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96/97: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 14/4/97
Stockport County 1(0)
Scorers: Jeffers (52)
Watford 0(0)
Team: Miller 4, Gibbs 2, Armstrong 2, Palmer 3, Millen 2, *Page 4*, Slater 3, Andrews 2, Ramage 3, Easton 2, Mooney 2
Subs: Penrice, Bazeley, Phillips (for Andrews) 3
We got what we deserved
Report by Dan Exeter

When we played them at home in September Stockport were truly awful. We only beat them 1-0, as we weren't that much better, and if you'd told me then that they'd do so well in three cup competitions I'd have said 'Yeah right' and walked off.

Last night we expected them, having played ten more games than us, to be tired, whereas we would be on a high after Saturday's trouncing of York. Yet it was us who looked jaded and tired, while Stockport were full of running and energy.

Our team and squad was the same as Saturday. Although on Saturday I didn't think that our performance and dominance was quite as comprehensive as a 4-0 scoreline may suggest, clearly not changing a winning team was probably the sensible option, especially as for too long we've had to make changes to the team not caused by changes in tactics (ie due to suspensions and injuries).

I don't know what changes the Stockport team showed from Saturday, if indeed any, whatever they were it did not seem to affect their rhythm, not even carrying off their Number 7 after he lay on the floor for ages at the start of the first half.

We looked a little nervy and edgy, we didn't seem to settle very well, especially in midfield. Defensively in the first half we were generally sound, although Milly had a torrid time against Ken ****** Charlery (again) who had two shots go wide. Stockport also missed a gilt-edged chance when their Number 11 (I think) somehow missed an open header from about six yards out. For our part we had one reasonable chance in the first half but that was really it.

The second half wasn't awfully different, with Stockport in general dictating the pace and the play. The one crucial difference, of course, was that they scored. Someone ran at our defence, going sideways, before slipping the ball to another one of their players at the edge of the box, who seemingly had plenty of time to choose his spot in the far corner.

We did come back and had a few chances, and all credit to the 'keeper Paul Jones who pulled off a couple of marvellous saves and deservedly won the man-of-the-match award. Super Kev, who came on for Waynie, had a close-range shot blocked at the near post, and from the ensuing corner Rams' near-post header was brilliantly scooped away by Jones. Later on Phillips had another shot from just inside the area go wide after a deflection (still no excuse to give a corner, according to the ref) while Slater had another near-post effort blocked.

From the above it would be reasonable to say that we at least deserved a point, as indeed everyone else seemed to think coming out of the game. Just to be awkward, I'm afraid I'll have to dissent from that opinion. I don't know if it's the effect of standing near Kate, who had one of her depression games when everything is going wrong, but I thought we got what we deserved, ie nothing. Stockport are not amazingly better than us particularly, they just do the simple things well - whenever they have possession, there is always someone moving to provide an option, whereas our players seemed to wait for things to happen to them. We really lacked someone to control the middle of the park - that is, we really lacked Johno. Palmer did okay, nothing special, but he's not the sort of player who can control a game, while Easton is too lightweight and too inexperienced for that sort of midfield role. He was out of his depth against a committed Stockport side.

Mooney didn't look really with it either. I don't know if tiredness is catching up with him or if he's just going through an indifferent spell but, whatever it is, it's seriously affecting his play.

Ramage actually played quite well, and did all that could be expected from him in the role he's in. Slater too was competent but I'm beginning to see why he's come all the way from West Ham and Celtic to Ipswich and now us, as against a reasonable defence he found it hard to get past and get a cross in.

The result does us no favours, although we are still in a play-off position and we can still win three out of our next four to ensure that place. To be honest, this is the game I always thought we'd lose. There was a lot of speculation as to whether two wins and a draw, or even just two wins, would be enough - I personally would rather have us win all our games and then see where that leaves us.

Good points: Getting in for only stlg 4 as a student, a superb performance from Page (again) and Miller, who cannot be blamed for the goal.

Bad Points: well, other than the result, obviously we lacked firepower in midfield and we're missing a partner for Super Kev, as although I'm perfectly happy to continue with Ramage's rehabilitation, I'm not convinced that he's the answer to the future.

Also the ref and linesmen were truly awful, making a number of quite ridiculous decisions. I don't want to get carried away with this line though, as I'm a firm believer in making our own luck, however incompetence like we saw last night does neither ourselves nor the game any favours.

Player ratings:

Miller - 4 Another good performance, couldn't do much about the goal and pretty solid otherwise.

Gibbs - 2 Just a standard Gibbsy performance, really. According to the paper, he was turned for the goal.

Armstrong - 2 Nothing special, and didn't really get forward to support Mooney and provide another option.

Palmer - 3 Good at what he does, however he needs someone next to him who can put his foot on the ball and play it.

Millen - 2 Okay, but had an awful time against Charlery.

Page - 4 Very good performance again. I can see him leaving more and more clearly with each passing game...

Slater - 3 Not as good as Saturday, had much less joy out on the wings.

Andrews - 2 Much as I like him he's not really strong or clever enough to be a regular. He is quick and pacy, however he needs more nous.

Ramage - 3 Did as well as could be expected, although being in midfield and facing the goal rather than being up front with his back to goal might suit him better.

Easton - 2 Really couldn't get involved, he's too weak (frankly) for the sort of role he's in. Might be better off on the wing, like he was earlier this season.

Mooney - 2 Not one of his better days. His old infectious enthusiasm failed to work the old magic.

Phillips - 3 Came on for Andrews just after the Stockport goal, had a couple of chance and was perhaps a bit unlucky. I think a goal would settle him down considerably, but our lack of service is a problem...