HAVING established themselves as the form-team of the National League North between mid-February and the onset of Easter, Stockport County must be perplexed at having since lost three matches in a row – and without finding the back of the net in almost five hours.
County’s latest conquerers, from far, faraway Lowestoft – hitherto with the worst away-record in the league – will, however, have been delighted to secure three points, courtesy of a goal quite late on in each half, to assist their quest for safety.
And, if truth be told, they were probably just as glad, irrespective of the result, that the match actually went ahead – in spite of persistent morning rain – so as to avoid an arduous midweek schlep later in April up to SK3 from the Far East!
It had been a close-run thing, mind. For the fixture was not certain to proceed until an hour before kick-off, when referee Peter Wright passed the Edgeley Park turf as fit for play – following excellent work by the County ground staff.
The County team that took to the pitch showed four changes from the starting line-up against Fylde five days previously.
Ian Ormson, having recovered from his Easter Monday illness, returned to don the goalkeeping gloves in place of Dean Henderson – who was now himself struck down by a bug. Richard Brodie was also unwell, while Marcus Poscha and Tom Field dropped to the bench – to be replaced by Danny Morton, Kayode Odejayi and (making his first senior start) George West, as the Hatters adopted a 4-4-2 ‘diamond’ formation.
Jamie Menagh was also named among the County substitutes, after being ruled out, due to injuries, for the last three weeks.
The opening exchanges featured few clear-cut chances for either side – although John Marsden made his presence felt with a jinking run from the halfway-line into the Lowestoft area, before his eventual shot took a deflection to loop comfortably into the arms of visiting ‘keeper, Ben Killip.
Otherwise, both clubs were restricted to trying their luck from distance. But long-range attempts by Danny Crow and Ryan Ellison led to routine saves for Ormson and Killip, respectively.
Of perhaps greater significance was the unforgiving playing surface, which, within six minutes, saw each team forced into making a substitution – with, first, Adam Smith and, subsequently, Obi Anoruo, succumbing to the effects of knocks they had picked up earlier.
Odejayi tested Killip, who dived to smother a low drive from the edge of the box. But, shortly afterwards, the Trawlerboys caused greater consternation at the other end, when a Crow through-ball evaded both Ryan Jarvis and Ormson – before fizzing narrowly wide of the left post.
Then, with seven minutes of the half remaining, the visitors took the lead. Their Montserratian international, Dean Mason, who had scored Lowestoft’s first goal in the reverse-fixture at Crown Meadow in November, seized upon a header by Sean O’Hanlon to race clear of the County defence and fire home from twelve yards.
Just two minutes later, their advantage was almost doubled when, from twenty-five yards out, Harry Kyprianou’s free kick was lofted onto the Hatters’ crossbar.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Lowestoft 1 (Mason, 38).
The Hatters needed to respond with purpose after the break – and, to be fair, they did so, by dominating possession for long spells, as well as creating scoring opportunities.
Odejayi, two minutes after the re-start, went close with a flicked shot towards goal that was deflected behind for the first of seven County corners. Menagh’s cross from the right was turned just shy of the far post by Marsden. O’Hanlon headed his side’s third corner past the left upright. The lively Menagh saw another of his deliveries turned around the right post. And O’Hanlon connected with his head again – this time, to a through-ball from Morton – before seeing his effort fly wide.
But, for all their efforts, the Hatters went unrewarded. And, as far as everything after was concerned, attention began to focus on Counting Crow’s efforts…
The Lowestoft striker fired a free kick from thirty yards harmlessly into Railway End orbit, before cutting in from the right and shooting wide of the far post. But, with eleven minutes left on the clock, it was third time lucky for him, as he beat Ormson to the race for a Morton throw-in, took advantage of the County number one’s momentary slip to the left of goal, and calmly side-footed into an empty net from a tight angle.
A freak goal of sorts (albeit, ultimately, a well-taken one) to settle matters beyond doubt, then.
But (sigh) such are the quirks of Edgeley Park-life…
FULL-TIME: County 0, Lowestoft 2 (Mason, 38; Crow, 79).
Subs not used: D Smith, Poscha.
Subs not used: Garrod, Putnins
By Gareth Evans at Edgeley Park