The Hatters’ final currently-scheduled home fixture before Christmas saw them ease to victory with five goals under the Edgeley Park lights against struggling King’s Lynn.
First-half goals from Jordan Keane and Ryan Rydel put County in control, before Ollie Crankshaw, as well as substitutes Ben Barclay and Connor Jennings, netted following the break to maintain Dave Challinor’s unbeaten run in charge since arriving in SK3.
County took to the field showing two changes from the starting line-up at Woking three days earlier – with Will Collar and Crankshaw replacing John Rooney and the injured Paddy Madden, respectively. Ash Palmer was handed the captain’s armband in the absence of Madden and erstwhile regular skipper Liam Hogan.
Both incoming players made their presence felt early on. Collar struck the first shot of the night – although his effort from distance, with a couple of minutes played, rocketed into Railway End orbit – before Crankshaw picked up a loose ball in the area, and delivered a cross from the right by-line that was headed just shy of the far post by Scott Quigley.
A spell of dominant County possession followed, albeit without seeing further clear-cut chances created, before Ryan Croasdale, ahead of the 20-minute mark, let rip with a shot from outside the box that narrowly cleared the bar. And visiting goalkeeper Paul Jones did well to deny Quigley at the near post after the striker had cut in from the right.
Just after the half-hour, Crankshaw went close after being fed by Quigley on the left – with Jones making a one-handed save to keep out the winger – but minutes later, the Hatters finally broke the deadlock. Rydel’s free-kick from the right found Keane, who, from the far side of goal, half-volleyed into the top-right corner for his first goal of the season.
The ‘Linnets’, lying second-to-bottom in the table and on the back of six straight National League defeats, offered little in attack before half-time – although Ben Hinchliffe used his head, literally, when seeking to clear a bouncing long ball outside his area before the on-rushing Malachi Linton reached it.
Then, with added time approaching, Rydel turned from provider to goal-scorer – blasting home to double the advantage after latching on to Croasdale’s through-ball following a County break.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Keane, 34; Rydel, 45), King’s Lynn 0.
The first scoring opportunity after the interval saw the Hatters net a third, with only three minutes of the new half played. Collar showed great tenacity to win the ball just inside the visitors’ half, before releasing Quigley – whose shot was parried by Jones, only for Crankshaw to follow up and head in on the rebound.
Twenty minutes from time, Jones saved well from Crankshaw – tipping the ball around the right post for a corner, from which Palmer headed wide of the far upright.
Barclay made it four, only seven minutes after his introduction, when he left-footed home a half-volley from the edge of the box after King’s Lynn had initially cleared a Rydel free-kick.
With nine minutes left, there were cheers to rival those for the evening’s goals, as Jennings was brought on for his first appearance in a County shirt for over nine months, following a lengthy spell of surgical treatment. And another crescendo followed for him a minute into added time, when he capped a night of personal triumph, as well as a successful night for his team, by driving in the fifth after picking up Collar’s cut-back from the right.
FULL-TIME: County 5 (Keane, 34; Rydel, 45; Crankshaw, 48; Barclay, 77; Jennings, 90 + 1), King’s Lynn 0.
Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Keane (Barclay, 70), Palmer (Capt.), Kitching; Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale, Rydel; Sarcevic; Crankshaw (Jennings, 81) Quigley (Reid, 56).
Unused Subs: Rooney, Raikhy.
Man of the Match: Crankshaw.
Attendance: 4,568 (32 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.