Stockport 0-1 Town
Sunday, 16th Apr 2000 23:41
Town came to within one point of Manchester City in second after a not entirley convincing victory over Stockport County. Town lined up with John McGreal returning from injury, but the centre-half lasted just 14 minutes before being replaced with Fabian Wilnis, himself substituted with injury late on when he was replaced by Mick Stockwell. Martijn Reuser made his first start for Town on the left of a three man midfield as Town returned to 5-3-2. Like McGreal this didn't last the whole of the first half with 4-4-2 being used in the latter stages and throughout the second. Gary Croft started at right wing back, but moved to left back as Wilnis moved to right back. Jamie Clapham moved to the left of midfield, while the ineffective Reuser moved to the right wing. Town once again lined up without Marcus Stewart, a recurrence of his previous injury was apparently cited on this occasion.
Town started the stronger and it was business as usual for the men in tangerine. However, Stockport had a few of decent chances in the first half as Town found establishing their shape difficult as the half wore on. The Cheshiremen had three occasions when the ball was bouncing well inside the Town area with Town defenders either fooled by the bounce or staring at the ball. After the third of these, and with Stockport looking the more likely to score, Town scored. A long ball from Richard Wright caused a minor panic in the Stockport defence and David Johnson muscled his way past two defenders and buried the ball with panache. It was probably Johnson's best goal of the season other than the one at Bolton.
The second half saw the removal of Martijn Reuser from the Town line up. He had struggled to find any of the form that catapaulted him into Town cult hero status last week and may well be one of the players George Burley berated for not playing to instructions. He was all over the pitch and made life difficult for Jamie Clapham during the early stages of the game. Jermaine Wright replaced him and had another one of his understated yet occasionally excellent halves.
Town as a side weren't playing as well as they have and allowed Stockport to come at them and attempted to add to their total on the break. Jamie Clapham came close to scoring the Town goal of the season when he picked up a poor defensive header on the left with Carlo Nash in no man's land. Clapham tried the long distance chip that fans have screamed at Town players to try for so long and the ball only missed by about three inches.
Town again came close what David Johnson won the ball from a dithering defender. He cut in from the left and tried to find Jermaine Wright who was powering in at the far post only for a defender to cut it out. At the other end Richard Wright pulled off another one of his wonder saves when he pushed a near point-blank range header over the bar. It was an inspired moment, one as important as David Johnson's goal.
The half ended (very late due to the Hillsborough memorial kick-off time of 3.06 and a second half littered with injuries) with Town holding onto their lead as Stockport pushed for the equaliser.
Not a convincing performance, but Town got the goal and defended stoutly. They will need to be better next week at QPR and certainly will have to improve if they are to win at Charlton. However, with other results going our way we now know that automatic promotion is a target which is more than achievable.
R Wright 9 Excellent second half save
Croft 8 Some nice work
Brown 6 Passing needs work still
Mowbray 6 Uncharacteristic errors
McGreal 7 Looked good when on (Wilnis  6 Not great (Stockwell  8 Gritty performance))
Clapham 7 Unlucky with distance effort
Holland 8 Some steely challenges
Magilton 7 Seemed too deep second half
Reuser 5 Anonymous (J Wright  7 Some good moments)
Johnson 9 Very good first half and excellently taken goal
Scowcroft 7 Not playing as well as when he was in midfield
Photo: Action Images
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