THE HATTERS extended their unbeaten run in the National League North to 11 matches – but had to content themselves with picking up a single point, rather than all three, at Alfreton’s Impact Arena.
Having taken a late first-half lead through Josh Amis, they were pegged back in the 91st minute by substitute Liam Hearn’s scrambled equalizer – their first league goal conceded away from home since November – to drop out of the play-off positions on goal difference.
County took to the pitch, rendered heavy by overnight rain and snow, in a 4-3-1-2 formation and showing three changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Stalybridge a week previously.
Ben Hinchliffe, Jimmy Ball and captain Mark Ross returned to replace Ian Ormson, John Marsden and the injured Courtney Meppen-Walters.
Much of the first half proved an even affair – with County’s best chances coming courtesy of a Jimmy Ball half-volley and Elliot Osborne’s low drive from a poor Alfreton clearance that narrowly cleared, respectively, the crossbar and left post.
But six minutes ahead of the break, the Hatters took the lead.
Sam Minihan carried the ball some 25 yards before finding Danny Lloyd on the left flank, and Lloyd’s chipped cross was met by an unmarked Amis who headed home for his fifth goal of the season.
County went close to doubling the advantage through Lloyd just two minutes later, but the leading scorer’s curling shot was palmed away by Fabien Spiess in the home goal.
The second half saw the hosts enjoy the greater share of possession, albeit without producing an attempt on target before 90 minutes were up.
Tom Allan and home skipper Andy Monkhouse blazed shots wide of the right post, while Brad McGowan’s header flew beyond the opposite upright.
Chances for the Hatters after half-time were few and far between – with the best falling to Lloyd who, on 70 minutes, fired wide after Amis had been fouled in the build-up and Referee Sarsfield allowed play to continue.
Disappointed to not get all 3 points .. tough place to go have to put it right next week 💙 @StockportCounty
— Danny Lloyd (@dannylloyd1) February 11, 2017
As added time began, County looked to have withstood the hosts’ pressure and earned a third league win running, as well as three successive victories at Alfreton.
But a minute later, Lewis Montrose was adjudged to have put the ball behind while shepherding it out for a goal kick.
The resulting corner led to a concerted scramble in County’s area – with Paul Clayton’s shot being blocked on the line before fellow substitute Hearn stabbed the ball home from close range.
FULL-TIME: Alfreton 1 (Hearn, 90 + 1), County (Amis, 39).
Team: Hinchliffe, Ross (Capt.), Duxbury, Montrose, Clarke, Smalley, Minihan, Osborne (Brazel, 85), Amis (Odejayi, 72), Ball, Lloyd (Felix, 82).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Marsden.
By Gareth Evans