County set off on the FA Cup trail with a three-goal victory against Stamford at Edgeley Park, to secure a place in the forthcoming Sunday lunchtime First Round-proper draw.
The Hatters’ first-ever meeting with the Lincolnshire side, from three tiers below in the Northern Premier League Division One Midlands, saw them go through after a first goal of the campaign for Ryan Croasdale and substitute Scott Quigley’s inaugural competitive goal as a Hatter sandwiched a penalty converted by captain Paddy Madden.
The Hatters took to the field showing just one change from the initial line-up against Aldershot in SK3 a week earlier. Midfielder Arjan Raikhy, four days off his 19th birthday, was handed his first start in five weeks – replacing John Rooney, who was named among the seven substitutes permitted for the knockout competition.
Stamford, the only club remaining in the Cup from its Extra-Preliminary Round five stages previously, fashioned the first attempt towards goal – albeit a shot from distance by defender and one-time reality TV contestant, Stacey Freeman, that cleared the Cheadle End crossbar by some distance.
The visiting ‘Daniels’ proceeded to enjoy a good spell of possession – and County owed a debt of gratitude to Jordan Keane, as he reacted quickly, amid some hesitancy elsewhere in defence, to clear Tendai Chitiza’s low delivery from the right across the goalmouth.
Nearly half an hour had passed before the Hatters’ first shot in anger – courtesy of Madden, with an under-hit effort to goalkeeper Daniel Wallis. That was followed by a more rasping attempt from Ben Whitfield that centre-back James Blunden did well to block.
But the next chance, with 10 minutes of the half left, was to give County the lead, after Ollie Crankshaw cut in from the left and squared to Croasdale, whose shot from the edge of the box flew through a crowded area and into the net.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Croasdale, 35), Stamford 0.
The Hatters went close to doubling their advantage four minutes after the resumption, and following a corner from the right that found Raikhy. The young Aston Villa loanee’s chip towards the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Ash Palmer before Stamford cleared.
Quigley and Rooney were introduced to bolster the attacking effort. And both were involved in a quick-fire move on the hour leading to a Croasdale shot that Wallis parried around the left post.
One of the recently-introduced Stamford substitutes was to feature four minutes later, when a counter-attack culminated in Rodrigo Goncalves’ shot that fizzed narrowly over the bar. But 20 minutes from time, the Daniels’ cause was made all the more difficult when their eponymous ‘keeper Wallis brought down Quigley, and Referee Barlow pointed to the spot – with Madden then duly obliging from 12 yards for his fourth goal in as many games.
County continued to press – with Crankshaw glancing a Macauley Southam-Hales cross from the right just beyond the far post, and Madden firing a shot past the opposite the opposite upright. And with eight minutes remaining, a third goal arrived as Quigley headed home a delivery from the left by Mark Kitching.
Madden almost made it four, after being set up by Southam-Hales from the right by-line – but the skipper’s shot was tipped on to the bar by Wallis. And, at the other end, Ethan Ross denied Stamford a late consolation by keeping out Harry Vince’s free-kick.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Croasdale, 35; Madden (penalty), 72; Quigley, 82), Stamford 0.
Team (3-4-3): Ross; Keane, Palmer, Fryers (Reid, 82); Southam-Hales, Croasdale, Raikhy (Rooney, 56), Kitching; Crankshaw, Madden (Capt.), Whitfield (Quigley, 56).
Unused Subs: Hinchliffe, Hogan, Collar, Rydel.
Man of the Match: Croasdale.
Attendance: 3,022 (161 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.