Ethan Ross has enjoyed a stellar start to life as Stockport County’s man between the sticks and the North-East born shot-stopper continues to play a large part in the Hatters’ revival.
By Amos Murphy
Ross ruling the roost in Stockport goal
Producing a number of key saves during County’s rugged 1-0 victory over Aldershot Town last weekend, the importance of Ross’ first clean sheet for the club was visibly clear for the 6,000 plus supporters inside a buoyant Edgeley Park.
Falling on a catch in what turned out to be the last action of the game, Ross span towards County’s famous Cheadle End with arms aloft and a gigantic roaring smile on his face.
By the time Ross had finished all of his post-match ablutions and emerged from the dressing room to speak to the cameras, that same grin hadn’t disappeared, in fact it appeared to have grown.
Speaking with the excitement of a child on Christmas Day morning, Ross explained his relief to have finally picked up his first clean sheet of the campaign:
“Being able to celebrate with the fans at the Cheadle End is a great feeling. We know they are all behind us throughout the 90 minutes and they really are so loud”
“I’m screaming at Ash (Palmer) and (Jordan) Keane and I really don’t think they can hear me because the fans are so loud behind us, so it was really nice to share that moment with them”.
Ross introduction vital for revival
After what was a torrid start to a campaign that promised so much for Stockport, Ross has proved an invaluable asset in Simon Rusk side’s revival, with the ex-Arsenal youth player ushering in a sense of calmness to an inconsistent County backline.
Ross was one of a number of summer signings made by Rusk during the pre-season and despite boasting an impressive CV, the former Colchester United and Lincoln City man found appearances hard to come by in the beginning.
Prior to Ross’ introduction, the Hatters had conceded nine across their first seven fixtures and had shipped three goals on a trio of separate occasions.
Whilst former County number-one Ben Hinchcliffe had registered an impressive four clean sheets in the opening weeks, shaky performances against the likes of Dagenham & Redbridge, Yeovil Town and eventually Halifax Town cost the long-time Stockport favourite his place in the team.
Snatching his opportunity with both hands – and an outstretched palm – Ross has already proved himself during his stint in the side, starting between the sticks in each of County’s three consecutive wins, culminating with his first clean sheet against Aldershot:
“I really feel at home here, they’ve really welcomed me into the group and as a young lad I have appreciated the older voices in the squad who have helped me settle in”.
Fierce battle for number-one spot in County dressing room
One of those ‘older voices’ is, of course, 34-year-old Hinchcliffe, who has since dropped out of the side and Ross is well aware of the competition for places in a competitive County squad:
“We’re going to need both goalkeepers to perform at some point in the season and Ben has been fantastic with me off the field.”
A cult hero in Stockport, Hinchcliffe signed for the Hatters in 2016 and has been involved in some of the club’s greatest moments to date, including their 2018/19 National League North league win and last season’s run to the third round of the FA Cup.
With over 240 appearances for County, whoever came into replace Hinchcliffe was always going to face a tough test-winning over the home support, yet Ross believes working with his fellow goalkeeper, not against him is the key to success:
“When Ben hasn’t been playing, he’s supported me really well and the pair of us bounce of each other every day and I learn a lot from him on a day-to-day basis”
“With the experience he’s got with managing the games here (Edgeley Park) I’ve learnt a lot and hopefully he can take some little bits off me as well”.
More smiles to come for County and Ross
It does appear as if there has been a swing in fortunes for County and in the midst of their best winning-run of the season, Ross is keen to ensure morale stays high:
“We’ve got a number of new faces in the group, so obviously it was never going to gel straight away but now you can definitely see some of the patterns of play coming through”.
How Stockport build on their recent run of results could define their fate this season and with a winnable set of fixtures on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see Ross and County shooting up the National League table in weeks to come.