Six-y Football Under-Lynes County’s Class, As Ashton Get Smashed On!
County scored six without reply away from home for the first time in a competitive fixture since 1900, as three goals in each half saw off Ashton United on a wet evening at Hurst Cross.
Top scorer Matty Warburton and the recently-recalled Jake Kirby each bagged a brace, while Frank Mulhern converted from the penalty-spot and skipper Paul Turnbull rounded off the night’s scoring, to make it a hat-trick of victories for the Hatters on the road in all competitions and propel them into the National League North play-off places.
Following a day of persistent rain, County took to the field against Ashton’s ‘Robins’, showing just one change from the starters for the FA Trophy-tie at Altrincham four days earlier – which also involved opponents that carry the nickname of the red-breasted bird popularly depicted around the time of this season to be jolly. Turnbull was the player to come in, and reclaimed the captain’s armband in the process – replacing Elliot Osborne, as the Hatters adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation.
And the skipper sounded the first declaration of intent for his team after only three minutes, when his tight corner from the left struck the near post – shortly before Adam Thomas also went close with a volley that narrowly cleared the crossbar.
County had earned four corners by the time the hosts were awarded their first, just after the opening half’s mid-point. Having cleared the Ashton delivery, the Hatters then broke – with Mulhern’s progress being halted by a foul from Scott Kay just outside the left of the home box.
Up stepped Warburton to unleash a trademark free-kick that beat the wall, before flying into the top-right corner and giving the Hatters the lead. And the advantage was doubled within four minutes, when Kirby picked the same area of the net in which to bury a thunderbolt.
Another two minutes later, on the half-hour mark, Mulhern was tripped in the area by James Jones, and promptly dusted himself down to steer the resulting penalty past home goalkeeper Luke Pilling and into the bottom-right for his 11th goal of the campaign.
The Hatters continued to press before the break, as Pilling was forced, respectively, to smother and to tip behind shots from the left by Scott Duxbury and Kirby. And Warburton had the best chance of all to make it four, but tapped wide of the left post with two minutes remaining.
HALF-TIME: Ashton 0, County 3 (Warburton, 24; Kirby, 28; Mulhern (penalty), 30).
Any fears that Warburton’s miss just ahead of half-time might prove costly were dispelled by the player himself three minutes after the resumption, when the impressive Duxbury fed the ball back from the left by-line for Warburton to drill home from 12 yards and re-establish himself, on 12 goals, as County’s leading marksman.
And just as a four-minute gap had separated Warburton’s and Kirby’s first-half scoring successes, so, too, did one in the second – as the latter headed in a Turnbull corner from the left to create a five-goal cushion.
In between the two latest goals, Warburton had almost claimed a hat-trick, courtesy of a shot that fizzed just past the left upright. And Duxbury, after an hour, was narrowly shy of the opposite upright with a well-struck attempt, before substitute Nyal Bell also drilled an effort wide.
Ben Hinchliffe was enjoying a quiet evening between the sticks, as the hosts struggled to create any chances of note. But County’s Number One remained alert to dive and smother low shots from Kay and ex-Hatter Josh Askew.
As added time approached, the Hatters’ Joy (‘of Six’) was complete. Osborne, on as a substitute, had his run into the home box ended by a trip for which play was rather surprisingly not stopped by Referee Smith. But it mattered little, as the loose ball fell for Turnbull to blast home.
FULL-TIME: Ashton 0, County 6 (Warburton, 24 and 28; Kirby, 28 and 52; Mulhern (penalty), 30; Turnbull, 90).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer, Stott, Thomas (Minihan, 53), Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern (Bell, 56), Warburton (Osborne, 73), Kirby.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Stephenson.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.