Stockport County take on Woking as they look to extend their unbeaten run and widen lead at the top of the National League


Stockport County will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run and widen the gap at the top of the National League table when they host Woking at Edgeley Park on Saturday.

When Stockport dismissed Simon Rusk at the end of October, the Hatters were 10th in the table and 12 points behind Grimsby Town who at the time led the way. Fast forward four months, and with Dave Challinor’s reign in full throttle, Stockport find themselves three points clear at the top and unbeaten in 13 games.

Challinor broke Stockport County supporters’ hearts last season when his Hartlepool United side, who went on to gain promotion to League Two, defeated County in the play-off semi-final at Edgeley Park. However, the former Stockport defender looks set to end the club’s 11-year absence from the Football League.

A week after the Hatters’ last showing in League Two, which ended in a 1-1 draw against Cheltenham Town, Challinor, against the odds, led Colwyn Bay to victory in the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier Division play-off final over FC United of Manchester, the first of six pieces of managerial silverware he has to his name.

Since his return to Edgeley Park, the 46-year-old has completely transformed Stockport. In the 21 matches County have played under Challinor, only two teams have managed to defeat the Hatters, Torquay United in the league and League One table-toppers Rotherham United in the Second Round of the FA Cup.

Edgeley Park has become a fortress in Stockport’s push for promotion. With yet another bumper crowd expected through the turnstiles on Saturday, County will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run on home soil to 11 games. The last side to beat the Hatters at home were Barnet, which turned out to be Rusk’s final games in charge.

One area Stockport have vastly improved in since Challinor took over is the final third. Under Rusk, who on Thursday was appointed Dundee FC’s new assistant manager, County only scored 11 league goals in 12 matches. In an astounding turn of form under their new boss, the Hatters have scored 42 in 16 games, averaging 2.6 goals per game.

At the opposite end of the pitch, Stockport have been strong defensively since the turn of the year. Challinor’s men have kept seven clean sheets in their 10 outings in 2022 and they were denied an eighth by a late Bromley consolation goal in the Hatters’ 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Paddy Madden, who is Stockport’s top scorer this season, scored league goals number 12 and 13 in Southeast London that evening. The Irishman, who signed from League One side Fleetwood Town just under a year ago, has reignited his goal-scoring form under Challinor, with the number nine netting seven times in his last 10 appearances.


Aside from the National League, Stockport have made strong progress in cup competitions. Earlier in the season, County knocked League One Bolton Wanderers out of the FA Cup on a special night under the Edgeley Park lights.

The Hatters will travel to Southern League Premier Central outfit Needham Market in the Quarter-Final of the FA Trophy as they find themselves two matches away from a first Wembley visit since 2008.

Woking travel to Stockport without a win in five but with history on their side. In their four matches at Edgeley Park, the Cardinals stand unbeaten against County with an equal number of wins and draws. However, Alan Dowson’s side have not recorded a win over the Hatters in their last four meetings.

Since the departure of top scorer Tahvon Campbell [13] to Rochdale for an undisclosed fee, Woking have not won in the three matches without the forward. However, Inih Effiong has stepped up to the plate. The striker, who has 10 goals to his name this season, scored a brace in Woking’s 3-2 loss at Southend United last time out.

Against a Stockport side who have scored the most goals [58] in the league this season, it will be a monumental achievement for centre backs Moussa Diarra and Gibraltarian international Louie Annesley to keep out County’s forwards. The Cardinals have only kept one clean sheet in their last 13 matches, which came in a 2-0 home win against 10-men Wealdstone.

With Woking currently 11 points above the drop zone, and with a game in hand on Weymouth, Dowson and his coaching staff, which includes iconic commentator Martin Tyler, will be hoping to ease any relegation fears with an unexpected three points on Saturday.

The Surrey-based side sit 15th in the table on 32 points, although a win would only see them leapfrog Eastleigh who are a point ahead of them.

Having played a match more than second-placed Chesterfield and four more than Boreham Wood who are six points behind the Hatters, it is important Stockport keep their eyes on the prize.

Against a side that arrive as significant underdogs, County must overcome history if they are to extend their unbeaten run and widen their lead at the top of the National League table.

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