Saturday 18th January 2020 | 15:00
Edgeley Park | Attendance: 5,079 (95 away)
Address: Hardcastle Road, Stockport, SK3 9DD
After two weeks without a game, Sutton return to action tomorrow hoping to continue the form of the Christmas period which saw a run of four consecutive victories before a single goal defeat at Chesterfield. U’s make a first ever visit to Edgeley Park to face Stockport County, a Football League side as recently as 2011 but who returned to the National League in the summer from the other direction after winning the Northern Division.
It will be an intriguing trip for U’s to a side that has been inconsistent this season, making a good start with only two defeats in their first nine games but then plummeting down the table due to a run of six games without a goal, which saw five straight defeats before they gathered a point on their visit to Sutton at the start of October, a game in which Sutton’s off-target shot count went in to double figures (above, Tommy Wright looks for a breakthrough). Since then Stockport have moved themselves back to the fringes of the play-offs and lie 8th, outside the play-offs on goal difference behind Boreham Wood, who won at Edgeley Park a fortnight ago. Consistency has still been a problem, best shown by a 4-1 home defeat to Solihull immediately followed with a 5-1 win at Torquay.
They go in to tomorrow’s game without a win this year, and having suffered a heavy home defeat to South Division Dorking Wanderers in the FA Trophy on Tuesday, but news of a change of ownership on Friday, and the addition of three new signings in the past week, will have raised the mood at Edgeley Park. Halifax’s leading scorer Liam McAlinden was signed on a permanent basis, with defender Eddie Clarke and striker Jordan Archer then joining on loan from Fleetwood and Port Vale respectively.
U’s have also added to the squad since the Chesterfield game, centre back Coby Rowe joining from Haringey, but will be without Craig Eastmond tomorrow as he begins a four match ban after his red card at Chesterfield, the three match ban added to by one as it was Craig’s second sending off of the season. However the two week break has given several players the chance to recover from knocks.
We will have the usual commentary on our Mixlr channel tomorrow.
For the second time this season Sutton and Stockport failed to produce a goal, with U’s considerably happier at coming back from Edgeley Park with a point than they had been at their failure to land a shot on target at Gander Green Lane in October. Just as in that game, with better finishing U’s might have come away with all three points, but in the end there were few complaints at a hard-earned point and a clean sheet.
With a sense of optimism around the ground following a club takeover and three new signings in the week leading up to the game, it was important for U’s to start well to dull the enthusiasm of the home support that numbered just under 5,000, and the first twenty minutes were probably U’s best of the game. With Eddie Clarke, one of the three new faces, given a torrid time by David Ajiboye U’s began in impressive style, with Ajiboye’s deflected cross cleared from under the crossbar by Ash Palmer as Tommy Wright lurked at the far post, and before fifteen minutes were up Omar Bugiel had headed just over from a Jon Barden cross, and after another incisive run and cross from Ajiboye, Wright brought the ball down on his chest but then volleyed over the top.
Ajiboye also failed to direct a shot from the edge of the penalty area, but after surviving the first twenty minutes Stockport proved more of a threat and as the half went on it was U’s who were on the defensive. Elliott Osborne sent a shot just wide from twenty yards, and Nik Tzanev had to react quickly to keep out a Liam McAlinden free kick that came through a crowd of players, and when the half time whistle came U’s were probably the more relieved.
After the interval there was little between the sides but always Sutton seemed to carry the greater threat around the penalty area. Bugiel turned a shot just over at the near post from a fine ball in by Kyel Reid, and when Wright sent in a similarly dangerous cross from the right soon afterwards, Ben Hinchcliffe pushed it away as Harry Beautyman came in at the far post and Reid’s follow up effort was blocked in the six yard box. Wright then created space on the edge of the area for a low shot that was well saved by Hinchcliffe to his right, but should have done better with what may have been U’s best chance of the afternoon when he ran on to a superb pass from Kenny Davis but, perhaps not realising the time he had, went for a first time volley and could only mis-kick straight at Hinchcliffe.
For much of the time U’s defence coped with Stockport’s attacking threat, and the quality of Louis John’s performance against debutant Jordan Archer was underlined when the striker was substituted with just under quarter of an hour to go. Festus Arthur did find room to turn and shoot over the bar, but Tzanev’s only other moment of worry had been when he had to come out and tip the ball away from Archer after a slightly wayward header from John, and U’s kept a third clean sheet in the last four away league games to ensure their point.
Stockport: B Hinchcliffe, D Cowan, E Clarke, P Turnbull, A Palmer, F Arthur, A Thomas(sub N Bell 83), J Keane, J Archer(sub F Mulhern 77), E Osborne(sub B Jackson 68), L McAlinden. Subs n/u S Minihan, I Ormson.
Referee: Aaron Jackson