Stockport County played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Salford City last weekend, in front of a bumper Edgeley Park crowd of over 5,100.
The Hatters, buoyed by a unbeaten streak that stretched back to the start of December, twice took the lead against the league leaders, only to be pegged back both times.
Jim Gannon named an unchanged starting XI, in a bid to continue their impressive form over Christmas, which saw them take ten points from a possible 12.
The contest began fairly evenly, with Salford appearing to hold the advantage in terms of general posession, without really creating any chances of note.
But that soon changed after 32 minutes, with Richie Allen clear on goal, a last ditch attempt at a tackle by Dan Cowan, followed immediately by a goal line clearance from the former Macclesfield man, prevented the Ammies from taking the lead.
It got better for the Hatters too, who took the lead three minutes later thanks to a textbook Jason Oswell header, with County’s number nine nodding home a pinpoint Scott Duxbury cross following a quickly taken free-kick.
Darren Stephenson also had a looped header saved well by Max Crocombe in the Salford goal, as the Hatters had to contend with a single goal lead going into the second half.
HT: County 1-0 Salford City
Within two minutes of the restart, County could have again furthered their advantage. Great work from Stephenson gave Gary Stopforth an almost completely open net to aim for, but the former Salford man’s shot somehow evaded the goal and came off Crocombe for a corner.
That chance turned out to be doubly disappointing for the Hatters, who found themselves level only a minute later, seemingly against the run of play in the second half.
A looping cross from the left was well-controlled by the dangerous Jack Redshaw, with Salford’s number ten then proceeding to cut inside and fire past Ben Hinchliffe in the County goal.
Matty Warburton and Oswell were then replaced by Gannon, in a bold move designed to shift the balance of play back in favour of the home side.
The change was working too, Harry Winter now excellently marshalling the defence alongside the impressive Jimmy Ball, and new signing Rhys Turner causing trouble up top in a throw back to his time here in 2013.
It was the Hatters’ third substitute, however, which gave County the lead. A well-worked move which culminated in a first time strike from Bohan Dixon sent the 5,000 County supporters into wild celebration.
The Hatters now had roughly nine minutes to hold out against the leaders, but in the 93rd minute of the match, with the last kick of the game, City equalised.
Michael Nottingham rose highest from an in-swinging Salford corner, nodding past Hinchliffe. As the away side nicked a probable deserved point in what was the last kick of the game.
FT: County 2-2 Salford City
Heartbreak for the Hatters then, in which a well-earned point will feel like a defeat. Gannon however, will see plenty of positives from a game which sees his side sit two points from the play-offs and stretch their unbeaten run to six games.
Squad: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Ball, Smalley, O’Halloran, Thomas (Dixon, 82), Stopforth, Oswell (Turner, 60), Warburton (Winter, 60), Stephenson.
Unused: Clarke, Ormson