Deva-station At The Deva, As County Seal Six-Goal Win To Go Top!
County leapfrogged Chorley to go a point clear at the top of the table, after returning to winning ways in sensational style under the Deva Stadium lights with a six-goal thrashing of Chester.
Roared on by a sell-out County Faithful contingent, Nyal Bell and Sam Walker both bagged braces against the ‘Seals’ – with Darren Stephenson and substitute Jordan Keane also weighing in with a goal apiece – as the Hatters scored thrice in each half to register their second 6-0 victory of the season away from home, and only the third by that score on the road in the club’s history.
Three changes were made from the starting line-up that had taken to the field further south in the near-vicinity of the Welsh border, at Hereford, three days earlier. Captain Paul Turnbull was recalled, together with Sam Minihan and Matty Warburton, as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation, while Keane, Dan Cowan and Elliot Osborne made way to take their places on the bench.
The hosts began the game in bright, attacking mode – but before 10 minutes were up, County, fresh from the disappointment of conceding Hereford’s late equaliser at the weekend, had struck the contest’s first crucial blow. Scott Duxbury, making his 200th appearance as a Hatter, crossed from the left to Adam Thomas, who, from beyond the far post, headed across goal for one-time Chester loanee Bell to tap over the line.
Within another 10, the Hatters’ advantage was doubled following a move that began on the left, courtesy of Stephenson, before switching to the right for Thomas. The latter’s cross was then flicked on by Bell for Stephenson, and then to Walker, who, with the aid of a deflection, rifled home from 12 yards out.
Had pre-match nerves existed over the task of facing hosts who had conceded only four times on home turf since Christmas, they would have been well and truly banished by a third County goal, and Bell’s second, just after the half-hour mark. Latching on to Warburton’s defence-splitting through-ball, the striker made no mistake in cooly slotting past home goalkeeper Grant Shenton.
Shenton’s opposite Number One Ben Hinchliffe had spent much of the first half as a spectator – but, with the break approaching, he ensured that County went in with a clean sheet by arching back superbly to tip over Danny Livesey’s header following a corner.
HALF-TIME: Chester 0, County 3 (Bell, 9 and 33; Walker, 19).
Chester, as Hereford had done to good eventual effect when trailing on Saturday, brought on two early second-half substitutes in the hope of turning the tide. But the Hatters remained full of intent in attack – producing a first chance of note after the break when Minihan unleashed a shot to sting the hands of Shenton, who parried the point-blank effort beyond the right post.
With around 25 minutes left on the clock, the hosts created two opportunities in quick succession, as Craig Mahon cut in from the right to fire narrowly high and wide, before a cross from the opposite flank by Matty Waters towards the far post was blocked by Hinchliffe ahead of onrushing substitute George Waring.
But any prospect of a comeback was quashed four minutes later, when Cowan, as a recently-introduced replacement for Minihan, collected a chipped pass from Turnbull, before delivering a low cross from the right that Stephenson drilled in for County’s fourth goal of the evening.
Eight minutes from time, Stephenson was fouled in the box by Sean McAllister to earn a spot-kick that Walker duly put away to Shenton’s left – sending the ‘keeper the wrong way – to make it five.
And Keane completed the ‘joy of six’ for 1,100 happy Hatters in attendance, when he found himself in space 25 yards out to execute a low drive that fizzed passed the unsuspecting Shenton with three minutes remaining.
FULL-TIME: Chester 0, County 6 (Bell, 9 and 33; Walker, 19 and 82 (penalty); Stephenson, 69; Keane, 87).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan (Cowan, 60), Duxbury, Turnbull (Capt.), Palmer, Stott, Thomas, Walker, Bell (Osborne, 78), Warburton (Keane, 54), Stephenson.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Gilchrist.
Attendance: 2,565 (1,100 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: James Gill.