STOCKPORT County will this Saturday make their second successive away-trip into Staffordshire, when they visit Hednesford Town (KO 15:00 GMT).
The Hatters travel there as current leaders of the National League North’s form table, having failed to take maximum points on only one occasion in their last five outings (at the home, as it happens, of the league’s other Staffordshire outfit, Tamworth – with whom the spoils were shared a fortnight ago).
And this weekend’s match at Keys Park will almost have the feel of a ‘second-leg’ tie, given that the two sides met at Edgeley Park as recently as 18 days ago!
On that occasion, County ran out emphatic 3-0 winners. And, although, Hednesford’s fortunes have revived a tad since then, with draws against Gloucester and Alfreton, the Pitmen remain in deep trouble – one place off the bottom and five points adrift of safety.
Times have not just been turbulent for the West Midlands side on the pitch, either. Immediately following the defeat at Edgeley Park on March 1, and in one of this season’s more bizarre episodes, manager Frank Sinclair parted company with the club – only to be reinstated three days later.
The fixture has been staged on two previous occasions – culminating in a 3-1 victory for the hosts two seasons back and a one-all draw in September 2014. The result in Hednesford’s favour during 2013/14, followed up by a single-goal win for the Pitmen in SK3, saw them become the only side to achieve a ‘double’ over County for that campaign.
The Hatters, now in 10th position and seven points away from the play-off places, will no longer be able to call upon the services of two midfielders this season.
Karl Ledsham played his final game for County last Saturday against Gloucester – before leaving to begin a coaching career in America. And Charlie Russell has gone out on loan to Northwich Victoria until the end of the season.
Additionally, Micah (’the striker’) Evans has, on the eve of the match, been loaned out to league rivals Chorley for the remainder of this campaign
Defender Chris Smalley will, however, be available again after missing the victory over Gloucester because of family reasons.
Hednesford, meanwhile, have boosted their ranks by taking central midfielder Jonathan Royle on loan from Wrexham – subject, that is, to the ‘international clearance’ such arrangements involving Welsh clubs entail.
County fans, wearily recalling how an eagerly-anticipated loan deal to bring in the Dragons’ Kayden Jackson before Christmas collapsed following an extended clearance-delay of two weeks, will wish their hosts good luck with that one!
But, whatever the outcome there, some former Hatters are likely to be lining up against their old club.
In addition to Paul Ennis and Danny Glover – both of whom featured in the reverse-fixture earlier this month – Hednesford include among their playing number Blackburn loanee Mo Cham, who turned out half a dozen times for the Hatters last autumn, and Marvin Robinson, with half that number of County appearances to his name in 2005.
Hednesford Town: Crane (GK), Ransome (GK), Bailey (C), Truelove, Fitzwater, Williams, Digie, Trainer, Cham, Payne, Thomas, Todd, Thorley, Ennis, Perry, Robinson, Glover, Peers, Obeng, Royle.
Stockport County: Ormson (GK), Smith (GK), Morton, Roberts, Connolly, O’Hanlon (C), Smalley, Ellison, Joyce, Field, Garvin, Holsgrove, Menagh, Odejayi, Marsden, Brodie, Anoruo, West.
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis
By Gareth Evans