County Ground Spitfires And Soar Into Top Half
A second victory of the week at Edgeley Park saw County, courtesy of second-half goals from Adam Thomas and Elliot Osborne, combined with a first clean sheet since the season’s start, overcome Eastleigh to occupy a top-half position in the National League table.
The Hatters took to the field for their first-ever match with the ‘Spitfires’, showing an unchanged line-up in terms of personnel from that which had earned their first triumph of the season against Barrow four days earlier – albeit with a changed formation featuring a three-player defence.
County created the afternoon’s first opportunity after three minutes, and following a Frank Mulhern header from the left that played in Connor Dimaio – only for Alex Wynter, making his 50th appearance in an Eastleigh shirt, to clear the ball out of play on the near side.
Two of Tuesday night’s goal-scorers then tried their luck from distance in the opening stages, with Mulhern blasting over and Jordan Keane wide of the right post – before the visitors broke to create an early chance of their own, and Ben Hinchliffe’s legs blocked an effort from Ben Williamson.
Following that brief flurry, the contest was devoid of goalmouth action for 20 minutes, before Osborne flashed a shot just beyond the right post. And Thomas’ deflected shot earned the Hatters the first of two corners in quick succession just after the half-hour mark.
The rather uneventful half did end with a modicum of excitement, thanks to two well-worked County attempts – but visiting goalkeeper Max Stryjek did well to dive and smother a low drive from Thomas, following good work by Dimaio and Mulhern, before Sam Minihan broke into the box from the right in added time and fired wide of the far upright.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Eastleigh 0.
The second half began much as the first had largely remained – with scoring chances at a premium. But cometh the hour – or, to be precise, the minute immediately preceding it – cometh the man, as Thomas broke the deadlock.
Mulhern and Dimaio again combined to good effect – with the latter playing in Thomas, who slotted the ball home under the advancing Stryjek for his third goal in as many matches, and County’s first of the season at the Cheadle End.
The visitors – beaten play-off semi-finalists in 2018/19, but without a goal on their travels during the new campaign – looked to freshen up their attack by bringing on much-travelled striker Tyrone Barnett, who, shortly after his introduction, saw a shot blocked by Hinchliffe. And Williamson headed tamely at County’s Number One from close range, after latching on to a long throw from the left by Jack Payne.
But with seven minutes remaining, the contest was effectively settled beyond doubt. Osborne unleashed his early contender for County’s goal of the season after picking up Dan Cowan’s throw and, from 25 yards out, swivelling to half-volley into the top-left corner of the net.
FULL-TIME: County 2 (Thomas, 59; Osborne, 83), Eastleigh 0.
Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Keane, Palmer, Cowan; Minihan, Turnbull (Capt.), Dimaio (Arthur, 79), Osborne, Jackson; Thomas (Kirby, 90), Mulhern (Bell, 64).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Curran.
Man of the Match: Dimaio.
Attendance: 3,869 (36 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.