Stockport County 2-0 Crewe Alex

The Hatters’ first match in nearly three weeks, and final home game of 2022, saw them celebrate Christmas with a Boxing Day defeat of Cheshire near-neighbours Crewe at Edgeley Park, for a third successive win in all competitions.

In front of what was just under a five-figure attendance in SK3, second-half goals from skipper Paddy Madden and in-form scorer Will Collar secured the victory that put County within four points of the play-off places.

Having suffered the postponement of their last two fixtures due to freezing conditions, the Hatters took to the field in rather milder, as well as sunny, weather – and with an unchanged line-up from that which had started both the FA Cup Second Round replay against Charlton 19 days previously and their most recent league match, at Hartlepool, during the first week of December. There was a double-take to be had so far as County’s and Crewe’s benches were concerned, with each featuring a Welsh Connor Evans!

Madden created the first chance of the afternoon, when, with four minutes on the clock, and after a one-two with Myles Hippolyte, he shimmied his way into the Crewe area – only to be denied one-on-one by visiting goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo.

Okonkwo dived to his left again seven minutes later to smother an angled shot from Collar. County, however, did suffer a setback amid this promising start, as Macauley Southam-Hales limped off – to be replaced by James Brown.

Ryan Rydel was next to try his luck for the Hatters, courtesy of a low shot that looked goal-bound before Eli King deflected it past the right post. And either side of the half-hour mark, Ryan Croasdale and Hippolyte executed attempts that ended up beyond the same upright.

Towards the end of a half characterised by a good deal of stopping and starting, Croasdale came off worse in a clash of heads with King and played out the consequential six minutes of added time with his head bandaged.

HALF-TIME: County 0, Crewe 0.

Croasdale continued to sport the head bandage, and the Hatters persisted with the pressure, upon re-starting – with Kyle Wootton heading a Brown cross from the right beyond the far upright, and Rydel striking the opposite post, within three minutes of the resumption.

Rydel then looked to play provider with a looping delivery from the left that Wootton headed  back across from the far side of the six-yard box for Collar to nod into the arms of Okonkwo. But Rydel’s second foray down the same flank three minutes later was by far the more spectacular, as his startling burst of pace culminated in an angled effort that cleared Okonkwo and fell for Madden to head over the line to give County a deserved lead.

Wootton fired a shot from the edge of the area that flew narrowly over the Cheadle End goal, before the visitors – lying four League two places and three points behind County at the start of play – fashioned their first attempt of note, in the form of King’s dangerously in-swinging corner from the left that Ben Hinchliffe did well to palm on to the crossbar and then away to safety.

The principle of fine margins came to mind when, moments later, the Hatters themselves had a corner which was ultimately to see a doubling of their advantage, as Rydel’s delivery from the right was headed in by Collar for County’s second goal of the afternoon and his fifth of the month.

Crewe missed out on a consolation when Hinchliffe punched the ball away from the head of captain Rod McDonald, following Tariq Uwakwe’s corner from the right. But the ‘Railwaymen’ did get to play their part in a a quirky moment as both Connor Evanses were introduced as substitutes for late cameos – with the County one going close by firing a shot from the left just shy of the far post in added time.

FULL-TIME: County 2 (Madden, 54; Collar, 68), Crewe 0.

Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, R. Johnson; Southam-Hales (Brown, 12), Collar (Sarcevic, 73), Croasdale (Evans, 88), Hippolyte, Rydel (Camps, 73); Wootton, Madden (Capt.) (Crankshaw, 73).

Unused Subs: Jones, MacDonald.

Man of the Match: Madden.

Attendance: 9,837 (1,055 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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