BOLTON WANDERERS 2, STOCKPORT COUNTY 2
Non-league Stockport County’s pursuit of another epic Emirates FA Cup run continues following their draw at League One side Bolton Wanderers.
County, who last season beat Rochdale before losing narrowly to Premier League club West Ham, held more lofty opponents in this first-round tie.
Scott Quigley gave Stockport, who were backed by a 5,110 travelling army, the lead midway through the opening half before Bolton hit back with two goals in a three-minute spell from Eoin Doyle and Elias Kachunga.
County’s never-say-die spirit was rewarded when Ben Whitfield equalised in first half stoppage time.
Bolton edged the second half, but rarely looked like conjuring a winner as County’s Dave Challinor a perfect start in his first match as manager.
Challinor said: “I was really pleased. It was a massive effort from the players and a good start today.
“It was not about today but the players showing ingredients needed in the league, and they did it in spades.
“It was a physical effort and a real effort. We were put under the cosh at times and in adversity we dug in.”
Challinor does not believe a cup run will disrupt their main goal which is to regain the club’s EFL status.
He continued: “There is a lot of prize money, and it raises the profile for the football club.
“The most important match is on Saturday under lights and television cameras at Edgeley Park on Saturday against Bromley who are on a good run.”
Bolton manager Ian Evatt was left to rue his side’s careless defensive play for the two goals his side conceded.
“We have to take our medicine and make sure we do the right things and learn for the second game,” he said.
Evatt added: “We controlled the game from start to finish but made bad mistakes for the goals and we also didn’t work them hard enough.
“People came here expecting a cup upset, but we are still in the hat which is the main thing.”
Bolton, two divisions higher in the football pyramid, made most of the early running with Dapo Afoloyan shooting narrowly wide, MJ Willams just over and Kachunga forcing a smart save from Ethan Ross.
There was a poignant moment in the 18th minute with one minute’s applause from both sets of supporters in memory of County fan George Thompson following his death at the age of 18.
But it was County who stole ahead midway through the half after a bad back from George Thomason which allowed Quigley to break free on the left.
Quigley cut inside and fired home low to the left of goalkeeper Joel Dixon for his second goal following his summer move from Barrow.
It was only his sixth appearance following an injury-interrupted start to his County career.
Bolton produced a positive response and were level 10 minutes later following a brilliant move.
Afoloyan’s brilliant Crossfield pass released Lloyd Isgrove on the right and his first-time low cross to the far post was swept home by Doyle for his sixth goal of the season.
And three minutes later, Bolton were ahead as they forged forward again.
Afoloyan’s drive was parried by Ross and the rebound was converted by Kachunga as his effort squirmed through the keeper and trickled over the line for his first goal of the club for the former Huddersfield Town player.
County hit back and moments later Paddy Madden’s header forced a smart save from Dixon following Sam Minihan’s cross.
And they made it 2-2 in the first of five added minutes of half stoppage time when Whitfield was put through by Paddy Madden and fired low past the onrushing Dixon for his third goal of the season.
Bolton came close to regaining the lead on the hour when Doyle’s header forced a flying save from Ross. It followed a cross from the lively and industrious Isgrove.
And Doyle went close again mid-half after being put through on goal only to fire narrowly when he ought to have hit the target.