STOCKPORT COUNTY FC

Stockport County 1-2 Aldershot Town

County Shot Down Again On A September Saturday

The Hatters’ first home match on a Saturday afternoon in three weeks saw their four-match winning run in SK3 ended by the ‘Shots’ of Aldershot Town, whose two goals within four first-half minutes earned the points – rendering on-loan Joe Piggott’s sweet strike 15 minutes from time a mere consolation.

The defeat was a second consecutive one for the Hatters, who, having also lost against Chorley seven days earlier, drop down a couple of places within the play-off positions into seventh.

County took to the field in the mid-September sunshine, showing two changes from the starting line-up at Chorley. Left-winger Joe Leesley, who had arrived at Edgeley Park on loan from Harrogate Town during the week, went straight into the side in Ben Jackson’s stead, while Nyal Bell replaced another Joe-loanee, Piggott, as the lone striker.

The first chance of note fell to the visitors – albeit by way of a header, rather than a ‘Shot’ – as a Connor Shields cross from the right, with just under five minutes played, was nodded downwards by Alex Fletcher and comfortably caught on the bounce by Ben Hinchliffe.

At the away end three minutes later, another header, by Ash Palmer, following Leesley’s – and the game’s – first corner from the right, looked to be goal-bound before it was blocked by a defender.

As the half progressed, the Shots were the livelier side. And, just ahead of the half-hour mark, they took the lead, as Shields’ cross from the right was chested down by Harrison Panayiotou, whose right-footed half-volley on the turn flew past Hinchliffe and into the far corner.

Four minutes later, the advantage was doubled, and the Hatters were left with a mountain to climb, after Alefe Santos fired home an unstoppable thunderbolt of a shot from distance.

It could have been three, four, or even five, ahead of the break, but for Hinchliffe, who tipped over a well-struck effort by Ethan Chislett, before catching Kodi Lyons-Foster’s powerful header, and then parrying Palmer’s deflected header from a Santos shot – with County’s woodwork also then coming to the rescue, as Panayiotou struck the right post on the rebound.

In the dying seconds, Elliot Osborne enjoyed what was only the second chance of a hugely disappointing half for County – but his shot was kept out by visiting Number One Mitch Walker, who also held on to Leesley’s under-hit follow-up.

HALF-TIME: County 0, Aldershot 2 (Panayiotou, 29; Santos, 33).

The Hatters, having gone in at the interval with the same deficit as they had a week previously, earned a couple of early second-half free-kicks – both of which, from Osborne 35 yards out and Leesley on the left flank, were met by the head of Palmer and repelled by the hands of Walker.

After resuming brightly, County suffered a further setback just ahead of the hour-mark, when captain Paul Turnbull limped off with a knee injury – to be replaced by Jackson. Piggott also entered the fray, and, within minutes of his introduction, went close to reducing the arrears with a long-range shot that Walker did well to parry around the right post.

That effort by the substitute proved a taster of what as to follow, as Piggott latched on to Osborne’s pass from the left, before unleashing a curling shot from outside the area and into the top-right corner to give County a potential lifeline with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

Leesley almost repeated the feat of his fellow home debutant shortly afterwards, but the wide man’s header, from an Adam Thomas cross on the right, flashed agonisingly wide of the far post.

And towards the end of six added-time minutes, a long throw by Dan Cowan from the right caused panic in the Aldershot box – only for visiting skipper Robbie Tinkler to head off the line.

FULL-TIME: County 1 (Piggott, 75), Aldershot 2 (Panayiotou, 29; Santos, 33).

Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan (Piggott, 63), Palmer, Keane, Cowan; Turnbull (Capt.) (Jackson, 58), Walker; Thomas, Osborne, Leesley (Dimaio, 82); Bell.

Unused Subs: Ormson, Arthur.

Booked: Turnbull, Jackson.

Man of the Match: Piggott.

Attendance: 4,279 (226 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.

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