Gal­lant Cup exit

Stockport Express - - Sport - EMI­RATES FA CUP SEC­OND ROUND BAR­NET ............................. 1 COUNTY ............................ 0 SAM BYRNE

COUNTY’S FA Cup cam­paign came to a valiant end in a 1-0 de­feat at Na­tional League side Bar­net on Sun­day, thanks to an early goal from winger Dan Sparkes.

The Hat­ters, ham­pered by the tem­po­rary ab­sence of cap­tain Ash Palmer who was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for a cut to the head, went be­hind early on thanks to Sparkes’ free header – and de­spite a late on­slaught in front of a mam­moth trav­el­ling sup­port of over 1,600 County fans, Bar­net held firm to set up a third round tie with Cham­pi­onship side Sh­eff Utd.

Af­ter their im­pres­sive 3-0 FA Tro­phy win over league lead­ers Chor­ley the week­end prior, Gan­non made three changes with the in­flu­en­tial Sam Walker re­turn­ing from his rest to part­ner Jor­dan Keane in mid­field.

With Scott Duxbury miss­ing out thanks to an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of yel­low cards in the ear­lier rounds of the com­pe­ti­tion, Sam Mini­han filled in as a makeshift left-back, with Dar­ren Stephen­son start­ing in place of Matty War­bur­ton, who had hob­bled off in the com­fort­able Chor­ley win.

Ash Palmer took the cap­tain’s arm­band in Turn­bull’s omis­sion from the start­ing line-up – but, within min­utes of kick-off, was in need of treat­ment on the side­lines.

Palmer’s ab­sence was ar­guably cru­cial, as right­back Ch­eye Alexan­der’s cross from the right found Sparkes, un­marked, at the far post.

Winger Sparkes, who, a ●●Sam Walker drives for­ward for County against Bar­net at the week­end few min­utes ear­lier, had curled a free-kick nar­rowly wide of the op­po­site up­right, made no mis­take in head­ing home.

The early set­back was fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory for Gan­non’s side, though, af­ter trail­ing to League Two side Yeovil at Huish Park in the first round be­fore storm­ing back for a mem­o­rable 3-1 win.

But, in truth, Bar­net posed a more dif­fi­cult test on the day than the van­quished Foot­ball League op­po­si­tion – and County found chances on goal hard to come by.

For all their pos­ses­sion, The Hat­ters lacked a real cut­ting edge in Bar­net’s fi­nal third. And with 26 min­utes played, the Bees went closer to net­ting when, from a cor­ner on the right, Dan Sweeney pro­duced a goal-bound header that was nod­ded off the line by Mini­han af­ter a help­ing hand from goal­keeper Ben Hinch­liffe.

The half ended with two jink­ing runs on the left by Stephen­son which ended in lit­tle fi­nal prod­uct, and Bar­net made it into the in­ter­val with a goal lead still in­tact.

County con­tin­ued to work hard in push­ing for­ward af­ter the break, this time kick­ing to­wards the packed and vo­cif­er­ous away end.

Adam Thomas un­leashed an ef­fort from the right that flew shy of the far up­right, be­fore good work on the same flank by Frank Mul­h­ern saw a cross fran­ti­cally cleared away by Sweeney, and another shot fizzed beyond the left post cour­tesy of El­liot Os­borne.

The bet­ter chances still fell to John Still’s home side – with Hinch­liffe hav­ing to be at his best to tip over an at­tempt by Josh Walker just be­fore the hour-mark, al­beit with the off­side flag be­ing raised a tad late af­ter the fact – un­til an Os­borne shot was spilled at the other end by Cousins, and Mul­h­ern turned the ball ag­o­nis­ingly past the left up­right on the re­bound in front of an ex­pec­tant away stand.

With the re­lent­less away fol­low­ing call­ing for star man War­bur­ton, the at­tack­ing mid­field was in­tro­duced with a lit­tle more than 20 min­utes left on the clock, and a dou­ble-sub­sti­tu­tion just un­der a quar­ter of an hour later brought Nyal Bell and Con­nor Di­maio into the fray as County sought to throw cau­tion to the wind.

But the Hat­ters’ re­main­ing at­tempts to get their name into the hat for the Third Round draw for the first time in just over a decade bared lit­tle re­ward, with Dan Cowan and Sam Walker’s lon­grange ef­forts blocked as time fi­nally ran out for the brave Hat­ters – both in the tie, and in County’s FA Cup cam­paign for another year.

In a sign of how The Hat­ters have cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of their ev­er­loyal fan­base in this im­pres­sive cup run, nearly the en­tire away end re­mained be­hind to ap­plaud Gan­non’s men off into their warm-down, and into Na­tional League North ac­tion this week­end with high-fly­ing Chester. COUNTY fans will be taken on a trip down mem­ory lane this com­ing Satur­day, with Imag­ine FM’s ‘County Live’ pod­cast pre­sent­ing a ‘Leg­end’s Night’ at the Spin­ning Top.

Fol­low­ing the Na­tional League North clash with high-fly­ing Chester at Edge­ley Park, fans are in­vited to at­tend a Q&Astyle ses­sion with boss Jim Gan­non, Di­rec­tor of Foot­ball and for­mer County chief Alan Lord, as well as for­mer play­ers Mike Flynn, Michael Raynes and Peter Ward - amongst oth­ers.

The event kicks off from 8pm on­wards.

Www.mpho­to­graphic.co.uk

●●Ash Palmer in ac­tion for County against Bar­net in the FA Cup sec­ond round clash

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