Resurgent Stockport County made it four successive league wins in a comfortable 1-3 win at Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium, as Louie Barry set a new club record of seven goals in consecutive games for The Hatters.
First-half goals from the in-form Tanto Olaofe and midfielder Will Collar had Dave Challinor’s men cruising at the break, with Barry converting a second-half penalty to cap yet another fine afternoon for County.
After last weekend becoming the first County player to score in six consecutive league games since Neil Matthews in 1991, Barry’s seventh in a row here set a new post-war club record in a single season, coming in just his tenth league appearance for the club.
After that memorable 5-0 demolition of Wrexham at Edgeley Park, manager Challinor made just one change – an enforced one, as Ibby Touray was ruled out with an ankle injury and replaced by Akil Wright.
The Hatters maintained the 4-4-2 diamond shape which had served so well in the three successive wins prior to the trip to Accrington, with Ethan Pye fit to start after his injury scare late in the Wrexham victory last weekend and starting as the County left-back in Touray’s unfortunate absence.
In a rather scrappy opening ten minutes, disrupted by a number of niggly fouls slowing any momentum, Barry unsurprisingly found himself involved early on, as the Aston Villa loanee first tested the palms of goalkeeper Jon McCracken with a dipping half-volley, before going down inside the area under pressure from defender Brad Hills – referee Tom Reeves was unmoved.
If the first ten minutes were scrappy, however, the next ten were anything but from Stockport County.
Barry could not be denied for long, as he raced down the left and pulled back for Odin Bailey to tee up the relentless Tanto Olaofe on the edge of the area; Olaofe took a touch and curled delightfully low into the very bottom corner of Jon McCracken’s goal.
And much like the thrashing of the Red Dragons seven days prior, one quickly became two for The Hatters, as Antoni Sarcevic released midfield teammate Will Collar in on goal, with Collar remaining composed to flick his finish through the legs of a beaten McCracken and into the bottom corner.
With the in-form pair of Barry and Olaofe terrorising an opposition defence for the second weekend running, the mesmerising Barry then embarked on a quite remarkable run down the entire byline past three Accy defenders, with his eventual pullback deflected agonisingly wide of goal.
County continued to press in a largely dominant start, but Accrington did fire a warning shot when midfielder Ben Woods found space to try and curl one into Ben Hinchliffe’s far corner, only for Sarcevic to divert the effort narrowly wide of The Hatters’ goal.
It should probably have been three before the break for Challinor’s men, as Olaofe did superbly to win the ball back in the final third, and going on to find Macauley Southam-Hales out wide – but the Welshman’s cross to the back post could only be volleyed wide by the unmarked Barry.
From the half-hour mark onwards, the first half rather meandered toward its conclusion, with Accrington plugging away without much quality in the final third as the hosts attempted to give themselves a lifeline in the game.
A tame Joe Pritchard effort from distance was all the home side could produce in that regard prior to half-time, with The Hatters taking their two-goal lead in at the interval.
Having made a triple change at the break to try and force their way back into proceedings, the hosts found themselves having to replace Seb Quirk – one of the newly-introduced trio – less than five minutes later through injury, as number nine Matt Lowe entered the fray in place of the luckless Quirk.
John Coleman’s side came out amid a brighter start than their first half showing, and captain Joe Pritchard soon spurned a glorious chance to pull one back when a deflected strike from distance fell at his feet at close-range, only for the Accrington skipper to prod away from Hinchliffe’s goal.
But County soon reasserted their dominance on the hour mark when Odin Bailey was sandwiched in between two Accy defenders inside the area – referee Reeves pointed to the spot, and that man Barry made it an incredible seven goals in seven games as he slammed the spot-kick into the bottom corner.
The Hatters had their tails once again up following Barry’s record-breaking strike, with Sarcevic then sweeping Southam-Hales’ cutback inches wide of the far post in front of the buoyant travelling Blue & White Army.
The magnificent 1,900 County fans cared not a jot about the pouring rain in Accrington as their side continued to surge up the league table amid a truly resurgent run of form – and they were soon in full voice again to warmly applaud Olaofe and Barry off, with the duo replaced by captain Paddy Madden and Aberdeen loanee Jayden Richardson late on.
After doing so last weekend, County could not secure a second clean sheet in a row, however, when substitute Jack Nolan drilled one home from outside the area in the dying moments.
The Hatters did have to see out seven minutes of additional time, with Rosaire Longelo’s inswinging corner striking Ben Hinchliffe’s crossbar in the first of those minutes and flying away from danger.
Despite the late Accrington flurry, however, County did see out the additional time to seal that fourth consecutive league win and move up to eighth in the League Two table, outside the play-off positions on goal difference alone, and just three points off top spot.
FULL TIME: Accrington Stanley 1-3 Stockport County
County goals: Olaofe (13), Collar (16), Barry (pen, 59).
County line-up (4-4-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales, Wright, Horsfall, Pye; Collar, Croasdale ©, Sarcevic (Cotterill, 84), Bailey (Pond, 84), Olaofe (Madden, 73), Barry (Richardson, 73).
Unused subs: Smith, Mee, Johnson.
Attendance: 3,913 (1,901 County fans).