Guiseley 1-5 County

A stunning first-half hat-trick from left-back James Jennings saw County emphatically end their Guiseley hoodoo, and make it four friendly wins on the bounce in the process.

Despite being winless in seven games against The Lions, the Hatters put on their best display of pre-season so far, with a scintillating display of attacking football.

And it was Jennings who stole the headlines, with three well-taken goals inside the opening 42 minutes putting County firmly in control, with second-half strikes from Richie Bennett and John Rooney adding the gloss.

County went into the game having made six changes to Saturday’s victory over Curzon Ashton at Edgeley Park, with Ben Hinchliffe, Lois Maynard, Jordan Williams, Richie Bennett and Connor Jennings all came in, whilst there was a debut at right-wing-back for former Fleetwood defender Macauley Southam-Hales.

There were a few familiar faces in the Guiseley line-up too, with former Hatters Dan Cowan and Kaine Felix starting for The Lions.

Far from those changes disrupting the Hatters however, it took them less than two minutes to make the breakthrough – and it was Jennings, who has been so impressive in pre-season so far, with the goal – latching on to a loose ball inside the area before firing home confidently from a tight angle, drilling it across the ‘keeper and into the far corner.

It could, and probably should, have been two just a minute later when the other Jennings, Connor, was slipped through on goal by Rooney – the finish this time was lacking, however, with the forward leaning back as he hit it over the bar.

Just 10 minutes later though, and James was on the scoresheet once again, getting on the end of a sublime delivery from John Rooney’s free-kick to turn it home at the back-post from a couple of yards, to double his and County’s tally.

At this point County were rampant, with Lois Maynard in particular dominating in midfield, and Guiseley unable to get out of their own half for large periods.

Richie Bennett probably should have grabbed his first County goal on half an hour, getting on the end of a pinpoint cross from Jordan Williams, but the striker just couldn’t sort his feet out in time, as his first-time effort bobbled wide.

It was to be James Jennings’ half though, as the left-back capped an unforgettable first-half display with another fine finish, not too dissimilar to his first – Williams doing well to nod the ball into his path, before he rifled it across goal and into the corner to claim his first-ever match ball.

Half-time: Guiseley 0 County 3 (J. Jennings 2′, 12′ & 42′).

Such was the intensity of that first-half display, County were somewhat slower out of the blocks at the start of the second, and were punished early on for a slip at the back – Felix rounding Ben Hinchliffe and slotting home for the hosts, against his old club.

Far from setting off alarm bells in the County defence, the goal seemed to jolt Jim Gannon’s side back into action, and they quickly restored their three goal cushion – Lois Maynard driving forward before sliding in Bennett, who made no mistake with a confident finish into the bottom corner.

County continued to dominate proceedings with relative ease, and rounded it off with a fifth with ten minutes to go, John Rooney capping another impressive performance with his first goal of pre-season, firing home via a deflection from the edge of the area after good work down the right from Sam Minihan.

There were even chances for the Hatters to add a sixth late on, but Rooney was denied his second by a combination of defender and ‘keeper, before Ash Palmer headed a late corner over the bar.

There was no ruining County’s night though, as the Hatters took another big step forward in their preparations for the new campaign with a dazzling display; and with hat-trick scoring left-backs in the side, they will take some stopping on opening day.

Full-time: Guiseley 1 (Felix, 53′) County 5 (J.Jennings, 2′, 12 & 42; Bennett, 56′; Rooney, 79′)

Team (3-4-3): Hinchliffe; Hogan (Hopkins, 80′); Palmer; Keane; Southam-Hales (Minihan, 45′); J. Jennings; Maynard; Rooney; C. Jennings (Thomas, 75′); Williams (Kitching, 63′) ; Bennett (Bell, 63′).

Reporter: Liam Richardson

Photographer: Mike Petch

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