North End ‘down to the bare bones.’
Even Preston North End’s travelling fans had to applaud Stockport’s 81st minute third goal - grateful to escape with only a 3-0 beating.
Caretaker manager, Sam Allardyce’s team was so blitzed by injuries, suspension and “down to the bare bones”, that he even had to play himself as sub, despite being wrecked by a flu bug.
Emerging from the bath, he groaned, “I feel cold, lousy and I just want to get home to bed” but he wasn’t able to before being dragged before TV cameras for an interview about his team’s loss.
Even before the team bus had left Deepdale, Big Sam had identified a problem.
“We have no height - it’s going to be a tough one,” he said.
And tough it was as County - with eight men at six feet and over in their 13 - played for the most part in the stratosphere, while North End could only gaze upwards wondering how, without a ladder, they were ever going to join in.
The biggest of the big, 6ft 7ins Kevin Francis, had total control of the skies despite a manly effort from Mike Flynn operating some seven inches beneath.
The man with the basketball frame bagged the first goal in a one-sided aerial duel with keeper, Simon Farnworth - a mere six foot - in the North End six yard box.
He provided the second for man of the match, Andy Preece, with another flick of his head and Chris Beaumont curled the third and final goal - so exquisite even the away fans had to applaud.
North End jumped and jumped but they hardly won a challenge in the air.
The fact that Stockport took 36 minutes to open their account owed as much to their own inability to force the ball home as it did to their defending.
Allardyce trooped off home to his sick bed, fresh in the knowledge it would take a big man as manager to sort out North End’s problems - and big men on the field as well.