Chester 0-1 Stockport County

The Hatters’ first Cheshire Senior Cup-tie in over 21 months saw them edge out National League North hosts Chester by a single second-half goal.

Substitute Millenic Alli, making a temporary reappearance as a Hatter in the course of his season-long loan at Chorley, scored for the first time in a competitive County game to settle the tie – during which Chester had earlier missed a penalty before the break.

County rang the changes, showing 10 alterations from the initial line-up against Stamford at Edgeley Park three days earlier – with Arjan Raikhy the only remaining starter from the FA Cup-tie.

All those who took to the field with Raikhy did, however, have at least one first-team appearance to their names – while the bench, in contrast, comprised three players from the club’s Academy, together with returning loanees Alli and Lewis Earl (currently at Warrington Rylands) who had been permitted to turn out by way of a break from their respective spells elsewhere. The hosts, for their part, included former Hatter Darren Stephenson among the starters.

And Stephenson it was who almost struck an early telling blow against his old club. With just over a quarter of an hour played, his shot from the right took a deflection off captain Liam Hogan before looping towards goal – only for Stephenson’s one-time County team-mate Ben Hinchliffe to tip the ball over.

Jude Oyibo then fired wide of the right post for Chester, before Raikhy fashioned County’s first chance in the form of a low shot that home goalkeeper Louis Gray dived to smother. And the home defence was called into action again shortly afterwards – clearing Will Collar’s header from a Ryan Rydel cross on the left.

Stephenson drilled another effort beyond the right upright, and Jack Redshaw saw a shot deflected behind, as well as a free-kick punched away by Hinchliffe – who also saved well from James Hardy – as the National League North side continued to look dangerous.

With fewer than 10 minutes of the half remaining, the Hatters had a let-off after a penalty had been awarded for Tom Walker’s trip on Oyibo. Redshaw placed his spot-kick beyond the reach of Hinchliffe – albeit a little too far, as it struck the left post and was cleared.

Hinchliffe was on hand again to gather up a well-struck attempt from distance by Anthony Dudley, and to ensure that the teams went in level at the break.

HALF-TIME: Chester 0, County 0.

County introduced Alli for Scott Quigley upon the resumption, and started the new half the livelier before the substitute, just ahead of the hour-mark, showed a blistering turn of pace on the right to give County the lead – courtesy of a low shot into the far corner of the net.

The Hatters went close to doubling their advantage four minutes later, after Gray could only parry Collar’s cross from the right – but Rydel, following up, fired wide of the far post.

Home substitute Zack Clarke blasted narrowly wide of County’s left post, before Gray saved with his legs from Alex Reid and had his hands stung by a venomous Walker free-kick. But the scorers were not troubled further, and County’s name will now feature in the hat for the Second Round due to be played in early January.

FULL-TIME: Chester 0, County 1 (Alli, 59).

Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Fish, Hogan (Capt.), Pye; Walker, Collar, Barclay, Raikhy (Earl, 63), Rydel (Edwards, 89); Quigley (Alli, 46), Reid.

Unused Subs: Statham, Holding.

Booked: Walker.

Attendance: 385.

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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