Dave Challinor's Stockport County sit on the brink of a return to the Football League, as Paddy Madden's first-half penalty secured a gutsy 1-0 win over Chesterfield, with closest chasers Wrexham dropping points in added-time to 10-man Boreham Wood. 

By Amos Murphy 

Madden spot-kick drags Stockport across the line

Paddy Madden's 22nd goal of the season handed Stockport County a precious three points in their bid to return to the Football League, as Dave Challinor's side ended a run of two consecutive defeats with a 1-0 victory away to playoff-chasing Chesterfield.

Rolling his first-half penalty beyond a helpless Scott Loach, Madden's calmness under pressure ensured the visitors went into the break ahead, during an opening 45 minutes dominated by controversial refereeing decisions.

The penalty itself came amidst a cloud of confusion, with referee Elliot Swallow initially signalling for a free-kick just outside the Chesterfield 18-yard box, while the assistant referee had flagged for a corner.

Replays suggested the incident occurred on the line, yet an enraged Paul Cook in the Chesterfield dugout refused to accept the referee's decision, pleading his case with an unfortunately placed fourth official.

Much like the 7,500 Spireites inside the Technique Stadium, Cook had been less than pleased with the offering from the officials prior to the penalty incident, with referee Swallow brandishing the Chesterfield boss a yellow card earlier in the half.

Booed off the pitch at the break, the home crowd's frustrations would continue into the Derbyshire afternoon, as an improved, but less-than clinical Chesterfield passed up a number of opportunities to level proceedings in the second half.

A well-worked set-piece allowed Tom Denton combine with Jamie Grimes inside the Stockport penalty area, yet an uncontrolled effort from the Chesterfield defender saw his strike sail high and wide over the crossbar.

Tricky work from Chesterfield's Akwasi Asante down the right-hand side had presented the substitute with an opening to goal, but a dragged strike offered little threat to a relieved Ben Hinchcliffe between the Stockport sticks.

The introduction of prolific striker Danny Rowe failed to give Chesterfield the edge, as 24-goal man Kabongo Tshimanga's absence continues to haunt the spiritless Spireites.

But it was Jeff King who offered the closest sighting to an equaliser during added-time, with the 26-year-old's gliding run into the penalty box ending in a sharp stop from Hinchcliffe, who got down low to the Chesterfield defender's strike.

Hatters on brink with Wrexham slip-up setting up grand-stand finish

Roared on by an unrelenting crew of 2,600 visiting supporters, Stockport's unwavering vocal support dragged their side across the line during a second half where their backs were very much against the wall.

However, just seconds before the final whistle in Derbyshire, a Tyrone Marsh penalty 140 miles away in Hertfordshire gave the Hatters' faithful an intoxicating release.

Stunned by a late equaliser, second-placed Wrexham slumped to an unwanted draw away to 10-man Boreham Wood, clearing the path for County's Football League return.

As news began to spread around the Technique Stadium, the noise from the away end increased tenfold, as ambition quickly morphed into realisation for the Stockport supporters.

The Hatters will now travel to North Wales in next weekend's showdown in the knowledge they can seal the National League title with a win against closest rivals Wrexham.

  • In a title race that has meandered with each passing week, the latest twist provides plenty of optimism for Stockport, who will be keen to get the job done when they visit the Racecourse Ground on Sunday afternoon.

Attendance: 9,198 (2,632)


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