Substitute Tanto Oalofe secured a point late on for County, as a new month began with equal shares of six goals against Crawley at Edgeley Park.
But the Hatters will be disappointed not to have won, after goals from Louie Barry and early first-half substitute Antoni Sarcevic had put them in control just after the half-hour mark. The ‘Red Devils’ then pulled a goal back shortly prior to the interval, got back on terms half a dozen minutes after it, and went ahead midway through the second half, before Olaofe levelled two minutes from time.
September brought with it some welcome late-summer sunshine, following what had weather-wise been an awful August, as County took to the field showing two changes from the starting line-up at Mansfield seven days previously.
Dave Challinor, having been linked a couple of days earlier with the managerial vacancy at League One Charlton, recalled Nick Powell and Ryan Rydel to replace Oalofe and Ethan Pye. The latter two were both named among the substitutes on a bench that also included newly-arrived season-long loanees, Joel Cotterill and Alfie Pond, following their respective arrivals from Swansea and Wolves.
The visitors, for their part, included among their substitutes goalkeeper, and Fulham loanee, Luca Ashby-Hammond, who, without conceding a goal, had turned out between the sticks on loan for County in an FA Trophy-tie, as well as in the Semi-Final and Final of the Cheshire Senior Cup that the Hatters had successfully lifted, during the latter stages of the 2021/22 campaign.
The first occurrence of note, with fewer than 10 minutes on the clock, saw Kyle Knoyle replaced by Sarcevic after the right wing-back had failed to shake off a knock from the opening exchanges. But the second, ironically in the 13th minute, was rather less unlucky for the Hatters, as they took the lead through Barry.
Not that there was any luck involved in the goal, mind, as the Aston Villa loanee, after being fed by Powell, struck a shot with true venom from the edge of the box that flew past goalkeeper Corey Addai and into the top-right corner for his third goal in as many League games.
Addai was called into action again shortly afterwards, to catch a Paddy Madden header after the skipper had connected with a looping Rydel delivery from the left. And County’s Number One was also tested, as Ben Hinchliffe dived to smother Liam Kelly’s well-struck volley from 20 yards out.
Barry fired two further efforts beyond the left post and into the arms of Addai, either side of a shot by Nick Tsaroulla that the left wing-back blasted high and wide for the visitors after cutting inside. Then, 10 minutes ahead of the break, County’s lead was doubled in delightful style, as Madden, from the edge of the area, threaded the ball through for Sarcevic calmly to dink over Addai.
With half-time approaching, Hinchliffe kept out a free-kick from Will Wright – but a minute later, Wright’s cross from the right found Adam Campbell, whose volley went in off the near post to halve Crawley’s arrears.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Barry, 13; Sarcevic, 35), Crawley 1 (Campbell, 42).
Within two minutes of the resumption, the Hatters looked set to restore their two-goal advantage as Barry was played through on goal by Powell – only to sky his shot well over the six feet and four inches of Addai and high into Railway End orbit.
Five minutes later, the Crawley ‘keeper parried an angled shot by Barry from the left, but the next significant action, at the other end, saw the Red Devils equalise, as Laurence Maguire – younger brother of Harry, and making his debut on loan from Chesterfield – volleyed home after latching on to Kelly’s delivery from the right.
County introduced Cotterill and Pond for their debuts as Hatters just after the hour – but, three minutes later, Crawley went ahead, when the ball broke in the area for Danilo Orsi who slid it past Hinchliffe to celebrate, after briefly glancing across for fear of an offside flag, the visitors’ third.
The Hatters’ attack – by now with Olaofe added – sought to regain a foothold in the contest, as half-chances from Madden and Barry were respectively blocked and driven wide, before Olaofe came to the rescue with his equaliser, slotting past Addai from the right after chasing down Cotterill’s lofted through-ball.
Ten minutes of added time were announced to stir hopes of a County winner – albeit ultimately in vain. Sarcevic came closest to bagging one by firing into the right side-netting, before Madden headed over with the last touch of the afternoon.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Barry, 13; Sarcevic, 35; Olaofe, 88), Crawley 3 (Campbell, 42; Maguire, 53; Orsi, 65).
Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; A. Wright (Pond, 62), Horsfall, Touray; Knoyle (Sarcevic, 9), Collar, Croasdale (Cotterill, 62), Rydel; Powell (Olaofe, 76); Madden (Capt.), Barry.
[Debuts for the following players, each with a unique SCAN [Stockport County Appearance Number]: Joel Cotterill (1456); and Alfie Pond (1457).]
Unused Subs: Smith, Pye, Johnson.
Man of the Match: Barry.
Attendance: 7,986 (119 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.