Captain Sees Red Against The Whites, As Blues Fall Again
The advent of a fresh month brought no change of new-year fortune for County, as a first-ever meeting at Edgeley Park with the away-day specialists of Dover Athletic saw a contest of few chances go the way of the ‘Whites’, courtesy of a second-half brace for top scorer Inih Effiong.
The Hatters have now gone eight games in all competitions without a victory since the turn of the year – and their cause was hampered on this occasion by having to play more than half the match with 10 men, after skipper Paul Turnbull received a straight red card.
County took to the field on a gusty afternoon, showing just one change from the starting line-up at Hartlepool a week previously – with Liam McAlinden replacing Elliot Osborne ‘in the hole’ behind lone/loan striker Jordan Archer.
With a couple of minutes on the clock, Michael Woods fired the contest’s first shot of note – albeit well over the Cheadle End crossbar – for the visitors. And despite a lack of much other action in their final third during the opening exchanges, the Hatters, even with the wind on their backs, found themselves struggling to get out of the home half while Dover forced the early pace.
Ten minutes later, a first County attempt saw McAlinden turn and drill wide of the right post from 12 yards out. And Danny Lloyd’s subsequent darting run down the left flank culminated in a cross that just lacked a final touch by the on-rushing Archer.
Just ahead of the half-hour mark, the visitors went close when Oscar Gobern connected with Jai Reason’s corner from the left – only for his goal-bound header towards the near top corner to be headed off the line by Turnbull.
As it turned out, neither Gobern nor Turnbull would spend a great deal longer on the pitch – with the former being substituted nine minutes later after an awkward fall, moments before County’s captain was sent off for a late tackle on Effiong near the halfway-line.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Dover 0.
The Hatters, who had already introduced Osborne for McAlinden immediately following Turnbull’s dismissal, made a second substitution upon the restart – replacing Archer with Nyal Bell up front.
But while County made a lively start to the new half, Dover, within three minutes, went ahead after Reason squared to Effiong on his left, and the big striker slotted past Ben Hinchliffe.
The Hatters almost equalised fewer than 10 minutes later, when an Adam Thomas cross from the right byline spun off the boot of visiting captain Kevin Lokko and on to the far upright. Lloyd then fired one shot beyond the opposite post, and saw another parried behind by debutant loanee-goalkeeper Ashley Mayward-Brewer, as County made a concerted effort to get back on terms.
But with the Hatters pressing forward, Dover countered in a bid to settle the match. And 11 minutes from time, Effiong scored his and his team’s second – netting from close range on the rebound, after Hinchliffe had saved the initial shot.
FULL-TIME: County 0, Dover 2 (Effiong, 48 and 79).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Cowan, Palmer, Arthur, Clarke; Turnbull (Capt.), Keane; Thomas, McAlinden (Osborne, 39), Lloyd (Jackson, 85); Archer (Bell, 46).
Unused Subs: Walker, Ormson.
Sent Off: Turnbull.
Man of the Match: Lloyd.
Attendance: 4,506 (89 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.