Aldershot 2-2 Stockport County

The Hatters will host an FA Cup replay after their Second Round trip to National League Aldershot finished with honours even, following a pulsating four-goal tie.

The entertainment on a dank Sunday afternoon saw the ‘Shots’ take an early lead, which was promptly cancelled out by a sensational strike by Neill Byrne – before captain Paddy Madden fired County in front shortly after half-time, only to be pegged back by a second goal for the Hampshire side midway through the second half.

Aldershot mercifully escaped the snow which had blanketed much of the rest of the country, although some light rain fell an hour or so before the Hatters took to the field under clearer skies, and showing three changes from their League Two starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Salford five days earlier. Odin Bailey, Byrne and Akil Wright were the players recalled – replacing Ryan Croasdale, Fraser Horsfall and Tanto Olaofe, all of whom were named among the nine substitutes permitted for the competition.

The hosts, having progressed courtesy of a remarkable 7-4 triumph at Swindon in the previous stage, initiated the tie’s inaugural attack inside the first minute – with Jack Barham cutting in from the right, before unleashing a low shot that Ben Hinchliffe diverted beyond the far post courtesy of an outstretched leg.

Aldershot earned a second corner three minutes later, after a strike from Swiss striker, and scorer of five FA Cup goals to date, Lorent Tolaj, was blocked and deflected by Kyle Knoyle. But the Shots found a way through with their next effort, as Josh Stokes – fed by Ryan Glover on the left – put them ahead with another attempt that took a deflection – on this occasion, off Macauley Southam-Hales – to deceive and beat Hinchliffe.

The hosts’ advantage, however, lasted under three minutes – with Byrne advancing from just beyond the halfway-line, and then producing a stunner of a shot from 25 yards out that flew into the top-right corner for his first goal as a Hatter and County’s equaliser.

Stokes, having, by virtue of his goal, drawn level with Tolaj as his club’s leading marksman in all competitions, tried his luck again shortly before the half-hour mark with a shot that fizzed past the left upright. And from County’s first corner half a dozen minutes later – delivered as a daisy-cutter from the right by Southam-Hales – Madden fired over.

Eight minutes ahead of the break, Glover drilled narrowly wide of County’s right post – before Nick Powell, in added time, tested home goalkeeper Jordi van Stappershoef with a low drive that Aldershot’s Number One dived to smother.

HALF-TIME: Aldershot 1 (Stokes, 10), County 1 (Byrne, 13).

The rain returned for the resumption, which began with a goal for the Hatters to give them the lead for the first time. A trademark Southam-Hales dash down the right saw the Welshman pass to Powell on the near side of goal, who, in turn, squared across the six-yard box for Madden to convert from close range within 35 seconds of the new half.

Some end-to-end fare then ensued: a Glover free-kick was deflected beyond County’s right post; Madden and Ibby Touray had shots blocked in quick succession by Haji Mnoga; and Tolaj skied over, after connecting with Touray’s mis-hit clearance.

Around the half’s mid-point, the hosts got themselves back on terms following a break that saw substitute Kwame Thomas knock down for Tolaj who, from the left, picked out Stokes in the centre – with the teenager showing good composure to advance on goal and fire past Hinchliffe.

Each ‘keeper was being kept on his toes, as both teams went in search of a winner. Bailey was twice denied by van Stappershoef, who saved from both close and long range, before also denying Powell in front of the right post. And Hinchliffe used his legs to prevent a Stokes hat-trick.

County brought on Olaofe and Antoni Sarcevic with nine minutes left, in a bid to freshen up the attack – and the former teed up the latter for an angled shot from the right that van Stappershoef parried away. Sarcevic also twice blasted over in added time – but, with the scorers left further untroubled, the two sides will get to do it all again in SK3 the week after next to decide which of them will visit West Bromwich Albion in the Third Round.

FULL-TIME: Aldershot 2 (Stokes, 10 and 67), County 2 (Byrne, 13; Madden, 46).

Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Knoyle, Byrne, Pye (Horsfall, 59); Southam-Hales, Wright (Cotterill, 34), Powell (Sarcevic, 81), Bailey, Touray; Madden (Capt.) (Olaofe, 81), Wootton.

Unused Subs: J. Smith, Croasdale, Pond, Mee, Johnson.

Booked: Wright, Pye, Southam-Hales.

Attendance: 4,756 (383 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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