Dan Gardner hobbled off for FC Halifax Town 12 months after picking up a knee injury against the same opponents as Stockport won 3-1 in Town’s final pre-season game at the Shay.
Town produced an out-of-sorts performance before their Conference Premier campaign gets underway next week as Kristian Dennis fired County into a two-goal lead before Marc Roberts halved the deficit.
But substitute Kayde Koppin’s goal put the result beyond doubt and ensured the Shaymen didn’t go into next Sunday’s trip to Cambridge on the back of the morale-boosting win they would have hoped for.
Gardner was forced off during the first-half of the match, but returned to sit on the bench during the second-half with some strapping to his left ankle, while Scott McManus was also taken off after the interval with what looked like a back injury.
Whether they recover in time for next Sunday’s opener remains to be seen, but Neil Aspin’s final pre-season selection offered few clues as to the potential line-up at Cambridge, with the likes of Lee Gregory, Matt Pearson and Sean Williams, all of whom could arguably be considered definite starters next Sunday, beginning on the bench here.
Those in from the start against County made a rather subdued start but still created the better openings early on as Kevin Holsgrove’s goal-bound shot was cleared just in front of the line by Stephen O’Halloran after a lovely through ball by Josh Wilson.
Wilson then had what appeared a valid goal disallowed by an offside flag as Town gradually got into gear, but Stockport suddenly burst into action with a stunning left-foot volley by Dennis that fizzed past Matt Glennon from an angle inside the box.
Town’s search for a reply failed to muster a flurry of immediate chances, but Gardner looked particularly lively as he led the charge, only to be cut down and forced off with what appeared a fairly serious injury.
But the hosts could consider themselves unfortunate to trail at the break after forcing Ian Ormson into more than one excellent save as headers Roberts and Lois Maynard were both kept out.
Gardner’s injury contributed to the low-key nature of the afternoon, and some hesitant defending in the Town box led the ball to fall kindly to Dennis, who lashed the ball past Glennon for his and County’s second.
But Town upped their game after that and made more work for Ormson, who held substitute Sean Williams’ dipping shot from 30 yards before diving at full stretch to tip Holsgrove’s fierce low shot behind.
Holsgrove was again denied by the keeper despite his thunderous low drive but he was finally beaten when Roberts beat him to Paul Marshall’s precise cross to nod into the empty net.
Stockport weren’t finished yet though as substitute Koppin suddenly exploded into life after a fairly annonymous appearance with a terrific strike that arrowed into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Halifax: Glennon, Lowe, McManus (Pearson 74), Briggs (Williams 46), Roberts, Ainge, Smith, Maynard, Wilson (Marshall 46), Gardner (Johnson 40), Holsgrove. Subs not used: Gregory.
Scorers: Roberts (74)
Shots on target: 6
Shots off target: 6
Stockport: Ormson, Jacobs, O’Halloran, Fagbola, Tunnicliffe, Charnock (Verma 46), Turner (Koppin 46), Craney, Jevons (Windsor 75), Dennis, Howard. Subs not used: King, Hand, Bateman.
Scorers: Dennis (20, 50) Koppin (78)
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 2
Man of the match: Kevin Holsgrove,