SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1, STOCKPORT COUNTY 1
(Sheff Wed won 4-1 on penalties)
Stockport County’s Carabao Cup adventure came to a heartbreakingly premature end with defeat on penalties at Sheffield Wednesday.
A highly creditable effort over 90 minutes saw captain Paddy Madden’s 15th-minute goal give the Hatters a deserved lead only for their Championship hosts to level with one minute of added time remaining before scoring four times from the spot to go through.
It was a case of fourth time unlucky for County who had lost all three previous ties in the competition against the Owls including the most recent meeting between the sides at Edgeley Park in 2005.
County took to the field showing seven changes – with Ben Hinchliffe, Fraser Horsfall, Tanto Oalofe and Ibou Touray comprising the quartet of survivors – from the League Two starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Gillingham three days previously.
The players brought in included the fit-again Will Collar as well as teenage midfielder Cody Johnson, who 24 hours earlier had been recalled from his loan at Rochdale. And, with the exception of the injured Callum Camps, all of the replaced starters were named among the nine substitutes permitted for the competition.
The Owls similarly rang the changes, with four also surviving from their starters who had hosted Southampton in the Championship on the preceding Friday, one of whom was experienced club skipper Barry Bannan, capped by Scotland on 27 occasions.
The opening exchanges produced little of note in the first 10 minutes, save for a pair of County yellow cards shown to Connor Evans and Olaofe for their respective fouls on Pol Valentin and Reece James and one brandished in the direction of Valentin who had brushed the ball away as the Hatters were preparing to take a free kick.
But the Hatters had also earned two corners before the quarter-hour mark and this promising start was followed shortly afterwards by a goal of some distinction as Madden connected with Akil Wright’s cross from the right to hook a volley into the far top corner of the net.
Seven minutes later, Wednesday looked for all the world set to equalise after Ben Hinchliffe had spilled the ball and Anthony Musaba rounded County’s number one only for Ethan Pye, making his first competitive appearance for the Hatters since a Cheshire Senior Cup-tie against Crewe 16 months ago, to make a superb block and deflect Musaba’s shot beyond the right post.
Not that County looked content to sit on a one-goal lead, mind. Evans saw a shot deflected off Musaba and loop past the right post, Wright made contact with Touray’s free kick from the left to glance a downward header wide of the far upright; and Johnson, on the same flank, delivered a cross to Collar, who volleyed over with what was the final kick of added time.
Olaofe opened proceedings after the break with an electrifying run down the left and into the box, before Jamaican international Di’Shon Bernard intervened to block allowing his goalkeeper Devis Vasquez to clear.
At the other end, Ashley Fletcher, fed by Musaba, drilled a low shot just shy of County’s right post. And, in the course of some pinball, two Wednesday shots were blocked in rapid succession before a third, from Senegalese defender Bambo Diaby, took a deflection past the opposite upright.
The Hatters made a triple substitution introducing Louie Barry, Kyle Knoyle and Macauley Southam-Hales just ahead of the hour. And Knoyle and Barry combined nicely with the former crossing from the right for the latter, with his back to goal, to flick just past the near post just over 15 minutes from time.
The hosts, for their part, strove to get back on terms through Musaba who fired wide, Bannan whose two shots flew narrowly past the left post and over the crossbar and substitute Tyreeq Bakinson who headed goalwards but was thwarted by a brilliant, last-ditch Hinchliffe save.
Seven minutes of added time saw the Hatters defend in numbers and they held out for the best part of the first six before Bakinson scrambled the ball home at the death to force penalties.
The shootout, in front of Wednesday’s Spion Kop, which was not in use for the tie, saw Madden and Barry have their spot-kicks saved before Lee Gregory stepped up to convert the decider.
Goals: Bakinson (90+6) for Sheff Wed. Madden (15) for Stockport County.
Stockport County (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, Pye; Richardson (Southam-Hales 59), Collar (Sarcevic 70), Johnson (Knoyle 59), Evans, Touray (Rydel 81); Olaofe (Barry 59), Madden. Subs (unused): Smith, Byrne, Powell, Crankshaw.
Attendance: 10,886 (2,138 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans,