The Hatters’ third-longest trip of the campaign saw them exorcise demons on the South coast against their bogey side from the previous season, the ’Terras’ of Weymouth – as well as coming from behind in a match for the second time running to win by the odd goal in three.
The Dorset side, who achieved the ‘double’ over County in 2020/21, ominously went ahead before the interval, but Paddy Madden levelled midway through the second half, before substitute, and new signing, Ollie Crankshaw, netted the winner two minutes from time.
On a day of heavy and persistent rain, the Hatters took to the field showing three changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Wrexham one week earlier. With both Ben Barclay and Zeki Fryers ruled out through injury, Liam Hogan was recalled – and 18-year-old Ethan Pye joined the skipper in the back three for his first competitive County game.
Between the respective sticks, it was a tale of two ‘keepers – and two Ross’s at that – playing against former clubs from the previous season. Following his debut on the previous Saturday, ex-Terra Ethan Ross continued in goal for County – while Ross Fitzsimons, who had been brought to Edgeley Park on a short-term contract in March, but left SK3 without making an appearance, was Weymouth’s Number One.
County enjoyed the afternoon’s first chance with half a dozen minutes on the clock, when Ben Whitfield’s low cross from the left found Alex Reid – but the latter’s shot on the turn was well blocked by central defender Tyler Cordner.
The hosts grew into the game, and after 20 minutes got the ball over County’s line courtesy of Brandon Goodship, who rounded Ross and slotted home to initial euphoric effect before being flagged offside and seeing his effort ruled out.
The Hatters responded to their let-off by pressing forward – and Ryan Croasdale fired narrowly over, before Fitzsimons palmed away an angled shot from the left by Whitfield, who, moments later, saw another of his attempts deflected beyond the near post.
With eight minutes of the half remaining, Sean Shields unleashed a shot that took a deflection off Ash Palmer for a corner. And a minute later, he gave Weymouth the lead after being let through to tap into an empty net following a dreadful mix-up between Hogan and Ross.
The advantage was nearly doubled a minute before half-time, after a Weymouth break saw Goodship feed Josh Leslie-Smith whose right-footed shot struck the right post.
HALF-TIME: Weymouth 1 (Shields, 38), County 0.
Eight minutes following the resumption, Shields looked to torment County again by shooting from the edge of the area towards the top-right corner of the goal. But Ross proved equal to the effort, and tipped it over – before parrying a subsequent attempt from Goodship around the right post.
The Hatters made a double-substitution just after the hour – introducing Crankshaw for his debut alongside the Wrexham match-winner Ryan Rydel – although the next attack of note occurred at their end, with Goodship blazing over after latching on to a cross from the right by home captain Josh McQuoid.
But 10 minutes after taking his County bow, Crankshaw made a first telling impact that led to the equaliser. The substitute picked out Macauley Southam-Hales, whose delivery from the right was converted inside the far post by Madden for his second goal in as many games.
More County chances followed, as a John Rooney free-kick fizzed beyond the right post, and Madden flicked past the opposite upright. Madden then had the ball in the net a second time, after another flowing move involving Crankshaw and Southam-Hales – only to be in an offside position and suffer the same disallowed fate as the hosts had done in the first half.
Then, two minutes from time, Crankshaw capped a memorable first outing as a Hatter, as well as another County comeback. Southam-Hales was again the provider from the right – and when Fitzsimons failed to intercept the low delivery, the debutant pounced to make sure of all three points.
Not only that, but the rain stopped! We do like to be beside the seaside…
FULL-TIME: Weymouth 1 (Shields, 38), County 2 (Madden, 72; Crankshaw, 88).
Team (3-4-3): Ross; Hogan (Capt.), Palmer, Pye; Southam-Hales, Rooney, Croasdale, Kitching (Rydel, 62); Madden, Reid (Crankshaw, 62), Whitfield (Collar, 90 + 1).
Unused Subs: Hinchliffe, Fish.
Reporter: Gareth Evans
Photographer: Mike Petch.