STOCKPORT COUNTY 3, MAIDENHEAD UNITED 0
Stockport County were made to work hard before claiming top spot in National League for the first time this season as their remarkable winning run continued at home to Maidenhead United.
It was County’s eighth straight win in all competitions – six in the league – a sparkling sequence of results which has transformed their season.
When County lost at Torquay United on December, they were 11th in the table with promotion looking a long shot at that stage.
Since then, they have won every match and this latest success lifted them third to overhaul Chesterfield and FC Halifax Town.
It was hard earned in a game in which the two halves were as different and chalk and cheese.
County were awful in the opening half and were lucky to leave the field goalless as the Magpies failed to take any of the host of chances they created.
It was an altogether different story after the restart when goals from Anthony Sarcevic, Ryan Croasdale and substitute John Rooney gave County a victory which in the end was comfortable to the delight of a 5,352 crowd.
Though Maidenhead were fourth bottom, they arrived at Edgeley Park as one of National League’s form teams.
In their last four games, they had beaten promotion-chasing Bromley, Chesterfield and FC Halifax Town and drawn at Aldershot.
High-flying County, meanwhile, were unchanged from the side that won at Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday to make it seven straight victories in all competitions.
It was clear from the start it would not be a straightforward night for County as Maidenhead were oozing confidence and playing with a swagger after their excellent recent run of results.
That was underlined by the first chance in the sixth minute as Shaun Donnellan tried a cheeky chip from the centre circle which almost caught out County keeper Ben Hinchliffe.
Josh Kelly then made a weaving run from halfway into the box before seeing his shot deflected for a corner from which Magpies’ captain Alan Massey’s powerful header crashed against the crossbar.
And it remained one-way traffic as Emile Aquah split open the home defence with a diagonal pass which released Kelly who fired into the side netting.
Maidenhead left the field at the break wondering how they were not ahead having dominated play with County still to get a foothold in the game.
The urgency in which County started the second half was without doubt the result of the berating the players had received from manager Dave Challinor.
After failing to create a chance in the opening period, they took only 20 seconds to do so, but Paddy Madden blazed over.
Aquah missed another chance for wasteful Maidenhead before County made the breakthrough in the 53th minute.
Sarcevic got on the end of a Macauley Southam-Hales cross and headed home from seven yards and the ball crept in almost in slow motion low to the left of goalkeeper Dan Gyollai.
It was the third goal since his October move from Bolton with all three coming in the last five games as the midfielder has found his shooting boots.
County were soon celebrating again as Croasdale doubled their advantage just after the hour.
Substitute Ollie Crankshaw’s cross was laid back by Sarcevic into the path of Croasdale who found the net with a low drive from the end of the box, his fourth goal of the season.
Rooney added a third goal in the second of four added minutes to put gloss on the final result.
Crankshaw weaved his way to the by-line and cut the ball back for Rooney to shoot high into the top corner from eight yards, his fourth goal of the season.