Dimaio Strike Bucks Up Hatters
After losing three of their previous four matches, the Hatters turned in an improved performance to earn a point on the road at second-placed Telford United – and, in the process, ended the 100 percent winning home record of the ‘Bucks’.
But the point with which County came away came so close to being three – with Connor Dimaio’s first-half goal being cancelled out by the hosts with only two minutes of normal time remaining.
The Hatters took to the field showing two changes from the starting line-up in the hugely disappointing game at Edgeley Park against Boston a week previously. Sam Minihan and Scott Duxbury replaced Nyal Bell and Chris Smalley, to make up half of a back four within an overall 4-4-2 formation that featured a midfield ‘diamond’.
With Minihan recalled, and having filled the right-back berth for County’s last two matches, Adam Thomas was able to push up further on the same flank. Two early crosses from him in were, successively, gathered by home goalkeeper Max Bramley and fired wide of the near post by Darren Stephenson.
Telford’s opening spell of pressure around the 10-minute mark culminated in a pair of shots from Andre Brown – with the first flying over, and the second being smothered by Ben Hinchliffe. Either side of Brown’s efforts, two free-kicks by Sam Walker reached the heads of County team-mates – only for Ash Palmer and Stephenson to nod their efforts off target.
The Hatters proceeded to regain the ascendancy, as Thomas connected with another Walker free-kick before blasting over. And Bramley’s nerves were tested thrice in eight minutes when he spilled a Stephenson cross from the left, parried a low drive by Frank Mulhern around the right post, then, finally – and, as things turned out, critically – scrambled beyond the same upright another left-sided cross from Duxbury.
From the resulting corner, and with 33 minutes on the clock, the Hatters went ahead. Bramley punched out Walker’s delivery from the right, but only as far as the edge of the area, where Dimaio took a touch, before curling an exquisite shot from the Telford ‘D’ into the top-left corner for his third goal of the campaign – becoming County’s joint-top goal-scorer in the process.
A minute before the break, poor defending by the hosts let in Stephenson, who went to ground early after Bramley advanced from his area to block – and duly had his name taken for diving.
HALF-TIME: Telford 0, County 1 (Dimaio, 33).
While the woodwork remained untouched ahead of the interval, it was to be struck three times within eight minutes of the re-start. Mulhern, with his back to goal, produced the first rattle almost immediately – courtesy of an impressively-executed overhead kick from Stephenson’s cross on the left that pinged Telford’s crossbar.
Up the other end, Hinchliffe worked wonders to tip on to his bar a Darryl Knights free-kick from over 20 yards out – and, for good measure, blocked a follow-up shot from leading scorer Daniel Udoh at point-blank range. Then, three minutes later, another Walker dead-ball delivery once again found a County head – with that of Thomas hitting the left upright following a corner.
Both teams made double-substitutions after the hour, with a view to meeting their respective objectives. But the more telling contributions were offered by each side’s later, third replacement.
For the Hatters, Jake Kirby went close four minutes from time, following his turn and shot from the edge of the box that saw the left side-netting bulge.
But two minutes later, much-travelled striker Matthew Barnes-Homer had the most decisive impact – intercepting the ball to the right of County’s box, and, after a quick one-two, getting behind County’s defence, before drilling a low cross that the outstretched left leg of Jordan Keane deflected across the goalmouth for Henry Cowans – son of ex-Hatter Gordon – to flick home from close range for a share of the spoils.
FULL-TIME: Telford 1 (Cowans, 88), County 1 (Dimaio, 33).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Cowan, Thomas, Walker, Mulhern (Bell, 63), Dimaio (Warburton, 63), Stephenson (Kirby, 79).
Unused Subs: Mantack, Ormson.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.