Town fell at the first hurdle in this season’s Carabao Cup as a second-half penalty from Connor Jennings saw them fall to a 1-0 defeat to Stockport County.
The game had been even for much of the contest but after Town were penalised for a handball on 53 minutes Jennings stepped up to fire County into the second round.
Simon Weaver had made four changes to the side that fell to defeat at Crewe on Saturday. Into the side came Kyle Ferguson for his debut and there was a first start handed to Emmanuel Ilesanmi. Both Jack Muldoon and Lewis Richards also made their first appearances in the starting line-up this campaign.
The visitors rang the changes after starting the season with a pair of defeats with only two names – Callum Camps and Ollie Crankshaw – remaining from the side that was defeated 2-1 at Stevenage last time out.
The visitors undoubtedly made the brighter start of the two side, immediately coming out with plenty of purpose and Elliot Newby had the first effort on goal after cutting in from the right and saw his effort strike Pete Jameson’s left-hand post.
Town responded well though and on ten minutes George Thomson hung a cross to the far post that Ilesanmi rose well to meet but his header was too close to Vit Jaros in the Stockport goal.
Thomson was involved again minutes later when he delivered a low ball that was only cleared to Josh Austerfield whose effort was tipped over the bar by Jaros.
Camps found himself with space on the quarter-hour mark to volley a first time effort just wide with a Connor Jennings half-chance too close to Pete Jameson, but notice was served to the Town defence of the threat the visitors posed.
Thomson, becoming increasingly prominent on the right, was sent clear from a sumptuous cross-field ball from Lewis Richards, but his low cross was cleared at full stretch.
Muldoon and Matty Daly then combined neatly on the edge of the area with the Huddersfield loanee driving over from 25 yards.
County skipper Ryan Croasdale became the first name in referee Kirk’s book when he cynically pulled back Richards as he was skating through the County defence.
Both sides had plenty of strong passages of play but without carving out the clear cut opportunity needed to get the opening goal heading into half-time.
Muldoon was involved early in the second half, causing problems with his movement across the front line and he connected well on a shot that was deflected over for a corner.
A well worked move from the visitors saw Newby get a cross in from the left that Richards was alert enough to turn behind for a corner.
From the resulting corner, however, the visitors grabbed their lead. Despite protests the referee pointed to the spot after a goalbound header struck a Town player and although Jameson got a strong hand to the ball he couldn’t keep out Jennings’s spot-kick.
Falling behind prompted Simon Weaver to introduce Luke Armstrong in place of Ilesanmi, with Town having thirty minutes to stay in the competition.
Warren Burrell then replaced Welch-Hayes on the hour mark for Town before Thomson almost caught out Jaros with a free-kick that eluded the defence and came back off the far post to safety.
With Town still searching for a way back into the game James Brown went into the book for a late challenge on Austerfield.
The visitors made their first change on 70 minutes when former-Barrow man Scott Quigley replaced Connor Evans.
Town were reliant on the deliveries of Thomson from set pieces and another well-timed delivery to the far post was met by Muldoon, who headed back across goal and was hacked clear by the Stockport defence.
Richards was then alert again as Town’s last man to nick the ball off the feet of Crankshaw as the County forward bore down on goal.
Try as they might over the final ten minutes of the game, Town couldn’t carve out the opportunity needed to get back on level terms.
TOWN: Jameson, Welch-Hayes (Burrell, 60), Ferguson, Richards, Thomson, Headley, Dooley, Austerfield, Muldoon, Daly, Ilesanmi (Armstrong, 59)
Subs not used: Oxley, Mattock, Horbury.
Stockport County: Jaros, Evans (Quigley, 71), Camps, Crankshaw, Johnson, Brown, Croasdale, Newby, Hippolyte, Jennings, Lewis.
Subs not used: Hinchcliffe, Southam-Hales, Kitching, Sarcevic, Rydel, Wootton, Johnson.
Goals: Jennings (53, pen)
Booked: Croasdale (39), Hippolyte (90)
Referee: Thomas Kirk.