Stockport County overcame Bradford Park Avenue in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy, just seven days after the West Yorkshire side had left Edgeley Park with three points from the league encounter.
Goals in each half from Sam Minihan and John Marsden ensured the Hatters’ safe passage into the first round proper with the draw on Monday.
Minihan and Marsden were the two players recalled to the starting line-up – replacing Mark Ross and Jimmy Ball as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Ross named among the substitutes, Michael Clarke donned the captain’s armband.
The Hatters got off to a rather livelier start than they had done against the Avenue a week previously – with leading scorer Danny Lloyd twice being denied by parried saves from visiting goalkeeper Jon Worsnop.
But after 31 minutes, County went ahead when Lloyd turned provider. His cross from the right turned out to be his 13th assist in all competitions, as Minihan’s outstretched right foot got a touch to poke the ball home.
Lloyd went close to doubling County’s lead ahead of the break after he cut in from the right to line up his target, but the goal-bound shot was deflected over.
County continued to dominate in attack immediately after the break, as Marsden sent two early second-half shots from the edge of the box beyond the visitors’ left upright.
But the Avenue twice came close just after the hour-mark to getting back on level terms, when Nicky Wroe’s half-volley struck the left upright, and, a minute later, Luke Dean had the ball in County’s net – only to see a flag go up for offside.
The Hatters then had further chances of their own, as Marsden and substitute Ball failed to convert following a defensive slip by Adam Nowakowski, and Minihan volleyed across the face of goal following a Scott Duxbury cross from the left.
Emile Sinclair, who had equalised for the visitors in the League fixture, missed a golden opportunity to repeat the feat when, five minutes from the end, he was through on goal but dragged his shot wide of the right post from 10 yards.
Marsden, however, made no mistake when, a minute into stoppage time, he seized upon a Gary Stopforth lay-off to fire home his first goal since the opening week of the season. And, seconds before the final whistle, Duxbury, making his first appearance in nearly two months, almost made it three following a spectacular solo run from County’s half that saw him hit the right post.
FULL-TIME: Stockport County 2 (Minihan, 31; Marsden, 90 + 1), Bradford Park Avenue 0
Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Cartwright, Montrose, Clarke (Capt.), Smalley, Felix (Ross, 63), Stopforth, Odejayi (Ball, 68), Marsden, Lloyd (Duxbury, 68); Unused Subs: Ormson, Meppen-Walters.
Man of the Match: Minihan
Attendance: 1,164 (55 away)