The Hatters’ first evening match under the Edgeley Park lights since mid-January and inaugural competitive home fixture of 2020/21 saw them get off the mark with three points behind closed doors by coming from behind to edge out Halifax.
Goals from Mark Kitching – his first for the club – and a wonderful strike by substitute Adam Thomas late on overcame both a 12th-minute goal by the visitors and the disappointment of the last-gasp, opening-day defeat at Torquay.
Heavy afternoon rain had given way to calmer evening weather, as County took to the field showing three changes from the side that had lost at Torquay three days previously. Macauley Southam-Hales was handed his competitive County debut, Jamie Stott made the first appearance of his fourth spell as a Hatter, and Jordan Keane was also brought in – with captain Liam Hogan, James Jennings and Alex Reid the players to make way.
Connor Jennings fired the evening’s first effort in the direction of goal after two minutes, as he curled a shot beyond the right post from outside the box. But 10 minutes later, with their first foray of note into County’s area, the Shaymen went ahead, after Jack Earing beat acting skipper Ash Palmer to the left byline and, from the tightest of angles, squeezed the ball home off the inside of Ben Hinchliffe’s heel.
The Hatters responded with positive intent – forcing three corners in as many minutes, ahead of levelling around the half’s mid-point, Connor Jennings squared to Kitching on his left, and the wing-back took the ball in his stride before firing past Sam Johnson for the equaliser.
The end-to-end fare continued in lively fashion, with Luke Summerfield striking the County crossbar, Connor Jennings stinging Johnson’s hands from the edge of the visitors’ area, and Hinchliffe tipping over another pile-driver from Summerfield shortly before the break.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Kitching, 23), Halifax 1 (Earing, 12).
Whilst each side earned itself a corner within a few minutes of the resumption, there was little other action of note in either final third before the hour was up – although, just one minute later, Halifax fashioned a neat move between Earing and Jamie Allen that saw the latter unleash a low drive from the left which Hinchliffe dived to smother.
Rooney and Connor Jennings forced Johnson into similar saves at the other end, and either side of the visiting goalkeeper’s display of excellent reactions to keep out Palmer’s goal-bound downward header from Rooney’s corner on the right.
But the Hatters were now in the ascendancy, and, with 10 minutes remaining, Thomas conjured up a worthy winner by advancing across to the edge of the box from the right, and unleashing a fierce left-footed strike into the top corner.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Kitching, 23; Thomas, 80), Halifax 1 (Earing, 12).
Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer (Capt.), Stott; Southam-Hales (Thomas, 59), Keane, Maynard, Kitching (J. Jennings, 84); Rooney; C. Jennings (Reid, 86), Bennett.
Unused Subs: Croasdale, Barnes.
Man of the Match: Thomas.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.