Stockport edge Salford on pens in enthralling semi-final

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Stockport booked their place in the Sky Bet League Two play-off final as they secured a 3-1 penalty shootout win over Salford after a dramatic tie.

Salford brought a narrow 1-0 lead in from the first leg last weekend, but Isaac Olaofe’s goal for Stockport sent the game into extra-time.

Substitute Stevie Mallan then restored Salford’s lead, but Jack Stretton netted five minutes from the end of the second period to make it 2-1 to Stockport on the day and 2-2 on aggregate.

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Watch Stockport County midfielder Antoni Sarcevic’s winning penalty against Salford City.

From there, Stockport scored three of their four penalties, with Antoni Sarcevic netting the decisive effort, steering them to Wembley as Salford missed three of their attempts.

They will face Carlisle or Bradford on Sunday May 28, while Salford will remain in League Two for the 2023/24 campaign.

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Stockport hit back to reach Wembley

Stockport boss Dave Challinor brought Paddy Madden and Joe Lewis back into his starting line-up as he made changes from the first leg, and it was Madden who went closest to levelling the tie in the first half.

It was the last minute of stoppage-time when he met a corner with his head and it struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced down onto the line before Salford managed to clear. It may well have crossed, but with no goal-line technology at this level there was no way for the officials to know.

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Stevie Mallan levels for Salford City on the day in extra-time, putting them ahead on aggregate in their play-off semi-final second leg clash in League Two against Stockport County

Another glorious chance came and went on 64 minutes as Kyle Knoyle crossed for Olaofe but he could only head straight at Alex Cairns from six yards. Mere minutes later, however, Olaofe did find the goal to level the tie and send the game to extra-time. It was a far tougher chance, but this time he found the back of the net with a glancing effort from Ryan Rydel’s cross.

Salford again looked on the brink of Wembley after 112 minutes when Mallan saw his 25-yard effort deflect past the helpless Ben Hinchcliffe, but a few minutes later Stockport levelled the tie again, as a trio of substitutes in Myles Hippolyte, Sarcevic and Stretton combined for the latter to head in.

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Stockport County forward Jack Stretton scores his side’s second goal in their second leg play-off semi-final with Salford City, sending the game to penalties

That took the game to penalties, where Salford missed three out of their four efforts, meaning Stockport will take their place in the final and the dream of back-to-back promotions is still alive.

What’s next?

While Salford will remain in Sky Bet League One for the 2023/24 campaign, Stockport will play Carlisle or Bradford in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium at 1.30pm on Sunday May 28 for a place in Sky Bet League One.

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