STOCKPORT COUNTY 1, WEYMOUTH 0
Stockport County rounded off February with a fourth successive home Saturday victory, and a third ‘double’ for the month, after a single-goal victory against struggling Weymouth.
A Cam Murray own goal midway through the first half secured the points for the Hatters and maintained their lead at the top of National League, although for the third match running at Edgeley Park, they finished with 10 men after substitute Mark Kitching was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
There was a hint of spring in the air, as County took to the field in the sunshine showing two changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Woking a week earlier.
Ollie Crankshaw and Jordan Keane were brought in for Myles Hippolyte and Liam Hogan, respectively while Paddy Madden wore the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Hogan.
One-time Hatter Ross Fitzsimons appeared between the sticks for the visiting ‘Terras’, who had claimed maximum points from their only prior trip to SK3 during the first month of the previous season.
The Hatters enjoyed much of the possession from the outset, before fashioning their first chance with five minutes played when Madden burst into a crowded Cheadle End box and fired over. And a few minutes later, Crankshaw tried his luck from outside the area with an effort that fizzed narrowly wide of the right post.
County went ahead around the mid-point of the half, as Ryan Rydel’s cross from the right glanced off Murray into his own net.
Rydel sent over a delivery from the opposite flank just before the half hour to Macauley Southam-Hales, who connected with a header that was caught by former club-mate Fitzsimons. And the ex-County goalkeeper was called into action again after another five minutes, as he turned around the left upright a low shot from Scott Quigley.
As half-time approached, the Hatters earned five corners in as many minutes, albeit without leading to attempts around the goalmouth until the fifth delivery, which eventually found Ryan Johnson whose header cleared the crossbar.
Johnson’s late first-half effort was to prove his last contribution to the game, as Kitching replaced him at the break although County as a team resumed in much the same attacking vein, with Southam-Hales cutting in from the right and unleashing a shot which flashed beyond the far post.
The Terras, for their part, and having created little up front before the break, tested Ben Hinchliffe not long after it when County’s number One was forced to dive and smother Omar Mussa’s effort from distance.
They livened up further, following three attacking substitutions, with County’s goal almost being breached by one of the newly introduced players, Manasse Mampala, who, having latched on to a cross from the right by Haji Mnoga, took too heavy a touch to leave the ball mercifully trickling into Hinchliffe’s hands. The two other Weymouth substitutes then combined to useful effect, and again following good work on the right, as Dan Smith headed over Tom Blair’s delivery.
As added time bega, Kitching received a second yellow card and his marching orders after squaring up to Blair.
Stockport County (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Keane, Palmer, Johnson (Kitching 46); Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale, Rydel (Newby 76); Crankshaw; Quigley (Hippolyte 72), Madden. Subs (unused): Whitfield, Jennings.
Goal: Murray (23og) for Stockport.
Attendance: 7,418 (61 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans