Stockport County 2-1 Notts County

Friday night was County night in more senses than one, as the Hatters welcomed their promotion-chasing suffix-counterparts from Nottingham under the lights, and proceeded to edge them out by the odd goal in three at a sold-out Edgeley Park to retain a six-point advantage at the top of the table going into the festive season.

Former ‘Magpie’ Kyle Wootton, who had made more than 130 appearances for Notts over three seasons before joining the Hatters, struck early on against his old club – and, in the course of an open contest, each side had an effort cleared off the line before Paddy Madden put away a spot-kick late on – rendering an added-time goal by the visitors a mere consolation.

The ferocious winds first brought 24 hours earlier by Storm Pia had largely abated as the Hatters took to the field for their final pre-Christmas assignment of 2023 on a mildly breezy, but slightly drizzly, evening. They showed just the one change from their starting line-up against Sutton in SK3 six days previously – with Tanto Olaofe replacing Callum Camps, who was named among the substitutes.

The (Stockport) County bench included a second ex-Notts player in Jayden Richardson, who had been on loan at Meadow Lane during Wootton’s final campaign there in 2021/22.

Sixth-placed Notts, who had last won a league fixture at EP in 1965, launched the night’s inaugural attack towards the end of the first minute, as Aaron Nemane raced down the right flank, before unleashing a delivery that looped on to the top of the Hatters’ net.

Five minutes later, the Hatters earned the contest’s first corner – and made it well and truly count, with Kyle Knoyle’s low, out-swinging delivery from the right finding Wootton, who drilled home through a crowded box and into the bottom-left of the net for his third goal in as many successive league matches.

With a dozen minutes played, Danny Crowley crossed from the right for Republic of Ireland international David McGoldrick, but the striker, with his back to goal, could only take a brief touch before the ball was gathered up by Ben Hinchliffe.

At the other end, Odin Bailey’s free-kick from the left was deflected narrowly beyond the far upright by Aden Baldwin – who also threw himself in the way of an Ibby Touray shot that immediately followed the resulting corner.

Midway through the first half, Macaulay Langstaff delivered a dangerous cross from the right towards McGoldrick, who was denied by a superb intervention from Neill Byrne. And a few minutes later, Jodi Jones fired wide of the right post for the visitors from 20 yards out.

As Notts continued to press for an equaliser, leading scorer Langstaff flicked past the far post a Jones free-kick from the left, before clearing the crossbar with another effort from the edge of the area seven minutes before the break; a cross from the right by Richard Brindley took an awkward bounce that forced Hinchliffe to tip over; and McGoldrick fired a high strike up beyond the scoreboard and into the Railway End car park.

HALF-TIME: County 1 (Wootton, 7), Notts County 0. 

The Hatters sought to bolster their midfield upon the resumption, by introducing Akil Wright for Olaofe. But the visitors began the second half in similar attacking mode to the latter stages of the first period – with Jones sending over a ball from the left that evaded all in attendance, before soaring past the far upright.

A break by the Hatters, and a typically incisive through-ball touch from Madden, put Wootton through on goal – only for his shot to be deflected by visiting goalkeeper Aidan Stone beyond the right post. And from the corner that followed, Wright’s header was kept out, courtesy of a goal-line clearance by Brindley.

Three minutes ahead of the hour, the visitors had the ball in the net courtesy of Baldwin – although a flag was already raised for offside whilst a game of pinball had ensued following the delivery by Jones of a free-kick from the right.

Langstaff then hooked beyond the far post a Jones cross from the left, and Byrne again proved McGoldrick’s nemesis by clearing a shot from ‘Didzy’ off the line after good work by Nemane on the right.

The Hatters made a couple of further substitutions, and, with 18 minutes remaining, Camps, as one of the new arrivals, unleashed a shot from the edge of the box that fizzed past the left post.

Four minutes were left on the clock when the lead was doubled. A slip on the left, just inside the Notts area, by substitute Tobi Adebayo-Rowling let in Bailey who squared to the recently-introduced Richardson in front of goal. The Nottingham-born substitute was felled by visiting skipper Kyle Cameron, Referee Stockbridge pointed to the spot, and Cameron’s captaining opposite number Madden stepped up to convert a closing-stages penalty for the second consecutive game.

It proved rather a good job he did, as, in the second of five minutes added on, McGoldrick slotted home to halve the arrears and set up a nervy end to a frenetic night’s proceedings.

FULL-TIME: County 2 (Wootton, 7; Madden (penalty), 86), Notts County 1 (McGoldrick, 90 + 2). 

Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Byrne (Camps, 65), Horsfall, Pye; Knoyle, Croasdale (Powell, 65), Bailey (Cotterill, 90), Touray; Madden (Capt.); Wootton (Richardson, 80), Olaofe (Wright, 46).

Unused Subs: Smith, Johnson.

Booked: Croasdale, Byrne, Pye, Richardson.

Man of the Match: Byrne.

Attendance: 10,243 (900 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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