STOCKPORT County will return to Edgeley Park for the first time in over a month when they host Bradford Park Avenue in the Vanarama National League North on Saturday afternoon (Kick-off 15:00).
After being knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup on September 26 at AFC Fylde, the Hatters haven’t played at Edgeley Park since September 19 when they beat Alfreton Town 1-0 thanks to a spectacular Ryan Ellison volley.
After their premature cup exit, Neil Young’s side have picked up four points on travels at Gainsborough Trinity and local rivals Curzon Ashton last weekend – with the win at Trinity seeing County equal their number of away wins from last season already.
However attention will now turn to improving their average home form. Young’s side have only picked up nine points from the possible 18 on offer at Edgeley Park so far this campaign and have been struggling to break sides down in SK3.
Thirteen goals scored this season means the Hatters are the joint third lowest scorers in the division alongside this weekend’s visitors – only Gloucester and AFC Telford who are sat 20th and bottom (22nd) respectively have scored fewer goals.
However County’s positive start which sees them occupy the last play-off spot, just six points behind the early pacesetters Fylde, has been down to them having the second tightest defence in the sixth tier of English football – with just 11 goals conceded so far this campaign.
The visitors have struggled slightly so far this season and currently lie 17th. However they’re currently on a five game unbeaten run in the National League North, although three of them have been draws.
In the middle of their unbeaten run, Martin Drury’s side have crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Evo-Stik Premier Division side Salford City. The Avenue were forced into a replay back at the Horsfall Stadium after a 1-1 draw at Moor Lane. However Richie Allen’s extra-time winner sent the Ammies through to the fourth qualifying round this weekend.
County will be boosted by the return of Karl Ledsham from suspension in midfield, but Abdulai Bell-Baggie and Glenn Rule will again miss out through suspension. Wigan loanee Matty Hamilton has returned to the Latics, after a disappointing injury filled month at Edgeley Park. Jake Kirby may return from injury to feature.
For the Avenue, former Hyde winger Connor Hughes is expected to feature after joining the club on loan from FC Halifax last week. The 22-year-old was a target for Young in the summer before deciding to join the National League side instead. County were also close to signing and naming Hughes in their squad last Friday, before Darren Kelly decided to loan him to Bradford instead.
This weekend’s referee is Mr Hunt from Liverpool, and he may not be the most popular choice amongst the Hatters faithful. The official, who is refereeing his second County match of the season after overseeing their 2-1 win at Broadhurst Park over FC United in August, postponed their match at Ewen Fields against Hyde last season with just one minute left on the clock with Alan Lord’s side winning 1-0. The match was forced to be replayed, and ended 1-1, a result that all but ended County’s play-off hopes last season.
Stockport County: Ormson, Hurst, Morton, Ellison, Connolly, O’Hanlon, Roberts, Montrose, Garvin, Ledsham, Joyce, Robinson, Kirby, Evans, Cham, Odejayi, Colley, West.
Bradford Park Avenue: Stewart, Turner, King, Mather, Pursehouse, Burgin, Dean, Priestley, Ainge, St Juste, Scott, Schofield, Chilaka, Walshaw, Potts, Marshall, Hughes.
Referee: Mr Jonathan Hunt (Liverpool)
By: Callum Matthews