County played out a creditable 0-0 draw with Championship side Bolton at Edgeley Park on Tuesday night, hosting a Trotters side featuring a number of the visitors’ senior squad members.
In a game of very few chances, The Hatters followed up their resounding 5-2 rout of neighbours Macclesfield with a well-contested stalemate inA Jim Gannon’s side’s penultimate pre-season fixture.
Gannon made five changes from the side which started in that SK derby, with goalkeeper Ian Ormson in for Ben Hinchliffe.
Sam Minihan, Scott Duxbury, Chris Smalley and Adam Thomas all earned starting positions, with Cowan, Clarke, Hampson, and Saturday’s hattrick hero Matty Warburton all making way.
After a minute’s applause to mark the tenth anniversary since the passing of legendary County boss Danny Bergara – impeccably marked by both sets of players, fans and officials – The Hatters got proceedings underway in the glorious evening sunshine over SK3.
Thomas volleyed comfortably over Ben Alnwick’s crossbar from long range as County’s new-look strike force continued to look lively, before the dangerous Sammy Ameobi tested Ian Ormson from distance with a strike which the Hatters stopper was equal to.
Sadly, Adam Thomas’ next involvement was to be on the receiving end of a heavy challenge by one of Bolton’s six trialists – and, though the County winger initially looked to shake off the knock, the former Hednesford Town man was replaced on the twenty minute mark by Dan Cowan.
Lively striker Adam Armstrong was next to try his luck for the visitors, almost catching Ormson by surprise with a well-executed chip from all of thirty yards; the County ‘keeper again responding to the effort well, back-pedalling to hold the looping strike.
County number 7 Jimmy Ball, deployed in a deeper role during the opening exchanges, was caught in possession by Ameobi just before the interval – but Ameobi’s strike from inside the area was blocked superbly by Stephen O’Halloran.
With defensive duties ably carried out from the resulting corner, The Hatters made it in at the break more than holding their own against their Championship visitors.
HALF-TIME: County 0-0 Bolton
The half-time break signalled the introduction of centre-half Michael Clarke, on in place of O’Halloran as County defended the Cheadle End in the second half.
Ameobi dispossessed Smalley at the back shortly after and found burgeoning full-back Mark Little in on goal; but the Bolton number 2 could only drill wide to keep the tie level.
Minutes after Ormson excellently saved with his legs from Ameobi, the impressive Scott Duxbury fended off the advances of three Bolton forwards to fire a lovely crossfield ball towards the busy Jason Oswell – but, whilst Oswell’s control was impeccable to bring down the raking pass, Alex Perry was on hand to block the half volley by the ex Newtown striker.
The best chance of the evening somehow went begging for the away side just after the hour mark, as Ameobi robbed Smalley inside the County half and bore down on goal; only to inexplicably still wide of Ormson’s upright.
With the last kick of the game, late substitute Connor Hall bundled home for the visitors following a goalmouth scramble – only to see the offside flag curtail Bolton’s celebrations.
A well-contested stalemate, then, and County now look forward to their final pre-season friendly this Saturday as The Hatters play host to National League side Barrow (3pm kick-off) – before next Saturday’s National League North curtain-raiser away to new boys Spennymoor.
FULL-TIME: County 0-0 Bolton
County line-up: Ormson, Minihan (Downing, 87), Smalley, O’Halloran (Clarke, 46 – replaced by Whitty, 68), Duxbury, Ball, Winter (c) (Brazel, 74), Walker, Thomas (Cowan, 20), Stephenson (Etches, 78), Oswell (West, 74)
Unused subs: Hinchliffe, Hampson
Attendance: 1,465 (450 from Bolton)
Man of the Match: Scott Duxbury
Words: Sam Byrne
Pics: James Gill
Filmed & edited by Daniel Powell
Graphics – Robert Schofield
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