"The group has plenty of experienced title and promotion winners" - Stockport County v FC Halifax Town: Opposition Focus

We spoke to Sam Byrne from the Manchester Evening News - before Stockport's win against Torquay on Wednesday - for the lowdown on FC Halifax Town's opponents on Sunday.

By Tom Scargill
Saturday, 14th May 2022, 8:53 am

What's been the secret to Stockport's success this season?

Dave Challinor, mostly! County were floundering under Simon Rusk in the early stages of the season, typified by the 3-0 thrashing at The Shay. County eventually did make the change in late October and brought Challinor in, with a blistering run of 22 wins from 23 then taking them top and looking relentless. He quickly instilled a high energy, high intensity style of play which blew a lot of sides away.

It will go down to the last day to decide the title, how do you think the Stockport players will handle an occasion like that?

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Dave Challinor. Photo: Getty Images

It’s a difficult one. Obviously we’ll need to see how the Torquay game on Wednesday evening goes first, to see what sort of result County need against Halifax and what the situation is. It looked for a long while like the players would handle the pressure of a title race with no problems. But some adversity in recent weeks by way of results and performances have had some of the side seemingly struggling. At the same time, the group has plenty of experienced title and promotion winners who should know how to remain calm in these occasions.

What do you put Stockport's dip in form of late down to?

There’s been a fair amount of shooting themselves in the foot going on. Leading 1-0 at Grimsby over the Easter Weekend and looking comfortable, Antoni Sarcevic received a straight red and Grimsby went on to win 2-1. In Sarcevic’s three games out, County won one and lost two. A week later at Yeovil, Will Collar got a straight red immediately after a Myles Hippolyte goal had got County back in the game, and they lost 2-1. Collar is really influential alongside Sarcevic, and a combined six games without the pair has come at the worst time. Challinor is quick to insist that they aren’t used as excuses - and to be fair, there should have been enough quality in the group regardless of those absences. The high-intensity and high-energy stuff I mentioned above has also dropped off as of late, with it looking very much like the side have been running out of some of the steam that took them to the top.

What kind of atmosphere would you expect on Sunday for such a special occasion?

Again, it will depend on the Torquay result on Wednesday - but definitely nervy! A sell-out crowd is expected to hopefully see the side crawl over the line, but there’ll of course be nerves, tension and all the rest.

What's Stockport's style of play - what can Halifax expect to come up against?

Your guess is as good as mine at the minute! A few weeks or months back, I would have said a more free-flowing, intense style with a constant high press. In recent weeks, County have been almost forced into a more patient style largely down to the absences mentioned. Having said that, both Antoni Sarcevic and Will Collar - who provide an awful lot of that intensity - should be back in the side for the visit of Halifax, so the home side will be hoping for a return to that sort of approach.

Who will be your dangermen on Sunday and why?

Paddy Madden can never be taken lightly - with 21 goals to his name this season, not only is he the main threat but often sets the tone with a high-energy press from the front. Youngster Ryan Rydel has 15 assists to his name in his breakthrough season with the club, and as above, Antoni Sarcevic always provides a touch of class which is a step above the National League.

Injuries/suspensions?

At the time of writing, no suspensions - all being well, that’s still the case after Torquay! Macauley Southam-Hales, the rapid right wing-back, was ruled out for the rest of the season a few weeks back - again, a real miss and has coincided with a dip in results. Left-sided centre-back Ryan Johnson missed the defeat at rivals Wrexham last Sunday but “should” be okay according to Challinor, whilst Morecambe loan striker Courtney Duffus appears to have ruptured his ACL in training over the last week and will play no further part in County’s title bid.

Likely line-up and formation?

Going with the best available line-up, the only real question marks will be over the fitness of Johnson, and the choice of an out-of-form Scott Quigley or winger Ollie Crankshaw up top to partner Madden. Crankshaw is a real talent but has struggled to nail down a starting spot due to the usual shape that County use under Challinor - which has been a 3-5-2. Former Halifax loanee Elliot Newby has excelled at times as a wing-back.

Hinchliffe, Hogan, Palmer, Johnson; Newby, Croasdale, Collar, Sarcevic, Rydel; Madden, Quigley.