Stockport County 5-0 MK Dons

The Hatters returned to action at Edgeley Park, and to winning ways in five-star style, as they ‘went nap’ in a teatime televised contest with promotion rivals MK Dons.

First-half strikes in the final quarter of an hour before the interval from Callum Camps, skipper Paddy Madden and top scorer Tanto Olaofe put the Hatters in control of proceedings. Connor Lemonheigh Evans netted soon after the resumption to strengthen their hold further, before substitute Neill Byrne added a fifth deep into added time – ensuring for County a third ‘double’ of the campaign, a sixth successive game unbeaten and a first triumph over MK at EP in nearly 20 years.

More pertinently for the present, the Hatters moved to within two points of table-toppers Mansfield (over whom they have a game in hand) and, crucially, to four above their fourth-placed visitors in the play-off places.

County took to the field in blustery, drizzly conditions for the late-afternoon start that had been arranged to accommodate the television coverage, and having dropped a position to third following the day’s earlier results. The starting line-up showed three changes from that at Crawley five days earlier – with Lemonheigh Evans, Madden and, on his birthday, Nick Powell replacing Odin Bailey and Rico Richards (both of whom were named among the substitutes), as well as the injured Antoni Sarcevic.

County’s first sniff of goal, within the first couple of minutes, actually came courtesy of a visiting defender, as Warren O’Hora poked the ball narrowly wide of his own goal’s left post – before Madden, four minutes later, volleyed past the same upright from outside the area.

At the other end, the visitors thrice went close in quick succession: Ben Hinchliffe was on hand brilliantly to tip away a strike by Stephen Wearne, who had connected with Joe Tomlinson’s cross from the left; Emre Tezgel drilled a low shot just shy of the left post; and a Jack Payne free-kick from 25 yards grazed the opposite upright.

Light drizzle turned for a while into quite heavier rain, as the chances created came from MK rather than SK – with captain and joint-leading scorer Alex Gilbey unleashing a long-range shot on the left into the arms of Hinchliffe, Todd Kane blocking a Tomlinson thunderbolt, and Payne firing an effort into Cheadle End orbit.

It was notably against the run of play, then, when, on the half-hour, County took the lead. And the incident was sparked by a huge dollop of assistance from visiting goalkeeper Michael Kelly, who lost control of the ball to the left of his goal – allowing Camps to dispossess him and poke home from an angle into the empty net.

The visitors looked to get back on terms through Tomlinson, who broke through on goal – only to be denied by Hinchliffe, who saved with his legs. And five minutes after opening their account, the Hatters struck again to double the advantage – with Madden converting into the far-bottom corner after latching on to a Camps delivery from the right.

Only two minutes were added on ahead of the break, but they proved sufficient to allow a third County goal, as a delightfully-hooked Madden punt upfield found Olaofe, who kept his composure to round Kelly and slot in for a 20th goal of the season in all competitions.

HALF-TIME: County 3 (Camps, 30; Madden, 35; Olaofe, 45 + 1), MK Dons 0.

Incredibly, the Hatters began the second half in much the same way as they had ended the first – in all-out goal-scoring mode. Half a dozen minutes following the interval, Lemonheigh Evans added County’s fourth with an exquisite curling shot from the edge of the box into the top-left of the net, after the visitors had failed properly to clear an Ibby Touray cross.

Madden very nearly made it five moments later, when he cut in and struck the woodwork, after Kelly had palmed his shot up on to the left upright – and, following a triple-substitution by the visitors just before the hour, two of their new arrivals combined to fashion the first MK chance since half-time (and, indeed, since the half-hour), as Cameron Norman’s delivery from the right found Ellis Harrison, who headed wide of the near post.

A further visiting attack 11 minutes from time saw Tomlinson deliver a dangerous, low cross from the left that just required a touch to reduce the arrears – but substitute, and MK’s other equal-first marksman, Max Dean, was unable to apply it after sliding into the six-yard box.

As in the first half, added time for the second was to include an addition to County’s goal tally – with Byrne tapping in, after Kelly could only parry a header from Fraser Horsfall – that put a most satisfactory seal on the Saturday evening, as well as on the Hatters’ first home triumph over their visitors since the very first meeting between the two clubs a week before the Christmas of 2004.

FULL-TIME: County 5 (Camps, 30; Madden, 35; Olaofe, 45 + 1; Lemonheigh Evans, 51; Byrne, 90 + 4), MK Dons 0.

Team (4-3-3): Hinchliffe; Kane (Byrne, 68), Horsfall, Pye, Touray; Lemonheigh Evans (Hippolyte, 77), Powell (Croasdale, 61), Camps; Olaofe (Bailey, 68), Wootton, Madden (Capt.).

Unused Subs: Smith, Richards, Knight.

Booked: Kane.

Man of the Match: Camps.

Attendance: 9,727 (568 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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