In what was his first game at Edgeley Park in over a year, Adam Thomas’ second half strike at the Cheadle End put County through in a closely fought FA Cup Qualifying Round against Curzon Ashton on Saturday.
County made three changes to the XI that lost midweek to Telford, with Minihan, Smalley and Duxbury all joining the starting line-up in place of Darren Stephenson, Connor Hampson and the injured Jimmy Ball.
The first half created little in the way of chances for either team, Ben Hinchliffe made a routine stop to his left to keep out Joe Guest, whilst the returning Adam Thomas headed wide from a Walker corner.
New County signing Bohan Dixon struggled to get a foothold in the game whilst Duxbury and Minihan failed to create much from their wing-back positions as the referee blew for half-time.
HT: County 0-0 Curzon
The second half saw the introduction of Gary Stopforth, and with it, greater purpose to County’s attacks. Walker had a shot from the edge of the box saved by Cameron Mason, before Adam Thomas opened the scoring for the Hatters.
Good work from Duxbury, O’Halloran and Oswell saw the latter tee the ball to Thomas on the left hand side of the box, and the County number seven’s sweetly struck first-time shot sailed into the goal with Mason helpless.
The goal was Thomas’ first in over a year for the Hatters, and comes on his sixth appearance for the club since his move over 17 months ago from Hednesford.
Minihan, Duxbury and Oswell all had chances to extend the lead but all strikes went narrowly wide before a last minute scare for County almost saw both teams return for a replay at the Tameside stadium.
A free-kick given away by Smalley gave Curzon their best chance of the game. The resulting set-piece saw Matthew Regan strike the crossbar from eight yards out. Fortunately, the ball bounced to safety and the referee called time on a frantic end to an otherwise straightforward cup tie.
The win sees County pocket £4,500 and a place in the third qualifying round, with the regionalised draw taking place on Monday at 1pm.
FT: County 1-0 Curzon
Squad: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Cowan, Smalley, O’Halloran, Thomas (McKenna, 66), S Walker, Oswell, Warburton (Stopforth, 46), Dixon (Hampson, 78).
Unused subs: Smith, Stephenson, T Walker, West.
Scorers: Thomas (52)