The Joy Of Six, As County Go To Town!
The Hatters enjoyed a second useful pre-season workout – and another friendly victory – as they hit near-neighbours Stockport Town for six on a sun-drenched evening in Woodley.
The goals were nicely shared around, too – with Frank Mulhern and Paul Turnbull following up their successful strikes from three days earlier at Halifax, before Matty Warburton, Darren Stephenson, Sam Walker and Nyal Bell all added their names to the night’s scoresheet.
Both sides fielded significantly different line-ups in each half, and County took the opportunity after the break to introduce Jake Kirby for the first appearance of his second spell as a Hatter – as well as trialling left-back Alex Whittle, who had featured in the second half against Halifax, and the right-sided Kallum Mantack, who turned out for the Hatters as a loanee from Oldham towards the end of the last calendar year.
The hosting ‘Lions’, meanwhile, used their new relationship with County – whereby Alan Lord now combines his role as Director of Youth Development with a part-time headship of the management team at Town – to feature a number of young and former Hatters with first-team experience, including Sajjad Elhassan, Will Holt, Bobby Lofthouse, Jordan Peach, Josh Robinson, Dane Smith and Tom Whitty.
Kicking off in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and with an unchanged starting 11 from that at Halifax, the Hatters took the lead after just three minutes. An Adam Thomas free-kick from the right was headed back across goal by Ash Palmer from beyond the far post for Mulhern to nod in.
Mulhern and Thomas proceeded to unleash shots over the home crossbar, before the lead was doubled on the quarter-hour mark – when Stephenson swivelled in the box to square for captain Turnbull to slot home from close range.
Ex-County goalkeeper Smith kept out efforts from his one-time club-mates Turnbull and Warburton – but was powerless to prevent the latter making it three with 20 minutes played, as Warburton bore in on goal from the left before firing into the far corner.
Four minutes later, the Hatters had a fourth. Mulhern turned provider on the right, courtesy of a low cross that was flicked in by Stephenson from six yards.
No more goals were to arrive ahead of half-time – although Smith did well both to tip over Mulhern’s pile-driver from outside the box, and to parry a shot by Palmer that followed a corner. Additionally, Stephenson had a lobbed effort ruled out for offside, and, in the dying seconds, Warburton hit the near post after cutting in from the left.
HALF-TIME: Stockport Town 0, County 4 (Mulhern, 3; Turnbull, 15; Warburton, 20; Stephenson, 24).
The hosts, duly reshuffled, made the livelier start upon the resumption – with Jonny Hurst chipping one shot narrowly over, and seeing another stopped by the previously-unemployed Ben Hinchliffe.
Hinchliffe also parried past the left upright an effort from distance by Matt Hanson, before trialists Whittle and Mantack cleared upfield two of several second-half corners awarded to the ‘Lions’.
With 13 minutes remaining, and the sun setting, Walker claimed the goal of the evening – after connecting with Bell’s cross from the right to convert a first-time strike from the edge of the area.
And 10 minutes later, Bell completed the scoring from 25 yards out – thanks to a deceptive, swerving shot that wriggled through the unfortunate Smith’s clutches.
FULL-TIME: Stockport Town 0, County 6 (Mulhern, 3; Turnbull, 15; Warburton, 20; Stephenson, 24; Walker, 77; Bell, 87).
First-half Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane, Palmer, Cowan, Thomas, Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern, Warburton, Stephenson.
Second-half Team: Hinchliffe, Mantack, Downing, Keane (Turnbull, 71), Palmer (Cowan, 71), Walker, Whittle, Kirby, Bell, Etches, Czubik.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.