STOCKPORT COUNTY 5, SOUTHEND UNITED 0
Stockport County’s response to the disappointment of their FA Trophy, semi-final defeat to Wrexham was a resounding home win against Southend United.
The Hatters switched back from knockout competitions to chalk up a ninth successive National League victory, as well as a 10th double of the campaign, after scoring five without reply against the mid-table Essex side at Edgeley Park to remain eight points clear at the top of the table.
First-half goals, within three minutes of each other, from Will Collar and Myles Hippolyte put County in control, and a Paddy Madden brace after the interval doubled the score before substitute Andy Cannon completed the rout late on.
As had been the case for the August bank holiday weekend reverse-fixture at Roots Hall, County took to the field for a kick-off put back to teatime to accommodate live television coverage.
The Hatters showed three changes from the FA Trophy starting line-up at Wrexham seven days earlier as Ryan Croasdale, Sam Minihan and Hippolyte respectively replaced Cannon, Ollie Crankshaw and Mark Kitching, all of whom were named among the substitutes.
Former County loanees from 2020-21, Harry Cardwell and Sam Dalby, with 11 goals between them in the current season, both started up front for the visiting Shrimpers.
Scott Quigley had the contest’s first chance of note, after beating the offside trap with 10 minutes played, only to see his shot from the left of goal deflected beyond the far post.
The Hatters’ next opportunity, following their fourth corner, saw them take the lead just before the first half’s mid-point. Antoni Sarcevic’s delivery on the left – earned after some sterling work by Quigley to keep the ball in play on the opposite flank – reached Ryan Johnson beyond the far upright, who headed the ball back across the six-yard box for Collar to convert from close range.
Three minutes later, County’s advantage doubled, after Collar and Croasdale combined to find Hippolyte, whose first-time shot from outside the area rocketed past visiting goalkeeper Colin Adeng Ndi.
The Hatters enjoyed further chances before the break with Madden volleying beyond the near post, after connecting with Minihan’s cross from the right, and, one minute later, squaring to Collar who lofted an effort over at the Cheadle End. Madden himself subsequently also cleared the crossbar when Collar, returning the earlier favour, teed up County’s top scorer at the edge of the box.
The ball was in Southend’s net again in added time, after Hippolyte’s chip from the left, following another Sarcevic corner, was headed home by Quigley, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
The first scoring chance after the break fell to the Hatters and extended their lead further. After Southend failed to clear Hippolyte’s cross from the left, the ball fell to Madden who blasted home from 12 yards out for his 20th goal of the season in all competitions.
Good work on the left by Quigley shortly afterwards almost led to another goal, after Joe Gubbins stuck out a boot that diverted Quigley’s delivery towards the line but, much to his central defender’s relief, Andeng Ndi caught the ball cleanly.
Cometh the hour, however, cometh the fourth with Sarcevic delivering a free kick from the right for Madden to head in. And, after those two Hatters were taken off for well-earned rests, one of their replacements, Crankshaw, almost immediately drilled a low shot that Andeng Ndi, at full stretch, did well to tip past the left upright.
The industrious Quigley again went close with eight minutes remaining, but his close-range shot was deflected by Gubbins – by now wearing a number-less shirt – beyond the left post. But Cannon added a fifth half a dozen minutes later, courtesy of a low free-kick from outside the area that went through the wall and into the bottom-left corner.
The visitors, who had enjoyed precious little joy in attack all afternoon, earned a corner in the final seconds that Harrison Neal swung in ominously from the left – but any hopes of a consolation were dashed by Ben Hinchliffe who gathered the ball up to make sure of his 101st clean sheet between the County sticks.
Stockport County (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Hogan, Palmer, Johnson; Minihan, Collar (Newby 77), Croasdale, Hippolyte; Sarcevic (Cannon 64); Quigley, Madden (Crankshaw 64). Subs (not used): Ashby-Hammond, Kitching.
Goals: Collar (21), Hippolyte (24), Madden (49, 63), Cannon (88) for Stockport County..
Attendance: 7,738 (371 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans.