Doncaster Rovers 1-5 Stockport County

The Hatters returned to action for the first time in a fortnight, and romped to victory with a quintet of headed goals at Doncaster that sent them five points clear at the top of the table.

County – clearly feeling the benefits of a second January spell of more than a week without a game – went two-up, through captain Paddy Madden and an own goal, within the opening 10 minutes, and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans netted a third to put the Hatters well in control by half-time. Madden and Tanto Oalofe added early second-half goals, as County proceeded to ‘go nap’ on the road for the first time in 13 months – with ‘Donny’ scoring a  consolation five minutes after the hour.

The result secured County a first maximum points-haul away from home in 11 weeks, an inaugural triumph at the Eco-Power Stadium, and a first league victory anywhere in Doncaster since a single-goal, third-tier win at Belle Vue nearly 55 years ago.

The Hatters took to the field on a mild late-January afternoon, and showing three changes from their starting line-up in SK3 against Walsall two weeks previously. Madden, Nick Powell and Macauley Southam-Hales were the players recalled – replacing Neill Byrne and Ryan Croasdale (both of whom featured as substitutes), as well as the injured Kyle Wootton.

Southam-Hales was not the only Hatter returning from an injury lay-off a little sooner than originally anticipated, as the County bench also included the welcome presence of Myles Hippolyte and Antoni Sarcevic – together with, amongst others, the recently-arrived loanee from Aston Villa, Rico Richards.

The hosts, for their part, included, in their captain Tommy Rowe, a former Hatter who had served County with distinction during the initial part of his professional career between 2007 and 2009, having graduated through the youth set-up at Edgeley Park.

County fashioned the first chance of the afternoon, with fewer than three minutes on the clock. A neat flick by Madden to Lemonheigh-Evans saw the latter cut in from the right before forcing home goalkeeper Louis Jones to parry. And shortly afterwards, Nick Powell’s shot was deflected behind by Tom Nixon to earn the Hatters the first of two corners on the left in quick succession.

From the second, delivered by Southam-Hales, County went ahead, as Madden rose to head in at close range for his 12th goal of the campaign in all competitions.

Owen Bailey then went close for ‘Donny’, courtesy of a headed effort that flew just wide of County’s right post. But moments later, another header by the same home player at the opposite end was to double the Hatters’ advantage, as, to his horror, he glanced past his own ‘keeper after connecting with a Lemonheigh-Evans delivery from the right.

Joe Ironside – son of former County Number One, Ian – dived to head beyond the Hatters’ left upright, and Kyle Hurst, having latched on to Rowe’s low cross from the left, scuffed a shot past the opposite post, as the hosts strove to reduce their arrears. And, just before the half-hour mark, Callum Camps saw his strike from distance deflected over the crossbar.

A few minutes later, the Hatters had a third – and almost replicating their opener, albeit from the other side, as Ethan Bristow’s corner on the right was swung in for Lemonheigh-Evans to head home.

County’s own ‘O. Bailey’ went close, with Odin’s free-kick testing Jones, who tipped the delivery around the right post, seven minutes ahead of the break. And the Hatters had further opportunities to add to their tally before the half was up, as defender Joseph Olowu blocked a Madden shot, after the skipper had been teed up by Tanto Olaofe; Bailey, having been played through by Powell, was denied again in a one-on-one with Jones; and Powell clipped the bar with a delightful chip from the left.

HALF-TIME: Doncaster 0, County 3 (Madden, 5; Owen Bailey (o.g.), 10; Lemonheigh-Evans, 33). 

Four Doncaster substitutes were introduced upon the resumption, but their side’s plight worsened further within a matter of 25 seconds, as Southam-Hales crossed from the right for Madden to head his second, and County’s fourth, goal of the afternoon.

County’s fifth arrived nine minutes later, as leading scorer Olaofe netted for the 16th time in all competitions – diving to head in, after Lemonheigh-Evans had delivered from the right. But, after a further 10, the hosts interrupted the run of headed goals, as well as troubling the scorers for the first time themselves, as Ben Close, on the left, crossed for substitute Harrison Biggins to bundle home from close range.

Hakeeb Adelakun, newly on loan from Lincoln, and Biggins skied shots over, and Madden – whilst on a hat-trick – did likewise at the other end in added time, leaving the emphatic scoreline unchanged. It equalled County’s highest-ever winning margin over Donny – previously achieved at EP in the Third Division North on two occasions, during 1933 and 1949.

FULL-TIME: Doncaster 1 (Biggins, 65), County 5 (Madden, 5 and 46; Owen Bailey (o.g.), 10; Lemonheigh-Evans, 33; Olaofe, 55). 

Team (4-4-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales, Horsfall, Wright, Bristow (Touray, 72); Lemonheigh-Evans (Richards, 67), Camps, Odin Bailey (Croasdale, 90 + 1), Powell (Hippolyte, 67); Olaofe (Sarcevic, 72), Madden (Capt.).

[Debut for Rico Richards, with a unique SCAN [Stockport County Appearance Number] of 1466.]

Unused Subs: Smith, Byrne.

Attendance: 7,469 (1,625 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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