where Duxbury ushered in on. Palmer awaited the ball’s arrival in the box and headed it down and back to where Stott volleyed it home before setting off on a giddy celebration in front of the ecstatic County following.
Added time seemed endless, especially with FC finding fresh lungs and legs, but they need far more than just those elements, and County were able to defend all that came their way to claim their victory that keeps them right in the promotion race in second place.
It was time though, before everyone headed home, to celebrate Jamie Stott’s time with us, and after the team had saluted the fans and been saluted themselves, Captain Paul Turnbull accompanied Jamie over to the County fans for a last goodbye, and the whole thing ended so well with the County team forming a tunnel to give him a massively great send off!
Great finish, another good win, all set now for Harrogate in the FA Trophy next Saturday.
See you in North Yorkshire then !
[ Simply super photos from the game are here! ]
FCUM line up:-
Allinson, Senior, O’Halloran ( Sharp 48), Mohammed, Sass- Davies, Wallen ( Mc Giveron 88), Donohue ( Hmami 87), Winter, Willoughby, Whitham, Banister.
Subs not used : Palinkas, McDowell- Jallow.
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Stott, Duxbury, Keane, Walker, Thomas ( Cowan 48), Mulhern, Warburton ( Osborne 82), Stephenson ( Kirby 74).
Subs not used : Ormson, Turnbull.