Dave Challinor reflects on Stockport County’s ‘important three points’ against Woking

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Stockport County manager Dave Challinor said his 10-man County side earned an ‘important three points’ in their 1-0 win over Woking at Edgeley Park.

Ashley Palmer’s 72nd-minute header was enough to earn three vital points for the Hatters, who had to play most of the second half with 10 men after Liam Hogan’s perplexing red card.

A strong tackle from Stockport’s Will Collar sparked a coming together between both sets of players in front of the dugouts, and after a lengthy discussion with his officials, the County midfielder and Woking’s Louie Annesley were shown yellow by referee Matthew Dicicco.

Then, to almost everyone’s disbelief inside the stadium, the referee brandished a red card to the Stockport captain for the use of violent conduct during the commotion.

When asked about the incident post-match, Challinor revealed he was unable to speak to the officials as they had already left and that the club will wait till the report is shown on Monday.

The red card unorthodoxly worked in Stockport’s favour as they were injected with a new lease of life. The winner came in the final 20 minutes when Ryan Rydel’s corner was met at the back post by Palmer, who climbed highest to direct his header into the bottom corner.

Since Challinor took over in November, the Hatters have been revolutionised. Having scored 11 goals in 12 league matches under Simon Rusk, County have since netted 43 times in 17 matches. Their recent 4-1 win away at Altrincham acts as the prime example of the free-flowing, attacking football the expected champions aim to play.

However, against Woking, Stockport were forced to dig deep to overcome the struggling Surrey-based side. In the first half, the hosts found themselves flooded with pressure, but even when down to 10 men, County stood firm to prevent the Cardinals from leaving with a point.

The unity within Stockport is robust, with supporters starting to firmly believe their long overdue return to the Football League is forthcoming. When asked about the strength of the squad’s mentality, Challinor was straightforward in his response.

“If the mentality is not strong now, it never will be. If we are going to achieve anything this season we need to be all in which in the first half I did not think we were.

“You have to be able to win in different ways tactically based on certain games and conditions, and in football you have to openly adapt to win matches which we done today to claim an important three points.”

Five minutes after Hogan’s dismissal, Challinor made a game-changing double substitution which saw Elliot Newby and Ollie Crankshaw introduced. The duo put Woking’s defence under a mass amount of pressure and they eventually caved in.

Crankshaw had the opportunity to double Stockport’s advantage in the closing minutes, however, Craig Ross first produced a fine save to deny the former Bradford City man before he reacted quickly to keep out Paddy Madden’s effort.

“We had to make a choice at the time whether a point would be a good result or if we wanted three. You have to roll the dice to win matches,” said Challinor when asked about the substitution.

“We made a choice to put people on that would challenge and the two done that really effectively. It got us up the pitch, we were able to exert pressure and we got a goal from a set-piece which is something we have worked really hard on.”

Despite a strong showing for large parts at Edgeley Park, Woking’s winless run extends to five. Alan Dowson’s men were the better team in the first half and they worried Stockport on numerous occasions from set-pieces.

With Moussa Diarra the assigned target man, County struggled to cope with the size of the centre back whose knock-down almost resulted in the visitors taking the lead five minutes before the interval.

A loose ball fell kindly to Rohan Ince inside the six-yard box, and despite staying composed in creating a shooting chance, the midfielder fired his effort into the side-netting at a tight angle.

In the second half though, Stockport improved their response to Woking’s threats. Ryan Johnson, who was in charge of marking Diarra, provided a delicate but vital touch to take the ball off the awaiting centre back inside the final 10 minutes.

“They are a big team with three centre backs who are all around the 6ft3 mark – in comparison, we are small so that was always going to be a threat,” said Challinor.

“We had to make sure we minimised the opportunities they had, and in the first half, I do not think we did that well enough. In the second half we were different and I felt we dealt with the deliveries really well.”

Despite Ryan Croasdale being named County’s Man of the Match, Ben Hinchliffe put in a strong performance between the sticks as he kept his 12th clean sheet of the season.

The shot-stopper produced a fantastic save in the first half to deny Inih Effiong. The striker, who scored twice against Southend United in Woking’s previous game, turned well on the edge of the box before unleashing a looping effort which was tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper.

Hinchliffe was called into action moments after County took the lead to turn substitute Jack Roles’ strike behind for a corner. After a neat exchange inside the area, the ball was laid off to the midfielder whose goal-bound effort was tipped around the post.

Victory for Stockport means they are now unbeaten in 14 matches, and following Chesterfield’s 3-2 defeat at home to Solihull Moors, the Hatters find themselves six points clear at the top of the National League.

County host relegation-strugglers Weymouth at Edgeley Park next weekend and Challinor expressed the importance of the match in building momentum for the rest of the season.

“We do not know how many wins or points it will take for us to achieve success however that is measured, but every win we get takes us one step closer to where we want to be.

“It is important now the three points today help us continue building our momentum ahead of next Saturday in what we hope will be in front of another big crowd.”

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