Fraser’s Horsfall’s first-half header secured a much-needed, and deserved, second league win of the season for County side against AFC Wimbledon.
Fraser got on the end of Antoni Sarcevic’s corner in the tenth minute to bury a header at the Cheadle End, his first goal for Stockport County, to secure a vital three points for Dave Challinor’s side.
It was just reward from a much improved performance from the Hatters, who could and perhaps should have been more ahead at half-time after a dominant opening 45 minutes.
There were four changes from last league fixture against Swindon a week ago with a debut at left-wing-back for new signing Chris Hussey, just a day after joining from Port Vale. Macauley Southam-Hales returned from suspension on the right-hand-side, Fraser Horsfall came in to the centre of defence alongside Joe Lewis and Ryan Johnson, whilst Kyle Wootton came in for the suspended Paddy Madden up front.
Dave Challinor spoke in the buildup to the game wanting to see his team start on the front foot and he will certainly be pleased with what he saw in the opening exchanges as County, shooting towards the Cheadle End in the first-half, played with an intensity and aggression that forced Wimbledon back into their own half from the off.
Joe Lewis was bombing on down the right-hand side early on and it was his cross that led to the game’s first chance, finding Kyle Wootton at the back post who held off his man well, but nodded it too close to goalkeeper Nik Tzanev.
County were beginning to get a lot of joy down that right flank, Macauley Southam-Hales finding some space before finding Will Collar – his first-time effort was tipped behind by Tzanev.
Horsfall came close from the resulting corner, seeing a header blocked at point-blank range, but didn’t have to wait much longer for the breakthrough. Peeling away to the back post, he met Sarcevic’s corner delivery and nodded home from a tight angle, ‘keeper Tzanev not covering himself in glory by coming for the ball but failing to get there.
County were flying at this stage, Camps testing Tzanev again with a stinger from the edge of the area before Will Collar collected Ollie Crankshaw’s cross inside the box, but smashed it just over the crossbar.
Wootton was causing plenty of problems with his hold-up play, shrugging his man off on the edge of the box and hitting a piledriver towards the top corner that Tzanev again had to turn around the post.
Wimbledon slowly grew into the game as the half wore on, Ayoub Assal with a rare sight of goal just before the break but he slammed an effort over the bar, with better options waiting for the cross in the middle. County though, will have been frustrated at the break that they only had one goal to show for their dominance.
Half-Time: County 1-0 AFC Wimbledon (Horsfall, 11′)
Wimbledon brought on top scorer Nathan Young-Coombes at the break and Wimbledon were much better for it in the second-half, creating their best opening of the game within minutes of the restart. Lee Brown got away down the left-hand side and crossed low for Harry Pell, who was unmarked in the middle but Vit Jaros made himself big to block the shot.
Midfielder Pell was pushed higher up the pitch in the second-half and was starting to get into good areas inside the box, getting on the end of another Brown cross but sending a header comfortably wide.
County’s best chances after the break came on the counter-attack, looking to pick Wimbledon off as they pushed forward – the lively Crankshaw feeding Antoni Sarcevic in front of goal, but a heavy first touch saw him crowded out before he could get a shot away.
A bizarre moment fifteen minutes from time saw County awarded an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area after Tzanev collected a back-pass, but Camps effort was blocked by a nine-man Wimbledon wall.
Wimbledon had a big shout for a penalty late on in the game, the Cheadle End having their heart in their mouths as Josh Davison went down under a challenge from Joe Lewis – referee Sunny Gill waving play on. It was perhaps a moment of good fortune that County had merited on their efforts.
Southam-Hales had a chance to seal the win late on, leading a two-on-one counter-attack before seeing a shot tipped over the bar, but County saw out the final few minutes to secure a first win in six games, and just a second clean sheet in the league this season.
Full-Time: County 1-0 AFC Wimbledon (Horsfall, 11′)
Attendance: 8,073 (518 away fans)
Photographer: Mike Petch