Stockport County v Harrogate Town: Sulphurites must be brave on the ball against 'champions-elect'
The Sulphurites travel to Edgeley Park for a 3pm kick-off in good form having won six of their last eight matches, but will be expecting a serious examination from Dave Challinor’s free-scoring Hatters.
Top-of-the-table County have the second-best home form of any team in the division, winning 10 of their 15 league matches on their own patch, while netting 33 goals in the process. Only Wrexham have performed better at home this term.
Stockport have lost just twice at Edgeley Park, to Gillingham on the opening day of the season and then 2-0 against promotion rivals Mansfield on New Year’s Day.
They thrashed Doncaster Rovers 5-1 on the road last time out, with that result following on from a 3-1 home success over Walsall. Shortly before Christmas, County put eight past Sutton United.
And while Simon Weaver has described Saturday’s opponents as “formidable”, he expects his players to try and take the game to their hosts by playing to their strengths and being brave on the ball.
“We really wanted that win [at Sutton United on Tuesday] so we could really attack Saturday with the handbrake off,” he said.
"We shouldn’t be too anxious about it because most people will be inclined to think that Stockport will win that game because they are at home, because it is against us, and because they are probably champions-elect.
"I saw them play last week and they are pretty formidable, but we have just got to relax and go about our business in an efficient way and try and enjoy the occasion, but we’re not just going to go there and wait to be beaten.
"We have to play a certain way to maximise our potential on the pitch, and to do that, you have to confront your demons from time to time and be prepared to have it [the ball] – and everybody has been like that in training.
"We are sticking to what we set out to do, which is get on the ball and play, and when we have done that, we have done so with increased confidence through the results that have come. So, we don’t want to go to Stockport with gloves up, I want us to continue in the same vein.”
Harrogate’s one previous Football League visit to Stockport saw them grab a point in a 0-0 draw last season, though Simon Weaver and his men were fortunate that their hosts were so wasteful in front of goal during an opening half which they dominated.
The Hatters were far more ruthless when they visited Wetherby Road earlier this term, winning 3-1, just as they did in North Yorkshire in 2022/23, while they also recorded a 1-0 victory in the League Cup last season.
Long-term casualties Mark Oxley, Lewis Thomas and Sam Folarin remain sidelined, while left-back Matty Foulds is still at least a week away from being able to return.
Weaver hopes that influential centre-half Anthony O’Connor will recover from the illness which ruled him out of Tuesday’s 2-1 success at Sutton in time to play, but will definitely have deadline-day additions Derrick Abu and Tom Bloxham at his disposal.