The Hatters’ second home match of the week yielded another impressive win and clean sheet as they ended the month with a three-goal triumph, and first-ever victory, over Sutton United.
In a contest that saw the visiting ‘U’s’ reduced to 10 men in the opening minutes, County’s numerical advantage soon paid dividends with an 18th-minute goal for Kyle Wootton, before fellow front-man Paddy Madden, ahead of the hour-mark, netted for the fifth time in six League Two games, and Will Collar struck a third with under 20 minutes left.
The final full day of British Summer Time it might have been, although rather dank autumnal conditions greeted the teams as they took to the field. The Hatters did so with their first unchanged line-up of the campaign, as Dave Challinor named the same starters as those who had faced and defeated Carlisle at Edgeley Park four days earlier. There was one change from the midweek bench – with Connor Evans recalled as a substitute in place of Ryan Rydel.
There was no cagey opening fare, as the first two incidents of note took the form of crunching challenges. James Brown was shown a yellow card within only 15 seconds for his on Will Randall – but a worse fate was in store for visiting striker Omar Bugiel when, with two and a half minutes on the clock, he received a straight red from Referee Mather after clattering into Collar.
The third major occurrence, a quarter of an hour later, was far more positive – at least for the Hatters, who took the lead as Wootton scored his second headed goal in as many games, and County’s first in three attempts against the U’s at EP, by powering in Brown’s cross from the right.
Shortly after the half-hour, Madden stung the hands of visiting goalkeeper, Lewis Ward, who, whilst only being able to parry the ball, did well to block again when Myles Hippolyte followed up.
As play continued to be concentrated in the Sutton half, a Calum MacDonald corner from the right found Madden beyond the far post, but the captain’s downward header bounced out of play.
The final chance of the half was also Sutton’s first, with Donovan Wilson, in added time, unleashing a low shot from the left that Ben Hinchliffe dived to tip around the base of the near upright.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Wootton, 18), Sutton 0.
Fraser Horsfall was the first Hatter to try his luck after the break, although the defender’s shot from the edge of the box ballooned into Cheadle End orbit. And, at the other end, Coby Rowe connected with Robert Milsom’s free-kick to head over.
But, 11 minutes after the resumption, the Hatters doubled their advantage, as MacDonald’s free-kick from the right found Madden. The skipper’s header was kept out by the legs of Ward at point-blank range, but he reacted promptly to poke home on the rebound.
County had the ball in the net for a third time through Hippolyte with just over 20 minutes remaining, and after Ward had parried a shot from Wootton – only for the latter already to have been flagged offside.
But a couple of minutes later, the Hatters scored again for real – with a flowing move involving Wootton, Madden and Hippolyte culminating in an excellent angled shot from the right by Collar into the roof of the net.
The Hatters used their full quota of substitutes in a league match for the first time since August, and three of them – namely, Evans, Antoni Sarcevic and Ollie Crankshaw – combined shortly after their introduction in the next attack, which saw Crankshaw’s linked shot from beyond the right past deflected behind by Ward.
The win – County’s fourth successive one in all competitions, and fourth league victory in five – saw the Hatters leapfrog their visitors into 14th palace, six points away from the play-off positions.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Wootton, 18; Madden, 56; Collar, 71), Sutton 0.
Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Wright, Horsfall, Hussey; Brown (Crankshaw, 76), Collar, Croasdale, Hippolyte (Sarcevic, 81), MacDonald (R. Johnson, 76); Wootton (Jennings, 81), Madden (Capt.) (Evans, 76).
Unused Subs: Jones, Palmer, Sarcevic.
Man of the Match: Collar.
Attendance: 8,091 (129 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.