A Jason Oswell hat-trick was enough to sink an impressive Spennymoor side at Edgeley Park last weekend, as Stockport went within two points of the play-offs.
Jim Gannon made three changes to the side that lost out at Brackley, with Michael Clarke, Harry Winter and Darren Stephenson all making starts in place of the injured Matty Warburton, Ben McKenna and Bohan Dixon.
With Spennymoor starting the day in 5th, the away side were the favourites to take home the points against a County side that had not beaten any side in the current top half of the table.
It was the Moors that started much the brighter too, and could have been ahead in the second minute courtesy of a Glen Taylor effort.
After sustained pressure on the Cheadle End goal, Town did go ahead in the 21st minute, albeit from a dubious source. Taylor poked the ball past Stephen O’Halloran and fell very easily to the floor, with his simulation fooling the referee.
Taylor stepped up and sent Hincliffe the wrong way. A deserved lead but there was a bitterness around the ground in the way that the North East side had taken the lead.
Perhaps keen to even up the match. Referee Aaron Jackson then awarded County a penalty of their own. Darren Stephenson was (in my opinion, fairly) tackled in the box and Jackson again had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Oswell stepped up, in the absence of Warburton and slotted home. Much welcomed by County fans, who had seen their side grow into the game since the goal, up until the half-time whistle was sounded.
HT: County 1-1 Spennymoor
With the Hatters attacking the Cheadle End in the second half, they began the second half with purpose. The trio of Stephenson, Oswell and Stopforth were combining well up top as the home side went in search of a goal.
Acting left-back O’halloran nearly provided one too, his dogged run to the by-line ended with a cross-come-shot that looped over goalkeeper Shane Bland and bounced just wide of the right of the goal.
But it was a more familiar face that put County in front, Jason Oswell fired home from 18 yards after being teed up by Jimmy Ball just outside the area. The striker’s pinpoint shot bouncing in off the post to put County ahead for the first time in the match.
But any joy was short-lived as Spennymoor pulled level just two minutes later. A hopeful ball into the box by Chris Mason was nodded home by the unmarked Robert Ramshaw as the Hatters suffered another defensive lapse.
It was nice to see then, since that second Spennymoor goal, the response and will to win from our players. Unlike the previous week where a 2-1 lead was surrendered to Brackley, the home side this time battled to wrestle back control of this topsy-turvy game.
Ben McKenna looked lively whenever he was on the ball and our full-backs were pushing up the pitch in support of our attackers. Indeed, it was Dan Cowan who provided the source of County’s third and ultimately winning goal.
His cross from the right was met by a diving Jason Oswell who powered his header past Bland, securing his third of the game and 20th of the season.
Some nervy moments followed as Spennymoor went in search of an equaliser, but this time the County defence held firm and the home side were rewarded with a crucial three points.
With some winnable games ahead, first against Lancaster in the trophy and then versus Curzon and Alfreton in the league, Jim Gannon will hope this result is the start of a strong run for his side as they aim to move up the table.
FT: County 3-2 Spennymoor
Scorers: Oswell (34, 58 and 69).
Squad: Hinchliffe, Cowan, O’Halloran, Ball, Clarke, Smalley, Mantack (Thomas, 65), Winter, Oswell (Dixon, 88), Stopforth, Stephenson (McKenna, 61).
Unused Subs: Duxbury, Ormson.