MANSFIELD TOWN 3, STOCKPORT COUNTY 2
Stockport County returned to League Two action with a trip to Nottinghamshire but were edged out in a five-goal encounter at Mansfield to drop to 19th place in Sky Bet League Two as their poor start to the season continued.
Louie Barry’s early strike, and a Fraser Horsfall header midway through an action-packed first half, netted either side of a Mansfield reply, saw County lead by the odd goal in three at the break.
But a second-half brace from ex-Oldham Athletic striker Davis Keillor-Dunn left the Stags with all three points, and the Hatters still seeking a first league point since 2008 at the Football League’s oldest ground, currently known as One Call Stadium.
The legacy of a heavy lunchtime thunderstorm saw the teams take to the field under rather lighter skies for a slightly delayed 3.15pm kick-off with County showing three changes from the starting line-up in SK3 against Barrow seven days earlier.
Ethan Pye and Akil Wright, both of whom had started at Edgeley Park against Manchester United U21s in the Football League Trophy during midweek, comprised the recalled duo, replacing Ryan Rydel and the injured Macauley Southam-Hales.
The hosts, for their part, included among their starters two ex-Hatters, striker Rhys Oates, who had turned out a dozen times up front for County on loan from Barnsley in 2014 and left-back Calum Macdonald, who made a similar number of appearances during 2022/23.
The Hatters, having suffered defeat in all of their last four visits to Mansfield’s home, initially dispelled pre-match notions of it as a bogey ground within half a dozen minutes, when Barry latched on to Will Collar’s through-ball and drilled a low shot home for his second goal in as many league matches.
The hosts looked to get back on level terms through George Maris, who fired wide of the right post – before Wright superbly blocked, and deflected beyond the same upright, a dangerous delivery from the right by Oates. But with their next attack, just before the quarter-hour, they equalised with Maris converting Stephen Quinn’s cross from the left.
At the other end, Barry and Tanto Oalofe saw shots blocked in quick succession by defender George Williams, and by goalkeeper Chris Pym who parried behind, respectively. But the corner arising from Pym’s save, taken on the right by Ibou Touray, led to a second County goal, as Horsfall met it at the back post to head in.
The entertaining contest continued, courtesy of Keillor-Dunn, who struck the Hatters’ crossbar from 12 yards ahead of the half-hour mark. And Oates twisted and turned around the County D before fashioning a low shot that Ben Hinchliffe dived to smother.
Five minutes before half-time, the Hatters looked for all the world set to net a third, when Pym, having advanced with the ball from his area, lost possession to Barry but, faced with an empty net 35 yards out, the Aston Villa loanee slipped on the damp surface and fired past the right post.
The openness which had characterised the first half showed little sign of abating early in the second, as another Wright block denied Lucas Akins, and a Macdonald shot from distance was gathered up by Hinchliffe before home skipper Aden Flint, making his 500th career appearance, cleared away from Olaofe after Barry had beaten two players to deliver from the left by-line.
The Stags introduced Will Swan, who had scored one of their two goals in the corresponding fixture a year previously, to bolster the attack and a few minutes later, Hinchliffe used first his legs and subsequently his hands to keep out shots in quick succession from Keillor-Dunn.
County’s number one then came to the rescue again brilliantly tipping over an angled Maris effort from the right. But from the resulting short corner, Keillor-Dunn found himself with space in the box, before unleashing a shot that took a pronounced deflection past Hinchliffe to get the hosts back on terms.
The Hatters remained under siege, as Hinchliffe and Wright combined to deny Maris, but, 10 minutes after scoring his first, Keillor-Dunn had a second, and Mansfield a third, following a break that saw him fed by Quinn before taking a touch and curling his shot into the net’s right corner.
County made a quartet of attacking changes, albeit without troubling the scorers further, although Hinchliffe, in the dying seconds, prevented the hosts from doing so when he saved from Swan in a one-on-one break.
Goals: Maris (14), Keillor-Dunn (69, 79) for Mansfield, Barry (6), Horsfall (25) for Stockport.
Stockport County (3-4-3): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall (Powell 85), Pye; Knoyle, Collar (Evans 75), Croasdale, Touray; Barry (Crankshaw 85), Madden (Rydel 75), Olaofe. Subs (unused): Smith, Mee, Johnson.
Attendance: 7,433 (969 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans.