Stockport County’s mixed start to the season continued as they were edged out against title-favourites Salford City, whose early goals from Michael Nottingham and Anthony Dudley proved enough for a first-ever victory over County.
Up against a full-time outfit for the second game running, the Hatters – as they had done against Harrogate Town three days earlier – went two-down before the half-hour mark.
Unlike Saturday, they managed to halve their deficit before the break – courtesy of Connor Hampson’s first goal for County – but ultimately, and in spite of another spirited performance after going behind, could not complete the comeback for a share of the spoils.
The Hatters were hardly into their stride under the lights in M7 when their hosts took the lead. A free-kick by Ibou Touray from the right found Nottingham, whose header went in off the near post with only four minutes on the clock.
County looked to have potential claims for penalties when, first, Stephenson appeared to be held back by ex-Hatter Carl Piergianni and – subsequently, as well as more particularly – when Matty Warburton went to ground under a challenge by Hogan.
After 26 minutes, the Hatters fell further behind, as Dudley cut into the box from the left and drilled a low, deflected drive past Hinchliffe.
County re-emerged after the interval with continuing intent, as Winter fired an effort over and Warburton saw a side-footed shot blocked.
Salford, however, went closer still after 61 minutes, when Piergianni – looking to haunt his former club – met a corner with a header that was cleared off the line by Hampson.
And, for the remainder of an evenly-matched second half, the scoreline was to stay unchanged – with the Hatters finding themselves restricted to half-chances, as Winter, whilst under pressure, fired wide of the right post following a nod-down by Jason Oswell, and Duxbury, Jimmy Ball and substitute Harry Brazel all blasted over from distance.
County are away to Leamington at the weekend.
FULL-TIME: Salford 2 (Nottingham, 4; Dudley, 26), County 1 (Hampson, 41).
County: Hinchliffe, Cowan (Brazel, 79), Hampson, Winter (Capt.), Duxbury, Smalley, Minihan, Ball, Oswell, Warburton, Stephenson (West, 78). Unused Subs: Whitty, Ormson, Walker.