County Sa-Shay To Opening Friendly Victory
The Hatters’ pre-season programme began with a composed performance that saw them deservedly edge out National League hosts Halifax at The Shay.
For County and England fans, it got the footballing day off to a good start – with friendly proceedings across the Pennines having been brought forward to 12 noon, in order to avoid a clash with a certain World Cup Quarter-final that would kick off rather further east, in Samara, three hours later.
First-half strikes by captain Paul Turnbull and new striker Frank Mulhern put the Hatters in control against their hosts – for whom Niall Maher netted a last-minute consolation.
County had taken to the field under the midday West Yorkshire sunshine in a 4-2-3-1 formation that enabled starts for Mulhern, as well as for two fellow recent arrivals in central defender Ash Palmer and Turnbull’s central-midfield partner, Jordan Keane. A couple of other summer captures – namely, Nyal Bell and Connor Domaio – were named among the substitutes, although the sixth close-season signing, Jake Kirby, was not quite fully fit to make the first appearance of his second spell as a Hatter. Chris Smalley was also ruled out, due to a minor knock.
Finding themselves up against a first-half Halifax line-up that featured trialists in precisely half of its outfield positions, the Hatters started on the front foot – with both Sam Minihan and Matty Warburton unleashing early low drives from just inside the area that goalkeeper Shaun Rowley dived to smother.
A quartet of corners followed over the next quarter of an hour for County, and, from the fourth of them, after 27 minutes, the Hatters took the lead – with the ball only being cleared as far as Turnbull, whose pile-driver from the edge of the box gave Rowley no chance.
Ten minutes later, the advantage was doubled – when Keane dispossessed a trialist to the right of the Halifax area, and played in Mulhern who rifled a first-time shot past Rowley from 12 yards.
Keane went close to marking his own debut with a goal three minutes before the break – heading over Scott Duxbury’s cross from the left.
HALF-TIME: Halifax 0, County 2 (Turnbull, 27; Mulhern, 37).
While County emerged for the second half with a trio of substitutions that included Bell and Domaio, the Shaymen made three times as many, as they gave run-outs to several established and newly-signed members of their squad.
But it was one of their trialists who created the hosts’ first serious scoring chance – by way of a chipped volley a minute after the resumption that Ormson had to be on his toes to catch cleanly above the line.
A more evenly-balanced second half saw Ormson kept a little more busy than the practically-unemployed Ben Hinchliffe had been during the first – although the latter’s replacement dealt comfortably with a header by Josh Staunton and, subsequently, Ben Tomlinson’s low drive from the edge of the box.
In the closing five minutes, County twice had cause to thank substitute defenders, as Jordan Downing deflected a goal-bound shot by Dayle Southwell past the left upright, and left-back Alex Whittle – currently training with the Hatters – cleared off the line from Sanmi Odelusi.
Halifax then proceeded to force three corners in quick succession – and Maher rose highest to head home the third with virtually the final touch of the contest.
FULL-TIME: Halifax 1 (Maher, 90), County 2 (Turnbull, 27; Mulhern, 37).
First-half Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer (Walker, 12), Cowan, Thomas, Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern, Warburton (Palmer, 24), Stephenson (Warburton, 41).
Second-half Team: Ormson, Minihan, Duxbury (Whittle, 61), Keane (Turnbull, 85), Palmer (Capt.), Cowan (Downing, 69), Thomas (Stephenson, 61), Domaio, Bell, Warburton (Etches, 69), Walker (Czubik, 69).
Attendance: 403 (59 representing The Twelfth Man).