A stoppage-time volley from James Ball ensured that Stockport County took maximum points at Horsfall Stadium despite a second-half rally from hosts, Bradford Park Avenue.
Mark Bower made two changes from the side that saw off AFC Telford United on Monday night, handing a starting berth to Frank Mulhern after he stepped off the bench to bag a brace against the Bucks, and re-instating Adam Boyes following injury. Danny Boshell dropped to the bench and Nicky Clee was withdrawn from the squad altogether.
The Hatters took an early lead when Matthew Warburton’s strike cannoned off Jason Oswell and nestled in the bottom corner, shocking an Avenue side full of confidence after an impressive win over AFC Telford United four days prior.
The hosts struggled to find their rhythm in the first-half, allowing Stockport to carve out a host of chances for their plethora of talented attackers. Steven Drench was forced to make two sensational stops to deny Oswell after the forward got on the end of two teasing crosses.
The experienced goalkeeper also had to stretch to tip over a curled effort from Scott Duxbury, whose free-kick came very close to finding the top corner.
Some excellent intricate passing provided an opening for Wayne Brooksby to burst through the Stockport defence, but Boyes’ cut-back was behind the winger.
Avenue were much-improved after the interval and should have drawn level when Matt Hill picked out Boyes with a cross from deep, but the forward uncharacteristically rushed his effort and made Hinchliffe’s save a routine one.
With the hosts beginning to grow into the game, Oli Johnson glanced a header wide as pressure began to mount on the nervy Hatters.
Mark Bower’s side were, however, punished for squandering opportunites when Drench spilled a high ball into the path of Oswell, who stabbed home to double the away side’s lead.
The introductions of Jamie Spencer and Adam Smith to the Avenue midfield seemed to rejuvenate the side, and they were soon back in the game.
Ross found Javan Vidal with a delivery from the right, and the in-form utility man steered the ball into the bottom corner to offer Avenue a glimmer of hope.
They soon equalised through Mulhern, who netted his third goal in two games after clinically dispatching past Hinchliffe. Substitute Spencer had relentlessly chased down Hatters defenders and was rewarded when he dispossessed Jamie Stott before gaining an assist with a perfectly executed through ball to his former Huddersfield Town teammate.
The game seemed destined to end level, but the visitors had other ideas and Ball broke Avenue hearts with a well-struck volley that rendered Drench helpless deep into stoppage time.
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Hill, Wroe (c), Killock, Havern, Brooksby, Vidal (Toulson 74’), Boyes (Smith 65’), Johnson (Spencer 56’), Mulhern.
Unused substitutes: Hall, Boshell.
Stockport County: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Winter (c), Clarke, Stott, Thomas (O’Halloran 76’), Ball, Oswell, Warburton (Minihan 64’), Turner (Stephenson 55’).
Unused substitutes: Ormson, Turnbull.
Referee: Leigh Doherty