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Stockport County match report
Bucks keep their heads to top Hatters

To date this season, the storms the Bucks have had to endure when playing at home have tended to be ones of criticism. It was somewhat ironic that on the night an actual storm blew in, manager Rob Edwards’ team were able to weather both the conditions and their opponents to earn a welcome victory over Stockport County.

Looking to rebound from the indignity of Saturday’s 1-5 home loss to Harrogate Town, Edwards kept largely the same team, with Jonathan Royle for Henry Cowans the only change. Royle repaid his manager’s selection with a fine display, often being the rock on which County’s attacks foundered.

Under heavy skies, County were first to show, earning a couple of dead-ball situations that they were unable to convert. The Bucks responded but the first ten minutes or so saw neither side pose any serious threat to the other’s goal. That changed on 12 minutes; a fine Newby cross from the right was met by the head of Marsden, twisting to direct a header from 12 yards off Ben Hinchcliffe’s crossbar. The ball rebounded back into play and in the ensuing scramble County’s Matt Warburton handled in the six-yard box. Home fans called for a red card, referee Sam Mulhall opted for yellow instead and then watched as Marsden himself drove home the penalty kick, waist high to Hinchcliffe’s right as the keeper dived the wrong way. Marsden, having netted against his former team, enjoyed his celebrations in front of those visiting fans in the Frank Nagington Stand end.

County regrouped quickly and won a corner, however the Bucks looked more likely to score a second goal. Newby was finding space down the right flank against Connor Hampson, whilst Dwyer and Dinanga started to get at the County defence. However, it was the visitors who struck back on 23 minutes: Ross White was caught in possession 25 yards from goal and County found space on the right of the penalty area to deliver a cross. Matt Warburton met it to sweep a shot at goal from around the penalty spot and despite Singh’s efforts he couldn’t keep the ball out.

The wet conditions may have contributed to the goal, and though they weren’t conducive to flowing football the chance of mistakes made it an exciting but unpredictable encounter. Jonathan Royle, who was proving to be a formidable barrier in midfield, went into the referee’s notebook for a foul, but County wasted the free-kick opportunity. Lussey put a shot high and wide and the Bucks forced a couple of corners, but both sides looked a little tentative, unwilling to commit to properly commit to attack. It was, however, a County corner that began a sequence from which the Bucks took the lead. The delivery from the left was poor and Royle, at the near post, connected to hook the ball away and towards half-way. Marcus Dinanga chased, won possession and drove at the County defence down the right before drifting inside as they backed off; Dinanga laid the ball ahead to Dwyer and his strike partner went for goal from 25 yards, producing a great save from Hinchcliffe to turn the ball around his left post. From the resulting corner, County partially cleared, however Royle headed the ball back to Newby on the right and he curled in an inviting cross that Dinanga met on the run at the back post to turn home.

That goal came three minutes before the break, and the Bucks must have hoped they’d be able to seek refuge in the dressing room with a lead to their name. Alas, Bohan Dixon had other ideas, and after the Bucks cleared a County corner on 45 minutes Dixon won the loose ball from Marsden before powering on to just inside the box. Given too much space, Dixon struck a powerful shot low to Singh’s left and in to level the scores.

HALF TIME: AFC Telford United 2 Stockport County 2

County made two half-time substitutions, and in the early stages of the second period Singh had to be alert to save from Warburton. The visitors were looking the more positive side and Dixon again tried his luck from distance, his free-kick deflected off Sutton for a corner. Neither side were making clear chances, and both seemed wary of making more errors, however you sensed that if one side could take the initiative the game was there to be won. The Bucks brought on Jordan Murphy for Dwyer and slowly they came into the ascendancy.

Sutton almost put his side ahead from a 61st minute corner but couldn’t make a solid contact with a corner kick from close range, then Marsden brought a great save from Hinchcliffe once more with a shot on the turn. Marsden, against his former employers, was clearly motivated to do well, and his industry and enterprise brought a further chance, Hinchcliffe excelling once more to deny him. Murphy then brought a save from the County keeper from 25 yards, but was just finding his range. On 71 minutes, the Bucks won a corner and after the right-wing kick was only partially cleared Murphy swept the ball home with a firm shot from just inside the penalty area to restore the lead. He celebrated his first goal for the club, now it was time for he and his team-mates to try and hold their advantage.

A tiring Marsden made way for Henry Cowans, then Dixon shot wide from 20 yards as County started to press. Their best opportunities were coming through set-pieces, and from a corner on 80 minutes Oswell went close to levelling, heading just wide when finding space to attack the ball. The Bucks were now on the back foot and were looking to use Dinanga’s pace as an outlet to relive the pressure. County continued to win corners and were getting closer and closer to the Bucks area; however, the Bucks, marshalled by Sutton and with Royle providing the cover, were able to cope, and after three minutes of nail-biting injury time the home crowd were at last able to celebrate a home victory.

It had been a much more typical National League North game between two sides between whom there was little to choose. The Bucks had found a little extra grit to go with their goal-scoring and enjoyed the crowd’s reaction to them, and should be pleased with their night’s work.

FULL TIME: AFC Telford United 3 Stockport County 2

Bucks: Singh, Johnson, Gough, White, Sutton (c), Royle, Dwyer, Lussey, Dinanga, Marsden, Newby.

Unused subs: Martinez, McGrory, Hayden.

Scorers: Marsden (13), Dinanga (42), Murphy (71).

Bookings: Royle.

Stockport County: Hinchcliffe, Thomas (Duxbury 45), Hampson, Ball (Walker.T 85), Cowan, O’Halloran, Stephenson (Smalley 45), Walker.S, Oswell, Warburton, Dixon.

Unused subs: Smith, Brazel.

Scorers: Warburton (23), Dixon (44).

Bookings: Warburton.

Referee: Sam Mulhall.

Assistants: Richard Cattell, Jonathan Maskrey.

Attendance: 853.

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