Stockport County missed the chance to go level at the top of the National League North when they conceded an added-time equaliser at Hereford.
The Hatters can still take top spot from leaders Chorley – who were also held at the weekend – when the play their game in hand against Chester on Tuesday night.
County went two goals up, through Adam Thomas and Nyal Bell before the half-hour mark, but a spirited second-half fightback by the ‘Bulls’ and a brace for their recent arrival from Guiseley, Rowan Liburd, led to a share of the spoils.
The Hatters took to the field in the April sunshine, showing two changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Darlington a week previously. Sam Walker and Darren Stephenson were recalled to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation, while Matty Warburton and skipper Paul Turnbull dropped to the bench – with Ash Palmer wearing the captain’s armband in Turnbull’s stead.
County began in lively fashion, and earned half a dozen corners within the opening quarter of an hour – a spell that also saw Thomas fire narrowly over from 12 yards, Jordan Keane clear the crossbar with a half-volley and Dan Cowan’s header deflected on to the top of the net.
Hereford looked to new signing Liburd for inspiration at the other end, and he certainly appeared the main threat to County – albeit sporadically in the early stages, as almost 20 minutes separated his half-volleyed and headed attempts off target.
The Hatters, meanwhile, went much closer around the mid-point of the half, when Cowan’s low cross from the right was flicked towards goal by Bell – only for the hosts’ top scorer Tom Owen-Evans, helping out in defence, to clear off the line.
But after 26 minutes, County took the lead – and then promptly doubled it – courtesy of assists from the same player.
The first goal followed another cross by Cowan on the right that Stephenson headed back across for Thomas to fire in on the turn for a third successful strike in as many league matches.
And a minute later, Stephenson was again the provider, delivering from the left to Bell, who took a touch before converting his 11th goal of the campaign.
A double substitution by the hosts at the break looked to have pepped them up for the second half’s opening exchanges – although County went close to making the game safe as the hour approached, with home goalkeeper Matt Yates having to be at his best in parrying behind a rasping shot by Elliot Osborne from the edge of the area.
But within four minutes of that, Hereford’s arrears were halved. Cullinane-Liburd’s long throw from the right caused chaos in the County box, before Liburd hooked in from close range.
The hosts almost repeated County’s feat of scoring in successive minutes, but Hinchliffe denied Eliot Richards – tipping over the substitute’s well-struck shot from just outside the box.
And shortly afterwards, County’s number one stood tall to save with his legs from the other replacement Bull, James Waite, who had been played through one-on-one.
The Bulls, it might be said, had their tails well and truly up. And again, County owed debts of gratitude to Hinchliffe, who commanded his area to punch away two dangerous free-kicks from the right by Danny Greenslade.
But with two of the four added-time minutes played, Owen-Evans weaved his way into the box from the right before squaring to Liburd, who slid in ahead of Cowan for the late, late leveller.