Stockport County 1-3 Crewe Alexandra

Shrove Tuesday night ended with the Hatters feeling flat, as they fell to defeat under the Edgeley Park lights against Cheshire near-neighbours, and fellow promotion chasers, Crewe.

Two goals for the visitors at either end of the first half, and sandwiching a strike by leading County scorer, Tanto Olaofe, saw them go in ahead at the break – and a third shortly after it left the Hatters with the veritable mountain to climb, as results elsewhere cut their lead at the top of the table to a single point.

County took to the field on a relatively mild evening, and showing two changes from the starting line-up at Grimsby three days earlier – with skipper Paddy Madden and Ibby Touray replacing Callum Camps and the injured Akil Wright. On the bench, Kyle Wootton returned from injury after a three-match absence, while there was a first squad appearance for 20-year-old loanee defender Rhys Bennett from Manchester United.

The third-placed visitors included among their starters Aaron Rowe, who had spent the final three months or so of the previous campaign as a Hatter, whilst on loan from Huddersfield. And it was they who created the contest’s opening chances, when, with five minutes on the clock, Ben Hinchliffe was forced to save in quick succession from Courtney Baker-Richardson at close range and, subsequently, from Josh Austerfield.

Three minutes later, though, Crewe were in front, as County failed to clear a diagonal free-kick from Rowe on the right and Micky Demetriou, after latching on to a headed pass by Ed Turns, bundled home through a crowded area from 10 yards.

Crewe-born Hatter Nick Powell, who had begun his career at Gresty Road, fired over and wide of the left post, as County looked to get back on level terms. But Powell’s boyhood club continued to press, and, as drizzle began to fall in SK3 following a trilogy of Crewe corners, Austerfield blasted an effort into the Hatters’ left side-netting.

Antoni Sarcevic – a second former ‘Railwayman’ now plying his trade at EP – went close with an attempt that flew just shy of the left upright 12 minutes before the interval. But a couple of minutes later, having fed by Powell, he worked to even more clinical effect – squaring from the left by-line for Olaofe to convert his 18th goal of the campaign in all competitions, and, moreover, County’s equaliser.

The parity lasted only seven minutes, before Crewe regained the advantage with half-time imminent. Having netted the opener, Demetriou turned provider, and also repaid the earlier assist from Turns, by crossing from the left for the on-loan Brighton centre-back to head in.

Five minutes of added time were supplemented by several more, after Referee Hair took a tumble and, despite treatment, had to be replaced in the middle by the Fourth Official, Richard Eley.

HALF-TIME: County 1 (Olaofe, 35), Crewe 2 (Demetriou, 8; Turns, 42). 

The Hatters made a triple-substitution upon the resumption – introducing Camps, Neill Byrne and Odin Bailey – but, within half a dozen minutes, had fallen further behind. Rio Adebisi’s corner from the right was cleared, albeit only to the edge of the box, from where Austerfield drilled home a third for the visitors.

Wootton and, just after the hour, Myles Hippolyte were also brought on, in the hope of further bolstering County’s attacking effort, although the Hatters’ only immediate attempts on goal came from distance, courtesy of earlier substitutes, Camps and Bailey, whose respective punts were gathered up by visiting goalkeeper, Harvey Davies, and fizzed beyond the right post.

Madden then saw an effort deflected over, and in added time an Olaofe header also cleared the Cheadle End crossbar – as County’s four-match unbeaten run came to an end, with Crewe notching up a first league triumph over the Hatters in 13 years.

FULL-TIME: County 1 (Olaofe, 35), Crewe 3 (Demetriou, 8; Turns, 42; Austerfield, 51).

Team (4-3-3): Hinchliffe; Cass, Horsfall, Touray, Bristow (Byrne, 46); Lemonheigh Evans (Bailey, 46), Sarcevic (Wootton, 55), Croasdale (Camps, 46); Olaofe, Madden (Capt.), Powell (Hippolyte, 62).

Unused Subs: Smith, Bennett.

Man of the Match: Olaofe.

Attendance: 9,363 (906 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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