Exciting Times at Edgeley Park, as County Go POP!
'POP', in this context, relating to the Play-Off Positions - into which County advanced following, this, their fourth consecutive home victory and the inaugural match of the season under EP's floodlights.
Alan Lord was forced to make a number of changes for the visit of fellow form-horses from Worcester. Both Richie Baker and Bobby Lofthouse were suffering from injuries sustained during the defeat of Boston three days earlier, while Tunji Moses remained in need of a fortnight or so's post-operative recovery. The squad of available players had also been further reduced earlier in the day, when Preston North End opted to recall Jack Ryan early from his loan spell in SK3 - much to the disappointment of County supporters, who had valued most highly his contributions to recent successes of the team's strike-force.
Jamie Milligan was, of course, able to reclaim his place in the side, and to take possession again of the Captain's armband, having served a one-match suspension at the weekend. He was joined back in the starting-line-up by Glenn Belezika and, for the first kick-off since that at Guiseley in mid-August, Chris Sharp. Mark Lees was to begin the game in midfield, as he had done to great effect against Boston, so that a 4-3-3 formation could operate against a Worcester side which included a former Hatter, and another defender-turned-midfielder, Danny Jackman.
Two regulars from the Development Squad - Jordan Lazenbury and Matthew Todd - were called up to the bench - and the former, late on in the second half, was to make his competitive debut in a County shirt.
The match, much as that against Boston had done, assumed a lively tempo at an early stage - and, once again, an expectant home crowd did not have to wait very long for a first County goal. It was a goal for which many of us had been hoping in more ways than one, as well - given that it saw Scott Spencer open his personal account, following a series of consistently hard-working shifts in support of his fellow forwards. Just after the quarter-hour mark, Belezika's cross from the right was brought under swift control by Spencer, who then proceeded impressively to swivel, turn and blast home in one seamless motion.
Within a minute of County's goal, Worcester were on the offensive, and looking for all the world as if they would quickly get back on level terms, courtesy of a well-struck shot from close range by Graham Hutchinson. Danny Hurst looked initially to have dived the wrong way to keep the ball out, but, miraculously, saved with his legs - being very content to concede nothing more than the game's first corner in the process.
Worcester were to be granted an additional two corners before County's first was awarded, with less than ten minutes to go before half-time - although it was well worth the wait. Up stepped Captain Milligan to deliver one of his trademark in-swingers, perfectly placed and flighted for Kristian Dennis to head home for a two-goal lead, in a manner not dissimilar to the best of his three strikes at Gainsborough back in January.
Six goals in only four starts for 'The Menace', then. And, as on Saturday, he had scored his team's second of the game at a most welcome time.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Spencer, 16; Dennis, 37), Worcester 0.
County were to be glad of a two-goal cushion as the second half progressed, featuring several spells of pressure from Worcester, who, themselves, switched to a 4-3-3 formation upon the introduction of their first substitutes.
The good news for the home side was that the visitors, for all their possession, were unable to make things count in the final third. Shots were skied into the upper reaches of the Railway End by Daniel Nti and by Worcester's Captain, Ellis Deeney, although attacking full back, George Williams, after latching onto a Connor Gudger cross, went considerably closer with a side-footed effort, just wide of the County post.
Nti was proving the biggest handful to County's defenders, but, on the two occasions that he did unleash well-directed shots, he saw one parried away by Hurst and the other blocked by an unfortunate visiting team-mate.
County were not without chances of their own after the break, with both Dennis - courtesy of a beautifully-struck free kick that Nathan Vaughan did well to keep out - and Spencer - following a neat one-two with his fellow scorer - having opportunities to add to their tallies. In the event, however, one sequence that did come to an end tonight was County's run of three-goal hauls at home.
But, do you know what? With another win secured, together with a venture into league-table territory about which many of us had long forgotten, we can all live with that little sacrifice!
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Spencer, 16; Dennis, 37), Worcester 0.
Team: Hurst, Belezika (Woolfe, 67), Duxbury, O'Halloran, Gregson, Lees, Dennis, Churchman, Spencer, Milligan, Sharp (Lazenbury, 83).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Fagbola, Todd.
Man of the Match: Gregson.