STOCKPORT COUNTY 2, STEVENAGE 0
Stockport County moved up a place to sixth, and remained within four points of the League Two automatic promotion positions following a two-goal triumph over second-placed Stevenage at Edgeley Park.
Their fourth successive win of the month was also a first-ever victory against Boro earned thanks to Will Collar’s first-half strike and a goal deep into added time from substitute Ryan Rydel.
County took to the field on a cloudy afternoon with an unchanged starting line-up for the second game running. The composition of the bench, too, was identical to that at EP for the visit of Crawley in midweek.
The latest visitors, for their part, were the second within four days to hail from ‘New Towns’. (In fact, Stevenage, in November 1946, and Crawley, in January 1947, had been the first two designated as such under the post-war Act.) Their defence contained some County ‘overspill’, too, in the form of skipper Carl Piergianni who had plied his trade as a late-teenage Hatter during the 2011/12 campaign.
The opening exchanges saw both sides initiate a number of attacking moves, albeit with clear-cut chances at a premium. And the contest had reached the quarter-hour mark before the first attempt of note struck by Callum Camps from the edge of the area into the arms of emergency-loan goalkeeper Toby Savin.
Around the first half’s mid-point, Boro struck their first shot, courtesy of Jordan Roberts whose effort from just outside the box was cleanly held by Ben Hinchliffe. And Savin was called into action again shortly afterwards, as he intercepted Chris Hussey’s dangerous-looking delivery from the left by-line.
The visitors’ leading scorer, Luke Norris, chested and volleyed over on the turn before rolling the ball into County’s net a couple of minutes later only to find himself given offside.
The contest needed a goal and Collar duly delivered it 11 minutes ahead of the break, clinically slotting home from 12 yards, after being teed up by Myles Hippolyte from the left side of the area, for his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
Stevenage’s notorious threat from set-pieces was well contained throughout the half with the last of Jake Forster-Caskey’s three free-kicks, in added time, being blocked and cleared by the Hatters without undue ceremony.
The visitors made a triple-substitution immediately upon the resumption. And shortly afterwards, further replacements were only narrowly avoided, following a head collision between Kyle Knoyle and Josh Reid that left both players in need of more than half a dozen minutes’ treatment and saw Knoyle return to the fray with his head bandaged.
Two minutes before the hour-mark, Roberts homed in on County’s goal from the right, although his eventual shot lacked pace and was comfortably smothered in front of the near post by Hinchliffe. And the striker also fired high and wide shortly following the hour, after a couple of visiting efforts had been blocked in quick succession by Hussey and Akil Wright.
Substitute Jake Taylor drilled a shot at Hinchliffe that County’s number one gathered up at the second attempt, as the visitors, without an away defeat in five months, continued to apply pressure.
At the other end, Savin spilled a Knoyle corner from the left, but the ball fell to Wright at the tightest of angles beyond the far post, and his acrobatic shot was skied over. Collar then went closer with a header that narrowly cleared the crossbar after connecting with Hussey’s free kick.
With three minutes of normal time remaining, Kyle Wootton had a gilt-edged opportunity to double County’s advantage, after a lofted ball from Camps put him through on goal, but Savin narrowed the angle well, and the midweek two-goal hero’s shot was skewed wide of the left post.
The announcement of nine minutes of added time did not help the nerves of over 9,100 Hatters populating, on this occasion, all four sides of the ground. But five minutes into the extra allowance, they were settled as Savin’s loose clearance was intercepted by Collar, who drove forward on the right before squaring for Rydel, four minutes following his introduction, to convert a second for the Hatters.
Goals: Collar (34), Rydel (90+5) for Stockport.
Stockport County (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Byrne, Hussey; Knoyle, Camps, Croasdale, Collar, Hippolyte (Rydel 90 + 1); Olaofe (R Johnson, 82), Wootton. Subs (unused): Jaros, Evans, Stretton, Lewis, Grayson.
Attendance: 9,412 (270 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans.