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Stockport County 5-0 Milton Keynes Dons: Hatters see off promotion rivals

Stockport hammered MK Dons in the day's big League Two promotion battle to strengthen their grip on an automatic promotion place.

The Dons would have leapfrogged the Hatters with a win and started strongly, with Stockport keeper Ben Hinchliffe making a string of saves to keep the home side level.

Dons hit the self-destruct button in the last 15 minutes of the half as goalkeeper Michael Kelly's mistake handed Callum Camps the opener, and Paddy Madden and top scorer Isaac Olaofe made it 3-0 at half-time.

County ensured they would move four points clear of the fourth-placed visitors, with two games in hand, as Conor Lemonheigh-Evans and Neill Byrne added further goals in the second half.

MK Dons' away form is threatening to damage their own promotion push, having lost five of their past seven games on their travels, and they were architects of their own undoing in driving rain and high winds at Edgeley Park.

They started strongly against a Stockport side who went into the game unbeaten in their last five, but they found Hinchliffe in fine form and squandered chances.

Stephen Wearne was denied by the Stockport keeper's flying save, Emre Tezgel dragged another opportunity off-target and Jack Payne's free-kick whistled just wide.

By contrast, Dons keeper Kelly cost his side dearly on 31 minutes, racing off his line to collect Madden's overhit pass but then allowing the ball to slip from his grasp for the grateful Camps to slide it through the legs of Payne and into the goal from an awkward angle.

Hinchliffe preserved the lead with a one-on-one save from the dangerous Joe Tomlinson, while Alex Gilbey's acrobatic follow-up flew wide, and within three minutes Stockport were two up.

Camps returned the favour with a neat dinked pass that freed Madden, and the veteran striker made no mistake for his 15th goal of the season.

The game was virtually over in first-half added time as Madden looped a clever ball over the top and Olaofe escaped a weak Daniel Harvie challenge before smuggling the ball past Kelly and stroking it into the unguarded net for his 20th of the campaign.

Any thoughts Dons manager Mike Williamson had for a second-half revival were dead within six minutes of the restart as the outstanding Madden freed Ibou Touray down the left. His cross found its way to Lemonheigh-Evans, who looped his shot over Kelly to make it 4-0.

MK Dons pushed to get something from the game but Ellis Harrison and Max Dean both missed great chances and, in the last action of the game, Kelly saved a Stockport header but sub Neill Byrne turned the rebound over the line.

Stockport manager Dave Challinor told BBC Radio Manchester:

"Brilliant performance, especially out of possession. We don't normally play like that, but we thought it was the way to win the game, to be aggressive, counter-press and play the game in their half of the pitch.

"We took some chances but to win in the manner that we did is massive. We had a few hairy moments but if you look at the gameplan, we won the ball in their half within 10 seconds of the kick-off and that's what we wanted to do, use the strengths we have at the top end of the pitch and get Paddy [Madden], Tanto [Isaac Olaofe] and Woots [Ryan Wootton] in the game as much as possible.

"You have to be efficient when you get your chances and we were in the first half.

"It doesn't become a statement win unless we win another five, but it's great for our goal difference and for where we stand in relation to MK Dons."

MK Dons manager MIke Williamson told BBC Three Counties Radio:

"We're on the raw end of a heavy defeat but when we look at it - although we have to hold our hands up and say we gave goals away - we played extremely well.

"We were clean, we were sharp, we mixed it up but couldn't take any of our chances early on when we were dominant. Then we were punished.

"The hardest thing is when we gave a goal away we needed to refocus but Stockport are up there for a reason and were clinical in everything they did.

"The lads have been phenomenal since I came in, and I have zero criticism. I told the boys that if, as a result of this, we are going to be tougher to beat, we'll be better off for it."