Interim boss Dave Conlon guided his side back to winning ways at lowly Dover Athletic in the National League on Saturday afternoon, as goals from Scott Quigley, Paddy Madden, Ollie Crankshaw and captain Liam Hogan secured County all three points in a lively 2-5 win.
Conlon – into his third spell in temporary charge of The Hatters – opted for four changes to the side which fell to a disappointing 1-2 defeat to Barnet at Edgeley Park on Tuesday evening, as Quigley, Jordan Keane, Ethan Pye and Ryan Rydel all made returns to the starting eleven in a 4-2-3-1 line-up.
Ash Palmer missed out with a knock, Macauley Southam-Hales began his three-match suspension after receiving a straight red card on Tuesday evening, whilst Ben Whitfield and Mark Kitching took places on the County bench at The Crabble.
The visitors started brightly all in pink in Kent, with Crankshaw arrowing one narrowly wide after good approach play by Madden.
But the hosts, rock bottom of the division still on negative points after a deduction for failing to fulfil fixtures during the Covid-19 pandemic, fired back and almost took the lead through a Reda Johnson header which flew inches wide of Ethan Ross’ upright.
A really open affair continued to ebb and flow from one end to the other, with Crankshaw again going close as the former Bradford City winger almost latched onto a Madden through ball.
But Conlon’s side soon had a first-half lead, with Quigley grabbing his first league goal for the club as he skewed a deflected effort into the bottom corner in the 25th minute.
County continued to press for a second, with Crankshaw found by Antoni Sarcevic down the right and firing a cross-shot past the face of goal.
But, just as County looked to capitalise on a spell of pressure, Dover hauled themselves level when skipper Hogan felled midfielder Ryan Hanson inside the area, allowing Ben Williamson to slot the resulting penalty past Ross in the Hatters goal.
The equaliser represented a frustrating blow for the visitors, who had looked like going on to dominate proceedings after the opening goal – but County soon had the lead regained through Irish frontman Madden.
Good work from Sarcevic saw the former Bolton Wanderers skipper get on the end of John Rooney’s corner and flick an effort goalwards, with Madden on hand to slam home the rebound after Sarcevic had seen his strike cleared off the goalline.
After Madden’s fifth goal in seven outings had restored County’s lead prior to the interval, The Hatters almost had a third when the lively Sarcevic thundered an effort off the crossbar from distance.
As the away side continued to look dangerous, however, the half-time whistle did arrive and provided what appeared to be a temporary respite for Andy Hessenthaler’s beleaguered side.
But, minutes into the restart, Dover again dragged themselves level when Ghanaian forward Koby Arthur volleyed home from the edge of the area.
By way of response, Sarcevic again went close, firing one on the turn tipped smartly behind the post, before Rooney took aim with a trademark strike from halfway which struck the top of the crossbar in a remarkable effort.
But County did eventually retake the lead with less than half an hour remaining, as the energetic Crankshaw slotted home another rebound after a superb block on a John Rooney strike.
Hogan then added to County’s second-half goal glut when the former Salford skipper met Ryan Rydel’s corner to head home at the far post into the final quarter of an hour.
And, deep into stoppage time, substitute Whitfield sealed a five-goal showing as he was teed up by Madden and Quigley from close range.
After seven goals in a thrilling afternoon in the South-East, Conlon’s men then successfully saw out the remaining seconds to seal an important three points and remain within reach of the play-off spots.
Up next for The Hatters comes that mammoth FA Cup tie at Bolton a week on Sunday, with up to 5,000 County supporters set to be in attendance at the University of Bolton Stadium.
FULL-TIME: Dover Athletic 2-5 County (Quigley, Madden, Crankshaw, Hogan, Whitfield)
County line-up (4-3-3): Ross; Keane, Hogan (C), Pye, Rydel; Croasdale (Reid, 88), Rooney, Sarcevic (Collar, 84), Madden, Quigley, Crankshaw (Whitfield, 73).
Unused subs: Hinchliffe, Kitching.