Stockport County 1, AFC Fylde 2: Hatters lose out to National League North leaders

Scott Spencer celebrates his goal for Stockport County against AFC Fylde
Scott Spencer celebrates his goal for Stockport County against AFC Fylde (M Photographic)

Stockport County turned in a hugely spirited performance against National League North leaders AFC Fylde, before being edged out 2-1 during an extended period of stoppage time.

Ten minutes of additional play were required to cover a period of treatment for Scott Duxbury, who controversially suffered a blow to his head midway through the second half.

The added time saw substitute Scott Spencer equalise for County, after Dan Bradley had given the visitors the lead in the first half.

But ex-Hatter, and the league’s top scorer, Danny Rowe had the last word – firing in a free-kick to give the ‘Coasters’ all three points and maintain their 100-per-cent record away from home..

One change was made to the team that had taken to the field at Curzon Ashton three days earlier – with Sam Minihan replacing Jimmy Ball, who picked up a hip injury in the course of Saturday’s victory.

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The Hatters registered the contest’s first shot of note, courtesy of Josh Amis whose low drive fizzed narrowly wide of the left post.

And after 12 minutes John Marsden went closer still – volleying Minihan’s cross against the opposite upright.

Ten minutes later, and with their first attempt on goal, the Coasters went ahead.

Their counter-attack saw Bohan Dixon cross from the left for Bradley, Fylde’s recent signing from Alfreton, who slotted past Ben Hinchcliffe for his second goal in as many games – and, indeed, his second at Edgeley Park (albeit for different teams) during the current campaign.

Marsden and – following a trademark mazy run – Danny Lloyd both went just wide with efforts in the later stages of the first half.

And three minutes before the break Hinchliffe did well to block a shot by Dixon, who had cut in from the left after launching a fine solo foray from his own half.

The Hatters laid siege on Fylde’s half for sustained periods after the break – with Lloyd half-volleying over from the edge of the box, and Amis forcing goalkeeper Tony Thompson to parry behind a header from another pinpoint-perfect Minihan cross.

Dixon’s earlier shot that cleared the County woodwork was the exception rather than the rule, as the visitors were restricted to few chances.

Duxbury went to ground under a challenge in the Fylde box just past the hour-mark, and play was suspended for nine minutes while he was treated and subsequently stretchered off with a head injury and concussion.

The lengthy pause was broken by Referee Jackson with a dropped ball – much to the surprise, and no little anger, of many present who had viewed the incident as necessitating further punishment.

The Hatters, to their considerable credit, regained the momentum.

And three minutes into the prolonged extra period beyond normal time Spencer latched onto a pass from Lloyd, before unleashing a low drive into the right-hand corner from 20 yards and bringing County level.

It was no more than the Hatters deserved, after commendably outfighting and outplaying their high-flying guests for long spells.

But four minutes later Rowe, having spent a quiet evening back at an old stomping ground, gave his old club – not for the first time – a demonstration of his renowned set-piece expertise by firing home a 25-yard free kick.

Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Ross (Capt.), Duxbury (Rule, 73), Montrose, Clarke, Smalley, Minihan, Stopforth, Amis (Odejayi, 80), Marsden (Spencer, 80), Lloyd; Unused Subs: Meppen-Walters, Ormson; Booked: Stopforth, Spencer, Lloyd; Man of the Match: Lloyd; Attendance: 2,206 (110 away).

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