EASTLEIGH 0, STOCKPORT COUNTY 2
Stockport County’s second away-trip of the week saw them secure a 10th successive victory in all competitions and a ninth National League double of the campaign at Eastleigh to extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points.
A strike by Myles Hippolyte just after the break set them on their way, before skipper Liam Hogan doubled the advantage late on, for a first-ever win at the Silverlake Stadium.
The Hatters, who had flown to the match as the ground is little more than a goal kick away from Southampton Airport, took to the field on a gloriously sunny spring afternoon in Hampshire, showing two changes from the starting line-up at King’s Lynn four days earlier with Hippolyte and Antoni Sarcevic replacing Mark Kitching and Elliot Newby. Both Kitching and Newby were named among the substitutes on a bench that also included one of County’s deadline-day loan signings, Andy Cannon.
With just over a couple of minutes on the clock, home goalkeeper Joe McDonnell was called into action, parrying two Paddy Madden shots in quick succession, as well as an effort from Will Collar by way of follow-up to Madden’s second attempt.
Subsequent exchanges failed to create any more chances of note until shortly before the half-hour mark, as Danny Whitehall headed down for the Dan Smith, but the hosts’ front man, with head bandaged, skewed his shot beyond the left post when well placed to score.
Vincent Harper then cut in from the left for the ‘Spitfires’, before lofting a delivery over County’s crossbar. And at the other end, Collar, on the right, fired across an effort that was smothered by McDonnell.
As the interval approached, Madden burst into the home box only to be stopped in his tracks courtesy of a well-timed challenge by central defender Tom Broadbent. And, with the last touch of the half, Ryan Johnson headed over an added-time corner from the right by Sarcevic.
Following a first half that had been rather lacking in lustre, the second immediately showed signs of more promise when, straight from kick-off, Ronan Silva advanced towards the County goal, before unleashing a shot that curled past the right post.
But the next opportunity, four minutes later, was to prove more telling, as it fell to the Hatters and gave them the lead with Hippolyte volleying home into the bottom-left corner from just inside the area for his first National League goal for County.
Sarcevic went close to doubling the advantage by teeing himself up to half-volley against the bar. And after Whitehall had turned an effort beyond the near post, following Sam Smart’s cross from the right, Scott Quigley twice tried his luck at the home end – with a header that cleared the bar, and a shot on the turn into the right side-netting.
With seven minutes remaining, Hogan gave the Hatters a little more comfort going into the final stages as he connected with a Sarcevic corner from the right to head in County’s second.
Results elsewhere helped extend Hatters’ lead at the top of the table to 11 points, making for a doubly happy trip home for the 700-plus travelling County fans.
Stockport County (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Hogan, Palmer, Johnson; Minihan, Collar, Croasdale, Hippolyte (Kitching 85); Sarcevic; Quigley (Cannon 85), Madden. Subs (unused): Ashby-Hammond, Newby, Crankshaw.
Goals: Hippolyte (49), Hogan (83) for Stockport County.
Attendance: 3,295 (720 away).
Report: Gareth Evans