The Hatters’ third successive pre-season jaunt across the Pennines to Nethermoor saw them defeat National League North hosts Guiseley to maintain their 100 per cent record in this summer’s friendlies.
First-half goals from John Rooney – against one of his old clubs – and Ben Barclay, as well as a Paddy Madden penalty, put County well in control at half-time, before an own goal on the hour, followed by a late second by Madden, made sure of a fifth win in a row without conceding.
County took to the field on a drizzly afternoon, showing three changes from the line-up that had started against Lincoln at Carrington four days previously – with Ethan Ross, Macauley Southam-Hales and Tom Walker replacing Ben Hinchliffe, Sam Minihan and Ryan Rydel, respectively. Former Hatter Kaine Felix, who had plied his trade at Edgeley Park in 2016/17 whilst on loan from York, was among the starters for the hosting ‘Lions’.
Guiseley fashioned the first chance of the afternoon with four minutes on the clock, as Jake Day was played through on goal – only to see his shot blocked by Liam Hogan and deflected around the left post.
The sides earned two corners apiece ahead of County’s first opportunity, after nine minutes, when home goalkeeper Luke Jackson did well at full stretch to palm away Walker’s low drive.
As the half’s mid-point approached, Southam-Hales latched on to Scott Quigley’s back-heeler before racing down the right and squaring to Rooney – but the ball was well intercepted and cleared by Ollie Brown.
Not that the Hatters had to wait long to make a breakthrough, mind. And within the space of three minutes, they were two goals to the good – with Rooney opening the scoring, courtesy of a free-kick from 25 yards out.
Barclay then made it two – converting inside the left post on the rebound, after Jackson had parried a Will Fish header from Tom Walker’s out-swinging corner on the left.
Will Collar, looking for a third goal in as many friendlies, almost added to his pre-season tally and the afternoon’s scoreline with a low shot from the right that was kept out by Jackson.
Nine minutes ahead of the break, Walker was brought down in the box by Brown – and Madden sent Jackson the wrong way with the resulting penalty for County’s third.
HALF-TIME: Guiseley 0, County 3 (Rooney, 23; Barclay, 26; Madden (penalty), 36).
Half a dozen minutes following the resumption, Rooney was presented with the new half’s first chance of note when the ball fell to him on the edge of the box after good work by Walker on the left – but the one-time Lion fired high and wide of goal.
It was a case of cometh the hour cometh an own goal, as County’s fourth was turned into the net by home skipper Hamza Bencherif after attempting in vain to clear Quigley’s pass from the right towards Madden.
Five minutes later, the Hatters were denied a fifth by the woodwork, after Rooney’s free-kick from the right was headed against the far post by Hogan. And they went close again when Jackson, having spilled a shot by Walker, saved Collar’s point-blank follow-up.
Madden showed excellent reactions to complete the five-goal-haul a minute from the end – turning a first-time shot inside the right post after Jackson could only parry Quigley’s effort.
FULL-TIME: Guiseley 0, County 5 (Rooney, 23; Barclay, 26; Madden, 36 (penalty) and 89; Bencherif (o.g.), 60).
Team (3-4-1-2): Ross; Fish (Pye, 83), Hogan (Capt.), Barclay; Southam-Hales, Collar, Croasdale, Walker; Rooney; Quigley, Madden.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.