Saturday 13th January.
January was always going to be short on league fixtures, but with
the game against Crystal Palace postponed on New Years Day this
was to be our only home league game of the month and against fellow
strugglers 3 points would be a great bonus. How we didn’t take maximum
points is a complete mystery when we dominated the vast majority
of the game and hit the woodwork 3 times, but in the end we had
to settle for just a single point.
The main change to the personnel on duty was the return of Chris
Lucketti from injury with Kevin Gray returning to the substitutes
bench, and although the team was virtually unchanged the attitude
was much better. Right from the kick off there seemed to be a real
sense of determination from the players to avoid a repeat of the
previous Saturday’s debacle, and some crisp early tackling showed
the visitors we meant business.
Town surged forward in the early stages and could well have taken
the lead just after the quarter hour mark when Simon Baldry cleverly
slipped past his marker and unleashed a delightful shot off the
outside of his boot which unfortunately hit the crossbar with the
keeper well beaten. This is a sign of Baldry’s newfound confidence,
and had Town taken the lead at this time I think the margin could
have been quite comfortable with Stockport defending quite desperately
at times, and they had the look of a side whose main ambition was
not to lose. This was slightly surprising when you consider that
they recently beat runaway leaders Fulham, yet they looked decidedly
unambitious and only created one effort of note in the first half.
Such was Town’s dominance that they led the half-time corner count
7-0, but once again seemed to lack the killer touch up front that
we had enjoyed with Ndlovu in the side. That is not to say that
Gallen and Facey didn’t play well because they did, particularly
the latter who is managing to win more balls in the air and is fast
becoming a player who can unsettle defences with his strong running,
he had a great chance after 22 minutes but headed Thomas Heary’s
cross over the bar.
Ben Thornley looked fairly lively against the club where he spent
3 months on loan a few years ago and brought a good save out of
the Stockport keeper after 37 minutes with a typical run and shot
from the edge of the area. Late in the half, Jon Dyson took a nasty
knock to the face but continued playing until half time and just
before the interval Ben Thornley mis-cued a shot from a Delroy Facey
cross that seemed to elude everyone in the box but took a cruel
bounce when he looked almost certain to score.
The interval disrupted Town’s flow, and Stockport looked livelier
after their tea and biscuits although Town’s cause wasn’t helped
by Jon Dyson who looked sluggish and out of sorts following his
first half injury. This fact was not lost on Macari who eventually
replaced Dyson with Adie Moses, although I was surprised that it
took almost 15 minutes after the restart for this to happen as Stockport
were taking advantage of our defensive weakness and creating a few
scoring efforts of their own. With the defence restored to its full
complement of fit players again, Town began to regain their first
half dominance and never really looked in any danger of losing.
Martin Smith was introduced as replacement for Ben Thornley after
67 minutes and this gave Town an extra dimension with his clever
running on the left flank, but it was the right side that almost
gave us the lead.
Once again, Simon Baldry surged forward on the right and as the
Stockport defence back-pedalled he received a pass from Kevin Gallen
and unleashed a venomous shot which rattled the crossbar, sadly
the attempted follow up from Martin Smith ended up in the crowd.
To hit the woodwork twice in a game is unlucky, but to do it three
times tells you that it’s time to pack up for the afternoon and
go home because you clearly ain’t going to score. Such was Town’s
luck when Baldry teed up a super header for Martin Smith only to
see keeper Lee Jones get a finger tip onto the ball to deflect it
onto the crossbar and over for a corner once again.
It was a cold frustrating day for Town who did enough to secure
all 3 points against one of their relegation rivals, but let’s be
positive and look at an unbeaten league run which stretches back
8 games. If you can’t win your games then don’t lose them and at
least keep the points ticking over. If we draw every game for the
rest of the season we’ll get 45 points and this was enough to keep
Notts County up about 4 or 5 years ago.
The bottom of the table is incredibly tight and with just 1 point
separating the bottom six teams it is to be hoped that we can continue
collecting points (preferably 3 at a time) because the teams who
end up going down will probably be those who have yet to suffer
a dip in form. Hopefully we got our bad run out of the way in September,
October and November.
Stockport County 0
Position in table – 19th
Town – Vaesen; Heary; Lucketti; Dyson (Moses
59); Vincent; Armstrong; Baldry; Holland; Gallen (Gorré 87);
Facey; Thornley (Smith 67). Subs not used – Margetson; Gray.
Stockport County – Jones; Flynn; Clark;
Cooper; Gibb; Wiss; Fradin (Woodthorpe 82); Grayson; Wilbraham;
Smith; Clare (Matthews 54). Subs not used – Dibble; Maxwell;
Referee – Roy Peterson (Peterlee). Attendance