In-form County made it four wins from six with a first ever win at Aldershot Town on Good Friday, as goals from Jack Stretton and Ash Palmer either side of the break were enough to earn The Hatters three points.
Boss Simon Rusk opted for four changes for the start of a busy Easter Weekend, with Jordan Keane, Elliot Newby, Nathan Shaw and Alex Reid all replaced by the returning captain Liam Hogan, Tom Walker, Jack Stretton and Harry Cardwell.
County started brightly in the glorious sunshine at Aldershot, with The Hatters also looking to earn a first win on this date since 1926 – alongside that much publicised record at The Recreation Ground.
The ever-lively Stretton burst down the right early on and cut back for right-back Sam Minihan to drill low at goal, and force a good save by Shots stopper Mitch Walker.
As County continued to press, the opener then almost came in bizarre circumstances when. Harry Cardwell nonchalantly looped a header goalwards from the edge of the penalty area which Walker fumbled onto the crossbar before holding.
After that bright opening, the game became a lot scrappier with neither side taking control for much of the first half – Stretton burst into the box as the half-hour approached, with a subsequently half-hearted penalty appeal waved away as Stretton tumbled to the turf.
Danny Searle’s side failed to trouble Ben Hinchliffe before the break, although Toby Edser should have rectified that when he curled wide of the Hatters ‘keeper’s far post from inside the area.
With less than ten minutes to the break, County snatched the lead in a breakaway move with all three front men involved – Harry Cardwell knocked down for Paddy Madden, with Madden’s through-ball inch-perfect for youngster Stretton to latch onto and slot past Mitch Walker, for the Derby loanee’s third in five games since making the loan move from Pride Park.
And that would be how it stayed until the interval, with Simon Rusk’s men taking a hard-earned lead in at the break.
The Hatters resumed for the second half without any changes on the cards, with Stretton again in the action as he looked to tee up strike partner Madden inside the area, with Madden’s eventual strike scooped high over the crossbar.
The talismanic John Rooney returned to action shortly after the restart, as the attacking midfielder replaced first goalscorer Stretton following another impressive outing for the young forward.
But after a relatively well-balanced start to the second half, Ash Palmer rose highest to power James Jennings’ in-swinging corner past a helpless Mitch Walker to double The Hatters’ lead with twenty minutes left on the clock.
With fifteen minutes remaining, however, County were made to work for that elusive first win in Aldershot territory, as the hosts halved the deficit when midfielder Josh Rees got in behind and clipped past Hinchliffe into the far corner.
County responded well to the setback and forced a handful of corners late on, with Madden coming closest to securing the three points as he headed low and straight at Mitch Walker.
A bizarre seven minutes of stoppage time were added on by the officials, with the Shots coming gut-wrenchingly close to a leveller when a goalmouth scramble saw the ball cannon off Ben Hinchliffe’s post and behind.
But despite some nervy moments late on, The Hatters held on for a big three points ahead of the visit of Bromley this Monday at Edgeley Park.
County line-up (3-4-3): Hinchliffe; Palmer, Hogan ©, J. Jennings; Minihan, Collar (Southam-Hales, 69), Croasdale, Walker (Reid, 90), Stretton (Rooney, 53), Cardwell, Madden.
Unused subs: Fitzsimons, Reid.