Stockport County produced a stirring late comeback with ten men but it proved too little, too late as by then a three goal deficit had all but guaranteed Hednesford Town the three points.
It was a difficult night for football with a swirling wind and persistent rain providing an additional challenge for County who went into the game on the back of a strong run of form.
HednesfordTownfound their stride first and drew an outstanding save from Ormson with a close range shot that he was able to tip wide. County responded with a through ball to Kristian Dennis but his control just let him down allowing Crane to gather in the home goal.
The first goal arrived after 12 mins and County will be disappointed that a squirming cross from the impressive Durrell was allowed to find its way to the far post where Neil Harvey had the relatively simple job of side-footing home.
County responded with some neat passing which saw Dennis played in on the left side of the box but his effort on goal was cleared off the line by the retreating Hednesford defence.
If it looked like a difficult job for the Hatters at that stage it got a whole lot worse just minutes later when a late tackle from Tunji Moses directly in front of the home bench drew a straight red card from the referee. The home side looked to press their advantage straight away and Jacobs recovered well to clear a dangerous cross at the far post as the lively Durrell continued to cause problems.
County were dealt a further blow when Mark Cowen was forced to withdraw due to an injury and he was replaced by the returning Mark Lees.
The home side continued to press and Ian Ormson’s handling had to be exemplary to collect two successive corners and leave County still in the game at the half time whistle.
Just five minutes into the restart though County fell further behind as a Neil Harvey flick was brilliantly volleyed into the far corner of Ormson’s goal by Jamey Osborne.
Chris Churchman found his way into the referees book two minutes later for a foul and the Ian Ormson had to be on top form to palm another close range shot wide of the goal. County were dealt another hammer blow from the resulting corner though as the ball ricoched around the box before falling to the feet of Harvey to grab his second of the night and give Hednesford an ultimately unassailable lead.
Alan Lord responded in positive fashion by throwing on Liam Dickinson as an extra striker and County started to play their best football of the match. A clever free kick from Platt played in Dennis and Crane in the Hednesford goal did well to smother at his feet. Skilful play from Jevons drew a County corner which was cleared by the home side.
County found a lifeline in the 66th minute as a brilliant exchange of passes from Platt and Churchman played Jevons into the right channel and his cross allowed Kristian Dennis to control, turn and fire home his fourth goal in two games.
County were playing the best football of the night although the home side looked dangerous on the break. More fine play earned County a corner and Duxbury’s looping header from Platt’s delivery went just wide.
The home side nearly put the game to bed with a poked effort passed Ormson but the County keeper was able to recover and drop onto the ball before it crossed the line, aided by the mud in the goalmouth slowing the ball up. Immediately afterwards Dennis worked a shooting chance on his right foot but screwed it wide.
County nearly made for an interesting last ten minutes when again Kristian Dennis was put through on goal but Crane in the home goal produced an outstanding save to deny him.
Although County kept pushing it proved to be the last clear opening on a night where Alan Lord’s team had given their all but playing for 71 minutes with ten men had proved the decisive factor.
Crane, Disney, Campion (c), McCone, Francis, Thorley, Osborne (50) (Taylor 70), Durrell, Harvey (15, 55) (Woolfe 63), Blissett, Thompson-Brown (Macpherson 78)
Subs not used:
Ormson, Jacobs, Duxbury (O’Halloran 79), Platt, Fagbola, Cowen (Lees 26), Moses, Churchman, Dennis (66), Jevons (c), Howard (Dickinson 55)
Subs not used: Charnock, Lofthouse
Attendance: 585 (140)
Sent Off: Moses