Stockport County 0-0 Swindon Town

County returned to Edgeley Park to complete the February schedule of fixtures with a frustrating goal-less draw against Swindon.

In what was a second stalemate without troubling the scorers in four days, and despite largely dominating in possession and opportunities, the Hatters not only saw their winless run extend to four games, but also, after more than four months at the top of the table, dropped to second place on goal difference behind Mansfield.

County took to the field on a gloriously sunny afternoon, and showing three changes from the starting line-up at Gillingham in midweek. Connor Lemonheigh Evans, Tanto Olaofe and Nick Powell made up the recalled trio – replacing the sidelined midfield pair of Will Collar and Ryan Croasdale, as well as Kyle Wootton who was named among the substitutes. The bench also included the welcome presence of Ethan Pye, who returned to the match-day squad after suffering an injury on New Year’s Day.

Antoni Sarcevic unleashed the first shot of the day, volleying over the Railway End goal from the edge of the area, with four minutes on the clock. And captain Paddy Madden also cleared the crossbar – in his case with a header, after connecting with Myles Hippolyte’s cross from the right – shortly afterwards.

The visitors, who had themselves rung a quintet of changes to the team that had faced MK Dons a week previously, earned a couple of corners on the left before the 10-minute mark. And from the second, taken by Dawson Devoy, Lewis Cass stood firm to block Jake Cain’s goal-bound shot.

Swindon went close again 10 minutes or so later, when Ben Hinchliffe could only parry Williams Kokolo’s low shot from the left – but, in following up, Zach Elbouzedi struck the far post to leave the Hatters reprieved.

Deflections became the order of the day at the other end, as a Hippolyte shot was blocked on its way to visiting goalkeeper Jack Bycroft; an Olaofe cross from the left was put behind by Kokolo, with Sarcevic bearing down on goal; and, following Hippolyte’s long throw from the right that had been flicked on by Powell, Lemonheigh Evans saw his shot take a strong defensive touch into Bycroft’s waiting arms.

Nine minutes before the break, Bycroft swapped hands for feet – stretching his left leg to keep out a close-range effort from Olaofe, who had been played through on goal by Madden. And seven minutes later, Lemonheigh Evans – also fed by the Hatters’ skipper – fired a low shot from the left that was gathered up by Swindon’s Number One.

HALF-TIME: County 0, Swindon 0. 

County made a couple of changes on the left, immediately ahead of the resumption – introducing Pye and Ethan Bristow in a double-substitution. But it was from the right flank where the Hatters created their first opportunity of the new half, as Cass crossed for Madden to let rip with a snap-shot that Bycroft, arching backwards, brilliantly tipped over.

Bycroft then denied Fraser Horsfall twice within a minute – palming over one header by the defender after a short corner from the left, and diving low to parry a second – before smothering a Madden shot, and steering clear of the bar a headed effort from Lemonheigh Evans, as County continued to lay siege.

Throughout Bycroft’s spell of heroics, Hinchliffe had been relatively under-employed in the other goal – but, with a quarter of an hour remaining, he had to be at his best to tip around the right post a well-struck shot by substitute Aaron Drinan.

Olaofe headed over when unmarked, after latching on to a Cass cross from the right – and, during six minutes of added time, Wootton saw a shot deflected over, before Powell headed narrowly wide of the left post from the resulting corner.

FULL-TIME: County 0, Swindon 0.

Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Cass (Richards, 87), Horsfall, Byrne (Pye, 46); Hippolyte (Bailey, 71), Sarcevic, Powell, Lemonheigh Evans, Touray (Bristow, 46); Madden (Capt.) (Wootton, 71), Olaofe.

Unused Subs: Smith, Johnson.

Man of the Match: Horsfall.

Attendance: 9,389 (457 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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