Hatters Have The Cutting Edge At The Giant Axe
The Hatters came through a potentially tricky Trophy tie at Lancaster’s Giant Axe ground to win the first competitive match between the two sides since legendary County striker Alf Lythgoe netted the only goal of an FA Cup-tie in Lancaster during 1933/34.
Two first-half goals from Jason Oswell and Gary Stopforth, together with a late strike by substitute Bohan Dixon, got the Hatters through and into Monday’s Second Round draw – but they had to withstand a concerted attacking effort by their Evo-Stik Premier Division hosts after the break, following an early second-half penalty put away by Ryan Winder.
County took to the field on a clear winter’s day with an unchanged line-up from that which had taken to the field at Edgeley Park against Spennymoor a week previously. And the Hatters dominated possession during the tie’s early stages, without creating any chances in the final third.
As it turned out, Lancaster had the first scoring opportunity after 19 minutes – but a hook shot from lone striker Steve Williams cleared the County crossbar following a deflection off Michael Clarke.
Seven minutes later, County went ahead. Dan Cowan’s pin-point perfect cross from the right was headed into the near top-right of the net by Oswell for his 21st goal in all competitions.
And seven minutes from the break, the advantage was doubled. Home goalkeeper, and a former member of County’s Development Squad, Josh Powell, attempted to clear a back-pass from his area – only to watch with horror as the ball bobbled over his foot and Stopforth seized on the error to round Powell and slot home from the left.
HALF-TIME: Lancaster 0, County 2 (Oswell, 26; Stopforth, 38).
Powell went some way towards redeeming his earlier mistake shortly after the interval when he parried a point-blank header from Darren Stephenson. And things really began to look up for the hosts after 54 minutes, when they were awarded a penalty for an off-the-ball challenge by Oswell.
Winder, who seconds earlier had entered the fray as Lancaster’s first substitute, stepped up to convert past Ben Hinchliffe from 12 yards with his first touch of the ball. And the goal clearly spurred on the hosts, as they made two further attacking changes in an attempt to salvage the tie.
Hinchliffe had to be at his best in denying later efforts from Williams and Winder – and his fellow defenders also stood firm to help retain County’s lead, before Dixon’s deflected low drive from 20 yards at the end of normal time ensured a place for the Hatters in Monday’s Second Round draw.
County manager Jim Gannon was understandably pleased with his team’s performance, enthusing: “I thought it was a good group effort.
“We looked pretty strong in the first half, and then changed our shape as the game wore on and they became more aggressive.”
Lancaster boss, and one-time acting manager at EP, Phil Brown, conceded: “We didn’t really stick to our game-plan in the first half, but reacted really well and had a good go at them after half-time.
“We’d been looking forward to having County here ever since the draw was made – and it was good to see some old, familiar faces here today.”
FULL-TIME: Lancaster 1 (Winder (penalty), 54), County 3 (Oswell, 26; Stopforth, 38; Dixon, 90).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, O’Halloran, Ball, Clarke (Duxbury, 70), Smalley, Mantack, Winter (Capt.) (Thomas, 66), Oswell, Stopforth, Stephenson (Dixon, 77).
Unused Subs: Ormson, McKenna.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.