CITY 2 STOCKPORT COUNTY 2
Nationwide League Division 1
13th October 2001
City Benarbia(51), Goater(84)
Stockport Hurst(50), Kuqi(68 pen)
City Weaver, Wiekens, Pearce, Howey, Dunne, Etuhu, Benarbia, Tiatto, Granville, Goater, Huckerby – subs Wright-Phillips(80), Horlock(unused), Mettomo(64), Nash(unused), Berkovic(63)
Stockport Arphexad, Gibb, Sandford, Flynn, van Blerk, Sneekes, Helin, Fradin, Hurst, Kuqi, Wilbraham – sub Smith(81), Woodthorpe(87), Taylor(unused), Clare(unused), Jones(unused)
The City players celebrate their two goals
It could be Stockport’s irritating habit of nicking points, or the implausibility of a team costing £250,000 – less than 10 weeks wages for one or two Blues’ stars – matching its rich neighhour. But either way, County sure know how to get up Maine Road noses.
They did it again on Saturday when few could deny that they deserved their point from a game that was virtually devoid of any semblance of technical craft or guile, but delivered great hope to journeymen everywhere. A real case of all spit and no polish.
Still, it had its interesting moments, not least watching Stockport boss Andy Kilner pace the technical area, a sideshow which can be a harrowing experience.
At times he flings his arms around in the manner of a man being sucked into quicksand.
Even when his limbs are temporarily still, his mouth isn’t. Yet he manages, quite superbly, to cajole and wheedle the best out of a Stockport County side that likes nothing better than thumb its nose at snooty opposition.
Before arriving at Maine Road, the First Division strugglers had won at Bradford and taken a point from Wolves, so perhaps there shouldn’t have been much surprise that they did the same to inconsistent City
City fans, meanwhile, have every right to question why a side that cost the best part of £13m to put together twice had to come from behind to grab a share of the spoils and could never quite adapt quickly or cleverly enough to subdue resolute but limited opponents.
One of the main stumbling blocks to the Blues snatching all three points was the form of County skipper Mike Flynn.
Not even the swashbuckling Errol of that clan could have fought a more gallant fight than the trusty warrior who at times seemed to fend off the City attack single handedly
County’s other great weapon on the day was referee David Pugh.
The officiating, for both sides, was dreadful, but the biggest blunder of all went against City when a flag-waving linesman decided that the ball had gone out of play before Darren Huckerby expertly curled it into the net from the by-line. The `scorer’ and Shaun Goater were apoplectic in their rage and their case was swiftly proved by television evidence. Just why the linesman made his decision is anyone’s guess.
It was the biggest talking point of a drab first half in which neither goalkeeper was asked to make a save worthy of the name.
Indeed, both had pulled the ball out of the net before they had broken sweat. Nick Weaver’s turn came in the 47th minute following a neat and precise four-man County move down the left.
Karim Fradin began it with a dinked cross that Petri Helin flicked to the far post where Shefki Kuqi nodded it back for Glynn Hurst to bundle it over the line.
Utopia for the travelling fans lasted a mere 60 seconds or so during which time Richard Dunne arrowed in a low cross from the right for Ali Benarbia to ease the ball beneath Pegguy Arphexad.
The Blues peppered the County goal for much of the second half and looked the more likely side to win but then fell behind to a sucker punch in the 66th minute when first substitute Lucien Mettomo made an error on the halfway line and then Danny Tiatto compounded it by shoving over Hurst. Kuqi converted the penalty amidst more delirium in the County ranks.
Thereafter, it all got a bit nasty both on the pitch and the bench with Keegan and Jason Van Blerk each spoken to for some silliness close to the touchline.
Tiatto, Eyal Berkovic, and Huckerby all went close as the clock ticked down, but it was old trusty himself, Goater, who pulled the rabbit out of the shrinking hat with eight minutes to go.
Tiatto’s ball from the left was knocked across goal by Shaun WrightPhillips and the Bermudian helped himself to his 14th goal of the season.
Mr Pugh made himself more unpopular with those in Laser Blue by allowing only four minutes of injury time – all taken up with players rolling about on the floor.
In the end it was a point well made by County but left more questions to be asked and answered by Keegan.
FROM MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS BY CHRIS BAILEY AND PAUL HINCE