Vanarama National League North

Stockport County

Anorou (6), Brodie (44), Odejayi (83)

Hednesford Town

(2) 3

(0) 0



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Dan Crane


Gloucester City (A) 5.3.16

The Pitmen are dumped to the bottom of the Vanarama National League North this evening as Stockport County confidently defeat the dreadfully poor visitors at Edgeley Park. A fifth defeat in seven winless games was also to prove to be the end of Frank Sinclair's brief and unsuccessful tenure as the former Chelsea defender tendered his resignation at the end of the game

Having been soundly beaten at home to fellow relegation rivals Brackley Town last weekend, Sinclair's men headed north desperately seeking a pick-me-up to end a rotten run of recent form that had seen them fail to win any of their last six league games. Sinclair had come under pressure from the Hednesford supporters in recent games for his lack of perceived tactical nous and bizarre substitutions, with the Hednesford manager making three changes to his side from the one that had started against Brackley; Ben Bailey returned to the side to replace Phil Trainer, Tom Thorley came in for the unwell Adam Thomas and Danny Glover was chosen ahead of Ahmed Obeng up front

County started the evening's play in thirteenth place, with Jim Gannon's men in good recent form having won two of their last three games. Gannon made one change to his side from the one that had beaten Gainsborough Trinity 2-0 at the weekend as Paul Connolly replaced Jamie Menagh, only to reverse this decision just before kick-off as Connolly pulled up in the warm-up and was replaced by Menagh once more

It had been a wet and windy journey up the M6 for the visitors, with the game being in doubt for a spell late on in the afternoon until a pitch inspection from referee Jonathan Hunt passed the Edgeley Park turf as playable at 6.30 pm

The hosts acclimatised the better of the two sides in the early exchanges, coping far better with the slippery underfoot conditions and forcing the Pitmen back into their own half. Good play from Gareth Roberts in the third minute so the winger make a break down the left and crossed low into the penalty area, with Bailey doing well to beat striker Obi Anorou to the ball and clear the danger

However, Anourou was to hand a home side an early lead as he struck home the game's opening goal in the sixth minute; a flowing move from the hosts saw Lewis Montrose win the ball from Sean Williams in the centre circle and play the ball into the feet of John Marsden. His pass via Karl Ledsham found Roberts once more on the left wing once more to send over a fine cross into the path of Anorou, who headed past Dan Crane from six yards out. An easy opener for the hosts as the Pitmen once again switched off at the back to gift the home side the opening goal of the evening

One-nil very nearly became two-nil within three minutes as Roberts was involved once more, playing Richard Brodie into space down the left with a fine pass. The burly striker crossed low into the penalty area and found full-back Menagh, who hooked his shot back across goal from an angle at the far post but was to be denied by a goal-line clearance from Kennedy Digie

The Pitmen had barely got going and were struggling with the pace and accuracy of Stockport's play but did go within the width of the post of equalising with their first attack of the game on fifteen minutes. Winger Shelton Payne picked up a pass from Tom Thorley wide on the left wing and elected to cut inside from the touchline, beating Menagh with ease before attempting a shot from a tight angle that came back off the base of the near post, although Stockport goalkeeper Ian Ormson did have the post covered

It had been a brisk opening quarter of the game, with the Hatters going close to extending their lead on twenty minutes as full-back Danny Morton's free-kick from the right was met by the head of Brodie, whose goalbound header was brilliantly plucked out of the air by Crane as he caught the ball at full stretch to his right

Crane was to deny Stockport once more with a quite unbelievable passage of play on twenty-five minutes, as the stopper made three outstanding saves in succession to deny a series of County players. Menagh's initial run and cross was headed towards goal by Brodie, forcing Crane into a save to his right to claw the ball away from goal. The loose ball ran to Anorou, who was also denied by a smothering stop from Crane down by his feet. With the Pitmen struggling to clear their lines, Marsden seized upon the bouncing ball but he too was to be denied by the arm of the Hednesford stopper as he did enough to divert the ball away. Marsden's follow-up shot was blocked by Bailey before Roberts blazed his shot over the crossbar from ten yards out

On the half-hour mark, Montrose went close to adding to Stockport's advantage as he strode into plenty of free space just outside the Hednesford penalty area but drove his resultant shot wide of Crane's left-hand post

A rare attack from the visitors on thirty-three minutes saw former Stockport man Glover picked up a pass from Payne, taking the ball to the fringes of the Stockport penalty area and turning it onto his right boot but firing well wide of the target

Three minutes later, Marsden's free-kick from the left was flicked on by Brodie and into the path of strike partner Anorou at the far post, but the Stockport goalscorer lost his footing on the greasy turf and could only stab his shot wide of the post from ten yards out

A loose pass from George Cleet on thirty-nine minutes gifted Stockport possession just inside the Hednesford half, with Roberts picking the ball up and lobbing it over the head of Bailey and into the path of Anorou, whose first-time shot from twenty yards out was fielded by Crane at his near post

Two minutes later, Jack Truelove was also guilty of giving the ball away as his clearance fell straight into the path of the hugely experienced Sean O'Hanlon; the County skipper launched the ball back into the Hednesford half and into the path of Roberts, who turned past Jack Fitzwater but saw his daisy-cutter of a shot easily held by Crane

A minute before the break, the hosts doubled their lead as more direct approach play from the Hatters saw Morton take the ball forwards down the right and slip it into the path of Brodie, who turned past Digie and unleashed a superb drive from twenty-five yards out that beat Crane and nestled in the net via a touch off the crossbar. A superb strike and one that Crane could have no complaints about

The Pitmen had once again looked exactly what they are in the first period - an inexperienced outfit that lack quality and confidence in all areas that had once again been taken apart by a more experienced and clinical side. Sinclair made a half-time change - something that is now becoming a regular habit for him - as striker Tom Peers came on in place of the hapless Cleet to add some presence to the lacklustre visitors' attack

The rain started to fall on the Edgeley Park surface once more at the start of the second period, with players from both sides losing their footing in the opening exchanges as they got to grips with the challenging conditions. Bailey's looping header from a Williams corner dropped straight into the arms of Ormson on forty-nine minutes as the away side looked for an early response

A good run from Peers on fifty-three minutes saw the young striker create a half-chance for himself as he jinked his way past O'Hanlon after getting to a pass from Truelove first, taking him into the penalty area but seeing the ball run away from him on the wet turf and limiting him to a toe-poke well wide of goal

The Pitmen's best chance of the game so far fell to Peers on fifty-seven minutes as he once again created himself an opening; picking up Payne's pass in a tight space just outside the penalty area, Peers did well to make a yard of space for himself before firing low at goal that Ormson turned behind for a corner kick with a fine save

From Williams' resultant corner kick, Bailey made a late run into the penalty area and met the cross with a full-blooded header that beat Ormson but was hacked off the line by Roberts. So close from the long-serving Hednesford skipper

The Pitmen's second substitution of the evening came just after the hour mark as the anonymous Kyle Perry - well shackled by the experienced O'Hanlon - was taken off and replaced by Paul Ennis, a former Stockport trainee who made his breakthrough at Edgeley Park eight years ago

Stockport continued to the more likely to extend their lead during the second half as a fine through ball from Morton sent Marsden away behind the Hednesford defence on sixty-three minutes, only for a late and contentious offside flag against the striker to deny him a clear shot at goal

A free-kick from Thorley midway through the second period was floated into the Stockport penalty area, where Ormson made a hash of his initial clearance as he punched the ball as far as Glover on the edge of the area. The striker's deft lob back over the stopper had a little too much on it, however, and drifted onto the roof of the net with Roberts watching it over the bar on the goal line

On seventy-one minutes, former Northwich Victoria man Chris Smalley won the ball in a fifty-fifty challenge with Williams and came away with possession, carrying the ball thirty yards unchallenged as the Pitmen's defenders backed off him. With the game opening up in front of him, Smalley - not known for his goalscoring exploits - tried his luck but sliced his shot from twenty yards out into the Cheadle End stand

Before play could resume, the Pitmen made their final change of the game as a desperate Sinclair threw another forward on in the form of Obeng, who replaced Glover to add more pace to the flagging Hednesford attack

The problem with playing Peers, Ennis, Obeng and Payne all at the same time is that these players are all similar in stature and looking to make similar runs in and around the penalty area; this was highlighted perfectly on seventy-five minutes as the impressive Peers did well to turn past Roberts and played an angled pass into the box, where both Ennis and Obeng looked to get onto the end of the through ball but ran into each other

Payne took responsibility for the Pitmen's next set-piece two minutes later as he lined up a free-kick to the right-hand side of the Stockport penalty area after Fitzwater had been fouled by Smalley. The winger's shot did enough to beat the wall, but lacked any real power and was easily claimed by Ormson inside his six-yard box

Stockport substitute Kayode Odejayi - on as a substitute for Brodie - nearly grabbed a third Stockport goal with his first touch as Marsden's pass found the vastly experienced forward in behind the Hednesford defence, only for the ball to get caught under his feet as he looked to bring it under control and allowed Digie enough time to get back and clear the danger

However, the former Bristol City and Rotherham United man did finally finish the visitors off with seven minutes of the game remaining as he settled the game as a contest with the Hatters' third goal of the night; Marsden won a free-kick down the left and allowed Menagh to take the resultant kick, with the full-back's cross headed powerfully home by the big striker from close-range as he rose above Digie

The away side were very much in damage limitation mode at this point as they looked to avoid a hammering in the closing minutes from a rampant Stockport side who were keen to up their goal difference in the latter stages. Marsden and Roberts linked up well on eighty-six minutes to play the ball into the path of Smalley, whose intended pass to Ledsham was deflected into the path of Odejayi by Digie. The substitute took a touch and looked to turn the ball home from fifteen yards out, but more good goalkeeping from Crane saw him turn the tame shot away from goal

Substitute Joe Garvin - replacing Anorou earlier in the half - had a late chance to make it four for the hosts as he was given all the time and space required to line up a left-footed shot from twenty-five yards out but shanked his effort high over the crossbar with what was to be the final chance of the evening

Another defeat, another poor performance and another game without scoring dumped the Pitmen to the foot of the table as AFC Telford United won 3-2 at Alfreton Town to boost their own survival hopes. This defeat - and the manner of the poor displays in recent weeks - was to prove to be the final act for Sinclair, who brought his unpopular tenure to an end after thirteen games as his resignation was accepted by chairman Steve Price after the game. The search for a new manager begins again for the Pitmen as they look for a candidate that can drag them out of the mire in the remaining ten games of the season. It remains the be seen if there is a new man at the helm before the weekend when the Pitmen travel to Cheltenham Town's Whaddon Road to face thirteenth-placed Gloucester City 

Stockport County: Ormson, Menagh, Roberts (Joyce 86), Montrose, O’Hanlon ©, Smalley, Morton, Anoruo (Garvin 64), Brodie (Odejayi 79), Marsden, Ledsham       Subs Unused: Smith, 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove, Bailey ©, Digie, Cleet (Peers 45), Thorley, Williams, Perry (Ennis 61), Glover (Obeng 71), Payne       Subs Unused: Trainer, Ransome