Stockport County 2 Fleetwood Town 4
AN action-packed encounter at Edgeley Park ended with Fleetwood climbing to third place in the Conference courtesy of their fourth win in five unbeaten games.
Town struck after just one minute through Magno Vieira and resisted some concerted pressure from last season’s League Two basement club to emerge victorious following further goals from Sean Clancy, Stefan Cox and the outstanding Andy Mangan.
As the injury situation continues to improve, it was ironic that Town were deprived of three key players through suspension as Saturday’s two-goal Telford hero Richard Brodie joined Jamie Vardy and Jamie McGuire on the banned list.
Brodie’s fifth booking of the season at the weekend forced him to sit out last night’s match, which marked captain Steve McNulty’s 100th appearance for the club.
The only change in the Town starting 11 saw Scott Brown starting his first game since the defeat at Wrexham because Gareth Seddon suffered a broken finger at the weekend.
Stockport boss Dietmar Hamann made three changes from the side that achieved County’s eighth 1-1 draw in 11 Conference games at Tamworth on Saturday. Sean McConville and Tom Elliott were both injured, and former Town midfielder John Miles started on the bench.
Town made the perfect start, scoring on their first attack as Vieira stole into the danger area, accepted a pass from Andy Mangan and slipped the ball past keeper Matt Glennon for his fifth of the season.
The stunned County supporters behind Glennon’s goal were much-relieved a minute later as Clancy’s testing cross was pushed away for a corner.
Town’s early pressure earned them a free-kick when Clancy was brought down just outside the area but for once Jamie Milligan failed to hit the target.
County came back into the game, seeing Jon Nolan fire over from distance.
However, Town kept their composure and passed the ball confidently, using both sides of the pitch to cause problems for the hosts.
Scott Brown cut in from the right to fire a good effort narrowly high in the 13th minute.
Town suffered a key setback on 25 minutes, when in-form Vieira pulled up and was immediately replaced by Stefan Cox. As Town regrouped, County struck.
Quick build-up play from Danny Rowe and Nick Chadwick caught the defence at sixes and sevens, and Antonio German stroked the ball home just before the half hour.
It was a difficult period for the visitors as County came forward with purpose, with Nolan influential in midfield, buoyed by a vocal crowd of 3,023.
Having absorbed County’s first-half pressure, Town started the second period in devastating fashion, taking control of the game with two goals in 11 minutes and delighting the 213 fans who had made the journey.
Mangan was the architect for the first, showing a quick turn of speed to pressurise the defender and create an opportunity which Clancy gratefully accepted, striking his first league goal since April in the 49th minute.
Seven minutes later, it was Cox’s turn to slam home his first goal for Town from short-range.
County came back, with keeper Scott Davies having to be alert on two occasions.
County’s Michael Paton was booked for a foul on Junior Brown, while Cox received his second booking of the season after 67 minutes.
There was also an opportunity for Miles to make an impact against his old club as he came off the bench.
As their supporters began to show their frustration, County struck back as German struck a sweet left-footed shot past Davies in the 70th minute.
He had an opportunity for a hat-trick soon after but fired over. Davies was booked for time-wasting as he prepared to take the resulting goal-kick.
Hamann used his final substitutions in quick succession, with Sam Sheridan and Danny Whitehead stepping into an open and entertaining game.
Davies pointed his finger accusingly at Rob Atkinson as German wasted yet another opportunity in the 76th minute. Whitehead soon got his name into the referee’s book after a strong tackle on Shaun Beeley and Town’s Atkinson followed for an unfair tackle.
Junior Brown put his side under further pressure in the 82nd minute but German squandered yet another chance. Town could have made the last few minutes less stressful when a long Davies clearance was taken up by Mangan, who did the hard work for himself before firing just wide of Glennon’s right-hand post.
Stockport appealed vehemently for a penalty with four minutes left as Town stubbornly resisted sustained pressure.
There was a welcome return to action for the first time this season for Nathan Pond, replacing Cox, and Mangan continued to prove a handful for the home back-line.
German hit a sweet left-foot shot in added time but Davies proved equal to the task with a magnificent diving save.
Mangan deservedly sealed victory late in added time, slipping the ball past Glennon to crown a superb individual performance in a team effort full of character and commitment.