Stockport County 1-1 Harrogate Town

The Hatters began their February programme of matches with a share of the spoils at Edgeley Park against in-form Harrogate, that saw their lead at the top of the table trimmed slightly to four points.

An early Harrogate goal was cancelled out by Connor Lemonheigh Evans on the half-hour – but, despite enjoying the greater share of possession and chances thereafter, the Hatters were unable to add to their tally, leaving them with a third successive home draw against the North Yorkshire visitors, and still awaiting a first triumph over them at EP in five attempts and nearly nine years.

The Hatters took to the field on an overcast afternoon, and with an unchanged starting line-up from that which had gone on to achieve a first ‘double’ of the campaign at Doncaster a week previously. The same septet of substitutes was also named, to make up an identical County squad between matches for the first time since October’s meetings with Grimsby and Crewe.

Harrogate, sitting at the top of the divisional current-form table, and looking to notch up a fourth straight league triumph, included – in goalkeeper James Belshaw, captain Warren Burrell, leading scorer George Thomson and substitute Josh Falkingham – four players from the victorious National League North Play-off Final starting line-up which had faced Brackley back in 2018.

County fashioned the afternoon’s inaugural opportunity of note when, with five minutes on the clock, Lemonheigh Evans dispossessed Liam Gibson on the right before squaring to Nick Powell – but the latter’s first-time shot was blocked by Burrell.

At the other end and to the left of goal, eight minutes later, Abraham Odoh got in behind the Hatters’ defence – only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge by the back-tracking Macauley Southam-Hales. And, shortly afterwards, Ben Hinchliffe did well to keep out a low Thomson shot after it had taken a deflection.

But these reprieves were short-lived, as, just past the quarter-hour mark, Harrogate took the lead. Stockport-born Matty Daly was the provider, courtesy of a low delivery from the left that Dean Cornelius converted from close range.

It was a case of cometh the half-hour, cometh the double-barrelled men, as the one with the hyphen in his surname chased a seemingly lost cause to tee up the one without for County’s equaliser. Southam-Hales’ retrieval of Paddy Madden’s lofted ball before it went over the right by-line led to a delivery across the six-yard box for Lemonheigh Evans to bundle home and register his second goal in as many games.

Tanto Olaofe connected with Odin Bailey’s cross from the left to head past the near upright (and was to nod wide of it again in added time, from the same provider), and Bailey also fired beyond the post concerned, as the buoyed-up Hatters applied further pressure. But their half, and that of Southam-Hales, came to a desperately unlucky end, as the right wing-back suffered another in his season’s succession of injuries, and was stretchered off.

HALF-TIME: County 1 (Lemonheigh Evans, 30), Harrogate 1 (Cornelius, 16).

Drizzle was falling in SK3, as Daly fired beyond the right post during the opening seconds of the new half, before Ibby Touray – who had replaced Southam-Hales just ahead of the break – latched on to a Bailey cross from the left and propelled towards goal a downward header that Belshaw dived to parry.

The Hatters brought on Ryan Croasdale and Antoni Sarcevic together shortly after the hour-mark – and the Hatters went close half a dozen minutes later, when a Lemonheigh Evans daisy-cutter from the right fizzed along the goalmouth and narrowly past the far post.

A further double-substitution, with 14 minutes remaining, saw Myles Hippolyte and – by way of his home bow as a Hatter – Rico Richards introduced to freshen up the attacking endeavour. And within five minutes, Hippolyte had twice been denied by Belshaw who tipped the substitute’s first shot over and parried away his second.

Croasdale and Richards proceeded to make the County replacements’ presence felt further, unleashing attempts that were blocked in a crowded Harrogate area. And Akil Wright’s shot in added time was deflected agonisingly shy of the left post to keep honours even.

FULL-TIME: County 1 (Lemonheigh Evans, 30), Harrogate 1 (Cornelius, 16).

Team (4-4-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales (Touray, 45 + 1), Horsfall, Wright, Bristow; Lemonheigh Evans (Hippolyte, 76), Camps (Croasdale, 64), Bailey (Sarcevic, 64), Powell; Olaofe (Richards, 76), Madden (Capt.).

Unused Subs: Smith, Byrne.

Booked: Wright, Sarcevic, Horsfall.

Man of the Match: Lemonheigh Evans.

Attendance: 9,325 (243 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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