Having been denied three points against Bromley after Liam Hogan bundled into his own net, the irony of the own goal mustn’t have been lost on the Stockport County players sitting in the dressing room after full time, who only had themselves to blame.
By Amos Murphy
Old wounds surface to leave County out cold
Dominative for much of the 90 minutes, Stockport County displayed a quality that for the most part had been absent from their play this season during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bromley. Comfortable out of possession, a solid structure from back to front and a focal point in attack.
It would be that exact focal point that led to the opening goal, with Scott Quigley capping off a memorable week in a County shirt by converting a smart left-footed effort to put the Hatters in front. Shifting the ball onto his opposite side, the bullish striker was rewarded for yet another stellar centre forward performance.
From thereon in a second for the hosts felt inevitable. Quigley threatened on numerous occasions, whilst Paddy Madden came close and a rasping strike from Ryan Rydel squirmed just wide of the far post.
Obviously, that second goal never arrived and instead a hopeful punt from Bromley defender Luke Coulson found its way onto the head of teammate Omar Sowunmi, whose prodded downwards header ricocheted off the leg of Hogan and into the Stockport goal. A bitter end to what had been on the whole a revitalised Stockport performance.
Promising signs for County and Challinor
After what had felt like a funeral in the closing moments of last month’s 2-1 defeat to Barnet - a game that saw the eventual departure of much-maligned Simon Rusk from the County dugout – Edgeley Park was once again bouncing for the Bromley visit.
A crowd of over 5,000 squeezed their way into watch Dave Challinor’s first home match in charge of Stockport manager and despite the late disappointment, Hatters fans left the stadium feeling optimistic.
Perhaps the most notable difference between Rusk and Challinor’s County teams was the tempo with which the two sides played. Under the former manager, attacking patterns were often laboured and uninspired. Under the new boss, the Hatters looked capable of stinging at any moment.
Having expressed his disappointment around the nature of the equalising goal, Challinor admitted he was confident after what he had seen during his short time as Hatters boss:
“Ultimately, we have to find that balance within the squad, but absolutely I am confident of doing that.
“We have to give the players we’ve got an opportunity to show what they can do, but if they’re not able to do what’s required, I’ve told them they’re at a football club that allows for us to strengthen as and when we need to.
“From their perspective, it’s about showing what they can do and when they get the opportunity, they need to go and grasp that”.
Challinor breaks down County’s tactics
There is little more Challinor could’ve asked from his first week as Stockport manager: a warm welcome from a fanbase in need of leadership, a hungry squad capable of challenging at the top, and of course, that sensational draw away to League One Bolton in the former Hartlepool United man’s opening game in charge.
Post-Bolton Challinor spoke about his willingness to interchange between systems, with Stockport switching from a four-at-the-back deployed in the FA Cup tie, to a three-at-the-back to match the formation used by opponent’s Bromley. Speaking on the decision, Challinor revealed the reason behind matching Bromley’s set-up:
“We were at home and wanted to be on the front foot, with our attacking players high up the pitch, which they did”.
One of the forward players Challinor references was Ollie Crankshaw, who has dazzled on the right-hand side for the Hatters since being drafted in from Bradford, yet the 24-year-old was instructed to operate as a wing-back for the Bromley clash, with the County boss explaining why:
“What we asked him to do today was stay up as high as he can and push their left wing-back further back. They didn’t mark him, which meant their left centre-half was having to come across and deal with him (Crankshaw).
“Ultimately, if you’re playing as a right-winger in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 and the left-back runs forward, you’re going to have to go back with him, so I wouldn’t say it was to give him more defensive responsibilities”.
Challinor content with County move
With the full-time whistle ending County’s hopes of a first win in the league at Edgeley Park since early October, the mood around the stadium refused to reflect the scoreline.
As had been the case at the University of Bolton Stadium six days prior, a constant rendition of ‘Dave Challinor’s Blue and White army’ trailed the players off the pitch. County have found their man and, it would seem, Challinor has found his club.
Speaking on the decision to swap League Two Hartlepool for fifth-tier Stockport, Challinor was open and honest about the potential County have as a club:
“I’ve been at big football clubs before, but not big clubs with infrastructure like this. Everything we (the coaching team) have had to deal with over the past 10, 11, 12 years is taken care of, so we can solely focus on the green stuff if you like.
“Being able to train with the players every day gives me a much better opportunity to progress as a manager and progress Stockport as a football club potentially beyond where I took Hartlepool”.
Bolton awaits Stockport in the FA Cup First Round replay on Wednesday evening, whilst Woking are the promotion hopefuls' next opponents in the National League.