Odejayi Is County’s Ode To Joy
The FC United faithful celebrated the advent of competitive football for the Rebels in Manchester with a selection of retro pop-chants which had once filled the air at Old Trafford. It was, however, a musical masterpiece fast approaching its two-hundredth anniversary that might best describe how happy Hatters felt at Broadhurst Park, following a spirited County fightback at Broadhurst Park and a second successive victory by the odd goal in three.
Beethoven might not have had Kay Odejayi precisely in mind when, for the final movement of his Ninth Symphony, he remixed Schiller’s Ode To Joy poem (mind you, give or take a couple of letters, and all that...!). But the big striker certainly lit up five hundred instant smiles after heading a winner for the Hatters at the Lightbowne Road End of the new stadium, housing travelling supporters.
County had made the short trip up the M60 to Moston, buoyed by the opening-day home win against Boston - together with a useful past record when it came to visiting freshly-constructed football grounds. For the Hatters were the first team to enjoy a League victory at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium in 1991 - and also won an inaugural competitive match, just over eighteen months later, when Chester opened the turnstiles on Bumpers Lane for a 1992/93 League Cup-tie.
Broadhurst Park was blessed with August evening sunshine and a sell-out attendance - albeit at an overall capacity reduced by the safety authorities - as it prepared to host its opening League fixture. The Hatters, wearing their turquoise shirts, emerged with a starting eleven unchanged from that which had taken to the field three days earlier - although, on the bench, Abs Baggie, who had missed the Boston opener due to a hamstring injury, was named among the substitutes in place of second goalkeeper, Paul Tyson.
There were no former County players included by the hosts in their line-up - but a familiar match official in Referee, Jonathan Hunt, who had been the man in the middle at Hyde almost five months previously when weather conditions had led to abandonment, with the Hatters a goal in front and just two minutes of normal time remaining, as well as a requirement for the fixture to be replayed.
FC United looked to get the party started with an early chance that fell to Matthew Wolfenden in the County box. But his eventual shot lacked pace, and was comfortably collected by Danny Hurst. There followed a speculative effort for each side - as, first, Jordan Thorniley and, then, Rory Fallon fired high into the respective end-stands from distance.
The Rebels let out a yell for a penalty - claiming handball on the part of Danny Morton. Mr Hunt, however, was having none of it, and endeared himself just a little to The Twelfth Man behind the goal by waving play on without so much as a backward glance.
County had been enjoying the greater share of possession when, twenty-five minutes in, the hosts took the lead. A cross from the left by Skipper, Jerome Wight, was only partially cleared out of the visiting box by Karl Ledsham’s header, before landing at the feet of Fallon. The attacking midfielder then teed himself up, and, without being closed down, rifled home a right-footed half-volley from the area’s edge and past an unsuspecting Hurst.
Neil Young was prompted by the goal to effect an early change, and introduced Baggie to proceedings - with Sefton Gonzales being the player to make way. Baggie’s first contribution took the form of a shot at home ‘keeper, Dave Carnell, from just outside the United box. And, while this lacked the venom of his trademark efforts on goal, the Sierra Leonean soon injected the contest with enough characteristic pace and trickery to signal a spell of further County pressure ahead of half-time.
Scoring opportunities for the Hatters continued to remain at something of a premium, though. As the clock counted down to the break, a high and wide shot by Glenn Rule and a Sean O’Hanlon header, following one of County’s six first-half corners, represented their best efforts to get back on level terms.
HALF-TIME: FC United 1 (Fallon, 25), County 0.
The hosts, as had been the case in the first half, carved out an initial chance following the re-start. Wright marauded down the left flank, before unleashing a low drive that forced Hurst to dive and smother.
The Referee became busy with his yellow card, as an already-feisty contest led to its issue on half a dozen separate instances after half-time. On one such occasion, which saw United defender, Tom Brown, booked after leading with his elbow in a challenge on Ledsham, there was arguably a case for giving the other card in Mr Hunt’s pocket an airing...
In the meantime, opportunities were falling to both teams. For the Hatters, O’Hanlon fired over after connecting with a Rule free kick from the left - and Ledsham went close with a quick-thinking chip from the edge of the box after Carnell had spilled the ball under pressure. United’s attacks saw Wolfenden glance a header wide of the far post following a left-wing delivery by Craig Lindfield - and Fallon, seeking to double his own tally and that of his side, shoot at Hurst after cutting in from the right of County’s area.
With twenty-five minutes remaining, County made the breakthrough to equalize. And in style! There did not appear to be significant immediate danger for the hosts, as Odejayi headed the ball upfield to Calum Dyson to the left of United’s box. But, after steadying himself, the youth loanee from Everton proceeded to turn Liam Brownhill inside out, before letting fly with a glorious shot that flew into the top, far corner of the net.
Dyson made an attempt to re-enact his feat minutes later from the other side of the area - but, on this occasion, blasted the effort well over. What he clearly already had done, however, was to help instil confidence, as the Hatters were now looking the team ‘more likely to’...
County’s corner-count stood at eight (without reply by the hosts) when the delivery was nodded back by Lewis Montrose to the edge of the box, and to Thorniley who fired narrowly wide of goal. And, with their ninth, an out-swinger by Rule from the right, the Hatters went ahead when Odejayi got himself and his head in the right place to convert the delivery and complete the comeback.
The Hatters were not far away from making the game unequivocally safe soon afterwards, when Baggie’s cross from the left found Ledsham just beyond the far post. But the latter fired into the side-netting, while the former - feeling his hamstring tighten - was replaced as a precaution.
The Rebels were not prepared to have the stadium’s opening League night spoiled without a fight, and the final ten minutes of the game saw them exert some pressure of their own: they earned two corners - their first of the evening - in quick succession; a further penalty appeal was dismissed, when Fallon went to ground in the County box; Hurst saved with his legs a well-struck drive by Brownhill from the right; and, finally, Nia Bayunu fired just over the bar after the Hatters had not fully cleared a Brownhill free kick.
But the Hatters held on. And, in so doing, ensured the maintenance of a 100 per-cent record, with two matches played.
Or... ‘Boston, Moston, Lost None’ - as one might say.
FULL-TIME: FC United 1 (Fallon, 25), County 2 (Dyson, 65; Odejayi, 74).
Team: Hurst, Morton, Roberts, O’Hanlon, Thorniley, Rule, Dyson (Robinson, 90), Montrose, Odejayi, Gonzales (Baggie, 31 (Garvin, 78)), Ledsham.
Unused Subs: Colley, Ellison.
Booked: Thorniley, O’Hanlon, Montrose, Dyson.