In the battle for consistency this season, few can lay claim to discovering the formula quite like Stockport County who, after a slow first few weeks of the campaign have led the way.
A run of 13 consecutive wins from September to November certainly helped and despite not hitting quite as blistering form since, they have done enough to maintain a place in the automatic promotion slots and head to the Eco-Power Stadium this afternoon sitting top of the table.
THE LAST MEETING
Rovers were undone by a late header in a competitive clash with Stockport at Edgeley Park in October.
Tanto Olaofe glanced in the only goal of the game on 84 minutes.
Rovers had battled superbly throughout, particularly during a second half in which the hosts had the majority of the attacking play as they sought a sixth straight win.
STOCKPORT'S RECENT FORM
The Hatters have lost just twice in their last ten league matches, winning four and drawing four. Last weekend's 3-1 home win over Walsall ended a three match winless run however, ensuring they remained in top spot in the division - a place they have held since October.
Only Notts County have scored more goals in League Two this season than Stockport while only Mansfield Town have conceded fewer.
LAST TIME OUT
Stockport County 3 Walsall 1
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday, January 20, 2024
Line-up: Hinchliffe, Wright, Horsfall, Byrne, Bristow, Lemonheigh, Camps (Madden 73), Crossdale, Bailey, Olaofe (Cotterill 89), Wootton (Powell 74). Subs not used: Mee, Okeke, Smith, Johnson.
Manager Dave Challinor guided the Hatters back into the EFL in 2022 and followed up with a run to the Sky Bet League Two play-offs last term.
After clocking up more than 400 during a playing career that took in Tranmere Rovers, Stockport and Bury, Challinor moved into management at Colwyn Bay and secured promotion during his first season in charge.
After a spell with AFC Fylde, he joined Hartlepool United and carried them back into the EFL before switching to Edgeley Park.
THE KEY MEN
Goalkeeper – Ben Hinchliffe
Having joined from Fylde in 2016, Hinchliffe has gone on to become the only keeper in Stockport’s history to register more than 100 clean sheets, with ten of those coming so far this season. The 35-year-old has made more than 220 career appearances for the Hatters and is chasing a third promotion with the club. He started his career at Preston North End and also featured at Derby County and Oxford United.
Defender – Fraser Horsfall
The 27-year-old has firmly established himself in the EFL and is a key member of the Stockport back line, having played in every league game so far this season. A product of the Academy at his hometown club Huddersfield Town, the defender had multiple loan moves before joining Kidderminster Harriers in 2017. Spells with Maccelsfield Town and Northampton Town followed before he joined Stockport in 2022.
Midfielder – Callum Camps
The Stockport-born midfielder joined his hometown club in the summer of 2020 after leaving Fleetwood Town. The 28-year-old came through the ranks at Rochdale and went on to make 240 senior appearances for the club before relocating to the coast with Fleetwood. After two years at Highbury, he moved to Stockport where he has made 60 appearances so far.
Striker – Isaac Olaofe
The 24-year-old forward is enjoying an impressive season in front of goal with 15 in 32 appearances so far and a better than one-in-two ratio in League Two. Olaofe joined Millwall last January from Millwall, where he came through the ranks and made three senior appearances. He had three separate loan spells at Sutton United, bringing 76 appearances and 24 goals, before his permanent switch to Stockport a year ago.
Stockport County entered the Football League in 1900 – a year ahead of Rovers. The first meeting between the two clubs came in October 1901 at the old Intake Ground where goals from Frank Bailey and John Murphy helped Rovers to a 2-0 win. The double was completed in February 1902 when Alonzo Drake and John Price netted in a 2-1 win at Stockport’s former Green Lane ground.
The two sides have met 81 times in Football League competition, with home advantage generally key to success. Stockport have not beaten Rovers in Doncaster since September 1969 and last season goals from Harrison Biggins and George Miller earned a 2-1 win at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Stockport took the honours at Edgeley Park earlier this season with a 1-0 win.
TURNED OUT FOR BOTH
Full back Kyle Knoyle joined Rovers from Cambridge United and made 81 appearances for the club before switching to Stockport last January. He has made 49 appearances so far for the Hatters but a serious head injury has ruled him out of action indefinitely, ensuring his misses this afternoon’s reunion.
Contributors: John Coyle and Gavin Hepworth