The winger, still brimming with the brio self-administered by that first-half brace, dances nimbly round his fullback, advances with knock-kneed authority to the byeline in the manner of a Pathe-newsreel clip of Stanley Matthews in his bryl-creemed pomp, and sends back a pinpoint centre which is despatched high into the Cheadle End netting by a bustling crewcutted number ten going under the perfect non-league forward’s moniker (if this were the 1950s, which just for a moment, it is) of Jimmy Ball.With the team in the possession of that comforting all-too-rarity, a three-goal cushion, the Cheadle End relaxes into a final fifteen minutes in which full reign is given to the songbook, bringing in slower, more anthemic numbers belted out in valedictory style, such as the positively mournful ‘, a homespun ditty in honour of one Danny Bergara, a celebrated native of that South American republic who strode the Edgeley Park touchline with aplomb for the best part of a byegone decade, in the process overseeing the capture of rare silverware for habitually struggling County, in the form of the Division Four championship title, 1966-67.
By the time our increasing numbers arrive within sight of the floodlights which tower like great many-shiny-eyed metal dinosaurs above the Victorian back-to-backs of Edgeley, we have formed a critical mass too wide to be accommodated on the Springtime-sunspattered pavements, and so spill out at intervals onto the ringroad, where our right flank narrowly avoids being flattened by a single-decker bus pulling in at its designated layby, there to disgorge a late-arriving and ragged battalion of supporters emanating- it is possible to discern from the service number displayed on the vehicle’s front- from points West of the outlying suburb of Reddish.Back at home we find out that each of them has picked up the maximum three points, leaving County still where they started the day, tantalisingly on the edge of contention for a place in the play-off positions and thereby a one-in-four end-of-season shot at a coveted place in the Big Time, AKA next season’s National League (National). It’s been a great day out, and if The Man From Uruguay is watching from up there (and in the light-headed reverie of those closing fifteen minutes in the earthly heavens of the Lower Cheadle, Upper Section, we may well have believed he was) then he too would surely be revelling in a hard-won victory reminiscent- dare we say it out loud?- of his very own-promotion-achieving teams of lore.The diminutive wingman- five foot four of permanently-pent-up nervous energy, and with a stock of technique which the cognoscenti reckon as belonging a good couple of levels above the National League (North)- blasts an unerring half-volley finish gleefully through the hands of the floundering goalkeeper and high into the roof of the Railway End net.The County Band reach into their repertoire and lead us, to the tune of KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘Baby Give It Up’, in a belting rendition of ‘.The gangly number nine’s flick-on header threatens no immediate danger, until an underhit backpass by backpedalling Curzon right-back Thornley presents onrunning County leftwingman Danny Lloyd with the opportunity to steal in ahead of the desperately advancing goalkeeper and slip a careful slotted finish under his despairing grasp.
As the ball proceeds goalwards, with the agonising slow-motion of a pocket-weight Terry Griffiths off-the-spot frame-ball, time stands still.
Warburton’s dead-eyed conversion, struck central into the netting, is duly met with comprehensive apathy by all concerned, save for the County goalkeeper Ormson, who clearly takes the late soiling of what had seemed a surefire cleansheet as a slight on his semi-professional integrity occasioned by a criminal lapse on concentration on the part of his defensive colleagues.
Angrily intent on communicating his conviction on this matter to anyone who may care to listen, the beaten home custodian rises from his vain dive, collects the ball from the net, and boots it seventy yards into the emptying lower tier of the main stand.
Then, as it slows to nestle in the netting just inside the far post, we rise, with a roar of relief. The remainder of the first half is played out with advancing composure on display both on and off the pitch, as the home team, clearly settled by the sight of the opposing goal being breached for the first time in 180 minutes (their previous two games have ended 0-2 and 0-0) begin to remind us how prior to those setbacks they had remained unbeaten since early November, thereby advancing slowly but surely to their present berth just on the cusp of play-off contention.
Just before half time (‘ I point out to Frankie in the build-up, like I always do after 39 minutes of every game) a training-ground throw-in routine ends with another cushioned header into the path of Lloyd, this one needing no Keystone Cops-esque intervention from any member of the Curzon backline to arrive at its intended target.
The County defenders, making mental notes to keep a wide berth from their temporarily deranged number one in the players’ lounge, troop sheepishly back to half-way, where there is just enough time for the restart before the final whistle blows.