Hatters Can't Hyde From The Elements, As Late Rain Stops Play
As EMF's electronic rock classic, ‘Unbelievable', entertained the crowd as part of the Hyde pre-match musical offering, little did any of us appreciate how well its title was to sum up proceedings at the end of this ‘SK Postcode' derby-day.
With County leading by a single goal, and only a couple of minutes or so of normal time remaining on the clock, a torrential downpour of - one might say, just prior to Holy Week - almost-biblical proportions laid waste to the pitch, leaving Ewen Fields looking rather more like rice fields and leading to a late, late suspension of proceedings. Amid scenes of uncertainty, the match was subsequently abandoned - leaving a decision now to be taken by the Conference North, at a League meeting scheduled for Maundy Thursday, as to whether the result may stand or a replayed game is necessary.
All of this was a far cry from conditions and expectations two hours earlier, when the teams first took to a field looking in a generally fine state - and after some light drizzle ahead of kick-off had, on the last day before the advent of British Summer Time, given way to hints of Spring sunshine. The Hatters, for their part, emerged, in the familiar blue and white kit, showing four changes from the side that had started against Chorley a week previously - and featuring welcome recalls from injury for Kyle Jacobs, Chris Churchman, Kristian Dennis and Scott Spencer.
Of the players replaced by those returning, Connor Hancock had been ruled out with a calf strain, while Danny Glover was serving a one-match suspension as a consequence of his sending-off at Lowestoft. Both Charlie Russell and Jack Ryan were named among the County substitutes - although, for the hosts, there was no place in the squad for injured former Hatter, Kyle Brownhill.
Adopting a 5-3-2 formation that included Jacobs and Scott Duxbury as wing backs, together with Matthew Todd as a right-sided centre half, the County defence needed to withstand some early pressure from Hyde, as the already-relegated hosts created a number of opportunities without unduly threatening the final third. Andy Pearson was the first Tiger to attack, latching onto a Connor Hughes pass from the left flank before firing narrowly over. Danny Hurst was then forced into chesting behind an awkward shot from Ben Holmes, and, following the subsequent corner, Perry Ng headed wide of the far post.
While Hyde enjoyed more possession in the initial stages, the Hatters were to fashion more clear-cut chances as they played themselves into the game. Dennis, playing his first match in over five weeks, robbed Ng on the right, before squaring to Spencer who fired just wide - as did ‘The Menace‘ himself moments later, when picking up a misplaced pass from Hyde Captain, Josh Brizell, to go one-on-one with Ed Wilczynski in the home goal. Ex-Tiger, Spencer, then tested the Hyde ‘keeper more seriously still, after cutting in from the left and unleashing a drive from thirty yards that Wilczynski did well to parry behind for a corner.
Six minutes ahead of half-time, County properly got their noses in front, after Dennis played the ball back to Greg Wilkinson. The on-loan midfielder returned the favour with a most delightful chip over the Hyde defence to find Dennis, who ran on to side-foot home calmly from ten yards.
Dennis looked to double his tally, and County's lead, by holding off the attentions of two defenders and shooting from the edge of Hyde's area - but Wilczynski dived to smother the effort, thereby ensuring that just one goal separated the sides at the interval.
FREE match highlights: https://youtu.be/KLMv5J7qgqY
HALF-TIME: Hyde 0, County 1 (Dennis, 39).
The Tigers had something of an uncaged look about them as the second half began - launching a number of attacks on the County goal, and forcing four corners before the Hatters were to earn their first following the break. Brizell curled a shot from outside County's box just wide, before trying his luck from distance with an attempt that bounced en route to a comfortable stop for Hurst. It was to be one of the last occasions during the afternoon on which a normal bounce of the ball merited a mention...
In the meantime, other home players were striving to test Hurst. The County ‘keeper produced routine catches to hold onto Pearson's header following a corner and a shot by the substitute, Jake Hibbs - but needed to stretch before palming over a Ryan Masterson cross from the left of his goal.
With twenty minutes remaining, County, for the second time in a fortnight, were reduced to ten men. As Connor Hughes raced with the ball towards County's area, a challenge by Todd saw the dangerous wide-player go to ground inside the ‘D'. With no other defender between the two players and the goal, Referee, Jonathan Hunt, showed no hesitation in brandishing a straight red card to Todd, who became the ninth Hatter to be dismissed during the current campaign.
The consequential free kick almost resulted in an equalizer, as Luke Giverin's delivery struck the County bar. Following that, however, the Hatters appeared to play some tighter football with ten men - and even to put their hosts under a little more pressure, as they inched ahead in the second-half corner-count.
As the closing stages approached, so, too, did a dramatic change in the weather. Word had already reached us that heavy rain - five miles away in Tameside to the North - had forced the abandonment of Ashton United's match just after the hour-mark. And now, with fewer than ten minutes of play remaining, the skies in SK14 had become ominously dark.
The floodlights were switched on to aid visibility - although this was to prove entirely academic, given that, in no time at all, we had ourselves a monsoon and an almost-instantly waterlogged pitch. With rain bouncing up from the playing-surface far higher than the ball could now dare dream, Mr Hunt brought together his Assistants and the Captains, before leading the teams off the field of play. The time elapsed stood at 88 minutes.
Technically, the game was suspended at this stage - although, looking at the sea of water surrounded by the four stands, no-one present could envisage how the pitch might possibly be deemed playable before the day was out. And, sure enough, the game was confirmed as abandoned when the Match Officials re-emerged a quarter of an hour later, to perform what was nothing more than a ceremonial dunking of the ball onto the sodden turf.
Just, then, as events were curtailed by an Act of God, so this afternoon's result's fate is in the lap of the gods. Watch this space, as we await Thursday's deliberations...
FREE match highlights: https://youtu.be/KLMv5J7qgqYFULL-TIME: Hyde 0, County 1 (Dennis, 39) - match abandoned after 88 minutes.
Team: Hurst, Jacobs, Duxbury (Lofthouse, 67), Todd, Lees, O'Halloran, Moses, Churchman, Dennis, Spencer (Ryan, 82), Wilkinson (Russell, 67).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Hampson.
Sent Off: Todd.