Stockport County 2 Torquay United 2 ( Vanarama National League) Sunday 16 May 2021
This was another humdinger !.... something of an archetypal late season top of the table clash twixt two teams anxious to win it, and not at all inclined to give an inch in so doing.
Despite their irritating habit of falling down ever so easily( rather over rewarded by Referee Andy Kitchen I thought), Gary Johnson`s team had much else in their locker that irritated, but only because it made County`s job that much harder. In short, they were as tough as teak, and were not without ideas going forward or a will to have a go on the end of same- top performers in my view for them Armani Little, Connor Lemonheigh-Evans and double goal scorer Scott Bowden.
The Officials ! ( Andrew Machin )
Andy Kitchen gave the visitors a shed load of free kicks, some justified but a fair number not, and that penalty !!!!!!!!!!... a foul…yes…but inside the box ? County were 1 up at that point and 2-1 down before the hour mark as early confidence threatened to disappear under pressure from the visitors.
It was a tough assignment then for the blues, one made no easier by Paddy Madden`s enforced absence. We did miss him it has to be said, but there was a willingness to work at it from County that showed at its best when Palmer headed home to level the scores in the second half.
Madden -watching brief ( Andrew Machin )
Macauley Southam -Hales took the sponsors M.O.M and scored a stunning goal to open the scoring in the first half, and disappointing as another home draw is, worse beckoned at times, and in the end a point sees us back to third position with 2 to go, and now 16 games undefeated.
That said I was disappointed at some of our substitutions today. I like Jordan Keane but bringing a defensive player on for your top goal scorer smacked of wanting a point rather then 3, bringing Bennett on to renew a successful partnership with Reid would have made more sense but instead Reid was long gone when Richie came on for a late cameo.
County top scorer Alex Reid ( Andrew Machin )
No game with Torquay would be complete without some bru-ha-ha involving Gary Johnson, and it was the sprinklers today apparently that set him off , but as I looked around watching the water cascading hither and thither, I was struck by how good the Railway End looked, the seats nicely emblazoned with `County` and suitably set off by an impressive new score board! Top marks for someone there!
We were away promptly at 12.15, and play opened ,as it was to continue with County , urged on by Hogan, pressing for an early breakthrough , but having to settle for a corner which was dealt with smartly by United.
Hogan urging County on ( Andrew Machin )
This resulted in a response by the visitors, helped by Mr Kitchen giving County`s opponents a free kick after Palmer and Bowden came together. Palmer was on hand to head the ball out from this but already there appeared to be enough about the cut of United`s gib to make us rue anything less than 100% solidity at the back.
Palmer sees free kick off.
That said, County had something to offer at the other end ,and it was Southam- Hales at the sharp end of that, unlucky to see Dean Moxey cut him off from a neat Newby pass aimed his way.
A short period of County pressure ensued next ending disappointingly with Cardwell heading tamely into keeper Covolan`s hands.
This was answered almost straight away as Torquay hit back at the blues, Hinchliffe having to make a decent save to deny Jake Andrews.
Hinchliffe in good nick under pressure( Andrew Machin )
It went on with Ben Wynter cruising alarmingly beyond a welter of blue shirts into the box. He looked on for something, until he slipped the ball inside to Little who lifted it in inglorious fashion high into the empty Cheadle End.
Back it swung with Joe Lewis doing well to block Cardwell`s run, 14 minutes in.
Cardwell v Lewis !
Then…another minute on….and County almost nicked one , thwarted at the last gasp by Covolan, who managed somehow to get hand to ball and push it around the post, for a corner that Torquay cleared fairly easily.
Super save from Covolan !
And here`s Andrew Machin`s view of that:-
Play swung ends again, this time with Adam Randell in the van of United charge. Thankfully, Hinchliffe was on top of his game and his save got that confidence surging once more that this just maybe a good day for the blues.
The pattern continued unchanged …..Hogan pushing his side up the park , forcing two corners in the process , but neither came to anything, indeed Lemonheigh-Evans nicked the ball off the County captain and headed for goal. It looked decidedly iffy as he advanced into the box, but somehow his chipped effort came back out off the foot of the far post and was cleared!
Lemonheigh- Evans unlucky ( Andrew Machin )
The same player came back for more 5 minutes later, his shot thudding into Hinchliffe`s chest with awesome power. County closed ranks on that one, so any chance was gone, but County`s keeper was in action again not long after keeping out a free kick, that I must say I struggled to see as valid, in fact at this point I had written ` joke` in connection with the Referee`s award.
He did get it right though next, giving County a free kick after Moxey had unceremoniously hauled Southam -Hales down as he surged clear.
Moxey and Southam -Hales .
The free kick was poor though and it remained 0-0, and then it didn`t as Newby and Southam -Hales combined interestingly down the right , before interest peeked with the sight of Macauley transferring the ball to his left peg dispatching the sweetest of drives way beyond Covolan`s despairing dive into the net!
Southam -Hales switches it onto left peg !
The aftermath ( Andrew Machin )
County had the lead, how important was that?
It could be crucial, and might just have been even better, as within a couple of minutes another chance emerged, this time via Reid who wheedled his way into the box….round the keeper, but sadly his shot missed the target to keep it at 1-0.
Miss by Reid.
And Andrew Machin saw it too:-
Add another 3 minutes and it was time to reach for the paracetamols , as Mr Kitchen and presumably his highly voluable Pop Side liner, gave Torquay a lifeline with what I saw as a highly dubious penalty. Croasdale looked to have fouled his man, but it looked to me to be probably a foot outside the box.
No matter, arguments with Referees on decisions like this one, are futile….it was a penalty and it was 1-1 in no time at all as Bowden beat Hinchliffe with a spot kick of some power.
It`s 1-1 via Bowden`s spot kick !
Andrew Machin`s view of that !
The rest of the half saw County defending in numbers as the number of free kicks conceded climbed alarmingly.
The half time whistle was a welcome sound, as the teams went in with the score still 1-1.
County looked determined to take the game to their opponents when play resumed having the bulk of the attacking possession in the first 10 minutes.
Covolan did well during this period for Torquay with County on his case looking for a second goal.
County press !
But things changed abruptly just before the hour mark as Lemonheigh- Evans` delightful through ball sliced open the blues defences setting Andrews up to tee up a second goal for Bowden and his team – he made no mistake!
Neither did Andrew Machin....it`s 1-2
That did not look great from a County view point, we needed them to respond, and they did, the pressure steadily building via JJ down the left and Southam- Hales on the other flank. Torquay were under the cosh and thankful to concede a corner when much worse threatened with JJ looking goal hungry.
JJ on song and on the attack !
JJ`s good work paid off handsomely, as Rooney`s kick had Covolan flapping prodigiously at the ball, which he missed, leaving Palmer to head home at the back post!
2-2 courtesy Ash Palmer !
Two shots of that from Andrew Machin :-
Excellent….it was 2-2 !
This forced Torquay into making a double change of personnel, bringing Whitfield and Kimpioka on for Bowden and Andrews, and not long after Whitfield went on an impressive run deep into blue territory. It looked iffy, but Hinchliffe dealt confidently when the shot came his way.
Wynter and Randell increased the County angst combining neatly down the right. County survived all this, but it was clear that the last 20 minutes or so were going to be no stroll in the park.
Thankfully, County responded, a neat ball from Walker only just failing to put Southam-Hales in. A corner resulted from this, but this drifted out off Palmer with the keeper nowhere near it.
Southam - Hales close !
County were definitely trying but without so much as a scintilla of good fortune – Croasdale a whisker away from Walker`s prompt, smack in front with Covolan again in difficulties.
Covolan u/p ( Andrew Machin )
Torquay replied ……Kimpioka beating Palmer finding no takers for his final pass inside…..Randell looking good on the burst but spoiling it , and possibly a few Railway End seats with the wayward nature of his effort.
Walker, took a knock, sought out retribution …got booked and then hooked off for Minihan with under 10 minutes left.
Tom Walker, booked.
It continued in `end to end` mode….Hinchliffe making a good save at Kimpioka`s expense, with Cardwell going close for County.
It went on…..a clearance off the line( not sure who by) for County , and a shot by Rooney cleared the bar , with Reid handily placed to receive a pass to his left!
It was at this point that Reid was replaced by Keane, but County kept trying with Newby and JJ in the van of this and mightily disappointed not to get a corner at one point.
JJ on the ball
But then so did Torquay and Whitfield`s latest run was not best rewarded as Palmer snuffed out any chance of goal worthy action with a neat block on Hall.
Bennett was on very late on with County still seeking a winner but missing out again as Newby`s shot carried the bar narrowly.
We were into added time now, and Rooney was clear, until he was blocked on the edge of the box on 91 minutes!
Rooney blocked ( Andrew Machin )
The 92 nd minute saw a response from Torquay, but it was dealt with admirably by Hinchliffe who again had had a decent game.
The final swing of the game`s pendulum saw Newby and Southam- Hales gnaw away at the perceived soft underbelly of the visitors back line without any luck at all.
Newby presses ( Andrew Machin )
It was brave, but fruitless, and a blast of the Referee`s whistle told us it was `game over` and the points had been shared.
That moves County to third, with 2 to go, and we really need to finish in second or third spot.
Supporters are back inside Edgeley Park for Woking who are next up , it will be nice to see some semblance of normality begin to return.
There was something of a return before the game in Hardcastle Road where fans starved of live County action for too long gave us a glimpse of their passion for the Club!
Passion not fashion ( Andrew Machin )
See you soon!
Stockport County line up:-
Hinchliffe, Southam – Hales, Hogan, Palmer, J Jennings, Croasdale, Walker ( Minihan 82), Rooney, Newby, Cardwell( Cardwell 88), Reid( Keane 84).
Subs not used: Fitzsimons, Maynard.
Torquay United line up:-
Covolan, Wynter, Lemonheigh-Evans, Hall, Little ( Cameron 73), Andrews ( Whitfield 63), Randell, Sherring, Bowden( Kimpioka 63), Moxey, Lewis.
Subs not used : Mac Donald, Waters.
@hedgegrower great pictures as always! Did you manage to get any more of the fans outside the ground?