Stockport Sports produced a spirited performance in this tough clash with Winsford United at The Barton Stadium, a game that ultimately ended goalless.
It was not the type of performance that requires an open top bus, but a tough physical game like this may just produce a bonding effect on the team that proves vital as the season progresses.
As expected following a disappointing defeat at the hands of AFC Blackpool at the weekend, Peter Withe and his assistant Joey Dunn made changes to The Saxons starting line up. Ryan Stayte was restored at right-back with Ricky Anane switching to the left. New signing Jamie Mullineaux was introduced to partner Jamie Street in central defence, with Josh Symons dropping to the bench. Skipper Raphale Evans was missing as he recovers from a hamstring problem, Franck Atangana is nursing a similar injury and he too missed out. After being ruled out of the previous match through suspension Callam Gardner came back into the side in his attacking midfield role.
It was Gardner who had the first chance of the game. Just minutes in he picked the ball up in midfield and raced forward before unleashing a 20 piledriver that the Winsford keeper did well to tip round the post.
The match became a real midfield tussle, the long grass on the pitch not helping the passing game of either side. Winsford had several long range efforts although none seriously troubled Russell Saunders in The Saxons goal. The visitors created a number of openings but the final ball was lacking. The Saxons did have the best chance of the first half though. Following a fast counter attack the ball was fed into John Marsden on the edge of the Winsford area, he skipped around three defenders but when clean through the keeper was able to block the resulting shot with his legs.
The Saxons almost made a perfect start to the second half. Tyron Sealy latched onto a long ball out of defence and ran clear on goal and rounded the keeper, rather than shooting he chose to square the ball towards Marsden. His delay allowed the defence to recover and they scrambled the ball away.
Winsford continued to pepper Saunders goal with long range efforts without really calling him into action too many times. Neither keeper had a great deal to do over the 90 minutes.
On 64 minutes an Irwin free-kick was headed back into the danger area by Street and was met by Marsden with an acrobatic overhead effort that went just wide. It would have been a certain goal of the season contender, but unfortunately for Marsden and The Saxons it was slightly off target.
With 15 minutes to go Winsford had their best chance of the evening, a marauding run up the left was followed by a wicked drive from 25 yards and, in what was the first piece of good fortune The Saxons have enjoyed for some time, cannoned back off Saunders right-hand post.
The good luck did not last long. On 82 minutes substitute Theo Bailey-Jones swung in a right-wing cross that ended up at the feet of Marsden 12 yards out. He finished sweetly, only to have his celebrations cut short as the referee disallowed the goal for a foul off the ball.
The dying minutes saw The Saxons press for a winner with Liam Irwin, enjoying his finest performance in a Stockport Sports shirt, the main catalyst. On 85 minutes he had a 30 yard free-kick well saved and then he was bundled over in the area in injury time. To the visiting supporters it appeared a clear penalty, the home side and more importantly the referee saw it differently. The final whistle was sounded almost immediately and the game ended goalless.
Post match The Saxons assistant manager Joey Dunn spoke to the clubs media team;
"I thought it was a hard fought point against a fairly experienced side who tried to out-muscle us, but to be fair I thought our lads stuck to their task and stuck together. We spoke after Saturday about digging in as a team and making sure we did the ugly things well, and although it wasn't the prettiest of games it was a good learning curve for the young ones. James Mullineaux at the back gave an assured performance which made us look more solid against a physical forward line and kept good shape. I thought we had a perfectly good goal disallowed and never got a decision all night. We know where and how we need to improve and we will be working on that over the coming days and months"