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REPORT| County grab dramatic late equaliser in draw at Stevenage

5 August 2017

The Exiles have started the season with a point after a dramatic 3-3 draw at Stevenage FC.

Tom Pett gave the home-side a half-time lead following a mix-up in the County defence, before Frank Nouble equalised for County on 55 minutes.

Dale Gorman restored Stevenage’s lead with a penalty, before Danny Newton further extended their advantage.

Mickey Demetriou got County back in it with a superb 30-yard strike before McCoulsky snatched a dramatic late equaliser to ensure the points were shared at the Lamex Stadium.

Mike Flynn elected to make one change to the side that lost to Northampton Town in the Exiles final pre-season match last weekend. That saw summer signing Lamar Reynolds make his professional debut for County in place of David Pipe. Another three summer signings were named in the Exiles first line-up (Nouble, Dolan and Willmott) as they appeared to be lining up in a 3-5-2 formation.

Stevenage manager Darren Sarll chose to name five summer signings in his team. That meant ex-Exile Alex Samuel came in for his competitive debut as goalkeeper Joe Fryer also made the starting team after joining in the week on loan from Middlesbrough.

Interestingly, this game was the 9th time in a row that Stevenage were home on the opening day of the season. Of the previous eight, they had won only once, drew on three occasions, and lost the other four. Their last win came in 2014 when they beat Hartlepool United.

County came into the game looking for their first opening day win since 2013. That was the club’s first game back in the Football League when they defeated Accrington Stanley 4-1 at Rodney Parade.

After a slow opening five minutes, Dale Gorman fashioned the opening chance for the home-side but his effort dragged wide.

That seemed to encourage Stevenage, however, and their next attack was more composed, Harry Beautyman eventually shooting wide after intelligent play through the middle.

But it didn’t take the home-side much longer to get a reward for their positive start in the 11th minute.

Scot Bennett’s pass back to Joe Day was a little under hit and Tom Pett pounced on the opportunity to take the ball around Day and coolly finish from just inside the area.

Matty Dolan almost created County’s first chance of the afternoon on 21 minutes, but was unlucky to have his cross to Lamar Reynolds cut out by Stevenage captain Ronnie Henry.  

Nouble, looking County’s biggest threat of the game, almost created an opportunity but Henry was there again to block the cross into the area.

Nouble should have levelled the scoring minutes later, but scuffed his effort after Matty Dolan’s 25-yard free-kick ricocheted back off the crossbar.

Stevenage goalkeeper Joe Fryer had to be alive to keep out another Dolan free-kick moments later, before producing another world-class save to keep out Reynolds on 32 minutes.

Fryer was at it again five minutes later, somehow keeping a Nouble header out from eight yards. Rigg curled over from the resulting corner.

County were almost made to pay for not getting an equaliser, but Alex Samuel headed just wide from a Ronnie Henry cross.

The indication of two additional minutes didn’t inspire either side to create any further opportunities as Stevenage held on to lead at half-time.

It was somewhat unlucky for County to be behind. Although it took them a little time to settle at the Lamex Stadium, the Exiles were clearly edging proceedings after the opener.

And if it wasn’t for an inspired performance from Joe Fryer, County probably would have been level or even ahead. The goalkeeper, on loan from Middlesbrough, made two unbelievable saves to deny Nouble and Reynolds and was the sole reason for his side being ahead.

Neither team decided to make a substitution at half-time, as County set-off attacking to their own fans.

Reynolds created the opening opportunity for County within the opening 60 seconds, but Fryer did superbly well to read his drilled cross.

Nouble, still causing havoc to the Stevenage left-back Joe Martin, burst into the area on 50 minutes but saw his cross cleared away for a corner. Mickey Demetriou came inches away from connecting to that Willmott corner.

Labadie shot wide moments later, before Fryer pulled off another unbelievable save to deny Reynolds from his chipped effort.

But from the resulting corner, County got their deserved equaliser on 55 minutes.

Nouble would be the man to get it, smashing home from three yards after Labadie had fired a shot towards goal from the corner.

County were clearly in the ascendency at this point, Stevenage bringing on Chris Whelpdale to try and turn the tide.

And Stevenage would have an opportunity against the run of play to re-take the lead after Scot Bennett fouled Luke Wilkinson in the area on the hour-mark.

Dale Gorman took it, and in fairness it was a superb penalty, Day getting no-where near it despite going the right way.

Rigg almost hit straight back for County, only for Fraser Franks to put in a last-ditch tackle, before Flynn decided to change systems to a 4-3-3 with striker Shawn McCoulsky coming on for centre-back Scot Bennett.

But the change of system could do nothing to stop Stevenage pulling further ahead on 72 minutes.

After Gorman saw his shot blocked by Demetriou, the ball sat perfectly for Danny Newton to fire past a helpless Day to extend his side’s lead.

But County wouldn’t let that get them down, as Demetriou got them back into it on 77 minutes.

And what a way to get your first goal of the season. Demetriou fired a rocket into the top corner from all of 30 yards but seemingly injured himself in doing so.

The defender wouldn’t need to be substituted, however, and was back in the thick of the action to clear a Martin free-kick.

Flynn decided to throw on another forward Calaum Jahraldo at the start of six additional minutes to try to force an equaliser.

But it would be another of the strikers, Shawn McCoulsky to grab the dramatic equaliser.

After the home-side had failed to clear a corner, McCoulsky fired home from five yards to give County a deserved point.

 

County: Day, Willmott, Bennett (McCoulsky 67’), O’Brien, Demetriou, Butler (Jahraldo 90’), Rigg, Dolan, Labadie (C) (Owen-Evans 77’), Nouble, Reynolds

Subs not used: Bittner, White, Williams, Pipe

 

Stevenage: Fryer, Henry (C), Wilkinson, Franks, Martin, Gorman (King 77’), Beautyman, Pett, Samuel (Whelpdale 56’), McKee (Godden 63’), Newton

Subs not used: Day, Vancooten, Conlon, Turgott

 

Referee: Martin Coy

Attendance: 2,650 (464 County)

County’s next game: Southend United (Away) Tuesday 8th August (Carabao Cup)

Credit TGS Photos for the picture.


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