Curzon Ashton 0-2 Stockport County: Hatters close in on play-off places

Curzon Ashton 0-2 Stockport County
County's players celebrate at Curzon Ashton

Sam Walker’s penalty just before the break and an Elliot Osborne thunderbolt 16 minutes from time saw Stockport County move within two points of the National League North play-off positions.

The home side finished with 10 men after Cameron McJannett saw red.

The Hatters took to the field in the 4-2-3-1 formation that had operated for the previous six matches of their eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions – but with two personnel changes, as Matty Warburton, fresh from netting a hat-trick against Chorley, started in preference to Darren Stephenson, and Dan Cowan replaced Jamie Stott, who had injured an ankle in training.

The hosts put the ball in the net early on when Adam Morgan headed home from beyond the far post a short corner on the right, but was flagged offside.

There followed more than half-an-hour that featured precious little action in either final third with the one chance of note falling to Nyal Bell, who, having been played through by Warburton, drilled narrowly wide of the right post.

But with half-time approaching, former Hatter Danny Morton fouled Ash Palmer in the home area, and Walker, for a second successive Saturday, calmly sent the goalkeeper – on this occasion Cam Mason – the wrong way from the penalty spot to put County ahead.

Sam Walker scores from the penalty spot, for County
Sam Walker scored from the penalty spot for County (

The Nash again had the ball over County’s line within a minute of the resumption. And, as before, Morgan was the player to convert – in this instance after latching on to Joe Guest’s through-ball – only to be ruled offside for a second time.

Disallowed efforts notwithstanding, the hosts had failed to launch an attempt on goal until the 50th minute when a curling shot by Connor Hughes from the edge of the box was palmed over by Ben Hinchliffe.

But, following a bright early second half showing on the part of The Nash, County regained the attacking initiative – and Mason did well to smother a low drive by Osborne, as well as parrying behind another from Warburton.

Some six players had already seen yellow by the mid-point of the half – including Stoke City loanee McJannett, who picked up a second, together with his marching orders, after clattering into Adam Thomas.

The dismissal sparked angry scenes in the dugouts – with non-playing County captain Paul Turnbull and Assistant Curzon Manager Ian Levison being sent to the stands.

Within six minutes of the sending-off, the Hatters had doubled their advantage – courtesy of a splendid shot into the top-right corner that gave Osborne the first goal of his second loan-spell.

And seven minutes from the end of normal time, the first-half tally was so nearly trebled, after a pin-point Thomas cross from the right was met by substitute Frank Mulhern, whose header struck the far upright.

It had been a relatively quiet afternoon between the sticks for Hinchliffe, who nevertheless remained characteristically alert to smother one late shot from Ryan Brooke, and then brilliantly to tip beyond the left upright a potential sucker-punch of a 20-yard effort by Mohamud Ali.