Forest Green Rovers 0-3 Stockport County

Good Friday turned out for County to be Great Friday, as the Hatters began their Easter weekend programme of matches with a dominant, three-goal triumph in Gloucestershire against struggling Forest Green that propelled them back to the top of the table – a point clear of, and one game in hand over, closest challengers Mansfield and Wrexham.

In what was the Hatters’ first visit to The New Lawn in just under a dozen years, and a first-ever County victory there, first-half strikes by Callum Camps and Rico Richards put them in control of proceedings, before Connor Lemonheigh Evans added to their tally shortly following the break to secure a fourth ‘double’ of the campaign, as well as extending County’s current unbeaten run to seven games.

Heavy Maundy Thursday rain, courtesy of Storm Nelson, had lashed much of the country in all-too typical readiness for the holiday weekend – necessitating a precautionary match-day morning pitch inspection in Nailsworth, the smallest town ever to host League football. But with that test thankfully passed at 10am, County took to the field five hours later in light Good Friday afternoon drizzle – and showing two changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against MK Dons six days earlier.

Todd Kane and Tanto Olaofe – named, in each case, among the substitutes on a bench that also included Odin Bailey, who had enjoyed two loan spells at The New Lawn during 2020 and 2021 – were the pair to make way. Taking their respective places were Kyle Knoyle and Richards – with Knoyle’s return being especially noteworthy, following the serious head injury which had ruled him out of action since New Year’s Day.

Bluer skies and glimpses of sun appeared overhead between short, drizzly showers, as both County full-backs tested Vicente Reyes with crosses in the opening exchanges. The home goalkeeper, on loan from Norwich, respectively tipped away and caught deliveries from the right and left by Knoyle and Ibby Touray before five minutes were on the clock.

Just after the quarter-hour mark, Nick Powell threaded the ball through for Kyle Wootton – only for Reyes to gather it up ahead of the big striker. But a couple of minutes later, Camps – as he had done the previous weekend – opened the scoring for County, on this occasion with a stunning strike from 25 yards that flew into the top-right corner of the net.

The Hatters proceeded to double their advantage two minutes before the half-hour, as Touray sent across a low delivery from the left by-line that Richards slid in to meet and bundle home for his first goal in a County shirt.

County went close to making it three on more than one occasion during a further spell of pressure: in his 150th appearance as a Hatter, Paddy Madden, after dispossessing Ryan Inniss, was denied by an outstretched leg of Reyes; Richards, having connected with another Touray cross from the left, saw an effort deflected narrowly shy of the near post; and, from the consequential corner, Wootton and Lemonheigh Evans both had attempts blocked at point-blank range.

The hosts, who had slipped into League Two’s basement position the previous weekend, created little of note before the interval – save for a shot from distance by Fankaty Dabo that skidded tamely past the right post on the stroke of added time.

HALF-TIME: Forest Green 0, County 2 (Camps, 18; Richards, 28).

The Hatters began the second half as they had spent much of the first – forcing two corners in as many minutes after the re-start, before Powell drilled a low shot beyond the left post.

Within half a dozen minutes of the resumption, and as the sun began briefly shining in earnest, they went further ahead, as Wootton, from the left, fed Lemonheigh Evans – whose shot was converted with the assistance of a deflection off Jamie Robson.

With Easter Monday fixtures only 72 hours away, both sides introduced their full complements of substitutes – and, amidst the various changes, the contest, whose outcome had long seemed in little doubt, wound down to its conclusion, leaving nigh-on 1,200 travelling Hatters with happy journeys home in the knowledge that County were once again League Two leaders.

FULL-TIME: Forest Green 0, County 3 (Camps, 18; Richards, 28; Lemonheigh Evans, 51.).

Team (4-3-3): Hinchliffe; Knoyle (Kane, 62), Horsfall, Pye, Touray; Lemonheigh Evans, Powell (Croasdale, 62), Camps; Richards (Bailey, 75), Wootton (Olaofe, 69), Madden (Capt.) (Sarcevic, 69).

Unused Subs: Smith, Byrne.

Attendance: 3,145 (1,148 away).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.


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