Quakers were denied all three points in an emotional day at Blackwell Meadows.
There was a real sense of togetherness before the game, particualrly when the players came on to the pitch at the start, and it looked as if Terry Galbraith’s 46th minute free kick would gvie Quakers the points.
But in the first minute of stoppage time, Stockport’s pressure paid off. However, nobody could fault the effort and commitment of the players, who were magnificent throughout.
Quakers had a chance in the first minute. A poor back pass by Chris Smalley let in Nathan Cartman, who ran into the box, but the keeper blocked his shot.
And on 6 minutes Phil Turnbull picked up a square pass from Tom Portas and hit a low right foot shot that just missed the left hand post!
Stockport replied on 13 minutes with a right wing cross that Jason Oswell flicked towards goal, and the ball rolled just past the far post.
Quakers had a free kick on 22 minutes from the left hand side that Turnbull hoisted into the middle for Collins to head into the hands of keeper Hinchliffe, as Quakers made the running.
Stockport nearly took the lead on 32 minutes when Galbraith was penalised 25 yards out, and Sam Walker curled the ball over the wall, and Bartlett just managed to tip the ball over the top.
But overall at this stage Quakers could be happy with their performance, with every player putting in plenty of effort which the fans appreciated.
But Quakers replied at the other end when Saunders’ persistence saw him dispossess a defender on the left, run into the box and set up Thompson, whose shot was blocked.
Right on half time, Stockport’s Scott Duxbury headed a right wing free kick wide of the target.
Overall though, Quakers would be happy with their work in the first half. They patiently passed the ball around and tried to find gaps in the Stockport defence, but to no avail.
Half time 0-0
Quakers took the lead on 47 minutes! Saunders was fouled on the right side of the penalty area, and the ball was whipped in by Galbraith into the near post where it went in off a defender!
But Stockport nearly levelled with a left foot shot by Connor Hampson that hit the post and then went out for a corner off Bartlett.
And then Thomas g ot to the bye line and pulled the ball back to the far post, where Liam Marrs somehow prevented Hampson from tapping in
Quakers kept battling away, with the fans behind them, and Saunders drew applause for two runs at the Stockport defence.
Joint caretaker manager Gary Brown made a change on 64 minutes, Portas coming off for Joe Wheatley.
Collins was then in the right place to hoist the ball away after Bartlett couldn’t grab the ball in a goalmouth scramble, then Bartlett made a great save from Thomas after Stockport broke away.
But Quakers nearly went 2-0 up on 69 minutes. There was a great run by Thompson up the left into the area, and he pulled the ball back for Cartman, whose shot was saved by Hinchliffe.
Saunders, who was harshly booked for a challenge on Hinchliffe, nearly made it 2-0 when he cut inside from the right and struck a left foot shot that Hinchliffe saved.
Stockport put the Quakers defence under pressure, and there was an excellent clearance by Galbraith on one occasion, and a header from a free kick went over.
At the other end, though, Saunders nearly made sure when he pounced on a poor back pass, but Hinchliffe smothered his shot.
But in the first minute of stoppage time, Stockports pressure paid off, when Oswell found space and slotted past Bartlett.
Darlington 1 Stockport County 1
Bartlett, Marrs, Scott, Turnbull, Collins, Galbraith, Gillies, Portas (sub Wheatley 62), Cartman, Saunders, Thompson (sub Dawson 84)
Subs: Wilczynski, Vaulks, Syers
Bookings: Turnbull, Saunders
Stockport: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Hampson, Winter (sub Ball 46), Smalley, O’Halloran (McKenna 78), Thomas (sub Dixon 83), Walker, Oswell, Stopforth, Duxbury
Subs: Ormson, Brazell,
Booking: Winter, O’Halloran, Walker