Hatters Left To Lamb-ment Late Lapses
An injury-hit County travelled home from Tamworth’s Lamb ground empty-handed, after two late Reece Styche goals condemned the Hatters to a first-ever competitive defeat on an artificial 3G pitch – as well as their first August Bank Holiday Monday reverse in three years.
County had been forced to make two changes to the side that beat Gainsborough Trinity 48 hours earlier, as both Ben McKenna and leading scorer Jason Oswell turned ankles in the process of crafting the only goal of that game. Connor Hampson and Darren Stephenson were handed starts in their places, and as part of a 4-2-3-1 formation, while newly-registered Academy midfielder Jordan Peach was named among the substitutes.
The Hatters’ latest adventures on 3G nevertheless started very well in the Bank Holiday sunshine. After only four minutes, Scott Duxbury fed Jimmy Ball from the left – and Ball, in turn, threaded a delightful, defence-splitting pass for Sam Minihan to slot left-footed past home goalkeeper Shaun Rowley and give County the lead.
But seven minutes later, the ‘Lambs’ drew level – and in almost identical style, as Ellis Deeney found Darryl Knights, whose through-ball was rolled in by Bradley Reid.
A less open passage of play followed, as both teams tightened up. Ben Hinchliffe was tested on a couple of occasions, but comfortably caught Styche’s downward header, as well as a long-range drive from former County midfielder Aman Verma. And the Hatters went closest before the break to scoring a second, when acting captain Michael Clarke’s header from a corner was cleared off the line by Regan Upton.
HALF-TIME: Tamworth 1 (Reid, 11), County 1 (Minihan, 4).
The Hatters quickly won two more corners after the resumption, but both deliveries – one from each side – were over-hit, before the hosts began to test County with dead-ball attempts of their own.
Hinchliffe had to be at his best in tipping over a free-kick by Knights after 50 minutes. And six minutes later, the same practitioner floated another to the left post for captain Luke Jones to nod across the goalmouth for Styche – only for the Gibraltar international to head over.
County’s Number One, whose increasingly busy afternoon was in stark contrast to that of the Gainsborough game (which had featured just one attempt on target at the Hatters’ goal), then parried behind well-struck shots from distance by Deeney and Styche, as the sides remained on level terms.
But with 14 minutes left on the clock, Styche, at the edge of the County box, seized on a clearance by Chris Smalley and rifled home, with the aid of a deflection, to put the Lambs in front.
County came close to equalising five minutes later, when a glancing header by Ball, following Sam Walker’s corner on the right, was blocked at the far post by substitute Matt Curley, under pressure from Tom Walker.
The outcome was finally settled beyond doubt after 87 minutes, when Styche earned a penalty after going to ground under a challenge by Clarke in the County area – and duly dusted himself down to send Hinchliffe the wrong way from the spot.
Hinchliffe spared his side further punishment by parrying efforts from Styche and Andy Burns in added time – but the Hatters ended the opening month of the season with a third defeat on the road, and their first by a two-goal margin since February.
FULL-TIME: Tamworth (Reid, 11; Styche, 76 and 87 (penalty)), County 1 (Minihan, 4).
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Duxbury (West, 80), Ball, Clarke (Capt.), Smalley, Minihan, S Walker, Stephenson (T Walker, 69), Warburton (Peach, 90), Hampson.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Brazel.
Attendance: 1,120 (405 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Filmed & edited by Daniel Powell.
Graphics by Robert Schofield.
Jim Gannon iterview
Filmed & edited by Daniel Powell