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Stockport County v Salford City
After over a decade out of the EFL, there is no doubt that Edgeley Park will be bouncing on Saturday afternoon as Stockport host the second leg of their League Two Play-Off Semi-Final against Salford.
For both sides, changes of ownership has catapulted them out of the doldrums and now, after years of building, has them dreaming of a place in League One next season. That would make it back-to-back promotions for the Hatters, and would mean Salford can finally escape League Two; which has proved to be somewhat sticky for a side previously used to breezing up through the pyramid in non-league football.
After three seasons of narrowly missing out on the play-offs, the Ammies squeaked in this time and took advantage of Stockport’s injury issues last weekend, securing a 1-0 lead to defend in this second leg. With both sides absolutely desperate to make this opportunity count, we should be on for a fantastic start to Saturday.
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The lack of goalscorers told
An incredibly high standard has allowed Stockport County to recover from a slow start and keep their hopes of consecutive promotions alive. However, last Saturday at the Peninsula Stadium, the Hatters fell way below those standards in their 1-0 defeat to Salford City.
Stockport weren’t helped by key absences. Having already lost top scorer Kyle Wootton to injury for the remainder of the campaign, they in turn had to enter this game without either striker Paddy Madden or midfielder Will Collar in the matchday squad.
The pair both sit on 10 league goals this season, the only other players in the Hatter squad to record double figures this season and some way ahead of the next-highest scorers who sit on 4. Challinor was forced into a change of shape from 3-5-2 to 5-4-1, with Isaac Olaofe only good enough for the bench, leaving the still largely-experienced Jack Stretton as the man leading the line on his own. Stretton carries plenty of potential at just 21, but the former Derby County man is not yet at the level of his forward team mates.
Without the goals of Madden and Wootton, nor the frightening box-to-box presence of Will Collar, Stockport were bullied by Salford in Greater Manchester. They simply have to improve at Edgeley Park, even if they remain without those top scorers.
Stockport County team news
County fans will be sweating on the news of whether Will Collar and Paddy Madden will be available to play some part in this second leg at Edgeley Park. The pair are a key parts of the normal starting XI respectively and two of only three players to hit double figures for Stockport this season. The other is striker Kyle Wootton who is guaranteed to be out. The squad was so thin that Dave Challinor chose to recall Ethan Pye from a loan at National League Gateshead.
Both teams know exactly where they stand now, and we go into a normal 90 minute game with everything to play for.Stockport manager Dave Challinor responds to his side’s 1-0 defeat in the first leg
Stockport should remain unchanged in defence, with experienced goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe sat behind the trio of Neill Byrne, Fraser Horsfall and Akil Wright. Challinor may switch from 5-4-1 to his more successful 3-5-2, and that would bring Chris Hussey and Kyle Knoyle further up the flanks to more front-footed wing-back roles. Ryan Rydel may possibly be preferred to the more experienced Hussey on the left. If Collar isn’t available, expect Myles Hippolyte, Ryan Croasdale and Callum Camps to form the midfield three, with Lemonheigh-Evans a possible alternative.
The switch to a 3-5-2 would allow Isaac Olaofe to come back into the starting eleven as a partner to Jack Stretton up top, especially useful if Madden remains unavailable. Lemonheigh-Evans may possibly be deployed alongside or just behind Stretton if Olaofe isn’t fit enough to start.
Two games from history
The first leg at the Peninsula Stadium was not a particularly great game, but it is one Salford City can certainly be satisfied with. Matt Smith’s 17th minute goal after a serious tussle with Fraser Horsfall is the difference between the two sides. Hold that lead, and the Ammies are off to Wembley and then a single game away from playing League One football for the first time ever.
Team news from the Stockport campaign suggested an opportunity for Salford City, playing against a Hatters team without its three main goalscorers. They duly took advantage, being much the better side in a performance where they at times bullied the Stockport team with their physical, direct football.
Striker Matt Smith and attacking midfielder Callum Hendry enjoyed aerial success, as did the centre back pair of Theo Vassell and Adrian Mariappa. If not for a good Ben Hinchliffe save to deny Conor McAleny, they could have taken an even better lead to Edgeley Park…
Salford City team news
Salford City may well remain unchanged from their first leg victory in Greater Manchester.
We’ve got a slight, slender lead which we’ll take into the second leg. We’re not naïve enough to think that this is finished.
It’s the halfway point in the tie but I think we can be proud of the job we did.Salford boss Neil Wood speaks after the first leg
Alex Cairns will stay in goal. The 4-2-3-1 in front of him should include the starting back four of Ibou Touray, Adrian Mariappa, Theo Vassell and Liam Shephard from left to right. Leading assister Elliot Watt should partner Stevie Mallan at the base of midfield.
The immense pace of Luke Bolton should remain on the right. In-form forward Callum Hendry should start behind the towering Matt Smith. The only possible change could be on the left with Conor McAleny swapped for Louie Barry.
Stockport County v Salford City Cheat Sheet
With a chance to play at Wembley on the line, we can expect an intense game. Both sides have plenty of players willing to get stuck in and fouls seem like a great place to start for any Stockport County v Salford City bet builder.
Conor McAleny, Matt Smith and Callum Hendry all draw well over one foul per game on average, and with a deficit to claw back, it is easy to imagine County’s defenders will be overzealous in attempting to win the ball back, making any of the three central defenders great options for a foul pick.
McAleny, Smith and Hendry all average 3 shots per 90, so shot markets should be examined closely also for Salford, there are great options for Stockport too, who should be on the front foot, but be careful, the injury concerns mean that the data for some Hatters players, such as Jack Stretton is based on less than 10 games’ worth of football this season.
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Stockport County v Salford City bet builder tips
Stockport County v Salford City
Second legs can often offer the promise of more drama than the first. The stakes go up now. A winner has to be found. There can be no case of settling for the draw.
Hosts Stockport County know that they need to score at least once at Edgeley Park to have any chance of progressing, and will target getting at least two to flip the tie completely on its head. Even if still without Paddy Madden and Will Collar, the Hatters do possess an abundance of attacking quality. Isaac Olaofe has proved a frightening force at this level previously with Sutton United. Myles Hippolyte and Callum Camps are quality attack-minded midfielders for the level. Chris Hussey’s deliveries from set pieces and open play can be a constant problem for opposition defences.
Salford City in turn though demonstrated their own attacking quality in the first leg. Striker Matt Smith’s six-foot-six frame will always make him a handful for any opposing defender, a real nightmare to contain when crosses are aimed up to him. Callum Hendry has nine goals across his last 15 appearances, eight of those coming in matches away from home. Luke Bolton’s turn of pace makes him a serious threat when running at the backline. Midfielder Elliot Watt forms a key role with his clever passing and set piece proficiency, leading the league for regular season assists alongside Carlisle’s Owen Moxon.
Stockport County finished third in the fourth tier home table with 42 points. Salford City finished second in the away table with 40 points. Both sides find themselves in arguably their more preferred play-off leg scenario, and could make good use of that.
Both teams finding the net at Edgeley Park could well lead to a much more entertaining affair than the first leg at the Peninsula Stadium. Stockport will be targeting at least two goals regardless, keen to flip the aggregate score completely on its head.
Salford will relish this away game however, especially given their recent history on the road. The Ammies won each of their last three away games 3-2 against AFC Wimbledon, Walsall and Carlisle United, and have lost just one of their eight matches away. Those most recent wins saw Salford score goals in the 95th and 96th minute against Wimbledon, the 88th and 97th minutes against Walsall, and the 88th minute against Carlisle. Neil Wood’s positive attacking approach becomes even more attack-heavy if required in the latter stages.
Stockport home games have seen an average of 2.1 goals scored this season. Salford City away games have seen an even higher average of 3.3 goals scored. Top attacking sides with Wembley on the line and little in it ahead of kick-off, there is certainly the potential for goals this Saturday lunchtime.
Sat on 12 league goals this season and 14 in all competitions, Callum Hendry has been a big part of Salford’s strong away record and impressive recent away form.
The 25-year-old Scot can operate up top or just behind the main striker, regularly taking up good positions which up until the last couple of months were not being rewarded with the expected goal output. Eight of Hendry’s last nine goals have come away from home, scoring in all but one of Salford’s last eight matches on the road.
Hendry has had one of the highest shot volumes of any League Two player in 2022-23, and has averaged 3.5 shots per 90 in the fourth tier. On average, 2.3 shots per 90 come within 18 yards of goal, but the Scot has also demonstrated a tendency to shoot from range, no better shown than in the regular season at Edgeley Park where his spectacular strike secured a 1-1 draw with Stockport County.
Callum Hendry has been the man for the big occasions on the road recently, and in what could prove Salford’s most crucial game of the season so far, the Ammies will turn to their in-form forward star at every opportunity.
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