[ Written by Ian Bown ]
Stockport County’s irresistible rise up National League North continued apace at Edgeley Park today where James Gannon’s side beat off a spirited and not insubstantial challenge from York City 3-1 to soar to 2nd place in the division.
It is clear that Steve Watson has already started to get things moving at York, but the problem for the Minstermen was that so has JG and he has his County team playing some exceptional football just now.
The opening from County was massively impressive, one up in 3 minutes, sailing away by 22 (both goals via Matty Warburton who is in brilliant form just now). The second half saw York fight back – a goal by Kempster after 74 minutes making it 2-1, but within a minute it was 3-1 and Warby had his hat-trick.
I am tempted to say that was that, game over, and I suppose in reality it was, but York tried their best to make a decent game of it, pressing hard in the game’s dying embers to snatch something, if only a late consolation, from the game.
It was not their day, County made it so, defending superbly in the face of determined pressure from York, and hitting on the break with growing menace as the final whistle neared.
Warburton took the sponsors M.O.M award, and that was absolutely the right call. He looks the complete player at the moment, and JG has got all Matty’s colleagues playing superbly well too, and this makes for a terrific spectacle for County supporters to feast their eyes upon.
York concentrated on football, which was a welcome change following the cynical nature of their narrow win at their place earlier this season- so it was possible to enjoy the match without wondering who in blue would be the next casualty.
Back at 3 o’clock however we had the thought that there was no Paul Turnbull in the County starting line-up, but with Sam Walker taking his place, anxiety was at a minimum. That was the only change.
York had not far short of 500 in a crowd pushing 5000, as the game got underway with County going full throttle from the first whistle.
York were not wholly subdued though – Alex Kempster doing battle with Sam Minihan early doors, but even at this point the County back line looked up to the job in hand and there was no likelihood of Hinchliffe being over worked.
Then, with only 3 minutes on the clock, County had a corner via Duxbury’s good work down the left. Delivered to the back post, and headed back by Palmer, the ball then found its way to Warburton via Stott, and it was 1-0 as the County number ten turned to hook the ball home!
That was as brilliant a start as it was emphatic, and the blues looked to build on it with Minihan and Duxbury putting pressure on the Minstermen down the flanks.
Thomas and Stephenson were in the mix too, and the former’s cross had visiting keeper Adam Bartlett in trouble. The trouble abated, as did a recurrence a couple of minutes later when a headed clearance by Hamza Bencherif ended a period of pressure with Thomas, Stephenson, Minihan and Duxbury all involved.
That was 12 minutes gone, the thirteenth brought a chance for York, but one not taken, as Jordan Burrow (sliding in) could not apply a finish to Liam Agnew’s dangerous cross.
If Burrow was angst ridden after that last effort, he just might have been apoplectic next as, within a couple of minutes, a gilt edger surfaced for him as the ball reached him smack in front of goal a yard or so out. Hinchliffe was second favourite, but he needn’t have worried as Burrow snatched at it sending the weakest of shots straight into the keepers arms!
Bartlett was pressed into urgent service 20 minutes in, making a decent save to keep a Mulhern shot out, after Stephenson had won a corner.
County’s resolve was impressive at this point, as they simply refused to concede territory – Keane keeping the ball where it needed to be – deep in the visitors half. Minihan joined in with Mulhern, and from Minihan’s throw the County lead was doubled as Warburton lashed the ball home to great acclaim from most of the large crowd.
The half continued in the same vein, County attacking, via Keane and Thomas one minute, Mulhern the next- Bartlett doing well to sort a shot from County’s number nine with 27 minutes gone.
Ferguson sneaked a free kick for York, a couple of minutes later, but it was wasted, as was another six minutes on from that, after Sam Walker earned a chat from Referee Andrew Kitchen for his tackle on Jake Wright.
If York were earning the odd plaudit for some spirited work, it was plain to see, even at this relatively early stage, that it was County who had the greater penetrative element to their game, and Mulhern was unlucky not to follow Warby into the score book – his darting run being stopped at the by-line.
County continued to press, and a quickly taken free kick, saw Mulhern warm Bartlett’s hands again with a rasping drive that the keeper took 2 goes to sort.
The last couple of minutes of the half saw York push on a bit- Wright making it to the by-line before losing out to the keen as mustard Stott, and York unable to take advantage of a late, late free kick- their delivery dealt with coolly by the blue back line.
York opened the second half brightly, pushing on into County’s half – a punched clearance under pressure by Hinchliffe was the closest they came to being successful in this period. They did sort a decent break, on 49 minutes, when a County raid fizzled out, only to find Minihan tracking back to snuff the move out.
In truth, both sides were having a go, Duxbury and Mulhern both winning corners, but County could not make these count, ushering in a response from York, and a corner and free kick in rapid succession for the Yorkshire side was testimony to their resolve at this point.
If County still looked the team ‘more likely to’, York had a moment or two to point to as well, a brief melee in front of Hinchliffe’s goal ending in anti-climax for the Minstermen when Agnew’s hurried effort sent the ball flying up and over the bar, from a decent position.
County’s response came via lightning raids from deep, and both Duxbury and Stephenson were unlucky in this respect, finding Kallum Griffiths in position to deny them both.
With 25 minutes left County brought Bell on for Mulhern, as keeper Bartlett denied Stephenson with another save.
York responded by bring the old war horse Jon Parkin on, and, possibly coincidentally, within 4 minutes they had snatched one! The visitors were pressing down the left, and although County were containing them as usual, an affective clearance was long in coming. Then it was too late as the ball reached Kempster whose shot skidded home at the far post.
The signal for wholesale dismay?
Not so, do they not say that great teams respond quickly? Well that was exactly what County did as Warburton rounded off another lightning raid with an emphatic finish, just a minute later!
The County following went wild with excitement at that one, as Warby celebrated his hat-trick with his team mates, and if the Cheadle End was in raptures, the scene in the Pop Side was no less joyous as a large number of youngsters, attracted by the ticket initiative, looked to be thoroughly enjoying the experience!
Warby was replaced by Cowan, with 13 minutes left, the M.O.M award in the bag, but in York’s mind County did not have the game sewn up and in the bag – a catch by Bartlett from one of a clutch of County corners, saw York attacking – only a neat saving tackle from Stott sorting matters for County.
Thomas wasted a chance for County with 8 minutes left, scuffing a poor effort into the keeper’s hands when better was possible, and yet another County corner, won by the still firing Minihan, saw them go close without claiming another goal.
By this time Kirby had replaced Thomas, as with Walker organising things County hunted a fourth goal.
It would not come though, indeed credit to York, they kept honest, Burrow seeing his shot blocked (87 minutes), Agnew sent a free kick wide (88).
Cowan got himself booked in the game’s last gasp, the free kick again putting County under pressure, which ended with Newton’s volley heading off towards the extraordinarily large police base on Booth Street Car Park.
There was time for County to restore normality and for Stephenson to, twice, go close, before the referee brought proceedings to a close.
A suitably fine win with which to mark 3 years of James Gannon at EP!
Brilliant stuff really, they are essentially playing 4-2-4 at times, and successfully, would you bet against them repeating the dosage on Tuesday at Leamington ?
I certainly will not, and Lou tells me that there are just 2 seats left on the Flyer for Tuesday – do not miss out!
Photos from the game ? Of course >> http://hedgegrower.blogspot.com/2019/01/stockport-county-3-york-city-1-vanarama.html
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Minihan, Palmer, Stott, Duxbury, Keane, Walker, Thomas (Kirby 85), Mulhern (Bell 65), Warburton (Cowan 77), Stephenson.
Subs not used : Ormson, Osborne.
York City line up:-
Bartlett, Griffiths, Ferguson, Law, Bencherif, Newton, Moke (York 57), Agnew, Burrow, Wright (Parkin 70), Kempster.
Subs not used : Tait, Langstaff, Whitley.
Attendance : 4644