Oswell in Seventh Heaven, As County Make Further Gains
Jason Oswell’s seventh goal of the season – and, indeed, of August – proved enough for a second successive Saturday win by the Hatters in a game they dominated for long spells.
With County, a week previously, having edged a five-goal affair at Leamington, and visitors Gainsborough Trinity losing out that same afternoon by the odd goal in nine against Harrogate Town, it was perversely inevitable that the Edgeley Park meeting between the two sides would end up as a low-scoring spectacle. And, indeed, recent history pointed towards the actual end-result, too, as three of their last four contests had produced one-nil wins for the Hatters.
On another day, however, County’s margin of victory could have been far more emphatic, as Trinity’s goal was besieged for much of the second half – and its woodwork struck twice.
The Hatters took to the field showing three changes from their most recent starting line-up, a week earlier. Harry Winter was ruled out with a knee injury that he picked up at Leamington, while Connor Hampson and Darren Stephenson dropped to the bench – alongside new signing Tom Walker. Scott Duxbury, Sam Walker and Ben McKenna took their places, as part of a 4-3-3 formation, and Michael Clarke was handed the captain’s armband in Winter’s absence.
County began in a confident, composed manner – although, for all the Hatters’ monopoly of possession, 13 minutes had passed before they first mustered an effort on target. Oswell’s shot from the edge of the box was tipped around the left upright by debutant goalkeeper Henrich Ravas, who had joined Trinity on loan the previous day from Derby County.
The Hatters then endured another half-hour’s frustration in the face of Gainsborough’s rearguard action, before they had Trinity’s goal properly in their sights again. Sam Minihan’s through-ball found Matty Warburton – only for the latter to see Ravas smother his close-range shot.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Gainsborough 0.
County began the second half in much the same vein as the first – and Jimmy Ball became the latest Hatter to be denied by Ravas, when the Slovakian shot-stopper smothered his volley from the edge of the box.
But after 54 minutes, the Hatters made the decisive breakthrough. The lively McKenna skipped past Josh Lacey on the left, before delivering a cross that Oswell headed in off the far post.
Tom Walker took his bow in a County shirt just after the hour-mark. And within a minute he came close to marking the debut in the best way possible, after being played through by Warburton. The former Bolton Wanderers and Bury winger side-footed past Ravas, but his dream of an early goal as a Hatter was thwarted by the left upright.
Another substitute, Stephenson, also missed out on a gilt-edged chance to open his account, when, 11 minutes from time, he latched on to a long clearance from Ben Hinchliffe, and rounded Hinchliffe’s opposite number, Ravas. But with the goal at his mercy, he skied over.
The opportunities continued to come County’s way in the closing 10 minutes, as Chris Smalley headed Ball’s corner against the crossbar, Tom Walker fired narrowly wide of the right post after being set free by Stephenson, and Minihan’s well-struck shot from outside the area was parried by Ravas around the opposite upright in added time.
The visitors had just one attempt on target – courtesy of a second Trinity debutant, Lewis Collins – but the low drive by the on-loan midfielder from Mansfield Town was comfortably gathered by Hinchliffe, six minutes from the end of what had been the quietest of afternoons for County’s Number One.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Oswell, 54), Gainsborough 0.
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury, Ball, Clarke (Capt.), Smalley, Minihan, S Walker, Oswell (Stephenson, 65), Warburton (Hampson, 74), McKenna (T Walker, 62).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Brazel.
Man of the Match: S Walker.
Attendance: 3,006 (27 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Jim Gannon’s post match interview
Tom Walker interview