Stockport County 0-0 Salford City

The Hatters returned to SK3 for a meeting under the Edgeley Park floodlights, but endured a frustrating evening in a scoreless stalemate against near-neighbours Salford.

In what was a fifth competitive meeting of the calendar year with the ‘Ammies’, the Hatters were the more dominant side after their record-equalling run of 12 fourth-tier victories had finally come to an end at Newport three days earlier. But despite hitting the Salford crossbar, and twice seeing the ball cleared off the visitors’ line, County could not ultimately find a way through.

The Hatters took to the field on a close-to-freezing late November night, showing two changes from their weekend starting line-up in South Wales. Odin Bailey, in accordance with the terms of his loan from the visitors, could not participate – although two ex-Ammies, Fraser Horsfall and Ibby Touray, did feature among the starters against their former club. Kyle Knoyle and club captain Paddy Madden were brought in to replace Bailey and the injured Will Collar.

The visitors, like County, were suffering their fair share of injuries – and, with 10 players receiving treatment, as well as one (midfielder Matty Lund) serving a suspension, named only five of seven permitted substitutes without a senior appearance to their collective credit.

But half a dozen minutes following kick-off, Salford fashioned the night’s first attempt on goal, as Conor McAleny, courtesy of a shot from just inside the area, stung Ben Hinchliffe’s hands – with Macauley Southam-Hales clearing the danger after County’s Number One had parried the effort.

A couple of minutes later, Nick Powell went close at the other end with a volley that visiting goalkeeper and captain, Alex Cairns, tipped beyond the right post for the inaugural corner of the evening. And Southam-Hales headed over, after connecting with a Touray cross from the left.

Just ahead of the half’s mid-point, League Two’s second-top scorer Matt Smith nodded down a McAleny delivery to Junior Luamba, who unleashed a fierce strike narrowly beyond the left upright. And, as the half-hour approached, Ryan Watson fired from distance into Railway End orbit.

The Hatters then struck the woodwork at the Cheadle End, after Southam-Hales squared from the right to the on-rushing Powell whose first-time shot clattered the bar. And another delivery from the right wing-back found Tanto Olaofe, who saw his header deflected by Theo Vassell past the far post.

From the resulting corner, a headed effort by Madden also took a deflection behind – in this instance off Smith, who followed up with a goal-line clearance after Salford failed to clear the further corner.

A couple more headers followed, as County continued to press before half-time – but Powell’s was glanced just wide, and Madden’s was turned by Cairns around, the right post.

HALF-TIME: County 0, Salford 0.

The Hatters introduced Akil Wright upon the resumption, as they moved to a back three and sought to intensify the pressure. And within the opening five minutes, Powell – teed up by Olaofe – had seen a low shot deflected past the right post, before Horsfall went close to haunting his old club with a goal-bound effort that Vassell, from the line, headed out.

At the other end, an effort from Liam Humbles was deflected beyond the left upright. And a free-kick on the right by Watson evaded all in attendance, before soaring past the same post.

As the contest entered its final 10 minutes, Cairns saved twice in quick succession from Kyle Wootton and from Madden, who had executed final, concerted attempts to trouble the scorers. But results elsewhere did, at least, maintain County’s five-point lead at the top of the table.

FULL-TIME: County 0, Salford 0.

Team (5-3-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales, Knoyle (Wright, 46), Horsfall, Pye, Touray; Powell (Cotterill, 70), Madden (Capt.), Croasdale; Olaofe, Wootton.

Unused Subs: J. Smith, Byrne, Richardson, Mee, Johnson.

Booked: Croasdale, Southam-Hales.

Man of the Match: Southam-Hales.

Attendance: 8,790 (316 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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