Jim’s ‘great pride’

Stockport Express - - Sport - SAM BYRNE

COUNTY boss Jim Gan­non ex­pressed his “great pride” in his in-form side, as the re­lent­less Hat­ters moved to within four points of top spot af­ter crush­ing high­fly­ing Bradford PA 3-0 at Edge­ley Park.

An early strike by lead­ing marks­man Matty Warburton set the tone for a fourth con­sec­u­tive win, and a fourth con­sec­u­tive clean sheet, be­fore Dar­ren Stephen­son and the quick-think­ing Frank Mul­h­ern sealed the mem­o­rable win on Satur­day.

The com­fort­able vic­tory moved Gan­non’s un­stop­pable men to just a soli­tary point be­hind their vis­i­tors last week­end, with Na­tional League North lead­ers Chor­ley four points above County af­ter con­ced­ing a last-gasp equaliser at Here­ford.

Satur­day’s three points also means that The Hat­ters have de­feated the top two in the divi­sion by the same 3-0 score­line so far this cam­paign – and Gan­non was quick to her­ald the achieve­ment.

“The one buzz word at the mo­ment is ‘pride’.

“I’m get­ting shouts from the touch­line of how I should be proud of the lads, and it’s clear that the fans are.”

“I’m very proud of what we’re achiev­ing - and we’re re­strict­ing top sides to no chances and no goals, which is the dif­fer­ence as op­posed to last sea­son.”

Af­ter a flawless fes­tive pe­riod, which brought about a max­i­mum twelve point haul af­ter wins at Altrincham on Box­ing Day and New Year’s Day - with a 1-0 win over Kid­der­min­ster com­ing in be­tween the visit of Mark Bower’s ti­tle-chas­ing Bradford Park Av­enue looked a chal­leng­ing prospect.

But Gan­non’s charges looked in con­trol from the first minute, end­ing the tie with a mam­moth 25 at­tempts on goal com­pared to the away side’s three.

“We paid Bradford PA a lot of re­spect, and we saw glimpses of the side they are.”

“But - I feel like I’m say­ing this a lot - we were just very pro­fes­sional, and it was that pro­fes­sion­al­ism which saw us through.”

Af­ter the hard-work­ing Stephen­son had drilled County into a two goal lead in the sec­ond half, the beaten vis­i­tors re­sorted to a num­ber of heavy chal­lenges on the home side, with skip­per Paul Turn­bull and striker Mul­h­ern both with­drawn af­ter tak­ing knocks.

But Gan­non re­fused to con­demn Av­enue, ad­mit­ting that “frus­tra­tion prob­a­bly took over” for Bower’s men - who suf­fered a first away de­feat in four months, as well as fail­ing to score in a league game for the first time in ten months.

“It’s just frus­tra­tion. We know they had in­juries & sus­pen­sions com­ing into the game, but we’re fit enough and well-dis­ci­plined enough to the point where we don’t have many play­ers miss­ing, and we ben­e­fit­ted from that.”

“Paul Turn­bull was just a bit tight, Frank Mul­h­ern and Jor­dan (Keane) got a cou­ple of knocks, but we’ve come out it OK in terms of fit­ness.

“For­tu­nately, we’ve got a strong bench which en­abled us to with­draw some of the lads and give them a rest.”

Much-ma­ligned winger Stephen­son came out of the em­phatic win with a goal and an as­sist to his name, as well as a cru­cial de­fen­sive in­ter­ven­tion with the game poised at 1-0.

As Bradford broke from a County cor­ner with the pacy ex Hat­ter Ben McKenna, it was Stephen­son

‘I’m get­ting shouts from the touch­line about how I should be proud’

who came rac­ing back to­wards his own goal to force striker Jake Beesley wide of the tar­get and deny what looked a cer­tain goal - to rap­tur­ous ap­plause from the home sup­port.

Af­ter a rel­a­tively quiet show­ing up un­til that point, the for­mer Tran­mere man soon had his goal in the mo­ments af­ter his cru­cial block and ended the af­ter­noon with a stand­ing ova­tion from the al­most 4,000 County sup­port­ers in at­ten­dance.

“I’m de­lighted for Dar­ren. Some­times he over­thinks things, but what you saw with the goal was in­stinct - and that’s what he does in train­ing all the time.”

“He just needs a con­fi­dence boost - and what bet­ter way than a goal and a win. He’s buzzing, as are all the lads.”

County have now ex­tended their im­pres­sive un­beaten run to eight games in all com­pe­ti­tions, go­ing with­out de­feat since ex­it­ing the FA Cup in a brave 1-0 de­feat at Na­tional League side Bar­net - who have gone on to the fourth round of the com­pe­ti­tion as the only non-league side still left in the tour­na­ment.

The Hat­ters have in­cred­i­bly come out the other side of the hec­tic win­ter sched­ule with twenty points from a pos­si­ble twenty-four, as well as pro­fes­sion in the FA Tro­phy - all whilst con­ced­ing just four goals.

“We headed into a tough spell of nine games in 27 days af­ter the Bar­net de­feat - and we’ve come out of those nine games with seven wins and six clean sheets, which is mas­sive,” en­thused Gan­non.

With County look­ing primed for a ti­tle chal­lenge, fo­cus now switches back to the Tro­phy, with the visit of Na­tional League South strug­glers Truro City to Edge­ley Park on Satur­day.

Af­ter al­most 2,000 County fans trav­elled to Altrincham on New Year’s Day, an­other bumper gate of over 4,000 fol­lowed in Satur­day’s big win - but Gan­non had a mes­sage for the long-suf­fer­ing County faith­ful.

“We want those new fans com­ing and peo­ple com­ing back who maybe haven’t been in a while, but we’re de­ter­mined to give those three thou­sand or so peo­ple who’ve been here through thick and thin some­thing to cheer.”

“They’re the peo­ple who drive us, and drive me, to make them proud and that’s all we’re look­ing to do.”

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●Frank Mul­h­ern and team-mates cel­e­brate his goal against Bradford PA

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