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Opposition Watch – Stockport County
Opposition Watch – Stockport County
Friday, 23rd May 2008 17:33 bring you the last Opposition Watch of the season as we take a look at Monday's opponents, Stockport County.

Everyone from Stockport’s staff, to their ‘world class’ supporters, are looking forward to Monday’s game at Wembley.

Especially manager Jim Gannon who told BBC Sport “I think Wembley will be a great surface and stadium to showcase not just our talents but also Rochdale's great footballers." 

"I think people will be surprised how good the football will be. I'm really pleased for the North West that we have two really good teams going to Wembley to play against each other.”  

"I'm looking forward to revelling in the atmosphere that our fans create and the football our team can play."  

And Gannon, who is never one to blow his own trumpet, was full of praise for the job he’s done at Edgeley Park “Going out of the League can be a critical stage and there were a lot of people that were particularly depressed about the situation we found ourselves in,"  

"I am delighted to have come in and made a difference. All I wanted to do initially was come in and lift the spirits of the club and put them back on the right track.”  

So we know we had to go through nearly four hours of football to get past Darlington in our semi-finals, but how did Stockport do against Paul Lambert’s Wycombe? 

Well, in the words of everyone’s favourite pundit, Chris Kamara, Stockport had to ‘worked like beavers’ to seal their place at Wembley next Monday.  

County’s semi-final opponents, Wycombe, proved an extremely stern test for Gannon’s County as both sides were forced to fight for any slight advantage throughout both legs. 

It was Wycombe who got themselves in front first at Adams Park with Delroy Facey capitalising on a John Ruddy error.

But the Wycombe’s one-goal lead was the only difference between the sides until Stockport’s on loan midfielder Stephen Gleeson equalised with a  spectacular volley which Wycombe’s goalkeeper Frank Fielding could do nothing about. 

And as any Dale fan would agree, unless they was too busy celebrating our result earlier that day, the second leg at Edgeley Park was just as tight an affair. Well, I tell a lie, it was a tight affair up until Liam Dickinson scored for County.

But after that, it was all Wycombe as they tried everything they possibly could to get themselves in the game.  

But County somehow held on to that 1-0 lead, with Gannon looking forward to taking on Dale at Wembley, whilst Wycombe’s manager Paul Lambert looks for a new job having resigned from Wycombe earlier this week. 

So how are County doing strength-wise as they head into Monday’s game then?

Well we’ll opt for the bad news first for County, with on loan Everton goalkeeper John Ruddy being left with a difficult decision. 

The problem is that Ruddy has been suffering from a hernia injury since he rejoined Stockport, and the injury has only caused him more pain with every game he’s played.

But despite Ruddy needing an operation to start his recovery from this problem, he’s still not decided whether it’s an operation worth missing the final for. 

And one man who would love to make the decision for Ruddy, is Gannon, who told Manchester Evening News "John has been fantastic for us ever since he's been here. He's had eight clean sheets in 12 games, but as each week has gone by he's been more troubled with a hernia.”

"John has got a difficult decision now with him needing an operation - I hope he delays that operation and joins us at Wembley.

So while Ruddy has a tough decision to make over the weekend, we’ll move on to the players who will be available for selection on Monday. 

Stockport captain Gareth Owen has been given the green light to play on Monday after he clashed heads with Tommy Doherty at Edgeley Park last Saturday.

The defender will be forced to wear a protective mask after suffering a broken cheekbone from the clash. 

However he’s finding positives from the injury, as he told the Manchester Evening News, “I've broken my cheekbone, my eye's a bit swollen and it's all a bit bloodshot, but it will take more than that to stop me playing. I've seen the specialist and he's given me the all-clear. It's similar to what John Terry had at Chelsea, so it has been done and there's no danger.

"The lads have said it will probably improve my looks. But I can take that and if it gets me to Wembley I'll take anything.”

As for the other County players returning to fitness… County welcome back midfielder Dominic Blizzard who has recovered from the calf injury he had picked up at Adams Park. 

And a familiar face in ex Macclesfield Town striker and Kazakhstan film star Matt McNeil has recovered from a knee injury to be available for selection for the first time since November. 

That’s about it at the moment, so if you’re not going to the Ernie Cooksey racing night, I’ll see you all down in that London.

Photo: Action Images

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