County turned in a five-star performance at Edgeley Park against Cheshire near-neighbours Macclesfield Town in what has since 2014 become a regular summer ‘postcode derby’.
The Silkmen had made the 14-mile trip to SK3 for their sole pre-season venture away from home in SK11 – and with a squad that featured just four surviving players from the previous season, which had seen the National League outfit reach the FA Trophy final.
And Macclesfield’s rebuilt side looked to be gelling nicely to begin with – twice going ahead in the first half to lead by the odd goal in three at the break.
But four second-half County goals, which gave Jason Oswell a brace and completed Matty Warburton’s hat-trick, saw the happy Hatters prevail in this now-annual fixture for the first time in three years.
County took to the field showing just one change from the last starting line-up at EP, against Preston, a week previously – with Stephen O’Halloran replacing Chris Smalley.
Two of the Silkmen’s new arrivals combined to put them ahead after only four minutes when ex-Dover striker Tyrone Marsh headed home a cross from the right by Scott Wilson, who plied his trade last term at Eastleigh.
But the Hatters hit back eight minutes later, when Warburton’s low drive from the edge of the area fizzed past the outstretched Shwan Jalal to nestle in the bottom-right corner.
The end-to-end play continued – with Wilson, who had scored the only goal of the game at the Moss Rose against Bury four days earlier, doubling his personal tally for the Silkmen, as well as putting them back in front, when his low shot went in off the left upright after 18 minutes.
Jalal tipped over Oswell’s close-range header, following Connor Hampson’s pin-point cross from the left, nine minutes before the break, as the Hatters finished the half strongly.
HALF-TIME: County 1 (Warburton, 12), Macclesfield 2 (Marsh, 4; Wilson, 18).
Having made half a dozen changes at the break, Macclesfield’s rearranged line-up was still settling down when, three minutes into the second half, Oswell fired in an equaliser from close range after the visitors failed to clear a quickly-taken corner.
Oswell turned provider as part of a three-player move seven minutes later, with a neat through-touch for Warburton to convert, before scoring his second – and County’s fourth – with a header from a corner just after the hour-mark.
The Hatters made certain of the local bragging rights 19 minutes from time, after Warburton was felled in the box by Keith Lowe and blasted the resulting penalty into the top-left corner and out of the reach of substitute-keeper, Alex Gogic.
And they were even denied a sixth in the following minute, when Oswell netted from Sam Walker’s free kick on the left – only to be adjudged offside.
Not that this – even allowing for it being a friendly – made the occasion any less macc-nificent, you understand…!
FULL-TIME: County 5 (Warburton, 12, 55 and 71 (penalty); Oswell, 48 and 61), Macclesfield 2 (Marsh, 4; Wilson, 18).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan (Smalley, 77), Hampson, Winter (Capt.) (Etches, 89), Clarke, O’Halloran (Whitty, 89), Ball (Minihan, 63), Walker (Brazel, 84), Oswell (Duxbury, 77), Warburton (West, 84), Stephenson (Thomas, 63).
Unused Sub: Smith.
Man of the Match: Warburton.
Attendance: 1,120 (183 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans