Stockport County signed off for Christmas in style, winning by a three-goal margin for the first time this season, as near-neighbours and bottom-placed club Altrincham were put to the sword at Edgeley Park.
Danny Lloyd’s 14th goal in all competitions set the Hatters on their way against the struggling Robins, before a second-half header by Jimmy Ball and Sam Minihan’s late strike provided County with their first ‘double’ for 2016/17.
The Hatters took to the field with just one change from their FA Trophy starting line-up against Marine a week previously, Ball replacing John Marsden in a 4-1-3-2 formation.
Following a quiet start, the Hatters soon got into their stride. Kaine Felix was unlucky to see his low drive in the ninth minute blocked at Altrincham’s right post.
But after 25 minutes, County hit the target to go ahead. Ball split the visiting defence in at least three different directions to find Lloyd, who cut in from the left before driving from an angle past ex-Hatter Tim Deasy.
Lloyd tested Deasy again in the closing stages of the first half, but, following an initial spill, Altrincham’s goalkeeper just succeeded in scrambling away the leading scorer’s snap-shot from the right.
Deasy continued to endure a busy afternoon following the break – parrying efforts from Lloyd and Ball, as County continued to press.
The visitors offered little in response, although Sean Miller’s cross from the right almost caught the Hatters off-guard when it bounced off their crossbar.
The Hatters deservedly went further ahead after 77 minutes, when a cross from substitute Mark Ross on the right was met by Ball, whose bullet of a header doubled the lead.
Another substitute almost scored with his first touch nine minutes from time, as Courtney Meppen-Walters headed against the woodwork from a corner that had been awarded immediately prior to his introduction.
But Minihan still found an opportunity in added time to put the seal on a fine victory – seizing on Lloyd’s neat lay-off, before firing home from just inside the box to make it three.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Lloyd, 25; Ball, 77; Minihan, 90), Altrincham 0.
County: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Montrose, Clarke (Capt.), Smalley, Felix (Ross, 55), Stopforth, Odejayi (Amis, 75), Ball (Meppen-Walters, 81), Lloyd. Unused Subs: Ormson, Marsden.
Booked: Minihan, Clarke.
Man of the Match: Montrose.
Attendance: 3,991 (410 away).