Stockport County 1-1 Harrogate Town
An 89th minute blunder by Stockport goalkeeper Ben Hinchcliffe gifted Harrogate Town a late point in Simon Weaver’s side’s first outing of the New Year.
Town had trailed through Michael Clarke’s 63rd minute back post finish and looked to be heading for a repeat of Boxing Day’s 1-0 loss at the hands of their 8th placed opponents.
That was until the 89th minute when Chris Smalley’s seemingly innocuous back pass was completely missed by the home side’s stopper and trickled into the back of the net.
Weaver made one change from County’s Boxing Day visit to The CNG Stadium; handing a fifth start of the season to youngster Marcus Day in place of James Cadman.
Jim Gannon would have been the happier Manager following his side’s 1-0 win, but still made one change in bringing match-winner Courtney Medden-Walters into the starting line-up.
Both sides managed to work the opposing ‘keeper in the opening ten minutes with Danny Lloyd and JP Pittman hitting the target.
The County winger looked lively in the opening exchanges and forced another save moments later at Crook’s near post.
Pittman then again took his turn to hit the target as the frontman collected a pass from Louie Swain and struck powerfully at Ben Hinchcliffe on his right foot.
With four minutes to go until the interval Simon Ainge was introduced in place of Luke Shiels, and was sent straight into the thick of the action blocking what looked like a goal bound effort.
The centre half then repeated the trick on the stroke of half time keeping out Jimmy Ball’s volley with a typically wholehearted block.
Lloyd again threatened at the start of the second 45 as his shot deflected behind, just as Day’s well hit effort rebounded fortunately into the arms of Hinchcliffe minutes later.
After a good spell of Town pressure, the visitors had Crook to thank for keeping the score level as the stopper pulled off an incredible save to keep Lloyd’s strike nestling in the bottom corner.
There was nothing Crook could do when the opening goal eventually arrived though, as Clarke bundled in a deep corner at the back post after 63 minutes.
Weaver immediately rolled the dice with the introduction of Andi Thanoj and Chib Chilaka, though it was Pittman who again went close for the visitors firing into the side netting.
Just as it looked as Town were heading for a second 1-0 defeat in the space of six days at the hands of Stockport, Smalley’s back pass was completely missed by Hinchcliffe and ended up in the back of the stopper’s net.
Harrogate Town: Crook, Colbeck, Swain, Burrell (Thanoj 65), Ellis, Shiels (Ainge 41), Emmett, Kerry, Pittman, Day (Chilaka 65), Leesley
Subs not used: Platt, Parker
Goals: Hinchcliffe OG 89
Booked: Ellis, Kerry
Stockport County: Hinchcliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Meppen-Walters (Ross 45), Clarke, Smalley, Stopforth, Montrose, Odejayi (Amis 70), Ball, LLoyd
Subs not used: Ormson, Marsden, Felix
Goals: Clarke 63
Referee: D Underwood