Archive - Sunday, 27 April 2008
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Beadle's final game
Richard Evans makes progress on the left wing
COUNTY once again suffered a heartbreaking final-day defeat to end their play-off dreams at Spytty Park on Saturday.
Just as they did a year ago against Cambridge City, the Exiles fell at the final hurdle, losing 2-1 and missing out on the chance to earn a place in the Blue Square Premier.
Manager Peter Beadle has paid the price with his job and a record of only three wins in his last 11 games tells its own story, but whereas in the 4-1 defeat to Thurrock they were terrible, against Fisher Beadle's men were terribly unlucky at times.
Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong for County in a first half that played out like a 1970s Hollywood disaster movie.
In his last game in charge Beadle saw two left-backs stretchered off with serious injuries, a dodgy penalty given against his side and the reserve goalkeeper being sent to the stands - all in 45 minutes that destroyed any chance of a home victory that would have saved him from the chop.
This defeat wasn't all down to bad luck, however. Fisher, who now go on to the play-offs in County's place, are a very good side and their young, speedy forward line caused the home defence problems all afternoon.
They were certainly more threatening than Charlie Griffin, Julian Alsop and substitute Jermaine Clarke who, as hard as they tried, never looked like scoring from open play.
Things started brightly enough with the 1,427-strong crowd, the largest league attendance of the season, in fine voice on a gloriously sunny day.
Talisman Jason Bowen was passed fit to play, albeit with layers of strapping on his troublesome right hamstring. Griffin and Alsop replaced Clarke and the suspended Craig Hughes up front and Mark Dodds came in for Lee Jarman, who was also banned.
Griffin almost had the ball in the net in the first minute after an Alsop shot was deflected into his path but the linesman's flag soon put a halt to proceedings.
Playing with pride and passion, County forced three corners in the opening ten minutes and looked determined to make up for the Thurrock debacle five days earlier, but their momentum was stopped in the 14th minute when Damon Searle injured himself in a committed challenge on Shaun Batts.
The veteran left-back stayed down for several minutes receiving treatment before assistant manager Scott Young called for the stretcher and Matt Smith, another ex-Bluebird, entered the fray.
The long delay seemed to affect County more than Fisher as the match lost the intensity of the opening 15 minutes and the decibel level dropped noticeably.
Fisher began to threaten for the first time and when Ian Hillier missed a header, Gavin Tomlin raced away down the left and whipped in a cross which Andre McCollin just missed.
Luke Hickey thought he'd given the London side the lead on 24 minutes when his well-struck drive from 15 yards out beat Glyn Thompson, but Batts had been penalised for a foul on Steve Jenkins moments before.
They didn't have long to wait for the opening goal, however, as referee Matt McLoughlin pointed to the spot just six minutes later.
To say the decision didn't prove popular with the home crowd would be an understatement of epic proportions and, to be fair, they looked to be justified in their anger.
Nathan Davies was adjudged to have fouled his opposite number, Kieran Murtagh, but the Fisher player seemed to go down very easily and the way he exchanged congratulatory high-fives with his team-mates suggested he'd hoodwinked the referee.
Thompson got his hand to McCollin's spot kick but he couldn't keep it out and County were in trouble.
Things immediately went from bad to worse as Smith was himself stretchered off before play resumed, though how he received his injury remains a mystery.
Lee Fowler was summoned from the bench and Richard Evans was forced to fill in as a makeshift left-back as what was already an uphill task turned into a mountain for County to climb.
There was still time for Jenkins to have a header cleared off the line and substitute 'keeper Tony Pennock to be sent to the stands, presumably for entering the field of play, before a breathless first half came to an end.
The theme from Minder blasted out over the loudspeakers and the referee, all five foot of him, looked like he needed protection as he walked off but the home crowd couldn't blame him for the second goal seven minutes after the break.
Dodds clearly pulled down McCollin, who was through on goal, and the hugely impressive striker grabbed his second of the game with a left-foot free kick which arrowed into the bottom right-hand corner of Thompson's net.
The visitors were disrupted by the dismissal of Batts for a second yellow card on the hour, but, even against ten men, County just couldn't get the ball in the net.
Their frustrations boiled over and a mass brawl in front of the away dugout resulted in Evans and Gavyn Dayes being booked.
The wideman was by that stage back in his usual position on the left wing as Beadle went for broke, leaving just three at the back.
Fisher went close to adding a third on numerous occasions as County committed more and more men forward but sub Clarke headed inches over the top and Griffin had a great effort tipped round the post before Andy Gurney side-footed home from a yard out in stoppage time.
By then it was too late for County and Beadle.
The players dropped to their knees at the final whistle, contemplating another missed opportunity and another year in the Blue Square South while their manager probably knew his time was up.
Fisher: Lewington, Jackson, Wright, Murtagh, Dayes, Gooding, Batts, Beaney (Plumain, 82), McCollin, Tomlin (Thomas, 80), Hickey.
Subs not used: Heeroo, Tozer, Linsey.
County: Thompson, Jenkins, Searle (Smith, 16) (Fowler, 30), Davies, Dodds, Hillier, Bowen, Gurney, Alsop (Clarke, 54), Griffin, Evans.
Subs not used: O'Sullivan, Pennock.
Referee: Matt McLoughlin.