Late Thomas Strike Leaves Bucks Well Spent
The Hatters maintained their victorious pre-season progress with a third successive friendly triumph away from home, after a strike by substitute Adam Thomas six minutes from time saw them overcome Buxton at Hyde’s Ewen Fields ground.
It was also County’s second win running on an artificial 3G surface, following Tuesday night’s six-goal haul further up the A560 against Stockport Town. Swapping the environs of Woodley’s SK6 for Hyde’s SK14 might not have resulted in such a comprehensive victory, although the eventual result was deserved by the Hatters who dominated their ‘hosts’ (from SK17!) for long spells.
County took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and showing two changes from the starting line-ups at both Halifax, a week previously, and Woodley. Nyal Bell and Jake Kirby were handed their first starts since signing as Hatters earlier in the close season, while Thomas and Darren Stephenson appeared on the bench – along with goalkeeper Dane Smith, who had turned out against his club for the ‘Lions’ of Stockport Town just four days earlier.
The ‘Bucks’, for their part, put out a side that featured a number of trialists – including different goalkeepers – in each half. And the first-half Number One was to make a good initial impression after just six minutes when he parried over Matty Warburton’s curling shot from 12 yards out.
The trialist-keeper denied the Hatters on two further occasions within the following 10 minutes or so – deflecting Frank Mulhern’s shot past the right post, after he had been rounded by the County striker, and then keeping out a low drive struck from Warburton on the edge of the box.
Buxton – preparing for more permanent life on 3G, which is in the process of being installed at Silverlands for the new season-proper – had offered little in attack before the midway-point of the first half. But the game’s momentum began to change after Ben Hinchliffe stood tall to tip over a dipping cross from the left by Jude Oyibo – and County’s ‘keeper saved his side thrice again when he blocked efforts in quick succession from Oyibo and Diego De Girolamo, as well as another from an outfield trialist who had latched on to De Girolamo’s through-ball.
Despite this flurry in and around their area, the Hatters finished the half stronger. Mulhern, after picking up a long Hinchliffe clearance, saw his shot parried skywards by the trialist between the sticks and subsequently headed behind by Brad Roscoe. And following three County corners in as many minutes, Sam Minihan unleashed a shot that fizzed wide of the left upright.
HALF-TIME: Buxton 0, County 0.
Resuming with three changes, County looked to continue the offensive after the break – with the first two chances falling to Bell, whose shot from the edge of the area was held by Buxton’s replacement trialist in goal, and subsequent attempt, following a useful run into the box, flew over.
Minihan cut in from the right, before unleashing a shot that the trialist-keeper tipped beyond the far post. And the resulting corner from the left, taken by Thomas, bounced off the crossbar.
Stephenson and Szymon Czubik kept up the pressure, courtesy of forays that earned further corners for the Hatters – and Scott Duxbury became the latest Hatter to feel thwarted by a goalkeeper with no officially-announced name, who punched behind a shot from the left-back.
For all County’s efforts, a stalemate loomed. But, after 84 minutes, Buxton failed to clear a cross from the left by the lively Stephenson, and Thomas seized on the opportunity to convert from the edge of the six-yard box.
In added time, Buxton forced a first ‘home’ corner since the interval – but it could so easily have been an equaliser, as a well-struck shot by substitute Brad Grayson was tipped over by Hinchliffe.
FULL-TIME: Buxton 0, County 1 (Thomas, 84).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane (Warburton, 87), Palmer, Cowan (Downing, 65), Bell (Czubik, 65), Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern (Walker, 46), Warburton (Stephenson, 46), Kirby (Thomas, 46).
Unused Sub: Smith.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: James Gill.