STOCKPORT COUNTY 4, WEALDSTONE 2
Stockport County experienced a fright before staging a spirited second-half fightback to beat Wealdstone and preserve a seven-point lead at the top of National League.
When the mid-table London side went 2-0 ahead after little more than half an hour at Edgeley Park, that certainly wasn’t in the script.
The Hatters turned the tide scoring three times in six second-half minutes through Paddy Madden, Ryan Johnson and Ash Palmer to turn the contest in their favour with Antoni Sarcevic adding a fourth late on to improve the goal difference.
The victory stretched the Hatters’ unbeaten National League run to 15 and to 20 in all competitions and earned a seventh double of the campaign.
The Hatters took to the field on a splendid spring afternoon, and with an unchanged starting line-up from the victorious one at Edgeley Park against Notts County four days earlier.
They began as impressively as they had left off then, too, earning three corners, and twice going close through Madden, before five minutes were on the clock.
The County skipper first saw a goal-bound shot blocked by full-back David Sesay, after goalkeeper George Wickens had parried an effort from the right by Sarcevic. And, following one of the early corners, Madden volleyed just shy of the right post.
Myles Hippolyte was next to try his luck – cutting in from the left, before unleashing a low shot that Wickens turned past the near upright. The Hatters looked rampant, as they chalked up another couple of corners and yet were about to become undone as the ‘Stones’ earned the first of theirs.
It was a case of ‘unlucky for some’ in the 13th minute as the visitors having the previous weekend effectively banished any fears they might have had of relegation, ventured upfield for the first time. Aaron Henry’s in-swinging dead-ball delivery from the left found central defender Jack Cook, who headed home to give his side the lead.
The Stones, you might say, were on a roll. A dozen minutes later, they and Cook almost had a second, as a cross from the right by Antigua & Barbuda international Rhys Browne found the goal-scorer who headed wide of the far post. And another Henry corner from the left was flicked over the Railway End crossbar by captain Jerome Okimo.
But just after the half-hour mark, the visitors doubled their advantage courtesy of a curling free-kick by Henry into the top-left corner of the net. And although the Hatters brought on Scott Quigley shortly afterwards in an attempt to beef up the attack, they struggled to regain any momentum of note before going in at the break.
County began the second half with the necessary attacking intent, as Hippolyte’s cross from the left was headed towards goal by Quigley with Wickens scrambling the ball behind before the onrushing Will Collar could follow up at the near post.
There then followed half a dozen or so incredible minutes that saw the Hatters initially halve the arrears, then get back on level terms before the hour, and finally get their noses in front immediately after it.
County’s first goal came from the penalty spot, put away by Madden with his usual aplomb, after Charles Clayden had handled a ball into the box from the right by Will Collar. And two minutes later, Madden turned provider sending over a low delivery from the left that was converted by Johnson.
Wealdstone went close to regaining the lead, following a Henry corner from the right with which Cook once again connected, only for Ben Hinchliffe to arch his back and tip the ball over.
And a minute after the hour, the Hatters earned a corner of their own – delivered by Sarcevic on the right that Palmer headed in to complete the turnaround.
As the Hatters went in search of more goals, Madden saw a shot saved by Wickens, Collar – after latching on to Hippolyte’s through-ball – fired narrowly wide of the right post, and Wickens also kept out attempts from Quigley and Palmer, before Sarcevic fired home an angled effort from the left to make it four after Collar had struck the near upright.
Stockport County (4-3-3): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales (Hogan 46), Palmer, Johnson, Kitching (Quigley 38); Collar, Croasdale, Sarcevic; Crankshaw (Minihan 83), Madden, Hippolyte. Subs (not used): Ashby-Hammond, Newby.
Goals: Madden (55pen), Johnson (57), Palmer (61), Sarcevic (90) for Stockport County. Cook (13), Henry (33) for Wealdstone.
Attendance: 7,453 (195 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans.