STOCKPORT COUNTY 5, WORKSOP TOWN 1
The beginning of Stockport County’s Emirates FA Cup campaign saw them progress to the second round for the fourth year running as they hit five at Edgeley Park against non-league Worksop Town.
Four goals from Kyle Wootton, followed by substitute Odin Bailey’s eagerly-awaited first for the club, ultimately ensured a safe passage into round two and a 12th straight win in all competitions.
But the Hatters were given a brief scare by their visitors from the Northern Premier League’s premier division – three tiers and 75 places below County – who netted an equaliser to cancel out Wootton’s opener midway through the first half.
The result also represented a first-ever victory for County over Worksop who had gained a win and a draw in the sides’ only previous meetings, while spending one season as fellow Midland League members during the Hatters’ year-long absence from the Football League back in 1904/05.
On a drizzly afternoon in SK3, the Hatters took to home turf for a third successive Saturday showing 10 changes from their League Two starting line-up against Tranmere one week previously. Only Wootton survived as a starter, although nine others who featured in that match comprised the nine substitutes permitted for the cup and club skipper Paddy Madden, making his first start since his EFL Trophy hat-trick heroics at Salford over three weeks earlier, regained the captain’s armband for the occasion.
The Hatters began the tie strong in possession and while taking over a dozen minutes to create their first chance, ended up taking the lead with it as Madden fed Jayden Richardson, whose delivery across the six-yard box from the right was converted by Wootton for his second goal in three games.
The Tigers, roared on by just under 1,500 of their supporters, and featuring in round one proper for the first time since 2001, fought back to equalise with their inaugural opportunity of note eight minutes later, with Jay Rollins getting behind the County defence, after being played through by George Taft, to fire in off the crossbar.
Just after the first half’s mid-point, County lost the services of Myles Hippolyte, who, despite receiving treatment a little earlier, had been unable to shake off his knock, and was replaced by Ethan Pye.
Eight minutes ahead of the break, it was a case of ‘another chance, another goal’, as Callum Camps rounded Worksop goalkeeper Paul Cooper to the right of goal, before squaring for Wootton to accept the gift and turn the ball into an empty net for his and County’s second.
Nick Powell, returning from injury to play for the first time in seven weeks, fired into the right side – before twice testing Cooper, who held on to Powell’s free-kick at the second attempt and then saved with his legs from the attacking midfielder.
In the course of added time, Richardson was presented with an excellent chance to increase the Hatters’ lead – but fired over from close range, after connecting with Joel Cotterill’s low cross from the right.
Within five minutes of the resumption, good work by Madden on the right led to a delivery for Powell whose shot was deflected beyond the far post. And the consequential corner by Cotterill found the skipper, who headed over.
The visitors went close a couple of minutes before the hour, when a Terry Hawkridge free kick was met by Liam Hughes with a header that soared narrowly past the right post. And from their first corner, on the hour, Taft connected but glanced off target.
The Hatters introduced into midfield a fearsome trio of Bailey, Will Collar and Antoni Sarcevic, before extending their lead, as Bailey’s shot from the left was deflected by Taft into the path of Wootton, whose first-time effort secured his hat-trick.
Three minutes later, Wootton and County had a fourth, courtesy of a low header from Madden’s chip on the left. And when the visitors broke to give themselves a chance of reducing the arrears shortly afterwards, Camps did well to deflect behind a shot by substitute Luke Hall.
The cheers rang out with heartfelt gusto eight minutes from time, as Bailey netted for the first time as a Hatter, with a low drive into the bottom-left corner.
And Sarcevic twice went close to creating a sixth for County – firstly, when his low cross from the right was deflected against the far post by visiting captain Hamza Bencherif, and then, after latching on to Madden’s through-ball, with a chip that floated just past the right side of goal.
Final substitute Akil Wright saw two added-time shots from the right saved by Cooper, ahead of the final whistle signalling County’s place in the hat for the round two draw later during the weekend.
Goals: Wootton (13, 37, 67, 70), Bailey (82) for Stockport. Rollins (21) for Worksop.
Stockport County (3-5-2): Smith; Knoyle (Wright 71), Byrne, Pond; Richardson (Sarcevic 64), Cotterill (Bailey 64), Powell (Collar 64), Camps, Hippolyte (Pye 24); Wootton, Madden.Subs (unused): Hinchliffe, Horsfall, Croasdale, Olaofe.
Attendance: 6,443 (1,419 away).
Report: Gareth Evans.