STOCKPORT County left Ewen Fields still unsure of whether they have beaten Hyde after their Conference North derby clash was called off with just two minutes remaining.

The 10-man Hatters, who had young defender Matthew Todd sent off in the second half, were leading through a 39th minute goal from top scorer Kristian Dennis heading into the closing stages.

Amid the torrential rain and monsoon-like conditions, it seemed as though the game would be able to run its course before referee Jonathan Hunt stopped play.

After consulting his assistants, he led the players off much to the disbelief of some supporters before returning to the waterlogged field 15 minutes later to confirm the concluding moments could not be played.

A league meeting will take place at a later but unconfirmed date to decide the outcome with the worst-case scenario being a replay between the sides.

Hyde’s Club Matchday Co-ordinator Mark Tonge said it is likely that County will be awarded the three points with the game having passed the 75-minute mark.

County boss Alan Lord, meanwhile, acknowledged the referee had a tough call to make but said afterwards that the result should stand with Hyde’s fate already sealed.

Despite losing just one of their previous seven games, the bottom-club were condemned to back-to-back relegations last weekend while County’s play-off hopes faded further after a disappointing home defeat to Chorley.

Although fans of the two local rivals turned out in their numbers, the colloquially-named ‘330 derby’ could have been considered a dead-rubber, which struggled to excite in the opening exchanges.

Andy Pearson sent a rising drive narrowly over from 25 yards and Erike Sousa hooked over at the back post from Luke Giverin’s low centre as an unchanged Hyde began to make progress on the half-hour mark.

But County, operating in a rigid 5-2-1-2 formation, grew into the contest with former Tigers frontman Scott Spencer stabbing inches wide and strike-partner Dennis prodding beyond the post with Hyde keeper Ed Wilczynski racing off his goalline.

Spencer had another effort pushed behind by the Tigers’ on-loan Huddersfield stopper before the Hatters capitalised on their productive spell of pressure six minutes before the break.

Dennis, back in the starting line-up after five games out with a groin problem, timed his run onto Greg Wilkinson’s sublime pass and slotted home his 13th goal of the campaign.

Spencer, who also returned after failing a fitness test last Saturday in one of three County changes, brought a fine save out of Wilczynski as the pendulum had firmly swung in County’s favour.

Hyde, unbeaten in their previous four home games, expressed their attacking intent early in the second half as a looping header by Pearson and Giverin’s fizzing shot called County keeper Danny Hurst into action.

A largely tame affair was ignited on 69 minutes when Ben Holmes was sent sprawling by a desperate challenge from Todd, who was unsurprisingly given his marching orders.

From the resulting free-kick, Giverin could not have come closer to an equaliser as the midfielder curled a delightful effort against the crossbar.

With County seemingly content to hold onto their lead, Hyde built up momentum in a bid to make their numerical advantage count as 13-goal top scorer Connor Hughes became a steady influence down the right flank.

But the emergence of the floodlights did little to conceal the dull weather and the afternoon took a turn for the worse when the heavy rain created huge puddles on the pitch.

The action was almost rendered insignificant as soaked supporters rushed to take shelter before the contest was abruptly halted with a matter of minutes left to play.

The referee’s rather inexplicable decision was met with anger by many incandescent fans, some of which demanded a refund.

As the near 1,600-strong crowd flocked out of the stadium, no-one was any the wiser as to what might happen next with a tannoy announcement suggesting the match had not officially been abandoned.

County could have climbed to eighth in the table with a win but it is still unclear whether they have completed a league double over the Tigers and revived the semblance of hope they harbour in finishing in the top five with a month of the season remaining.

In spite of a disciplined and positive performance, only a generous reprieve from league officials can spare Hyde the ignominy of a 24th loss of the campaign as they prepare for Evo-Stik Premier Division football for the first time since 2004.

Hyde 0-1 Stockport County match facts infogram

Teams:

Hyde FC (4-3-3):  Wilczynski, Riley (Pritchard 60’), Burke, Brizell (c), Perry Ng, Giverin, Sousa (Hibbs 45’), Pearson, Masterson (Boyle 68’), Holmes, Hughes.
Subs not used:  Gregory, Thurston.
Booked:  Holmes (79’), Wilczynski (89’)

Stockport County (5-2-1-2):  Hurst, Jacobs, Duxbury (Russell 60’), Todd, Lees (c), O’Halloran, Moses, Churchman, Wilkinson (Lofthouse 60’), Dennis, Spencer (Ryan 84’).
Subs not used:  Ormston (GK), Hampson.
Sent-off:  Todd (69’)
Goals:  Dennis (39’)

Referee:  Jonathan Hunt (Liverpool)
Attendance:  1581

From Ewen Fields

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