Wizard of Ozzz Conjures His Festive Magic, As County Hit Five Again
The Hatters served up a festive feast of football at Edgeley Park, as an Elliot Osborne hat-trick, together with Festus Arthur’s second goal in as many home National League matches and an own goal saw off the ‘Shaymen’ of Halifax – for whom Liam McAlinden’s second-half strike was but a mere consolation.
County took to the field in front of a bumper Boxing Day crowd, and showing two changes from the starting line-up at Aldershot five days earlier – with Nyal Bell and Adam Thomas replacing Frank Mulhern and the injured Devante Rodney, respectively.
Osborne came close to getting the Hatters off to a dream start with only 13 seconds on the clock, when he collected Bell’s forward flick – before racing into the Halifax area and striking the right post. The visitors, meanwhile, unleashed their first attempt on goal after seven minutes, although Michael Duckworth’s shot from outside the box provided Ben Hinchliffe with a routine catch.
Having already troubled the Shaymen on the right, Osborne tried his luck from the opposite flank around the quarter-hour mark – letting rip with an effort that stung the hands of visiting goalkeeper Sam Johnson in front of the near upright. And back on the right side five minutes later, his cross just evaded Bell for a touch in front of goal that would almost certainly have put County ahead.
But after another five minutes, the Hatters did take the lead – following their first corner of the afternoon. Osborne delivered from the left, and Arthur nodded home.
Ten minutes before the interval, a County break following the Shaymen’s third corner served Thomas up with a chance of doubling the advantage – only for his low shot to drag wide of the left post. But the Hatters only had to wait for a further seven to pass before scoring a second – with Osborne collecting Tyler Garratt’s low cross from the left, before swivelling to drive past Johnson and into the bottom-right corner.
Osborne then almost bagged his second and a third for County, following a move from the Hatters’ own box, but, after being played through by Tom Walker, had his shot saved by Johnson just ahead of added time.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Arthur, 25; Osborne, 42), Halifax 0.
While the first half had ended with a near miss for Osborne, the opening chance of note in the second saw him extend the Hatters’ lead when, on 53 minutes, he bore down on goal from the left and sent an angled shot through Johnson’s legs.
Just after the hour-mark, County had a fourth – after Tom Walker’s corner from the right caused mayhem in the six-yard box, before being turned over the line by the Shaymen’s captain Matty Brown. And although Liam McAlinden reduced the arrears within three minutes, courtesy of a drive that was converted in off the right post, Osborne restored the four-goal advantage, and achieved his first hat-trick as a Hatter, with another shot from the left that took a deflection past Johnson.
Following four goals in 20 minutes, the contest inevitably petered out a tad in its latter stages. But there was, on the final whistle, plenty to celebrate as the Hatters notched up their first competitive victory over the reformed Halifax outfit – whom they also leapfrogged for good measure into the last play-off place.
FULL-TIME: County 5 (Arthur, 25; Osborne, 42, 53 and 73; Brown (o.g., 61), Halifax 1 (McAlinden, 64).
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer, Arthur, Garratt; Turnbull (Capt.), Keane; Thomas, Osborne (Cowan, 82), T Walker (S Walker, 75); Bell (Mulhern, 67).
Unused Subs: Leesley, Ormson.
Man of the Match: Osborne.
Attendance: 5,536 (530 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.