Stockport County must replay their FA Trophy tie with Maidenhead United on Tuesday if they are to feature in the quarter-finals for the first time.
In their first-ever match against the ‘Magpies’ of Maidenhead United, the Hatters took a lead in the opening stages through Matty Warburton, only to be pegged back by Ryan Upward’s second-half strike.
County took to the field in Berkshire showing two changes from the starting line-up against York at Edgeley Park seven days earlier.
Jimmy Ball was unwell and loanee Jamie Stott ineligible, so Scott Duxbury and Gary Stopforth were recalled in their places as part of a 3-4-1-2 formation.
And the club’s inaugural appearance in the third round began perfectly courtesy of a goal after just seven minutes.
Ben Hinchliffe’s clearance led to a neat one-two exchange between Stopforth and Darren Stephenson, before Stopforth delivered a low cross from the left that Warburton converted, with the help of a deflection, for his 16th strike in all competitions.
Warburton almost doubled his and County’s tallies a dozen minutes later when his free-kick from 25 yards out was tipped over by home goalkeeper Carl Pentney.
But the hosts, sitting comfortably around mid-table in their first campaign as a National League outfit, were beginning to press , and Hinchliffe had to be at his best in tipping past the right post James Comley’s shot from distance.
Maidenhead’s leading scorer Harry Pritchard then headed over before a goal-bound shot from Sean Marks was inadvertently blocked by team-mate Sam Barratt, and, just over 10 minutes ahead of the break, Jake Goodman headed wide of the left upright following a free kick that had brought Hinchliffe out of position.
Warburton was replaced by Michael Clarke after the break, as the Hatters returned to the fray with a back four.
And, as if to sound an early declaration of intent towards the bolstered County defence, Pritchard curled a shot shy of the right post with four second-half minutes gone.
Within another eight, the Magpies had drawn level. A free-kick from the left was headed wide of the far post by Remy Clerima but kept in play and, despite Hinchliffe’s one-handed save from Goodman’s subsequent header across goal, County could not repel Upward’s volley from close range.
The Hatters responded well with Adam Thomas lofting a cross from the right narrowly beyond the far post, and Stephenson drilling just wide of the opposite upright. And later, Jason Oswell got a touch to Dan Cowan’s low cross from the right – only for Pentney to save with his boot.
But with the hosts now kicking down the pronounced York Road slope, much of the play in the final half-hour was concentrated in the County half.
Thanks in part to resolute defending, clear-cut scoring opportunities for Maidenhead remained at a premium until the final minutes.
Hinchliffe first denied substitute Adrian Clifton, before standing tall at point-blank range to keep out Upward. Three corners were awarded to Maidenhead in the course of five very long minutes added on – and one, taken by Upward, grazed the crossbar, before Pritchard’s follow-up shot was blocked.
But the Hatters survived for what will, this Tuesday night, be their third replay in the current season’s competition.