Edgeley Park witnessed its first goalless match of the seasonas the Hatters could not quite breach the National League North’s second-meanest defence to steal a march on play-off rivals Chorley.
The ‘Magpies’, who finished the game with ten men following the late dismissal of ex-Hatter Kieran Charnock, could thank not only their five outfield defenders but, more especially, their goalkeeper, and former Macclesfield stopper, Ritchie Branagan, for an effective rearguard action that secured them a share of the spoils.
County took to the field for the second Saturday running in a 3-4-1-2 formation, but showing two changes from the starting line-up at Kidderminster seven days previously.
Sam Minihan returned after recovering from a groin injury, and John Marsden was handed his first league start in precisely a month, while Scott Duxbury and Courtney Meppen-Walters dropped to the bench.
A first half initially low on clear-cut chances saw Jimmy Ball drive an early attempt just wide of the left post, before Lewis Montrose and the recalled Marsden blasted shots over.
Robbie McDaid and Adam Blakeman sought to finish rare attacks by the visitors – firing above the Cheadle End crossbar in each instance.
But the Hatters finished the half more strongly, as Branagan scrambled away from the left post a low Marsden free kick, and, in added time, parried Connor Hampson’s well-struck effort behind.
County began the second half much as the first had ended, by monopolising any opportunities on offer.
Lloyd and Hampson blazed over the Cheadle End bar, before Branagan again came to the Magpies’ rescue – diving to smother a low drive from Montrose, tipping another Hampson shot around the left upright, and keeping out Lloyd’s free-kick struck from within the Chorley ‘D’.
Chorley, by contrast, registered no further attempts on goal after the break – but ultimately held firm, despite losing Charnock when the defender received a red card in added time for a second bookable offence.
County might have been prevented from doing a ‘double’ over the Magpies – although (silver-lining alert!) did manage to avoid defeat against them at EP for the first time ever.
The result also keeps the Hatters in sixth place, and only out of the play-off positions on goal difference.
They will next weekend receive the last side before Chorley to secure a no-score draw in SK3 when near-neighbours Curzon Ashton, who played the previous campaign’s final game here, travel the short distance down from OL7.
Stockport County: Team: Hinchliffe, Ross (Capt.), Hampson, Montrose, Clarke, Smalley, Minihan, Ball, Gonzales, Marsden (Felix, 57), Lloyd. Unused Subs: Duxbury, Ormson, Meppen-Walters, Odejayi.
Man of the Match: Lloyd.
Attendance: 4,073 (266 away).