County col­lapse frus­trates boss

Stockport Express - - Sport - SAM BYRNE

COUNTY boss Jim Gan­non ad­mit­ted he was “ab­so­lutely em­bar­rassed” by his side’s per­for­mance, as The Hat­ters let a three-goal lead slip in the FA Cup on Satur­day.

Gan­non watched on as his side raced into a 3-0 lead at half-time against neigh­bours FC United of Manch­ester at Edge­ley Park, be­fore a re­mark­able sec­ond-half come­back by the Red Rebels left County’s chances of pro­gress­ing in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion in the hands of a Third Qual­i­fy­ing Round re­play at Broad­hurst Park.

And, after claim­ing he’d seen “one of the best forty­five min­utes of the sea­son” at the in­ter­val, The Hat­ters chief lam­basted a County de­fence which crum­bled after the break.

“I thought we showed lots of good en­ergy and stuck to the game­plan in the first half – we ex­pected a re­ac­tion in the sec­ond half, we knew they’d go two up top so we tried to counter that and have our mid­field drop back and pro­tect the de­fence; but the sim­ple fact is the lads didn’t do that in the sec­ond half.

“As a cen­tre-half my­self, I’m just em­bar­rassed at the per­for­mance of the de­fence and the fail­ure of a back three to deal with a front two,” Gan­non said.

The game seemed to turn when lead­ing goalscorer Ja­son Oswell was forced off dur­ing the break with a ham­string in­jury, leav­ing the Hat­ters with­out a recog­nised striker on the pitch for the du­ra­tion of the sec­ond half.

Oswell’s early exit seemed to pro­vide the vis­i­tors with the con­fi­dence to spark their late fight­back, with The Hat­ters sloppy in pos­ses­sion and with­out their top scor­ing tar­get man to keep pos­ses­sion in at­tack – but Gan­non re­fused to use the for­mer New­town striker’s de­par­ture as an ex­cuse.

“We gave the ball away a lot fur­ther up the pitch and maybe lacked that phys­i­cal­ity up top, es­pe­cially when Ja­son had to go off – but the sim­ple mes­sages to our back five of get­ting goal-side and not let­ting the front two to turn their men just didn’t get through. When de­fend­ers don’t know what you mean by ‘get­ting goal-side’, what chance have you got as a coach?

“We did go back to ba­sics in the last twenty min­utes and just asked the lads to play man-for­man, not to give the ball away, not to dive in and we’d have enough to see the game out.

“As the lads couldn’t re­ally do that and put in a re­ally poor per­for­mance, FC United were able to take ad­van­tage.”

De­spite the de­mor­al­is­ing 3-3 draw from such a com­fort­able po­si­tion, the tie ex­tended County’s un­beaten Edge­ley Park record to eleven months in all com­pe­ti­tions – but Gan­non claimed that, while his side boasted a com­fort­able lead at the in­ter­val, the Hat­ters boss was never cer­tain that the tie was won.

Mar­gin­son’s side have plun­dered nine goals in their last two games – both of which Gan­non watched from the stands. And he ex­plained that, de­spite his in­sis­tence at the break that the Red Rebels would “go for broke” with noth­ing to lose in cup foot­ball, his play­ers proved in­ca­pable of ‘fol­low­ing the game plan’ in a dire sec­ond half.

“Ob­vi­ously our home record is very good, but I never thought the game was won. I’ve watched FC United over the past two games, I know they’ve got goals in them and utilise their at­tack­ers well off the bench,” he said.

“We told the lads at half-time that they’d be go­ing for it, and just for us to keep it tight in a back five, have good set plays, don’t give the ball away un­for­tu­nately all of that in­for­ma­tion seemed to dis­si­pate.”

United’s come­back wasn’t with­out it’s con­tro­versy, how­ever, as cap­tain Scott Kay’s sec­ond-half chal­lenge on County de­fender Scott Duxbury re­sulted in the Hat­ters young­ster be­ing forced off on a stretcher – and Kay only be­ing awarded a yel­low card for the in­ci­dent.

Gan­non was left seething by the late chal­lenge, point­ing the fin­ger at of­fi­cial Leigh Doughty to “stamp out” a string of poor chal­lenges by the vis­i­tors; with County now left with­out two “star play­ers” in Duxbury and Oswell.

“It’s a pet peeve of mine that the Na­tional League call it ‘the fair play league’, but we’re bot­tom of it with the fewest yel­low and red cards, and FC United are top of it.

“So we ex­pected phys­i­cal chal­lenges, it’s a wet pitch in a lo­cal derby and we knew it’d be rough.

“But the ref­eree has to un­der­stand he has a part to play in stamp­ing out those nasty chal­lenges.

“It was a poor chal­lenge which can in­jure play­ers, and Scott and Ja­son were losses for us. But we won’t be rush­ing them back.”

Www.mpho­to­graphic.co.uk

●●County cel­e­brate Matty War­bur­ton scor­ing against FC United

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