The Hatters chalked up back-to-back wins in the Football League for the first time since 2009, and their second successive two-goal victory, as they triumphed impressively under the Edgeley Park lights against Carlisle United.
In a first meeting between the two sides for over a dozen years, Myles Hippolyte, registering his first goal of the campaign, gave County the lead just ahead of the first half’s mid-point, before Kyle Wootton, with his second since arriving in SK3, doubled the scoreline after the break.
County took to the field on a mild evening, showing just one change from the starting line-up at Salford three days earlier. Ben Hinchliffe, who had replaced Vit Jaros during the first half against the ‘Ammies’, donned the gloves in the injured Czech Republic Under-21 goalkeeper’s stead. Young ‘keeper Bobby Jones, included in a league squad for only the second time, and Ryan Rydel, who was returning from injury, were brought in to take places on the bench.
The ‘Cumbrians’, managed by one-time Hatters’ gaffer Paul Simpson (who on this occasion found himself in the opposing dugout to that occupied by son Jake, Head of Performance at EP), included two former County strikers in their squad – with Kristian Dennis handed a start and Jack Stretton named among the substitutes. But Ben Barclay – currently loaned to Carlisle from SK3 on a season-long basis – and another ex-Hatter, Paul Huntington, were both sidelined with injuries.
With three minutes on the clock, Hippolyte fired the evening’s inaugural attempt, which took a deflection off visiting captain, Morgan Feeney, past the left post. And Calum MacDonald’s resulting corner was only partially cleared, before falling to Hippolyte, who, with his back to goal, sent an overhead shot narrowly over.
Half a dozen minutes later, a MacDonald free-kick from the right soared across the area and beyond the far post. And at the other end, Carlisle’s first corner – from Callum Guy on the right – found Corey Whelan, whose header cleared the Cheadle End crossbar by some distance.
But the Hatters were very much enjoying the greater share of possession, and their pressure paid off when, after 20 minutes, skipper Paddy Madden played Hippolyte through on goal – and the latter made no mistake by slotting past visiting Number One Tomas Holy to put County in front.
The advantage was almost extended four minutes later, when a cross from Chris Hussey on the left found Will Collar – whose header was saved by Holy at point-blank range. And, in a near carbon copy of his earlier set-piece, MacDonald, with five minutes of the half remaining, dispatched another well-struck free-kick just past the left upright.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Hippolyte, 20), Carlisle 0.
Stretton was introduced by the visitors to bolster their attack upon the resumption – although the first Cumbrian to try his luck in the new half was a midfielder, Owen Moxon, who fired high and wide following a long run from deep.
Jordan Gibson then drilled a shot beyond the left upright, and, from Moxon’s corner on the left, Whelan nodded past the far post, as the Carlisle pressure continued.
It was, therefore, rather against the run of second-half play when, three minutes before the hour, the Hatters scored a second – with Wootton heading home Collar’s cross from the right, after excellent build-up play also involving Madden and Hippolyte.
Dennis so nearly came back to haunt his old club, after he was picked out by Moxon and unleashed a first-time effort that struck County’s right post. And, at the other end, Madden was twice denied – as, first, Holy tipped his header around the left post, and then Feeney cleared another from his opposing captain off the line following Hussey’s consequent corner.
Substitute Antoni Sarcevic stung Holy’s hands with a low drive, and Stretton did likewise to Hinchliffe courtesy of a chest-high shot – before more than 7,000 of those in attendance could depart into the night, revelling on a job emphatically done to secure County’s first home league success since early September.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Hippolyte, 20; Wootton, 57), Carlisle 0.
Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, Hussey; Brown, Collar, Croasdale, Hippolyte (Sarcevic, 83), MacDonald (R. Johnson, 68); Wootton, Madden (Capt.) (Crankshaw, 83).
Unused Subs: Jones, Palmer, Rydel, Jennings.
Man of the Match: Hippolyte.
Attendance: 8,418 (1,116 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.