Dry Re-Run Sees Caretaker Management Team Settle In With A Draw
The Hatters brought their four-match losing streak to a welcome end at Ewen Fields – and, in doing so, returned to a top-half position in the table. They did, however, have to settle for a single point, rather than the three for which they were appearing to head when the original fixture had been rained off seventeen days previously.
The replayed match was also the first for which Assistant Manager, Phil Brown, and First Team Coach, Dave Conlon, had taken temporary managerial charge – following confirmation of Alan Lord's appointment as Director of Football earlier in the week. They made two changes to the line-up that had started at Edgeley Park against Gainsborough over the weekend – with Bobby Lofthouse and Chris Sharp coming in for Jack Ryan and the injured Scott Spencer. Ryan was joined on the bench by a set of young substitutes, who had each, nonetheless, seen First Team action at some point during the current campaign.
By way of a rather bizarre overture to proceedings – especially given the conditions that had brought about the first game's abandonment – Hyde's sprinklers were watering the pitch for over an hour ahead of kick-off. That said, the only meteorological drenching on offer for this occasion was, thankfully, to be courtesy of the late evening Spring sunshine.
Adopting a 4-3-3 formation, County, for the first time in several matches, were awarded the game's inaugural corner. Danny Glover, whose suspension had caused him to miss the abandoned contest, connected with the delivery by glancing a header wide of the far post.
Following that, the 'Tigers' of Hyde began to bite – and were to go on to shade a first half in which they had a goal disallowed, missed a penalty and were denied by another of Danny Hurst's wonder-saves…
Oh, but I'm telling you the plot!
Hyde's early pressure had led to three corners for the home side, before, on eleven minutes, they put the ball in the back of the net – thanks to a low drive from distance by George Riley that wrong-footed Hurst. To the relief of the Hatters, a flag was raised to indicate that the shot had taken a deflection via Ryan Masterson in an offside position, and the match remained all-square. Referee, Paul Marsden, in disallowing the goal, thereby endeared himself to the County faithful a little more than he had done when reducing the Hatters to nine men at Gainsborough just under three months ago!
The Hatters responded to this wake-up call with some attacking efforts of their own: Mark Lees, looking to score against his former club, headed a corner wide of the far post; Kristian Dennis latched onto a pinpoint-perfect Lofthouse through-ball, before rounding home goalkeeper, Ed Wilczynski, outside the box, and laying the ball back to Lofthouse who shot wide; and the now-clean-shaven Lofthouse was right in the thick of the action once more, when firing a goal-bound attempt that Wilczynski resorted to parrying with his chest.
The end-to-end football continued, and, just over ten minutes ahead of the break, Hyde were awarded a penalty after Masterson went to ground under a Lees challenge. Connor Hughes, who, for the third time in precisely two months, was presenting himself to County as the most dangerous Tiger in need of taming, stepped up to take the spot-kick – but his delivery struck the inside of Hurst's left post and rebounded out to safety.
There remained work for both 'keepers to do before half-time. First, the legs of Wilczynski saved a Dennis shot, after The Menace was through on goal. Then, even more spectacularly, Hurst showed razor-sharp reactions in palming away Pete Boyle's header at close range, following some trickery and a cross by Jake Hibbs from the right.
HALF-TIME: Hyde 0, County 0.
County began the second half as they had done in the first, with an early foray towards Hyde's goal – culminating in a shot by Sharp, from the edge of the area, that was deflected behind for a corner.
Hyde's next meaningful attempt, with a similar shot by Hughes ten minutes after the resumption, saw the hosts take the lead. The low drive from twenty-five yards deceived Hurst, by means of a bounce over his hand, as the Tigers drew first blood.
Having waited for almost an hour of a lively game for the first goal, a second arrived, in bus-like fashion, within a little more than a minute. Moreover, it saw the Hatters get back on level terms – with Sharp crossing from the right, for Lofthouse to strike home from close range, off the far post, and to chalk up what was both his first goal of the season and the second in his senior career at SK3.
Chances continued to come and go for both sides, as each sought to edge ahead: Lees connected with another corner at the far post, before heading over; Dennis attempted a volley from distance, which bounced en route to Wilczynski; Hyde substitute, Erike Sousa, played the ball back from the right corner to Hughes, whose shot from the edge of County's area, curled narrowly wide; Hurst, using his legs on each occasion, executed a fine double-save to block shots from Luke Giverin; and a Dennis glancing header from the near upright, following a corner, agonizingly evaded Ryan as he homed in at the far post.
A final opportunity of the evening fell to Hyde, with the cloudless night sky by now showing excellent views of Orion, The Plough and assorted planets. As County struggled to clear a corner, Sousa took it upon himself to effect an extraordinary drop-kick manoeuvre that not only flew high out of the ground but also, more than likely, into some waiting orbit or other.
The Northern Lights will never look quite the same again!
Watch free match highlights here - https://youtu.be/WiQfFikBiM4FULL-TIME: Hyde 1 (Hughes, 55), County 1 (Lofthouse, 56).
Team: Hurst, Jacobs, Duxbury, Churchman, Lees, O'Halloran, Moses, Glover, Dennis, Sharp (Ryan, 74), Lofthouse.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Russell, Hampson, Benjamin.