Former Tranmere Rovers winger, Darren Stephenson, has signed for Stockport County on a two year contract and becomes Jim Gannon’s fourth signing of the summer.
The left sided attacker, who began his career at Bradford City and made one appearance for The Bantams in 2012, has been billed as a replacement for Danny Lloyd and a striker that is proven at Conference North level.
TRANSFER NEWS: Darren Stephenson has today signed for Stockport County on a 2-year deal. We would like to wish Darren well for the future. pic.twitter.com/CITzbjxlRK
The consensus from Tranmere Rovers fans, for what it’s worth, is that it was a mistake to release a player that was never really given a chance in the team. Looking at the Total Tranmere forum, you can see that the majority believe he would have an important impact for them when fully fit.
Jim Gannon, meanwhile, is delighted to finally secure Darren’s services, and revealed that he has been a target for quite some time.
‘Darren is a player I’ve admired since he played against my Northwich Victoria team’, he told Stockportcounty.com on Monday.
“(He) catches the eye with his skill, pace and ability to raid in off the left to score goals. His flourish of goals at the end of 2015/2016 earned him a great move to Tranmere”.
Darren Stephenson is a good signing for Stockport. Didn't really get the chance at Tranmere. Good replacement for Lloyd. @StockportCounty
The Hatters’ recent match against Chorley may have been a source of frustration for many County fans, with The Magpies just about clinging on to a point as they left Edgeley Park that day. But for Tom and Daniel, the guys behind the Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game blog, it was a chance to experience another lower-league atmosphere as neutrals, as they travel up and down the country.
“Jim Gannons blue white army” sing the fans, to the rhythm of a drum behind us. He changes beat and with it so does the song “Edgeley, Edgeley, we’re the famous Stockport County and we come from Edgeley”, once again he changes and the fans around us, lots of them kids, fall almost into a hypnotic trance, “blue army, blue army” they repeat, over and over.
The two provide a funny, insightful and refreshing view of what it’s like to come to Edgeley Park as a neutral football fan. You can catch their blog about the day by clicking here. Or take a look at their video of the day below.
Follow the guys on their travels by giving them a like on social media:
County were held to a 0-0 draw against 4th place Chorley FC in Saturday’s game at Edgeley Park, a result which sees Jim Gannon’s men remain in 6th position.
In a game where chances were few and far between, County had the upper-hand for the majority in the first half, with Connor Hampson forcing a good save out of substitute goalkeeper Brannagan and Jimmy Ball firing just wide. Chorley, on the other hand, were restricted to attempts from 25+ yards out and Hinchliffe was equal to their only shot on target in the 27th minute.
HT: County 0-0 Chorley
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, and County remained in control of the game without threatening the Chorley goal too much. Hampson had another shot saved and Marsden had a shot blocked.
The lack of clear cut chances were down in part to Magpies defender Keiran Charnock, who was lucky not to be sent off on a number of occasions before he eventually was, the former County defender first tripped substitute Kaine Felix with the winger through on goal, then upended the same player on the edge of the box, before finally receiving his marching orders for cynically taking down an advancing Sefton Gonzales in the 91st minute.
Jimmy Ball fired the resulting free-kick just wide and the much-maligned referee ended the game shortly after. The result sees County sit four points behind Chorley and along with a couple of other favourable results at the weekend, sees County sit right in the mix for those coveted top five placings.
The Hatters take on Chorley at Edgeley Park this weekend in a match that could see County move back into the play-off positions on the Vanarama National League North.
County were without the industrious Sam Minihan last week as the right-back suffered with a groin injury, but Gannon is hoping the former Rochdale scholar will be back in contention this weekend and could replace Mark Ross in defence or Courtney Meppen-Walters in midfield.
In attack, Josh Amis, Kayode Odejayi and Sefton Gonzales are all in contention to lead the line up front, it’s likely that Gannon will choose between Josh Amis, who caused the Magpies trouble in the reverse early this year, and new signing Sefton Gonzales, who actually played for Chorley at Victory Park against the Hatters.
In three attempts, County have never beaten Chorley at Edgeley Park. In fact since relegation to the NLN, we’ve only scored once against the Lancashire side at home, a Jake Kirby strike from 20 yards last season.
More recently, County have been more fortunate, a Ben Hinchliffe assist and a Danny Lloyd goal meant that 1000 County fans earlier this year saw a first victory over The Magpies.
That game was our last victory before a tricky November month, which saw County win one match in seven.Since then, however, County have lost only one league game, which came last week in an away defeat to Kidderminster Harriers.
At Edgeley Park, The Hatters are actually unbeaten since the unfortunate 2-1 defeat to Bradford Park Avenue 4 months ago, a game in which Danny Lloyd hit the bar from the penalty spot, an opportunity that would have seen his side go 2-0 up.
Chorley in 2017 have been indifferent and unpredictable. Out of a possible nine games this year they have won four matches, with only one of those coming on the road. Out of the current top six, they look the most likely to be caught by County after a struggle for consistency since Christmas. They have, however, won their last two matches in the league against Alfreton and Kidderminster and will no doubt be dangerous tomorrow.
The game will no doubt be a popular one tomorrow and is arguably more important than the FC United match a fortnight ago. Chorley are travelling in numbers and their official coach services have sold out in anticipation of the game. Expect 400+ Chorley supporters to make the trip and another potential 4000+ crowd when you take the Blue & White Army into account.
Tickets can be purchased on the day and cost £15/£10/£5 respectively. The club have advised supporters to turn up early to beat the queues or to use the cash turnstiles in operation at the Cheadle End and Danny Begara stands.
Sefton Gonzales has re-signed for Stockport County, following spells at a number of other National League North clubs this season.
The 25-year-old joined as one of Neil Young’s first signings in 2015, but after ten appearances and no goals, rejoined Clitheroe for the remainder of the season.
Since then, Gonzales has gone on to have spells at Chorley, Colne and Stalybridge, and Hatters fans will most recently remember his assist to pull Celtic level in the game at Edgeley Park two weeks ago.
“I have said consistently that the type of player we are recruiting at County as we move forward are those proven but with potential and I feel that Sefton fits that bill. He’s a player that I’m really looking forward to working with and I trust that he will help give the team a lift as we go into the demanding few months towards the end of the season.”
Gannon has also compared Gonzales to former Hatters striker Liam Dickinson, and County fans will be hoping that the former Chorley striker can hit the same heights this season, as they look to push back into the play-offs.
Gonzales will go straight into the team for tomorrow’s game against FC United, alongside new defender Connor Hampson, who joined last week from Curzon Ashton.
There are nine big matches taking place this weekend in the Vanarama National League North, with key games in both the race for promotion and the battle to avoid relegation.
Starting at the top, the two form teams in the division play each other as AFC Fylde travel to Salford in what is a massive game, failure to win at Moor Lane would mean that Kidderminster could move to within three points of The Coasters if they win their two games in hand. Salford, meanwhile, would go second with a victory and surely, with 15 league games still to go, harbour their own thoughts of catching Dave Challinor’s men.
In another big match, Chorley look to consolidate their position in the top five as they host Darlington, whereas The Quakers will be looking to move back in to the play-offs after recently being replaced by Stockport County. In the other games of interest at the top, Tamworth and Halifax travel to Worcester and Altrincham respectively in games that neither team can afford to lose, especially if they want to keep pace with the leading five.
A win for County, however, could see them move into third position (albeit they’d have to beat Stalybridge at Edgeley Park on Saturday by at least 15 goals), and with other promotion chasing teams playing each other, a win for County is a must.
However with Bridgecurrently 11 points from safety at the moment, they will also view Saturday’s game as an incredibly important one, a win or draw for Celtic would see them unbeaten in four and would really give their side belief that they can beat the drop.
Elsewhere in the relegation zone, Bradford Park Avenue face Curzon Ashton and will aim to move to within a point of 19th placed Alfreton, whereas bottom club Altrincham host Halifax as they look to move into double figures this season and secure just their second win of the entire league campaign.
In mid-table, GloucesterCity could move into ninth position as they go head-to-head with AFC Telford at the New Bucks Head Stadium, The Tigers will be looking to build on their impressive win against Tamworth as they continue their surge for the play-offs.
In the final two games of the weekend, Gainsborough Trinity face Alfeton Town in a game which will see connotations at the bottom of the table, whilst 10th placed HarrogateTown take on Boston at York Street.
The Chorley guardian are reporting that County, and Gannon have been tapping up as many as 4 Chorley players, including the recently signed Mark Ross.
Other players that the hatters have been accused of ‘poaching’ include goalkeeper Sam Ashton, striker James Dean and full-back Courtney Meppen-Walter. With the latter now no longer responding to the magpies requests.
Whether this paves the way for any signings remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the Lancashire club are not happy and have put in an official complaint to the FA regarding our ‘behaviour’.