Warburton The Breadwinner Again, As Hatters Earn Second Place!
Leading scorer Matty Warburton went home from Edgeley Park with a second successive match-ball, after his hat-trick saw off York City and lifted County into second behind National League North leaders Chorley.
The win was a fifth league success running for the Hatters, who last lost in the NLN when edged out by the odd goal in five at Blyth almost two months ago – and conceding from open play, as they did against York, for the first time since that evening in Northumberland ultimately proved only a minor irritation.
County took to the field showing one change from the starting line-up in the FA Trophy-tie with Truro City seven days earlier. Paul Turnbull was rested as a precaution, due to his minor hip injury, and was replaced within a 4-2-3-1 formation by Sam Walker – while Ash Palmer took the captain’s armband in Turnbull’s absence.
Warburton had opened the scoring, en route to his four-goal haul, against Truro after just three minutes. And, incredibly, the clock displayed the same time when he did so again a week later. County’s first corner of the day was delivered from the left by Adam Thomas towards the back post – from where Palmer headed, and Jamie Stott nodded on, to Warburton who volleyed in.
Thomas tested visiting goalkeeper Adam Bartlett six minutes later – albeit a little inadvertently, as his cross from the right assumed a shot’s trajectory, forcing Bartlett to dive and tip out of play.
The first attack of note by the ‘Minstermen’, around the quarter-hour mark, should, in truth, have put them back on level terms. Captain Jordan Burrow put Alex Kempster through one-on-one with Ben Hinchliffe, but County’s Number One stood tall to block.
County’s advantage and Warburton’s tally were both doubled just before the first half’s midway-point. Following a throw-in, earned by Warburton, on the right, Sam Minihan’s cross found Frank Mulhern, who, three minutes earlier, had forced Bartlett into parrying an overhead kick from a corner. Mulhern played the ball back, and Warburton rifled home with the aid of a deflection.
The ever-industrious Mulhern saw two low shots smothered by Bartlett ahead of the break – and in between those efforts, the full-time visitors, despite enjoying a fair share of possession, created little in the final third other than a series of over-hit deliveries from both flanks.
HALF-TIME: County 2 (Warburton, 3 and 21), York 0.
The Minstermen sounded a declaration of rather better attacking promise upon the resumption, as Jake Wright fired into the left side-netting, and Burrow flicked a header at Hinchliffe – before ex-Hatter Sean Newton’s deflected free-kick from the County ‘D’ fizzed narrowly over.
Some end-to-end fare then ensued – but, with 17 minutes remaining, York halved the arrears when Kempster side-volleyed in at close range David Ferguson’s cross from the left.
The Hatters had gone six games in all competitions, and over 10 hours, since conceding – although responded in the best possible way by restoring their two-goal lead from the kick-off! Thomas’ pass was mis-hit by Hamza Bencherif and into the path of Warburton, who made no mistake from 18 yards out for his hat-trick and his 21st goal of the campaign.
And that was pretty much that. County’s defence was further bolstered for the closing stages by the introduction of Dan Cowan – but what remaining chances there were fell to the Hatters, with Thomas’ shot taking a deflection off Newton and into the arms of Bartlett, before Nyal Bell, who had celebrated his birthday 24 hours previously, came close to enjoying a late present, courtesy of Scott Duxbury’s corner from the right that the substitute striker headed beyond the far post.
FULL-TIME: County 3 (Warburton, 3, 21 and 74), York 1 (Kempster, 73).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer (Capt.), Stott, Thomas (Kirby, 85), Walker, Mulhern (Bell, 65), Warburton (Cowan, 77), Stephenson.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Osborne.
Man of the Match: Warburton.
Attendance: 4,644 (455 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.