Darlington 2, Stockport County 1: Hatters defeated despite Jimmy Ball goal

Michael Clarke in action against Darlington

Stockport County suffered their first defeat in four matches, as, despite a promising performance, they lost by the odd goal in three against 1883 Darlington.

County’s new midfield signing Jimmy Ball opened the scoring on his debut – only for Mark Beck to level just before the break, and Adam Mitchell to strike home a winner midway through the second half.

The fixture at Bishop Auckland – where the reformed ex-League club currently and temporarily plies its trade, ahead of returning to Darlington later this season – saw County start with two changes from the line-up that had taken to the field against Altrincham four days earlier.

Ball, who had arrived at Edgeley Park earlier in the day, came in for Courtney Meppen-Walters, while Josh Amis replaced Kay Odejayi, as part of a 4-4-3 formation.

And Ball marked his first appearance in style after just 19 minutes, when he seized on Terry Galbraith’s downward header which had fallen short of home goalkeeper Peter Jameson – before rounding Jameson to slot home.

For much of the rest of the first half, the Hatters looked to take the game to their hosts further – and Jameson needed to be at his best to prevent them from increasing the lead.

Darlo’s Number One was at full stretch horizontally to palm away a Danny Lloyd shot from the left, and vertically to tip over another effort by Ball following a corner.

Lloyd was thwarted again just after the half-hour mark, when, following a County break and a delightful through-pass from Ball, he dinked the ball past Jameson – only for Liam Marrs to clear off the line.

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But the hosts were not lacking in threat – having come close to scoring shortly after County’s goal, when Stephen Thompson rattled the crossbar. And they got themselves back on level terms two minutes ahead of the break – with Beck diving to head in Mitchell’s cross from the right.

 Both first-half scorers went close for their respective sides after the interval, as first Ball and then Beck stabbed shots just wide of goal.

But Darlo were to execute the evening’s decisive strike when Mitchell connected with Thompson’s cross from the right and rifled home.

Each team still had time to hit the woodwork – with Lewis Montrose’s effort being tipped onto the crossbar and scrambled away by Jameson, before home substitute Nathan Cartman’s curling shot in the closing stages struck the corner between County’s bar and right post.

Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Ross (Capt.), Duxbury, Montrose, Clarke, Smalley, Minhan, Ball, Amis (Carney, 67), Marsden (Spencer, 67), Lloyd (Odejayi, 67). Unused Subs: Ormson, Rule.

Attendance: 1,730.