Bradford Swept Aside By Stockport

A clinical Stockport County reduced the gap between themselves and second-placed Bradford (Park Avenue) in the table to a solitary point with a convincing 3-0 victory at Edgeley Park.

The hosts made a dream start, firing themselves into the lead after just five minutes. Matty Warburton found space on the edge of the box before unleashing a left-footed strike that found the bottom corner.

Bursting with confidence, the Hatters showed no reluctance to pile bodies forward and threatened to double their lead on numerous occasions in the early stages.

Jack Atkinson had to be alert to prevent Warburton notching his second, diving to hold on to a powerful drive from the Stockport forward.

The young stopper was then relieved to see Darren Stephenson’s speculative strike find the wrong side of the woodwork after the winger skipped past Ryan Toulson.

Former Bradford loanee Frank Mulhern also came close to etching his name on the scoresheet, diving to meet Scott Duxbury’s delivery but heading wide.

The visitors began to recover from the early blow as the half progressed and carved open some opportunites of their own.

Nicky Clee’s drilled effort flew past the post after the midfielder was teed up by Oli Johnson and Conor Branson saw a glancing header held on to by Ben Hinchliffe.

The hosts, however, continued to threaten and Adam Thomas was unlucky to see his close-range header palmed away from danger in impressive fashion by Atkinson.

In a frantic end to the first-half, both sides went for the jugular. Hinchliffe pushed Nicky Wroe’s effort wide after Jake Beesley’s shot was blocked by Ashley Palmer.

Stockport winger Adam Thomas then tucked the ball away in the bottom corner, but the goal was ruled out when the linesman penalised Mulhern for straying offside.

Former Hatters defender Mark Ross came close to netting against his former employers in the late stages, seeing his powerful header plucked out of the bottom corner by Hinchliffe.

HALF-TIME: Stockport County 1-0 Bradford (Park Avenue)

Atkinson was thrust into action immediately after the restart, being forced to make impressive stops to deny Warburton and Stephenson in quick succession.

The resulting corner was delivered by Duxbury and found Palmer, who headed wide after escaping his marker.

Bradford found themselves camped in their own half but launched a swift counter-attack when Lewis Knight burst down the right flank. Stephenson, however, managed to shepherd the forward wide, forcing his shot to come from a tight angle and making the save a routine one for Hinchliffe.

The hosts eventually doubled their lead when Stephenson’s low shot from just inside the 18-yard box nestled in the bottom corner, despite Atkinson getting a fingertip to the ball.

Six minutes later, the Hatters added to their advantage in bizarre circumstances. Mulhern emerged from behind Atkinson as he prepared to punt forward, stole possession and tucked away in a vacated net.

The lead was almost further extended almost immediately after the third goal when Warburton’s long-range strike left the crossbar shaking.

The visitors failed to mount a comeback as Stockport retained their control of what evolved into a one-sided affair.

Jim Gannon’s side even enjoyed more opportunites in the late stages and Nicky Wroe had to lunge to block Sam Minihan’s powerful drive.

Wroe did catch a glimpse of goal himself in stoppage time but his speculative strike lacked the power required to trouble Hinchliffe, who held.

With the full-time whistle set to blow, Dimaio’s swerving effort whistled past the post, to the relief of a diving Atkinson.

FULL-TIME: Stockport County 3-0 Bradford (Park Avenue)

Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer, Stott, Thomas, Turnbull (c) (Osborne 71’), Mulhern (Bell 79’), Warburton (Dimaio 81’) Stephenson.
Unused substitutes: Cowan, Ormson.
Bradford (Park Avenue): Atkinson, Toulson, Lowe, Hurst (Nowakowski 64’), Killock (c), Ross, Knight, Branson, Beesley, Johnson (McKenna 45’), Clee (Wroe 30’).
Unused substitutes: Drench, Spencer.
Referee: John Matthews
Attendance: 4,105 (136 away)