Bradford Park Avenue 2-3 Stockport County: Late winner for County keeps play-off hopes alive

Jimmy Ball scored the winner in injury time for County
Jimmy Ball celebrates the winner in injury time for Stockport County

Jimmy Ball’s 94th-minute volley secured Stockport County a dramatic victory from their trip to Bradford Park Avenue.

For the Hatters it wad the second successive trip over the Pennines that resulted in the a 3-2 win and three points.

County took the lead after only seven minutes, when they took an early lead.

Rhys Turner’s low ball into the Avenue box found Matty Warburton, whose shot was flicked into the bottom-left corner of the net from six yards by the shin of Jason Oswell for his first National League North goal of 2018.

Much of the remainder of the first half was concentrated in the home half, as County strove to extend the advantage.

That they did not manage to do so owed much to Avenue goalkeeper Steven Drench, who, in quick succession just before the half-hour mark, made excellent saves to keep out Jamie Stott’s point-blank header and a sweetly-struck volley from Oswell.

Both sides began the second half in attacking mode, and the hosts were soon to have their first proper sight of goal when Adam Boyes was put through by Matt Hill, but his shot from 10 yards out lacked pace and Ben Hinchliffe dived to smother.

Then, a minute before the hour was up, Oswell doubled his and the Hatters’ tallies for the day.

Jason Oswell on the ball for Stockport
Jason Oswell on the ball for Stockport (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

A County corner was only partially cleared, before Scott Duxbury delivered a looping ball from the left that Drench spilled at the feet of County’s leading scorer, who sharply turned in the chance.

The hosts made changes, and substitutes Adam Smith and Jamie Spencer were both looking lively, as they strove to claw their way back into the contest.

They halved the arrears thanks to two of four former Hatters on the pitch – with Javan Vidal converting a Mark Ross cross from the right with 71 minutes played.

Just over 10 minutes later, the Avenue got back on terms following a counter-attack from deep in the home half that culminated in a through-ball from Spencer to Guiseley loanee Frank Mulhern, who fired past Hinchliffe to register his third goal at the Horsfall Stadium in four days.

Jimmy Ball scored the winner in injury time for County
Jimmy Ball scored the winner in injury time for County (www.mphotographic.co.uk)

The hosts almost went in front immediately afterwards – only for Smith’s 30-yard pile-driver to be saved by Hinchliffe.

But, halfway through five minutes of added time, Michael Clarke glanced over a Duxbury corner, which suggested that any chance for County of regaining the lead, as well as vital ground on other play-off contenders, appeared lost.

Not for the first time this season, though, a late strike of the ball by Ball was looming.

A cross from the right by substitute Sam Minihan was headed on by Oswell for County’s Number Eight to fire home a fitting winner, and – by propelling the Hatters up to sixth place.

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