Friday night was County night for the first time in three years – but it turned out to be a frustrating one, and, ultimately, a not-so-Good Friday as Stockport County were held by Telford in the first match of their Easter weekend programme.
The Hatters went into the game knowing that, in view of results from earlier in the day, a win would propel them into a play-off place with a two-point cushion.
But as things turned out, they had to settle for a more modest rise from seventh to sixth – and, moreover, for remaining outside of the play-offs on goal difference.
Stockport County line-up changes
County took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and showing three changes from the side that had started at Gainsborough six days previously.
Sam Minihan and Kaine Felix were ruled out with, respectively, a groin injury and a bruised foot, while Sefton Gonzales dropped to the bench – with their places being taken by Scott Duxbury, Courtney Meppen-Walters and Josh Amis.
In the course of a rather disjointed first half featuring relatively few clear-cut chances, the Hatters went closest after just six minutes when Duxbury, acting as a makeshift right-back, met a cross from his left-sided opposite number Connor Hampson – but the former’s half-volley was palmed around the far post by visiting goalkeeper Callum Burton.
County also had a huge let-off midway through the half, after Michael Clarke failed to control the ball – letting in Lee Hughes.
But, to the considerable relief of a bumper holiday home crowd, the veteran striker was unable to add to his goals-tally for various West Midlands clubs against the Hatters over the years, and fired a low drive wide of the left post.
The reverse fixture between the two sides at Telford back in August had ended goalless, and this match appeared destined for a similar fate as it entered its final 20 minutes – despite an improved performance by the Hatters after the break.
But to the delight of the majority in attendance, County took the lead after 71 minutes, when Lewis Montrose – with his first-ever league goal for the Hatters – sent a low drive through a crowded area and past Burton.
The joy was short-lived, however, following the award to Telford of a corner after Montrose appeared to have been impeded near the right byline.
French defender Joel Dielna’s in-swinging delivery then found its way into County’s net, with the assistance of a deflection, to leave both sides with a share of the spoils.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Montrose 71), Telford 1 (Dielna 78)
Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Duxbury, Hampson (Gonzales, 46), Montrose, Clarke, Ross (Capt.), Meppen-Walters (Cartwright, 90 + 2), Winter (Odejayi, 89), Amis, Ball, Lloyd. Unused Subs: Ormson, Brazel.
Man of the Match: Montrose.
Attendance: 4,261 (98 away).