STOCKPORT COUNTY 0, BOLTON WANDERERS 2
Stockport County’s third and final group match in the English Football League Trophy saw them suffer a two-goal defeat at home to a strong Bolton side.
In what was a dead rubber with both clubs already set to advance to the second round, a first-half brace for Icelandic forward Jon Bodvarsson put the visitors in control of proceedings and ultimately ensured them top place in the Northern Section’s Group E.
The result saw County finish second entailing a likely away tie in the following knockout round early next month -with four points to their name.
It was also the first match of 14 in all competitions the Hatters had not won, although, of course, their run of straight League Two victories, currently standing at 11, remains intact, ahead of Colchester’s visit to Edgeley Park four days hence.
The Hatters took to the field on a wet and windy evening in the wake of Storm Debi showing a full 11 changes following their most recent league match – although all seven substitutes named at Swindon three days earlier were handed starts, while the bench comprised in its entirety players who had taken to the field ahead of kick-off in Wiltshire.
The visitors, featuring five Trotters from their weekend League One line-up, made an early change, just after the quarter-hour mark, to replace one of the starters against Blackpool as Randell Williams looked to have picked up a minor knock. And, shortly afterwards, they created the first chance of note, when a cross from the right by Bolton debutant Luke Matheson found Bodvarsson whose shot was deflected past the near post by Alfie Pond.
Around the first half’s mid-point, Jayden Richardson did well to block Dan Nlundulu after the striker had been played through by Gethin Jones. And, five minutes later, Jordan Smith dived to smother Matheson’s low drive into the County six-yard box, as the visitors continued to press.
A goal for them did arrive eight minutes before the break but, when it did, it followed the breakdown of a promising County attack. Pushing forward from the Bolton half, Paris Maghoma fed Bodvarsson whose low shot past Smith nestled in the bottom-left corner.
Smith saved at point-blank range efforts from George Thomason and substitute Josh Dacres-Cogley as the interval approached. But, with the half into added time, the goalkeeper was powerless to keep out Bodvarsson who, following another break, calmly chipped home his and Bolton’s second having been played through on goal and with no little space to spare.
The Hatters made a triumvirate of changes upon the resumption introducing Odin Bailey, Ethan Pye and Akil Wright, although the inaugural opportunity of the new half fell to Bolton with Aaron Morley curling an effort from the left narrowly beyond the far upright.
A County attack followed, as Richardson surged into the box only to be stopped in his tracks by the visiting keeper Joel Coleman before Morley, from outside the other end’s area, fired a venomous shot that rattled the left post, and Smith made two further saves from Thomason and substitute Cameron Jerome.
Six minutes after the hour, County had the ball in Bolton’s net courtesy of Nick Powell who converted off the far post Bailey’s low delivery from the left, but was flagged offside.
Smith again performed heroics by parrying a shot by Morley who had cut in from the right and Maghoma, after being fed by Nlundulu on the left, skied an effort into Railway End orbit with the goal at his mercy.
Eight minutes before time, and in search of a consolation, Powell latched on to a Kyle Knoyle cross from the right but drilled his shot shy of the near post. And five minutes later, he fired over a free kick from just beyond the box.
Goals: Bodvarsson (37, 45) for Bolton.
Stockport County (3-5-2): Smith; Knoyle, Byrne, Pond; Richardson, Mee (Bailey 46), Johnson (Wright 46), Camps, Touray (Pye 46); Powell, Madden. Subs (unused): Hinchliffe, Horsfall, Croasdale, Wootton.
Attendance: 3,427 (1,539 visitors).