STOCKPORT COUNTY 2, CHESTERFIELD 2
It was another night to remember under the Edgeley Park floodlights as Stockport County’s second National League match in SK3 within three days saw them recover from a two-goal deficit to draw against promotion rivals Chesterfield.
The eagerly awaited clash was played out before a five-figure crowd that included a sell-out home contingent and, overall, was County’s highest attendance of the campaign.
Having beaten bottom-placed Dover Athletic by a single goal late on at the weekend, the table-topping Hatters conceded two goals in the first half against the club in second position.
But a sending-off shortly after the break swung the pendulum in County’s favour and strikes within nine minutes of each other by Will Collar and Ryan Croasdale restored parity for a share of the points.
County took to the field on a mild February evening, showing one change from the previous Saturday’s starting line-up against Dover with Myles Hippolyte making his full debut in place of Ollie Crankshaw. Chesterfield’s starters included left-back Alex Whittle, who had turned out for the Hatters as a trialist during the summer of 2018.
The Spireites created the night’s first opportunity after a couple of minutes, when Jeff King connected with Akwasi Asante’s cross from the left only to head wide of the far post. And Liam Hogan did well shortly afterwards to block a dangerous run into the County area by the National League’s leading scorer Kabongo Tshimanga.
Another chance fell Tshimanga’s way, and this time he took it with remarkable aplomb to put the visitors ahead. Manny Oyeleke chipped the ball over County’s defence from the edge of the box to the top marksman, who chested the ball with his back to goal before hitting home a volley on the turn.
Things went from bad to worse for the Hatters five minutes later when Tshimanga turned provider in flicking the ball through to Asante whose deflected shot into the bottom-left corner doubled Chesterfield’s advantage.
County proceeded to earn three corners ahead of, and just after, the half-hour mark, and looked for all the world to have reduced the arrears following the second of them which was taken by Ryan Rydel on the right. Ash Palmer met the delivery with a header which cannoned off the bar and down towards the line but was not adjudged to have crossed it.
In the course of four minutes of added time, further extended following a head injury to Collar, Hippolyte came closest to improving County’s prospects for the second half, drilling beyond the right post after being teed up by Scott Quigley just inside the box.
Within four minutes of the re-start, Edgeley Park saw its second straight red card for a visiting player in as many matches with King receiving his marching orders for a challenge on Rydel directly in front of the dugouts.
And seven minutes later, County, a man to the good, had gained a foothold back in the contest. A Rydel cross from the left fell to Collar, who, with head bandaged from the late first-half knock, put his left foot through the ball to curl a shot past goalkeeper Scott Loach.
The Hatters continued to press in their search for an equaliser which duly came five minutes after the hour. Croasdale, who minutes earlier had fired narrowly over from the edge of the area, made no mistake with a second effort at a similar distance that flew into the bottom-left corner.
Substitute Crankshaw side-footed an effort just beyond the near upright, following another Rydel delivery from the left. And Quigley flicked on to Collar, whose attempt cleared the bar, before a whopping 10 minutes were announced by way of time added on.
But the scorers were not troubled further and the 101st contest between the two old rivals left both sides with honours even as well as with continued hope of resuming battle back in the Football League.
Stockport (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Hogan (Crankshaw 60), Palmer, Johnson; Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale, Rydel; Hippolyte (Newby 90 + 2); Quigley, Madden. Subs (not used): Minihan, Kitching, Jennings.
Goals: Collar (56), Croasdale (65) for Stockport. Tshimanga (16), Asante (21) for Chesterfield.
Attendance: 10,236 (1,581 away).
Report: Gareth Evans