Bradford PA 1-1 Stockport County: Hatters denied late on by Nowakowski

Sam Walker, Stockport County

Stockport County were denied all three points by a late equaliser at Bradford (Park Avenue).

A tight contest at the Horsfall Stadium, where Bradford remain unbeaten this term, also saw Matty Warburton’s late first-half penalty saved before he made amends with a long-range thunderbolt that – for 10 minutes on his 50th appearance – gave County the lead.

But Adam Nowakowski’s equaliser two minutes from time saw the National League North points shared.

Connor Dimaio, Stockport County
Connor Dimaio on the ball for County (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

The Hatters took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and showing three changes from their starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Guiseley four days previously.

Chris Smalley returned from injury, while Connor Dimaio and Jake Kirby were handed their first starts with Dan Cowan, Jordan Downing and Darren Stephenson making way.

Kirby almost made it an immediate dream return, when, after just four minutes, he received a cross from Sam Minihan on the right.

The former Tranmere Rovers loanee turned and struck a shot from eight yards out, but the effort was smothered by home goalkeeper Steven Drench.

The Hatters – as had been the case following Scott Duxbury’s injury at York – were forced to make an early change. With just 10 minutes played, Frank Mulhern limped off after a challenge by his one-time team-mate, and Bradford captain, Shane Killock.

Chances were at a premium as the two sides proceeded to act out an even contest – although the best of the scoring attempts that did arise were County’s, including a strike from distance by Sam Walker which Drench spilled against the right post to safety.

Drench truly showered himself in glory three minutes ahead of half-time following the award of a penalty to County for Nicky Clee’s trip on Kirby.

Warburton’s staggered run towards the spot culminated in a tame kick, rolled low and to the left of Drench, who dived the right way to keep honours even at the break.

Matty Warburton, Stockport County
Matty Warburton scores for County (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

The Hatters began the second half with attacking intent – earning three corners within eight minutes of the resumption.

The hosts, during that time, also produced their first shot of the afternoon on target, although Chris Dawson’s half-volley was comfortably held by Ben Hinchliffe.

Former Hatter Ben McKenna threatened to haunt his old club courtesy of some trademark wizardry on the left wing, but his cross for Jake Beesley was headed wide of the far upright by Bradford’s striker on a season’s loan from Salford.

With a dozen minutes left, County went ahead. Minihan broke up a Bradford attack, before substitute Stephenson found Warburton and the latter, from 25 yards out, unleashed a screamer that curled and dipped past Drench and into the top-right corner.

The hosts brought on teenage forward Lewis Knight, only for the debutant to volley over from the increasingly dangerous McKenna’s lofted pass.

But another of their replacements was to get them back on level terms – and following a move unfortunately and unwittingly initiated by a County substitute.

With 88 minutes on the clock, Kallum Mantack lost possession on the halfway line – leaving Clee to pick out Beesley, whose cross from the left was bundled home by Adam Nowakowski from close range. 

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