Walker Restores Pride Against The Lions
The Hatters’ inaugural home midweek match of the campaign also produced their first draw, as they came from behind to share the spoils with the ‘Lions’ of Guiseley.
Sam Walker’s equalising free-kick on the hour ultimately earned a point, after the visitors – who County had not beaten in four previous attempts during the 2014 calendar year – took a first-half lead through former Hatter Kaine Felix.
The Hatters took to the field in a 3-4-1-2 formation, and showing two changes from their starting line-up at Southport three days earlier. Centre-halves Ash Palmer and Chris Smalley had both picked up knocks that ruled them out – so young defender Jordan Downing was selected for a first full league start, while on-loan left-back Josh Askew made his debut in a County shirt.
County got off to a bright start – initiating a series of good attacking moves that used the full width of the pitch, but without initially presenting an undue threat in the final third.
This pressure came close to paying off after 18 minutes, when Walker slid in from beyond the far post to volley Matty Warburton’s cross on the right – but the effort flew narrowly over.
Within another four minutes, and against the run of play, Guiseley went ahead – with a pair of ex-County players each making a key contribution. Kay Odejayi took two defenders with him to the left flank, before delivering a cross that Felix turned and converted from close range following a lay-off by Curtis Morrison.
Odejayi and Felix almost combined again to deadly effect against their old club three minutes later, when the former’s flick played the latter through on goal – only for Ben Hinchliffe to save from Felix with his legs.
Hinchliffe proceeded to come to County’s rescue twice more ahead of the half-hour mark – first advancing from his area to head the ball away from the onrushing Odejayi, and then parrying a direct free-kick taken by Morrison just beyond the right corner of the home box.
The Hatters strove to wrest back control as half-time approached, but were off target with headed efforts from Sam Minihan and Frank Mulhern who connected, respectively, with County’s first corner of the evening and a cross from the left by Askew.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Guiseley 1 (Felix, 22).
County re-emerged after the break without any changes in personnel – but having switched to a four-player defence. And the Hatters also took the early second-half attacking initiative – with Guiseley owing a double debt of gratitude to defender Cliff Moyo for twice thwarting Darren Stephenson, who, on the second occasion, had delightfully chipped goalkeeper Jon Worsnop.
The Lions, for their part, were not lacking in chances at the other end – as Hinchliffe was forced to parry Morrison’s first-time shot on the left, and Jordan Keane cleared off the line an Odejayi delivery from the opposite flank.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man. With 60 minutes played, Walker struck his free-kick from just outside the box that curled past Worsnop and into the bottom-left of the net to draw County level.
Just as Guiseley had been galvanised by scoring earlier, so, too, now were the Hatters. Warburton saw a free-kick from further out palmed away by Worsnop, before firing another effort just over. And Askew grazed the outside of the left post with a shot that followed some neat interplay between Warburton and substitute Connor Dimaio.
Felix almost put the cat among the pigeons six minutes from time with a shot from the edge of the box that Hinchliffe tipped over to keep honours even – which they were destined to remain, despite County’s closing forays that yielded five corners in as many minutes late on
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Walker, 60), Guiseley 1 (Felix, 22).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Askew, Keane, Downing (Dimaio, 59), Walker, Minihan, Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern (Bell, 83), Warburton, Stephenson (Mantack, 72).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Kirby.
Man of the Match: Walker.
Attendance: 2,923 (65 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.