WANDERERS have only themselves to blame now that they face a tough midweek replay by the Mersey.

Ian Evatt’s side had this FA Cup first round tie in the palm of their hand at 2-1 when Eoin Doyle and Elias Kachunga overturned Scott Quigley’s opener.

But sloppy defending before the break coupled with a lack of invention after the restart left a slightly sour taste in the mouth, even though Bolton’s name will be in the second-round draw on Monday. Evatt made only one change to the side that won at Rochdale, with Josh Sheehan pulling out of the squad because of a back problem, replaced by Kieran Lee.

The notable absentee on the team-sheet, however, was that of former Bolton captain Antoni Sarcevic.

Stockport maintained that the midfielder had picked up a “knock in training” on Friday – but there were conflicting tales of a groin problem, and even a gentleman’s agreement not to name him on the team-sheet, which were strenuously denied by both clubs in the lead up to the game.

The atmosphere at the UniBol has been impressive since supporters were allowed back into the building, and an average League One gate of around 16,000 says a lot about the work the club has done to reacquaint itself with the fanbase.

It was a very different prospect on Sunday afternoon, however, as the impressive 5,000 travelling contingent appeared to equal – if not better – the number of home supporters.

It is hard to look past the membership scheme introduced just over a week ago as a major contributing factor to the low home gate, and one wonders just how much it will affect things from here on in?

A large number of supporters have voiced concerns about the system, introduced as a direct result of the crowd trouble against Wigan Athletic, and there can be little doubt that the complications made it harder for the casual supporter to come and watch the game.

Those who did manage to register in time, and book their seat, will have been relatively pleased with the early exchanges as Wanderers moved Stockport around the pitch and pushed on full-back Lloyd Isgrove and Declan John at every opportunity.

Once again, Dapo Afolayan was the man looking to make something happen, forcing defenders to take a backward step every time he collected the ball.

Eoin Doyle, who had scored his first goal in nine games from the spot at Rochdale in midweek, also buzzed around the penalty box with renewed optimism and was denied early on by an excellent block from Liam Hogan close in.

MJ Williams had a shot deflected over the top and Elias Kachunga, who had also looked a player reborn at Spotland, had a near-post poke blocked by County keeper Ethan Ross.

At that point in time there seemed little to concern Evatt in the dugout but, quite out of the blue, a bad pass from George Thomason left Ricardo Santos off-balance at the back and his former Barrow charge Scott Quigley was able to nip in and slide a ball under Joel Dixon.

It was the kind of error which has shaken Wanderers on a couple of occasions this season, but Evatt will be pleased that his side continued to try and play their way back into it.

Afolayan drifted dangerously around the final third, driving a couple of efforts at goal and generally causing a nuisance. It was inevitable that he would play a part in Bolton getting back on level terms.

Picking the ball up on halfway the winger fizzed a pass out to the galloping Isgrove on the right, he drove a measured cross to the far post and Doyle was in exactly the right place to drive a shot into the roof of the net.

Within two minutes the rambunctious away fans were silenced altogether as Afolayan’s powerful drive was parried by Ross and mopped up by Kachunga for his first goal since September last year.

From there, Bolton should have seen the half out. But Stockport rolled up their own sleeves and went immediately on the attack – Madden heading Sam Minihan’s cross towards goal and bringing an athletic save out of Dixon.

In stoppage time they got the goal their response had deserved. Quigley and Madden swapped passes and with the Bolton defence seemingly stood still, the ball squirmed through for Ben Whitfield to slide his angled shot under Dixon to make it two apiece.

Things were interestingly poised going into the second period but while they had plenty of the ball, Wanderers struggled to pose the same sustained threat.

Indeed, Stockport came close to taking the lead when Quigley ran on to a long ball over the top and Dixon had to come sprinting out of his area to make the clearance.

Afolayan continued to torment and tease, and nearly picked out Doyle with a driven cross from the left which whizzed inches away from the Irishman’s outstretched boot.

Ross was forced into a save from Doyle moments later as the ball bounced around the County box, and the striker drove another good chance off target after more good work from Afolayan out wide.

With the notable exception of omnipresent Afolayan, the inventiveness shown in the first half was absent after the restart for the Whites. And that meant that while Evatt’s side controlled the tempo of the game, there was always the outside chance that something could fall the way of the visitors.

Four minutes of stoppage time was greeted with a roar of encouragement from behind Dixon’s goal. A replay at Edgeley Park had not looked an appealing prospect until then.

Wanderers had one more chance to attack – one which petered out as sub Amadou Bakayoko wasted the chance to drive towards goal, summing up what had been a frustrating second half.

County’s players rightly took adulation from the away support at the final whistle while Bolton’s jogged back down the tunnel to reflect on the reasons they have added another difficult midweek game to their schedule.

For Wanderers’ fans, a chance to converge of Edgeley Park in the same numbers, making sure that this time their side does get over the line.