Dyson's second County goal makes it nine points from nine
It isn’t often that the Hatters kick off a new campaign with three straight League victories. When they do, however, there does tend to be a common ‘Dee’-nominator so far as leading goal-scorers’ surnames are concerned!
Rewind to the late, hot Summer of 1976, when this sequence last occurred. Back then, Salford lad, Barney Daniels, was knocking goals in for fun - with four of them to his name in the trilogy of opening games. It was to be just over twenty years following that before Calum Dyson was even born. But, fast-forwarding back to the present, the Everton Youth-loanee’s early strike at the New Bucks Head Stadium was decisive in preserving County’s 100 per cent record for 2015/16.
Neil Young made one change to the line-up that had taken to the field at FC United four days earlier - with Joe Garvin replacing Sefton Gonzales - although the formation remained at 4-4-2, as Dyson was moved up front to accompany Kay Odejayi. Beyond the starting eleven, there was a tale of two hamstrings: that of Micah Evans had recovered, and he was named among the substitutes for a potential competitive debut; but Abs Baggie’s, which had been further aggravated in action on Tuesday night, ruled him out.
It was a case of ‘spot the County old boy’ when Telford’s squad was announced. Mark Lees, Greg Wilkinson and Danny Glover were all handed starts alongside a batch of youthful team-mates, while Kyle Brownhill was included on the home bench. The hosts also added a shade of curiosity to proceedings by turning out in their yellow and red change-kit - prompting speculation that Watford, rather than Telford, would be entertaining the Hatters for the afternoon. With County resplendent in Dizzy Blonde pink, a bright and colourful scene was set - along the lines of an explosion in a paints factory... or a Showaddywaddy reunion (ask yer Grandad)!
The Hatters enjoyed the game’s earliest chances. Odejayi provided James Montgomery, in the home goal, with work to do, after an under-hit short back-pass by the Bucks’ Captain, Sean Clancy, led to a 50-50 ball that the ‘keeper cleared by the narrowest of margins - albeit only as far as Glenn Rule, who followed up to shoot wide of the right-hand post. Montgomery, no doubt to his relief, found the next task before him considerably easier - as a looping Garvin effort from distance made for a comfortable catch.
Telford’s initial opportunity originated in the home half - with Izak Reid launching a run down the right flank and all the way to County’s byline, from where he crossed for Glover to head wide of the near post. Cue a collective, and an audible, “Phew!” from over four hundred visiting Twelfth Man representatives populating the end-terrace concerned - given that, at least on this occasion, a player formerly of the SK3 parish was not haunting his old club, as ex-Hatters are so often wont to do.
Relief turned to delight after thirteen minutes, when the Hatters took the lead. A free kick into the Telford box pinged around momentarily, and then fell at Dyson’s feet. In the swiftest of movements, the young striker held the ball up and the attentions of Clancy off - before turning and driving a low shot into the bottom-left corner of the net, and, in the process, bringing to an end the pattern which had seen each of County’s League goals converted by a different player.
There followed a prolonged spell in which the Bucks dominated possession, and applied a good deal of pressure, without creating an abundance of clear-cut chances. The best of these culminated in Danny Hurst’s point-blank block of a Kaiman Anderson toe-poke, which led to a few minutes of on-pitch treatment for County’s Number One. Rather anxious minutes they were, too, as there was not a goalkeeper to be found on the bench - but Hurst elicited another “Phew!” among the massed ranks behind his goal, on being passed as fit to continue.
HALF-TIME: Telford 0, County 1 (Dyson, 13).
Dyson was looking to add to his own tally, and to that of his team, shortly after the break - testing Montgomery with two attempts directly in front, and to the right, of goal. In between those, each side went close with shots that were fired wide from short range. Amadou Bakayoko, making his debut for the hosts whilst on loan from Walsall, did so after being played through by Glover, before Karl Ledsham - once of Telford - produced an effort with a similar outcome at the other end.
The Bucks continued to construct some useful build-up play, as they sought to get themselves back on level terms. Jack Roberts, after being teed up by Clancy, unleashed a stinging drive that Hurst deflected behind to put Telford further out of sight in the corners-count. And the hosts looked, for all the world, to have equalized when Reid, with a shot from six yards, hit the underside of County’s bar - only for the ball kindly (from a visiting perspective) to bounce away from the line. Sean O’Hanlon, who, seconds earlier, had thrown himself in the path of a goal-bound Glover effort, then used his head to clear further upfield.
County did enjoy the occasional moment of respite from a post-interval session in which rearguard action was generally the order of the half. And whenever the Hatters managed to break, Odejayi was a key figure. By way of a first example, Big Kay played Dyson through - culminating in a shot that his fellow forward fired wide. And, subsequently, he came as close as possible to ensuring that the game could be made safe for the Hatters in some style - chasing the ball into the left channel, before cutting inside, out-pacing Lees rounding Montgomery and firing towards an inviting net. A goal would have been just reward for this impressive cameo - but Clancy had clearly not read the script, as Telford’s Man of the Match (save for his yellow card, following a scything challenge on Evans, towards the end) dived to head Odejayi’s shot off the line.
The remaining exchanges saw an even mix of efforts from distance and from closer range for each side. Reid and Ledsham fired from outside the respective boxes - only for both ‘keepers to gather the attempts without undue fuss. Montgomery subsequently saved with his legs, after Dyson had stayed on his feet in the wake of the home ‘keeper’s challenge and drifted wide to drive a low shot from the right of the area. And Hurst calmly plucked from the air a Roberts volley that followed Reid’s cross.
And so it ended. Not, granted, the best performance by the Hatters that will be seen this term - but, significantly, a positive result against a strong side that, one suspects, County teams from recent previous seasons may have struggled in vain to secure.
It is said that good things come in threes. And, indeed, victory brought with it a trio of ‘firsts’: a first clean sheet of the campaign; a first win, after three earlier attempts, at the New Bucks Head; and a first League success in the pink shirts... meaning, incidentally, that each of the three kits has already enjoyed one - and, hopefully in doing so, avoided the dreaded ‘unlucky strip’ tag.
There might have been a fourth reason to be cheerful, had Nuneaton Town not also won to claim top position from the Hatters on nothing more than alphabetical difference. Definitely the only occasion - albeit only for a fleeting nano-second - to wonder whether there might just have been something in that ‘Manstock County’ naming-idea, after all...
I jest, of course. Bring on North Ferriby!
FULL-TIME: Telford 0, County 1 (Dyson, 13).
Team: Hurst, Morton, Roberts, O’Hanlon, Thorniley (Ellison, 64), Rule, Dyson, Montrose (Robinson, 66), Odejayi, Garvin (Evans, 57), Ledsham.
Unused Subs: Colley, Gonzales.
Booked: Garvin, O’Hanlon, Odejayi.
Attendance: 1,568 (470 representing The Twelfth Man).
See our pictures and watch match highlights and interviews here: