Palmer Finishes With Pan-Ash, As Hatters Hold Back Macc
County’s pre-season schedule ended with a creditable, and deserved, draw against Cheshire near-neighbours Macclesfield, who brought a strong squad to Edgeley Park ahead of their return to the Football League for the coming winter campaign.
The sides’ fifth consecutive annual friendly did not quite hit the heights of the fourth, which, just over a year previously, had seen the Hatters run amok as 5-2 winners in SK3. But County can feel well pleased with a performance that left honours even, thanks to an Ash Palmer equaliser that was also the central defender’s first goal for his new club.
The Hatters took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and showing five changes from the initial line-up at Warrington four days earlier. Ben Hinchliffe, Scott Duxbury, Jordan Keane, Sam Minihan and Sam Walker all started, while the players they replaced – namely, Ian Ormson, Kallum Mantack, Adam Thomas, Connor Dimaio and Nyal Bell – were named among the substitutes.
Just prior to kick-off, a breezy afternoon turned into a wet one, with a pre-match downpour producing a slippery surface and, consequently, some cautious opening exchanges – before each side was to score with a header from its first corner of the contest.
The Silkmen took the lead after 19 minutes. Their inaugural corner – taken on the left, courtesy of former Hatter Michael Rose, who had arrived at the Moss Rose just five days earlier – was powered in by Harry Smith at close range.
But the visitors’ advantage was to be relatively short-lived, as, before the half-hour, Palmer rose in line with the far post to nod home Walker’s corner from the right.
Minutes later, the Hatters looked certain to earn a penalty after Fiacre Kelleher clearly put the ball behind with his hand – only for Referee Hull to award them a consolation corner.
Remaining chances of the half fell to Macc. But Rose fired over from outside the area, and David Fitzpatrick launched an attempt on the left that drifted harmlessly past the far post.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Palmer, 28), Macclesfield 1 (Smith, 19).
The game opened up further after the break – with Scott Wilson chipping a shot, and, subsequently, Walker a free-kick, narrowly wide of the respective right posts.
Then, with 66 minutes played, Frank Mulhern came close to producing what could have proved a stunning winner for County, but his thunderbolt from outside the box was kept out by the crossbar.
Eleven minutes later, the Hatters had Hinchliffe to thank for keeping them on level terms, when he tipped over another Fitzpatrick effort from the left, before denying substitute Tyrone Marsh from the resulting corner. And Palmer rounded off an impressive individual display when, with two minutes remaining, he blocked a goal-bound shot by Kelleher.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Palmer, 28), Macclesfield 1 (Smith, 19).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan (Stephenson, 64), Duxbury, Keane, Palmer, Smalley (Dimaio, 46), Minihan, Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern (Bell, 78), Warburton (Thomas, 72), Walker.
Unused Subs: Mantack, Ormson, Downing.
Man of the Match: Palmer.
Attendance: 935 (178 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.