County kept their heads?.dug deep?and duly took the three points they deserved from their game with AFC Telford United at Edgeley Park today – the win consolidating their hold on fifth place in the division, keeping them on course for a playoff place.
It was a tedious affair at times and made so mostly by Telford`s approach which was by a country mile the most yawn-inducing of any used by any team seen in these parts against County this season.
If Rob Edwards` side are looking for salvation in their quest to escape relegation, they will need to show more than they did today. No? constant time wasting and a reliance on tackles of a dubious nature are surely not going to be enough.
They certainly were not enough against Jim Gannon`s Stockport County, who kept their patience?kept to JG`s ` no fouls?.plenty discipline` policy?waited their moment?and when it came took it, much to the huge relish of another decent EP crowd who had endured the Bucks` negativity throughout the game.
Some endured longer than others -Jason Oswell had to be substituted not long after the hour mark, following a poor foul by Connor Johnson, who was booked for his pains later on trying the tactic again.
With neither keeper under that much pressure?much of the time?.a 0-0 result began to look decidedly on the cards, but thankfully that was not so.
The winner came from substitute Darren Stephenson, some 14minutes from the end, and was a massive relief for the Blue and White Army. It was also the signal of a swift?late/late change of policy on Telford`s part as they pushed forward with increasing desperation as the minutes ticked away. Mr Brown found 240 of them to add on, which served to add to the tension a touch, but also added a decibel or three to the cheers and applause that greeted JG`s players at the finish of proceedings.
Paul Turnbull won the sponsors M.O.M award and was one of 4 fresh faces in the County starting line up come 3 o’clock, along with Ian Ormson, Chris Smalley and Stephen O`Halloran, with Ben Hinchliffe, Michael Clarke, Harry Winter on the bench and Scott Duxbury out through injury.
The sun was baking the old place as the game commenced with County with their backs to the Cheadle End.
I had already noted a good spirit in the County 16, epitomised precisely as Hinchliffe acknowledged his replacement and then urged the Cheadle End to get behind the team- great stuff!
An early raid initiated by Warburton came to nothing, as did a couple of lacklustre efforts by Jon Royce for Telford.
The early pressure was coming mostly from County, and Telford had a corner to defend after Cowan`s run down the right had put them in difficulties. Oswell went for the ball from the flag kick, only for Sutton to intervene leaving the County number nine protesting on the ground.
Mr Brown, the Referee, was not inclined to hear Jason`s pleas, and the raid ended with Turnbull`s shot coming out off one of a line of defenders before being hoofed clear.
Ormson did well next to assist O`Halloran as Royce put him under pressure for a time, but that was an isolated incident and overall, whilst I prefer Scott Duxbury on the left of our back line, Stephen did well today.
The next action gave us a hint of this as O`Halloran`s cross set a chance up for Adam Thomas. Thomas`s header went wide but it was good to see Stephen get forward to good effect.
The attacking continued from County, and keeper Ben Wilson reacted neatly to deny Turner, diving to push the County man`s effort around the post. Corner then followed corner, but with John McAtee hooking the ball clear at the near post, County`s luck was out.
It was in though, not long after, as Stott gave the ball away under little or no pressure. The Bucks were enlivened??.. briefly??but only until O`Halloran intervened winning the ball back and working it clear.
It was still County doing most of the attacking though and Thomas saw a couple of efforts come back out off a defender in one raid.
It then went quiet for a period, and it was fantastically irritating to watch Wilson waste masses of time, with the officials content, apparently, to allow same. We were also getting the tedious ` falling down routine` where a player in red would crumple to earth with no one within several yards of him. Poor stuff to say the least!
Ten minutes or so were largely wasted by these routines, and when normal service returned it was again County showing the required urgency- United seemed to already have settled for a draw.
Warburton buzzed a bit, with 29 minutes gone, putting Telford under much pressure, but Ball narrowly missed out from Warburton`s pass and it stayed 0-0.
It really was not a great game at all?.the Bucks spoiling tactics were doing just that?spoiling it as a spectacle, but could County make them pay for their lumpant negativity?
I had no time to ponder further on that one as?.Telford had a go?at last?..the ball heading in from the right towards ex Hatters Marsden and Morgan- Smith. But I need not have troubled myself as Ian Ormson calmed any nerves that needed to be soothed with a good claim in the crowded box!
Into the last 5 minutes of the half we went then, with County still giving it some, and Turner did well down the right only for Ball to lift a poor effort high over the bar.
Thomas kept the good work up?charging forward down the right, setting Warburton up for a pot at goal. His shot was charged down by Sutton though- Telford surviving when Stott`s header flew wide.
Oswell went close after that, but the half ended with honours still even at 0-0.
The play continued in the same vein upon the re-start, but with neither team showing that they knew how to square the circle they had before them.
Stott tried his luck from outside the box, but the ball flew up and over the bar into the empty Railway End.
Smalley had been pressed a bit a minute or so earlier and had reacted by conceding a corner. Boosted by the main stand liner`s offside flag, County broke via Smalley`s long ball. Turner was onto it?and then he wasn`t as he had been clattered ( well?.I thought he had been) but the referee signalled a corner which was a disappointment. More swiftly followed, as Wilson claimed the ball when the kick sailed over.
Johnson`s foul, just before the hour, promised to oil County`s ills, but when Turnbull sent it short, Ball could only lift his effort wide.
Then he did it again( Johnson) going right through Oswell from behind. I am sorry but that should have been a red?..it wasn`t even deemed to warrant some verbals by the referee!
Oswell was treated on the park, for quite a while, before being required to go off the field and eventually come on again( after the free kick had been taken) much to my annoyance. Even more annoyingly Jason had to be substituted almost straight away, JG replacing him with Harry Winter.
County now had Turnbull and Winter in central midfield, and Ball was pushed forward in the Ossie role. Interesting stuff for sure, and sure enough Johnson pulled Mr Brown`s latch chain once too often and his latest indiscretion saw him booked, to ironic cheers from I think the whole of SK3.
If the subsequent free-kick offered a County chance, it soon vanished with the sight of Wilson plucking the ball from the air coolly.
With 20 minutes or so left, JG made another change, bringing Stephenson on for Cowan, which meant Thomas dropping back to RB with Turner on the right up front/ Stephenson left.
But??tension was beginning to mount in the absence of a goal, and things did not immediately improve when Turnbull momentarily put Ormson in difficulties.
County survived that last little bit of difficulty, but the EP Faithful knew something more was need , and inspired by the Pop Side who had again been loud most of the afternoon, the Cheadle End found their voices ” Come on County” a welcome sound!
And that bit of something made a difference too, as following a shot by O`Halloran that was charged down, Warburton surged forward to the by-line before pinging a ball inside to where Stephenson lurked in the company of Wilson. A couple of touches later, and it was 1-0 as Dazzer`s finish gave the keeper no chance!
Sutton got his?? next?.. as his latest foul saw him in Mr Brown`s book. O`Halloran took the kick short sending Stephenson to the by-line where he teed Warburton up nicely with a fine ball. It was a real chance, however?.Warburton`s shot climbed up and over the bar.
Telford were under the cosh now as Warburton had another shot charged down, following good work from Smalley and Stephenson.
It went on??Ormson going long?Warburton sending it on to Stephenson who was just prevented from making further progress on the edge of the box by Johnson.
It was beginning to look like a shoo-in for a second Country goal now, and some real magic from Stephenson should have made it so, but Ball spoiled the moment by sending the tamest of shots straight into the keepers arms.
Clarke replaced Turner with 6 minutes left, and he was immediately in the mix combining with Winter as Telford suddenly found something resembling their mojo.
The Pop Side and Cheadle End were now giving it ” Jimmy Gannon`s B&W Army”, and it was timely stuff as Telford had a corner. Thomas ushered the kick clear at the near post, but the pressure returned as White sent a ball across the box to Sutton, whose hurried effort cleared the bar.
Hmm??Telford were belatedly trying to win the game, and the referee offered them hope by finding another 4 minutes at the end of the 90.
Despite the hectic nature of the Bucks play at this point, County were standing up to the challenge well. Turnbull and Ball combined to turn defence into attack, whereupon Stephenson linked up with Warburton to put pressure on the visitors stretched rearguard. They held out.
Then?.bugger?..they attacked at the death?.
Surely not?surely they cannot sneak one can they?
Well?they might have?maybe if we had beaten the County v Doncaster record and played on?and on?and on?.but we didn`t , but in what time that was left Telford thought that they just might??
But there was Turnbull, and he did some simply excellent work, under pressure, in the dying embers of the game when it mattered. And then there was Ian Ormson, and he delighted us with a terrific save as Newby`s shot came at him at the last moment through a forest of players in the box!
Fantastic stuff?.and it all ended with Johnson dragging a weak effort wide of goal, and the points were ours.
Cue celebrations and loads and loads of loud applause for County at the end as they took the acclaim and returned it with interest!
Good work that? not a classic by any means ?.but it was job done and in a pressure situation of the type that County find themselves in just now, that is more than just good enough!
Looking forward to Chorley on Tuesday- they trail us in the league just now?let`s keep it so!
Stockport County line up
Ormson, Cowan( Stephenson 69), Smalley, Stott, O`Halloran, Turnbull, Thomas, Ball, Oswell( Winter 63), Warburton, Turner( Clarke 84).
Subs not used ; Hinchliffe, Minihan.
AFC Telford United line up
Wilson, White, Johnson, Smith, Sutton, Deeney, McAtee, Royce, Morgan-Smith, Marsden( Dinanga 84), Giles( Newby 53).
Subs not used: Bignot, Singh, Cowans.
Attendance : 3546