County battled to a deserved 0-2 win at Dagenham & Redbridge on Tuesday evening, with attacking duo Richie Bennett and Alex Reid firing The Hatters to a first win of 2021.
Boss Jim Gannon opted for seven changes to the rotated side which started in the late 1-2 FA Trophy defeat to National League counterparts Notts County on Saturday – with Ben Hinchliffe, Sam Minihan, Jordan Keane, Liam Hogan, John Rooney, Alex Reid and Mark Kitching all returning to action.
On a clearly blustery evening in East London, chances came at a premium in the first half with both sides enjoying spells of possession throughout the opening 45 minutes.
County looked to have snatched an early lead when Liam Hogan bundled home a swirling corner from the right, but the official had already blown for a foul by The Hatters with the strike chalked off.
The returning John Rooney then almost opened the scoring directly from a corner kick, as his in-swinging effort dropped underneath the crossbar and forced a last-ditch save by Daggers stopper Elliot Justham as County looked to draw first blood.
Leading marksman Paul McCallum headed just over the top of Ben Hinchliffe’s crossbar at the other end, before Colombian forward Angelo Balanta narrowly missed out on Sam Deering’s teasing cross from the right.
With half-time rapidly approaching, Sam Minihan almost capped a fine Hatters move as he latched onto Alex Reid’s through ball inside the area, only to misfire and see his effort flash across the face of goal as the two sides went in at the interval level in a very balanced affair.
The Hatters did have their lead just five minutes into the restart however; Rooney cleverly dropped a shoulder and fizzed an effort at goal from all of 25 yards which Justham could only parry straight to the lurking Richie Bennett, who lashed home his fourth of the campaign.
With County’s tails up, Mark Kitching raced onto a Rooney through ball and drilled high and wide of the near post from the angle as Gannon’s side pushed to seal the three points.
Just past the hour mark, the lively Alex Reid almost did just that as he closed down a shaky clearance from Justham only to see the ricochet roll agonisingly wide of the upright.
Reid did have his now customary goal ten minutes later, as he linked up superbly with his strike partner Bennett to latch onto the latter’s pinpoint through ball and control superbly, before drilling a wonderful low effort past Justham for his eleventh goal of the season.
With County looking increasingly comfortable as the tie rolled on, Gannon introduced fresh legs to proceedings by way of a double substitution, with Adam Thomas and Jordan Williams both entering the fray with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Into the final ten minutes, the tricky Balanta fired a low effort straight at the ever-dependable Hinchliffe as time ran out for the hosts to give themselves a lifeline, before Darren McQueen’s acrobatic overhead kick flashed home only for the offside flag to deny the Daggers.
The two Hatters substitutes almost combined for a third late on as Thomas broke clear and looked to tee up Williams inside the area, only for the through ball to roll inches ahead of the former Fylde man.
Hinchliffe saved superbly from close-range deep into stoppage time, and full-time was called shortly after to signal that County had earned a fully-deserved three points on the road, to move to within a goal of third-placed Sutton Utd in the National League.
County line-up (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Keane, Hogan (C), Stott (Thomas, 75); Minihan, Croasdale, Maynard, Kitching; Rooney; Reid (Williams, 75), Bennett (C. Jennings, 89).
Subs not used: Barnes, Palmer.