STOCKPORT COUNTY 2, COLCHESTER UNITED 0
Stockport County returned to League Two action at Edgeley Park and registered a record-equalling 12th straight victory by netting twice without reply against Colchester.
Goals immediately either side of half-time by Kyle Wootton and substitute Callum Camps put the Hatters in control, as they gained a share of the record for a winning run in the fourth tier – last achieved by Luton in 2002 – and extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.
The Hatters took to the field under thick cloud cover that blanketed a temperature up into unseasonably double figures and showing one change from the starting line-up for their most recent league match, at Swindon, a week earlier.
Ibby Touray filled the left wing-back berth, as he replaced the injured Antoni Sarcevic, and County reverted to a back three for the first time in L2 for over two months.
The visitors were without the services up front of leading scorer Joe Taylor who had been thriving for the U’s on loan from Luton but, for this weekend, was undertaking international duty with the Welsh Under-21 squad – coincidentally alongside teenage County loanee Joel Cotterill.
Nearly a dozen minutes had gone before the first chance of note was fashioned, as Touray’s looping cross from the left was headed beyond the far post by Will Collar, moments after Odin Bailey had gone to ground in the box under a challenge that did nothing to interest referee Andy Davies.
Wootton, who had scored the only goal of the corresponding mid-August fixture in 2022/23 to give the Hatters their first victory on returning to the League, was next to try his luck courtesy of a low shot from 20 yards out that visiting goalkeeper Owen Goodman dived to smother. And Goodman also held on to a curling effort by Bailey that dipped in front of the left side of goal.
Colchester’s inaugural opportunity went closer than early County attempts to breaking the deadlock, when, just ahead of the half-hour, Samson Tovide, with his back to goal, met Jayden Fevrier’s cross from the right with a remarkable heel volley that rattled the crossbar.
At the other end, Tanto Olaofe tested Goodman with a first-time thunderbolt from distance that the keeper gathered cleanly. And Ben Hinchliffe did likewise with efforts in quick succession by Cameron McGeehan and skipper Noah Chilvers.
Seven minutes ahead of the break, Collar dived to head past the near upright after connecting with Wootton’s cross from the left. But, having acted as provider, Wootton turned poacher five minutes later to put the Hatters ahead.
An exquisitely weighted through-ball from Ryan Croasdale picked out Macauley Southam-Hales, whose low delivery across the goalmouth from the right was bundled in by the big striker at close range for his seventh goal of the season in all competitions.
The Hatters brought on Camps for Akil Wright, as well as reintroducing a back four, upon the resumption and, within a minute, the midfielder’s first touch, in the form of a sweet right-footed volley from a deep Southam-Hales corner on the right, hit the back of the net to double County’s advantage on the day and the scorer’s personal tally for the current campaign.
Bailey then weaved his way towards the six-yard box from the left, before firing beyond the far post and Collar’s overhead kick, following a sequence of pinball in the area, soared past the opposite upright just before the hour.
For the visitors, a first attack of the new half saw Tovide bravely denied by Hinchliffe at point-blank range and newly-introduced substitute Brad Ihionvien then fired wide of the left post while under pressure from Fraser Horsfall and a Fevrier shot was deflected behind off Bailey.
As added time approached, Olaofe bundled wide of the right post, before Collar latched on to the resulting corner with a touch that narrowly evaded the far upright.
Goals: Wootton (43), Camps (46) for Stockport.
Stockport County (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright (Camps 46), Horsfall, Pye; Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale (Knoyle 83), Bailey (Madden 83), Touray; Olaofe, Wootton (Powell 89).Subs (unused): Smith, Byrne, Richardson.
Attendance: 9,664 (263 visitors).
Report: Gareth Evans.