STOCKPORT COUNTY 3, YEOVIL TOWN 2
Connor Jennings was Covid-19 plagued Stockport County’s dramatic extra-time matchwinner with his first goal for the club in the home Emirates FA Cup, second-round tie against Yeovil Town.
The luckless striker, who had failed to find the net in his first eight games for the Hatters following his summer move after being released by Tranmere Rovers, finally savoured a change of fortune in front of goal.
Jennings, a product of Stalybridge Celtic’s youth set-up, came up with the decisive moment at the end of a pulsating tie which embodied the magic of the cup.
There were numerous twists, turns and sub-plots as the Hatters twice came from behind to snatch a dramatic victory which earned their first place in the third round for 14 years.
And it came after a troubled build up through a Covid-19 outbreak which had put the club in lockdown as they had not played since the FA Cup win at Rochdale three weeks earlier.
The players had been forced to self-isolate at home for 14 days in what manager Jim Gannon described as a “mini mid-season break”.
Gannon was worried about the impact bearing in mind Yeovil had played twice in the same period.
“Yes, there were huge fears about the danger of having the players locked at home for 14 days,” he explained.
“Having not played for three weeks, you feared the game going to extra time and lasting 128 or 129 minutes, but we showed professionalism to come through unscathed.”
Stockport, who fielded the same side that won at League One club Rochdale in the previous round, got off to the worst possible start.
Barely one minute had been played when Yeovil took the lead through a deflected 25-yard drive from Stockport old boy Matty Warburton that flew low past goalkeeper Ben Hinchcliffe. He barely celebrated out of respect for the Edgeley Park club where he achieved cult status.
Stockport enjoyed considerable opening-half possession but created little.
They were handed a way back into the game five minutes before the breakthrough a John Rooney penalty, his ninth goal of the season.
It was awarded following a clumsy challenge by Charlie Lee on Ryan Croasdale.
Yeovil regained the lead with 20 minutes left when central defender Luke Wilkinson headed home Warburton’s corner at the far post from a couple of yards.
Stockport were soon level when Yeovil failed to clear Rooney’s free kick from the left and, after a goalmouth scramble, centre back Ash Palmer forced the ball over the line from inside the six-yard box.
That was by no means the end of the drama as Yeovil had the opportunity to go ahead for a third time as they were awarded a spot kick for Jamie Stott’s challenge on Joe Quigley.
Gannon, after consulting the club’s analyst, was convinced it was not a penalty and justice appeared to be done when Wilkinson’s spot kick was superbly saved by Ben Hinchcliffe diving full length to his left.
Stockport were the superior side in the additional 30 minutes.
Rooney, who scored a wonder goal from inside his own half in the previous round, struck the inside of the upright with a terrific strike before Jennings scored the 100th minute winner.
Former Oldham Athletic player Stott delivered a delightful cross from the left for Jennings to head home at the far post.
Stockport had been pushed all the way by Yeovil who are bottom in the National League where they have failed to win in their first nine games.
Their only wins had been in the FA Cup – on penalties against Dover and away to Bromley – with manager Darren Sarri saying if they continue to show the same commitment and desire they will soon move away from danger.
“We always felt we are in a false position with this group of players and are a better team than we currently are. We have to prove that,” he said.