The Hatters’ second successive match at Edgeley Park selected for live television coverage proved to be a night to remember, as they sensationally put Bolton out of the Cup in their First Round replay before a five-figure crowd.
First-half goals by Paddy Madden and Scott Quigley went some way towards offsetting three for the League One visitors, who had scored twice in the first five minutes, and an 85th-minute equaliser from Ash Palmer forced extra time, before Quigley netted again and substitute Ollie Crankshaw added a fifth to earn a Second Round trip to Rotherham United.
County took to the field showing two changes from the National League starting line-up against Bromley four days earlier. Macauley Southam-Hales returned after completing his three-match suspension to replace Crankshaw, while Will Collar was brought in for the injured John Rooney.
There was also a hugely welcome appearance among the nine substitutes permitted for the competition, with Connor Jennings re-joining the playing squad for the first time in over nine months following his successful rehabilitation from surgical treatment.
The ground was truly rocking as proceedings got under way – but was utterly rocked in its home sections within a minute as Elias Kachunga ran more than half the length of the pitch with the ball, before unleashing a low shot that took a deflection off Mark Kitching to wrong-foot Ethan Ross and put the visitors ahead.
Matters went from bad to worse for County just four minutes later, when Palmer, looking to clear a low cross by Josh Sheehan from the right, turned the ball into his own net.
Despite their disastrous start, the Hatters responded well as they sought to reduce the arrears. Visiting goalkeeper Joel Dixon saved from his former captain, and recently-arrived Hatter, Antoni Sarcevic, before defender George Johnston blocked a well-struck shot by acting County skipper Madden.
Then, just after the half’s mid-point, Ryan Rydel went to ground under a challenge by Lloyd Isgrove inside the Bolton box – and Referee Barrott pointed to the spot without hesitation. Madden stepped up to send Dixon the wrong way from 12 yards, and County’s deficit was halved – albeit, as it turned out, sadly not for very long.
Only four minutes later, the ‘Trotters’ restored their two-goal advantage – and, once again, the goal was something of a County gift for them, as Kitching headed the ball past Ross, and Amadou Bakayoko raced goal-wards to tap in his side’s third.
The Hatters fashioned attempts from distance – with Kitching firing one over, and Ryan Croasdale seeing two smothered by Dixon – before doing as they had done at Bolton in the original tie 10 days earlier and scoring a second on the stroke of half-time to keep themselves in contention.
Rydel was the creator – cutting in from the left and chipping towards the edge of the six-yard box for Quigley to rise highest, head home and bring the curtain down on a remarkable first 45 minutes.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Madden (penalty), 24; Quigley, 45), Bolton 3 (Kachunga, 1; Palmer (o.g.), 5; Bakayoko, 28).
Attacking a full and vociferous Cheadle End upon the resumption, County started brightly – with Southam-Hales seeing his angled shot from the right deflected into the near side-netting, and Quigley letting rip with efforts that fizzed narrowly wide of the right post and cleared the crossbar.
Twenty-five second-half minutes had been played before the first Bolton attempt in the vicinity of goal, as substitute Will Aimson fired over from distance. And the visitors proceeded to restrict themselves to attacking on the break, whilst endeavouring to prevent a County equaliser.
But with five minutes of normal time remaining, the Hatters made the breakthrough their efforts since the break deserved – with Palmer heading in Rydel’s in-swinging corner from the right to send the tie into extra time.
FULL-TIME (after 90 minutes): County 3 (Madden (penalty), 24; Quigley, 45; Palmer, 85), Bolton 3 (Kachunga, 1; Palmer (o.g.), 5; Bakayoko, 28).
The first period of extra time saw substitute Crankshaw, by way of an initial chance, drill wide of the left post after a run from his own half. But even better things were to follow five minutes in, as Madden’s through-ball into the box found Quigley, who lobbed the ball over Dixon and into the net for his second and County’s fourth.
With County ahead for the first time in the evening, another substitute, Arjan Raikhy, executed a dipping shot that narrowly cleared the bar, before the second period began with Bolton pressing hard to get back on terms.
But the Hatters held firm – and Crankshaw made absolutely certain of their Cup glory by latching on to Raikhy’s pass and slotting home in the final minute.
FINAL SCORE (after extra time): County 5 (Madden (penalty), 24; Quigley, 45 and 95; Palmer, 85; Crankshaw, 120), Bolton 3 (Kachunga, 1; Palmer (o.g.), 5; Bakayoko, 28).
Team (3-4-1-2): Ross; Keane (Minihan, 89), Palmer, Kitching; Southam-Hales (Barclay, 102), Collar (Raikhy, 67), Croasdale, Rydel; Sarcevic (Crankshaw, 74); Madden (Capt.), Quigley (Reid, 106).
Unused Subs: Hinchliffe, Hogan, Jennings, Pye.
Booked: Madden, Kitching, Crankshaw.
Attendance: 10,084 (1,468 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.