The Hatters moved within a win of top spot with their win over league leaders, Tranmere Rovers, this weekend. The victory at Ellesmere Port Sports Village was County's ninth win out of nine in the league this season, moving them three points off the lead with five games in hand. A return to the squad for Jeneyah Webb from injury gave manager Ronnie Green a dilemma with his attacking options.
Chloe Mapp, who started the game on 24 goals in all competitions this season, Abi Hayes, the centre-back who has transitioned well as a striker with four goals in two games, and Holly Stokes, the development squad's most recent first team addition, all provide real competition for Webb's place. The returning striker had to settle for the bench in her first game back, as Hayes and Mapp started the game at the forefront of an attacking 4-3-1-2 formation. Kath Jones was also unavailable, meaning Melissa Von Bargen was able to make her first start in the blue and white.
It was a cagey start to the game for both sides, with the majority of the opening exchanges struggling to find their way through either side's defense. Some early corners from the Hatters showcased the visitors' aerial threat from set pieces. It was eventually the hosts that took their chances, catching the Hatters on the break to take the lead.
The Rovers then used this momentum to come close again with a sweeping ball across the face of Lauren Blackett's goal but wasn't met by the on-rushing attacker.
After a tough 40 minutes for County, the moment that the side needed came to fruition when Abi Hayes broke through on goal, curling a looping effort up and over the goalkeeper to level the scores for the Hatters, getting her fifth goal in three games in the process.
Things then got even better for the visitors when a good run from Hanna Wilson down the right allowed her to cross the ball into Chloe Mapp who took the ball down well on her chest before unleashing a quality strike into the top corner and giving County the lead on the stroke of half-time, this goal being her 25th of the campaign.
The start of the second half was much stronger from County, as Claire O'Reilly made a nuisance of herself on the left hand side. It was a set-piece tht proved decisive again as a free-kick from the right was arched over the defensive line and onto the head of Nicola Connor who thundered the ball into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
The game began to get heated amongst the Tranmere players following an altercation with one of the referee's assistants, this lead to the one and only caution of the game.
County's fourth goal came through Chaneece Reeves follwowing some good buildup play between Von Bargen and Wilson, before the latter played an excellent ball into the six yard area for Reeves to knock past the goalkeeper. The home side did get a second, a well worked free-kick which wrongfooted Blackett and found it's way into the far corner from distance.
Masa Butler replaced Von Bargen and came close herself from close range after a darting run down the left. One the whole, it was a game of two halves for County, after a cagey first period the side came out with more flair and positivity and truly put the game beyond Tranmere in the second half.
FT | Tranmere Rovers 2-4 Stockport County (Hayes 42, Mapp 45+1, Connor 60, Reeves 73)
TEAM | Blackett, Wilson, O'Reilly, Hancock, Connor, John, Von Bargen (Butler), Reeves, Mapp (Stokes), Douglas, Hayes (Webb).
UNUSED SUBS | Attfield, Porteous-Williams.
POTM | Chaneece Reeves
ATT | 42