On one of those crisp autumnal afternoons where you don’t quite know how many layers to wear, it was the top Hatters who showed little indecision to set a club-record-eleventh win in a row to remain at the summit of the fourth tier.
With 9,735 present, stein-swilling supporters taking their time from the Oktoberfest tent to their seats may have missed the opener for Stockport County. It was the effervescent Odin Bailey showing his quality after four minutes with a defence-splitting incision through the Tranmere Rovers backline that allowed Isaac Tanto Olaofe to race onto the ball ahead of goalkeeper, Luke McGee, to give the home side the lead.
The ex-Millwall man has had a career punctuated with loan spells but as he approaches his first year at Edgeley Park, he showed the home fans his quality in front of goal with an eleventh of the season in only 16 League Two outings.
County were rarely troubled in the first 45. Nigel Adkins remains in interim charge of Rovers after Ian Dawes’ departure and with the club second-bottom with no wins away from Prenton Park all season, it’s a tough task ahead for whoever takes charge.
Their task was made even tougher with ill-considered challenge of Harvey Saunders barely three minutes after the restart. A high challenge connected solely with Macauley Southam-Hales and a second yellow ensued.
These are halcyon days at County. Ten years ago this side was struggling in the Conference North after the most chaotic of implosions. The stands are barely recognisable from those bad old days, principally because the place is packed. The only seats available for today’s encounter were in the sun-drenched, uncovered Railway End. And since local businessman Mark Stott took over in January 2020 and the appointment of Dave Challinor 19 months later, there’s rarely been a cloud over Edgeley Park.
Their second came soon after the dismissal, player of the match Antoni Sarcevic latched onto a well-worked counter to gallop through and slot beyond McGee to wrap up the points. Chances continued to follow, with a chaotic passage of play with the ball cannoning off the post, bar and then off the line, as County went through the gears.
At the other end, 35-year-old Ben Hinchliffe showed he was as sprightly as ever with two finger-tipped saves to deny a foothold for Rovers but it was his opposite number, McGee, who was by far the busier of the goalies.
Ten League Two wins in a row, eleven in all competitions leave this side in their own record books and now five clear at the top. The all-time record in the fourth tier is 12 victories in succession, from Luton Town in 2002, an accolade that is now in sight.
It was a satisfied applause rather than a raucous reception of the full-time whistle. Winning is becoming habitual for this team. It is little wonder County scarves are being worn around the town, whatever the weather.
Copyright © 2023 Sanny Rudravajhala.