STOCKPORT COUNTY FC

FC Halifax Town 0-0 Stockport County

Stalemate At The Shay On New Year’s Day

The New Year’s Day instalment of County’s festive ‘double-header’ against the ‘Shaymen’ of Halifax saw the spoils shared in a goal-less, but an entertaining, encounter at The Shay that keeps the Hatters nicely poised in fifth place, following a points haul of seven from their trilogy of Christmas fixtures.

The Hatters took to the field on a dry but chilly West Yorkshire afternoon, showing two changes from their starting line-up at Flyde four days earlier. One-time Shaymen Devante Rodney and Sam Walker both dropped to the County bench – with Adam Thomas and skipper Paul Turnbull taking their respective places.

Thomas was instrumental in creating the contest’s first chance – and, as it transpired, corner – with three minutes played, when his low cross from the right towards the near post found Tom Walker, only for home goalkeeper Sam Johnson to deflect the resulting, close-range shot behind.

From the Hatters’ second corner, Jordan Keane went close after connecting with Elliot Osborne’s delivery on the left, and heading just beyond the far upright. And from their fourth – again, sent over by Osborne – around the quarter-hour mark, Ash Palmer saw his effort cleared off the line by Charlie Cooper, before Festus Arthur fired narrowly wide on the rebound.

County continued to dominate proceedings beyond the half’s mid-point, as Boxing Day hat-trick hero Osborne once again threatened Halifax six days on, by unleashing a low drive from the left across the goalmouth. But the Shaymen had to wait until the half-hour was up before fashioning their first opportunity – with Jack Redshaw, on the left of the box, blasting over.

Eight minutes ahead of the break, Thomas half-volleyed wide, after Palmer, from beyond the right post, had nodded down Osborne’s chipped free-kick. Josh Staunton subsequently cleared the County crossbar with a first-time shot from the edge of the area – and the Hatters survived a penalty appeal following a Halifax break that saw Cameron King’s shot appear to strike Palmer’s hand, before advancing upfield to the home end, where Tom Walker drilled past the right post.

HALF-TIME: Halifax 0, County 0.

With the first half having firmly belonged to County in terms of possession and chances, the second began with a corner to the hosts that caused consternation in and around the six-yard box before Keane cleared the danger.

At the other end, and in front of a packed away section, Osborne and Tom Walker both fired shots over, but Keane was rather more on target with a well-struck effort from the edge of the box that Johnson, at full stretch, did well to parry beyond the right post – and Osborne went close with his next effort after dispossessing home captain Matty Brown.

Dan Cowan, fresh from scoring County’s winner at Fylde, tested Johnson after the hour-mark with a cross from the right that the ‘keeper was forced to tip over. And, for the Shaymen, Jeff King unleashed a pair of shots within a few minutes of each other that respectively fizzed wide of the left and right posts.

The hosts’ first effort on target was 72 minutes in coming – with Cameron King’s shot taking a bounce before being comfortably gathered by Ben Hinchliffe. And Redshaw subsequently also called County’s Number One into action, courtesy of a low drive that Hinchliffe dived to smother.

The Hatters introduced Rodney and Frank Mulhern with a view to pepping up their attack in the late stages. The latter fired an effort into orbit, before the former let rip with a shot that Johnson saved – but moments later, Halifax almost struck the decisive blow, and twice, through Staunton, who forced an excellent save from Hinchliffe in front of the right post, before heading Liam McAlinden’s cross from the left against the same upright.

FULL-TIME: Halifax 0, County 0.

Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Cowan, Palmer, Arthur, Leesley; Turnbull (Capt.), Keane; Thomas (Mulhern, 83), Osborne, T Walker (Rodney, 67); Bell.

Unused Subs: Minihan, S Walker, Ormson.

Booked: Leesley.

Attendance: 3,460 (1,485 representing The Twelfth Man).

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: Mike Petch.

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