Hatters Live To Tel, After Bucks Run Them Close!
County created a post-war club record to go unbeaten in 13 league games for the first time since 1937, after edging out the ‘Bucks’ of Telford by the odd goal in five at Edgeley Park.
The Hatters also moved to within three points of National League North table-toppers Chorley in the process, as Nyal Bell’s early goal got their noses in front and a second-half brace from leading scorer Matty Warburton cancelled out two Telford equalisers to see them home.
Bell’s inclusion in the 4-2-3-1 starting line-up represented the only change to the side that had taken to the field at Guiseley seven days previously. Frank Mulhern made way, having picked up a minor knock during the week, but was still named among the substitutes.
County, playing host at EP for the first time in four weeks and six games, looked lively from the outset – and after 10 minutes took the lead, after Bell, who, three days earlier, had benefitted from a defensive error to score the only goal of the Cheshire Senior Cup-tie at Runcorn Town, similarly took advantage of Ross White’s slip on the left before firing home into the bottom-far corner.
Bell had a glimpse of a chance to double his and County’s tallies when, with 23 minutes played, Jordan Keane’s long ball found him – only to take a bounce in favour of visiting goalkeeper Joe Bursik, who duly gathered and cleared. And Darren Stephenson, sporting newly-dyed hair of a sandy hue, poked an Adam Thomas cross from the right narrowly shy of the near post.
The fourth-placed visitors enjoyed a spell of pressure around the half-hour mark – and, from their second corner, got back on level terms. Brendon Daniels’ delivery from the right was met by his bearded captain Shane Sutton, who rose highest to head in.
In an effort to emulate Telford’s success from corners, Warburton picked up one at the other end but looped a volley over – while Thomas went for the more direct approach, by delivering an in-swinger from the left that Bursik did well to tip behind.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Bell, 10), Telford 1 (Sutton, 33).
The Hatters were awarded two free-kicks within five minutes of the resumption – and while the first, 25 yards out and to the left of centre, was floated wide of the far upright by Sam Walker, the second, just outside the Telford ‘D’, saw County back in front, as Warburton curled his delivery past Bursik and into the bottom-right corner for his 23rd goal in all competitions.
Lewis Baines, making his home debut in a County shirt, defended expertly just ahead of the hour when he dispossessed Daniel Udoh during a Telford break. But three minutes later, his foul on former ‘Just Search’ Hatter Amari Morgan-Smith led to a free-kick that Daniels, from 25 yards, drilled past the wall and into the bottom-right of the County net.
Stephenson cut in from the left on two occasions to produce shots of varying venom that were kept out by Bursik – but, in between those, Warburton struck again to put County back in front when he connected with Keane’s cross from the right to loop a half-volley over the Stoke loanee.
The visitors, after beginning the afternoon with a one-player attack, tripled their manpower up front in an attempt to salvage something from the contest. But having converted from both of their set-piece chances in front of goal, they were denied the opportunity of scoring in open play during added time when Udoh’s shot was superbly blocked by the legs of Ben Hinchliffe.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Bell, 10; Warburton, 51 and 68), Telford 2 (Sutton, 33; Daniels, 61).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury (Turnbull, 54), Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Baines Thomas, Walker, Bell (Mulhern, 46), Warburton (Osborne, 83), Stephenson.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Kirby.
Man of the Match: Baines.
Attendance: 4,708 (133 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.