One Point Better Than Nun – But Winning Needs To Become A Habit Again…
The Hatters fought back after conceding an early goal at Edgeley Park against troubled Nuneaton Borough – but, having subsequently established themselves a second-half lead, ended up sharing the spoils with the visitors who equalised a dozen minutes from time while reduced to 10 men.
Adam Thomas scored his first goal of the season, and Sam Walker his first penalty as a Hatter – although County also owed a huge debt of gratitude to Ben Hinchliffe, whose saves during each half kept the hosts in the contest.
The Hatters took to the field on the final day of British Summer Time, but in decidedly chilly conditions, with an unchanged 4-2-3-1 line-up from that which had started in the FA Cup against Altrincham a week previously. And the opening period saw them begin dominantly in possession.
But most of those in attendance were stunned with only seven minutes on the clock, when Adam McGurk took advantage of loose interplay between Thomas and Elliot Osborne near the halfway-line, and raced through on goal before firing past Hinchliffe from 20 yards to give ‘Boro’ the lead.
McGurk’s strike-partner Dior Angus almost doubled Nuneaton’s advantage a minute later – only for Hinchliffe to stop his goal-bound header. And County’s Number One again came to the rescue with just over a quarter of an hour played – blocking Theo Wharton, after another break by Boro.
The Hatters were seeing plenty of the ball, albeit without any end-result to speak of – and took 25 minutes before creating a first chance, in the form of Matty Warburton’s low shot from the left that fizzed wide of the far upright.
County were otherwise restricted to dead-ball attempts from distance, as visiting goalkeeper Ross Etheridge comfortably held free-kicks by Walker and Osborne – although Thomas went close in the dying seconds of added time with a header from a corner that just cleared the crossbar.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Nuneaton 1 (McGurk, 7).
The Hatters brought Nyal Bell on for Warburton as the second half got under way – but the first material sign of attacking prowess following the break came courtesy of Nuneaton, as Angus was played through on goal, before being thwarted by the legs of Hinchliffe, in the very first minute.
County immediately responded by advancing upfield to earn a corner – and another four were to follow over the subsequent 10 minutes ahead of an equaliser, converted by the outside of Thomas’ boot from Darren Stephenson’s cross on the left.
Bell then went close for the Hatters with a header, but they once more had Hinchliffe to thank around the hour-mark when he bravely parried behind another effort by Angus from the right.
After 67 minutes, the momentum turned firmly in County’s favour when a Scott Duxbury header was handled on the line by Curtis Obeng. The visiting defender was shown a straight red card, before Walker stepped up one minute later to send Etheridge the wrong way with a resulting spot-kick that nestled in the bottom-right corner.
The Hatters – having already recorded victories in the current campaign against the 10 men of Southport and Leamington – sought to press their numerical advantage further, but Stephenson saw a shot deflected off Mike Calverley and into the arms of Etheridge, before Osborne’s corner from the left was recycled out to the on-loan midfielder who fired narrowly over.
And, with 78 minutes played, a corner at the other end was to prove County’s undoing, as a delivery from Devon Kelly-Evans on the right was headed home inside the near upright by unmarked captain Miles Addision.
Osborne and substitute Connor Dimaio unleashed shots that took deflections in the closing stages – but the Hatters were left with a single point and, unluckily or otherwise, a 13th place to show for their efforts at the afternoon’s end.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Thomas, 57; Walker (penalty), 68), Nuneaton 2 (McGurk, 7; Addison, 78).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Osborne, Palmer (Capt.), Stott, Thomas (Dimaio, 86), Walker, Mulhern, Warburton (Bell, 46), Stephenson.
Unused Subs: Cowan, Ormson, Keane.
Man of the Match: Thomas.
Attendance: 2,802 (53 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.