Stockport Sports meekly surrendered their unbeaten home league record at Stockport Sports Village, going down 2-1 to a Bootle side who have now defeated them three times this season. More worryingly The Saxons have now failed to win any of their last three home games in any competition, the League Cup defeat to Runcorn Linnets, the goalless draw with Glossop and then this loss.
It was anticipated that The Saxons would be able to turn Stockport Sports Village into the proverbial fortress this season, but any impression of impregnability has diminished in recent weeks, and that will need to change quickly if the club are to mount any sort of challenge in the league this season.
Peter Withe made changes to his starting line up following the Glossop game, Melford Knight has been released from the club, and his spot in midfield was filled by Josh Bardsley, Sean Symons started at left back in place of the injured Aaron Best and in what was a surprise selection Nick Niagorian came in on the right of midfield in place of Liam Irwin who dropped to the bench.
The first half was a fairly even affair, Lee Madin and Niagorian missing good chances for The Saxons, and Callam Tongue saved brilliantly to deny Kevin Black when the Bootle wide-man was clean through on goal. John Marsden had a curling effort from 20 yards well saved, while a great team move gave Bardsley an opening inside the Bootle penalty area, sadly for the home side he could only screw his shot wide.
The key moment in the half came on 14 minutes Jamie Hay was left unmarked from a left-wing corner and he headed powerfully home from 8 yards out. It was a sloppy goal for The Saxons to concede and was uncharacteristic of their defensive play so far this season. There will undoubtedly be an inquest into the poor marking for the goal when the players return to training this week.
The Saxons supporters were expecting an onslaught on the visitors goal at the start of the second half, but it did not materialise, and it was the visitors who took control of the game and continued to create the better chances. On 64 minutes Black raced through on goal and attempted to chip The Saxons keeper, Tongue made a fabulous save to keep the effort out and pounced on the loose ball. Just a minute later Tongue made an incredible acrobatic save to keep out a close range Hay header from a corner. Unbelievably Hay had been left unmarked from a set-piece for the second time in the game, and but for an inspired save by the home keeper The Saxons could have been out of the game.
As the match reached it's conclusion The Saxons at last began to show some invention and attacking thrust. Domaine Rouse fed Marsden who forced a good save from Dean Porter in the Bootle goal, and shortly afterwards Jamie Street headed just wide from a corner.
On 90 minutes Bootle extended their lead and killed off any hopes The Saxons had of salvaging a draw. Following a Stockport corner, Bootle broke quickly and Lee Thompson raced clear to fire past a helpless Tongue to make it 2-0.
There was still time left for The Saxons to grab a consolation goal Tomlinson launched a long hopeful ball forwards which the Bootle defence failed to deal with and the ball looped to Marsden 10 yards from goal. The young Liverpudlian striker had a quiet afternoon by his standards but showed that regardless of the status of the game he never loses his concentration or determination to get his name on the score-sheet, as the ball dropped to him he hit an incredible volley across Porter and into the far corner of the net. It was a strike worthy of winning a game, not a mere consolation, but The Saxons supporters would expect nothing less from Marsden who has become a very popular figure at the club, his attitude and work-rate are first class and his scoring record compares to any player in the league.
There was barely time to restart the match, Bootle taking the three crucial points and cementing their own place in the upper reaches of the table, while severely denting The Saxons promotion hopes.
It's back to the drawing board for Stockport Sports following this defeat, a long unbeaten run is required to stand any chance of promotion this season and Peter Withe, along with his back-room staff, will undoubtedly be looking at ways in which they can achieve what now looks to be that near impossible target.
The Saxons: 1. Callam Tongue, 2. Ricky Anane, 3. Nick Niagorian, 4. Jamie Street, 5. Mike Tomlinson (c), 6. Josh Bardsley, 7. Sean Symons (Jay Mehmet), 8. Kyle Hamid, 9. John Marsden, 10. Lee Madin (Domaine Rouse), 11. Matty Ward, Subs (Not Used): Liam Irwin, Raphale Evans, Craig Flowers
Bootle: 1. Dean Porter, 2. Neil Murphy, 3. Paul Byrne, 4. Michael Carberry, 5. Philip Green, 6. Kevin Black, 7. Liam Blakeman, 8. Jamie Hay, 9. Thomas Foley, 10. Neil Prince, 11. Michael Young