[ Written by Ian Brown ]
Stockport County’s youngsters stepped up and answered the question ‘why spend time and resources on a youth policy’ last night, when James Gannon gave no less than 12 Academy graduates a place in his County squad for a tough Cheshire Senior Cup tie with Warrington Town at Cantilever Park, thus adding real substance to Alan Lord’s ‘Realistic Pathway’- now youngsters with ability know this exists at County, and supporters can see it can bear fruit for the Club also-County`s young side coming away with a 2-1 win!
I said ‘tough tie’, and it was, as Warrington laid their stall out to win, coming out of the traps early and defending in County’s half.
In response, a young County side, leavened with the inclusion of Ian Ormson, Connor Dimaio, and Darren Stephenson, with defensive resources marshalled capably by central defenders Jordan Downing and Festus Arthur, stood up to the test well, coming back from the disappointment of shipping an early goal scored by ex Hatter Josh Amis, to take the tie and progress in the prestigious competition via top notch strikes from Festus Arnold( first half), and Connor Dimaio after the break.
High winds and just a hint of the wet stuff greeted the teams at the start, and Warrington went straight onto the attack putting great pressure on County’s back line, reaping an early reward when Dylan Vassallo’s neat cross reached Josh Amis , and he headed home.
That was 5 minutes in, and nothing really changed for the next 5 either with County finding their feet and seeing out the storm.
Another minute and Ian Ormson was down at his left hand post making a save with Vassallo interested.
Gradually Adam Etches and Szymon Czubik worked their way into the game, probing the home rear guard, but the first chance for County fell to Darren Stephenson, who saw his effort lifted over the bar by the wind.
County were making headway though, and a couple of corners in rapid succession pointed to the way through, as Festus Arthur took advantage of Stephenson’s decoy run to plant a powerful header into the net, from Etches’ kick.
Stephenson and Etches were involved again 3 minutes later, Dazzer drawing keeper Joe Williams way out of his goal before directing a dangerous ball to Etches who was heading in at speed on the right. It was close…but Etches narrowly missed making contact at the back post and it stayed 1-1.
Then County had themselves another corner, and Holt’s in-swinger almost sneaked in ….Williams performing small miracles to just keep it out.
Both sides worked hard after this probing for openings that were not that thick on the ground at this point – the promising Will Holt closest , on 38 minutes, from good work by Etches.
If finding a way through was difficult for both sides, for County, Etches and mid fielder Jordan Peach did their best to rectify this, pinging a series of crosses in from the right, the best of which saw Czubik’s shot charged down by one of a line of determined ‘yellows’ defenders.
Having survived the growing County assault intact, Warrington, with half time approaching fast, took the game to County again in the closing minutes of the half, putting much pressure on the Hatters back line via a couple of corners, and a free kick. But County withstood this pretty well ensuring that Ormson was not overly busy in this period, although there was a slight anxiety when another decent ball from Vassallo picked Amis out at the sharp end.
Thankfully Amis’s shot took a deflection en route and the teams went in at the break with the score still 1-1.
The re-start saw County step up the pressure on the home defence. Credit to Warrington though, they kept looking to probe on the break, and did win an early corner, but the cover preventing Ormson from working up a sweat, was as good as it had been for most of the first half, Downing coolness personified heading clear, and the only clear cut chances early on came at Joe Williams’ end where Etches’ under hit shot failed to test the keeper after a decent link up twixt Dimaio and Stephenson.
It was nip and tuck for a time after this, although of the two sides County were looking the more likely to end the stalemate and avoid the necessity for penalties.
In this respect Dimaio was trying as hard as anyone on the park, but a foul by him did not greatly please referee Ben Atkinson , who felt the need to ‘have a word’.
If Dimaio’s foul put pressure back on County, his next work almost squared his team’s circle, as a beautifully weighted through ball picked Czubik out as he darted into the box. It was a chance, but in response Williams’ reactions were right on the money, seeing him beat the County striker to the ball by the narrowest of margins.
All this time, Warrington continued to work at nicking one, but the best they could muster was a series of corners’, and these were defended well by County.
Have I mentioned Dimaio yet? Well the 71st minute drew the very best from him, as he capped a determined County attack with a superlative shot that gave the home keeper no chance whatsoever.
County now had a 2-1 lead , but could they hold onto it in what remained of the game?
Well…..Dimaio tried to make any speculation pointless, and he had the ball in the net just 3 minutes later, only for it to be ruled out for offside.
The County momentum was building apace now and Duggan did well to block Czubik with 10 minutes left.
Having said that Ormson was not overly busy, two late Warrington corners did tell us that his reactions were not at all dulled by the relative inactivity, some confident work ensuring County’s lead stayed intact.
Ormson clearance from this put the skids under Town, but when Czubik reached within half a yard of the box, he was comprehensively carted by Roberts.
It was a clear free kick, but the referee mimed ‘he got the ball’ which was just plain wrong.
County were steadily increasing the pressure on Warrington, and this only increased several thousand fold when the highly promising Sajjad El Hassan came on- he was a constant threat and unlucky not to nick one in the 10 or so minutes he was on the park.
El Hassan’s first shot was beaten out, under pressure, by the keeper, his second 2 minutes later again finding Williams in position to make the save.
This was a really good finish as Jacob Shield just managed to block a run from Czubik with a goal looking decidedly on for Szymon.
Into added time and the tackling, probably due to tiredness, got a touch tasty from Warrington, and Roberts did get a word from the referee, with free kicks proliferating for County in the cool Cheshire air.
Eventually the referee ended it all, and we could head off home in the happy knowledge that County’s quest for the Cheshire Senior Cup was still alive!
That was job done in every sense and a really good work out for County’s younger players .
There were 173 there last night, be sure to be there next time to give ’em a cheer!
Warrington Town line up:-
Williams, Carden( Morretti 57), Shield, Marrow( Summers 38), Duggan, Roberts, Benjamin, Evans ( Mulholland 69), Reid, Amis, Vassallo.
Stockport County line up:-
Ormson, Whitty, Arthur, Downing, Robinson, Peach, Holt ( Jackson 76), Etches, Czubik ( El Hassan 82), Dimaio( Morrissey 82), Stephenson.
Subs not used : Scott, Gorst.