Stockport County started the new National League North season with an exhilarating 5-1 win over FC United in front a crowd of more than 4,600 at Edgeley Park.
A brace for Matty Warburton, sandwiched in between Frank Mulhern’s opener and late goals from captain Paul Turnbull and substitute Kallum Mantack, destroyed the Red Rebels for whom one-time County trialist Kurt Willoughby netted a consolation 20 minutes from time.
From County’s first corner, Mulhern’s shot was cleared off the line by Joel Senior, before Sam Walker fired narrowly wide of the right post on the rebound.
And from their second – also taken by Turnbull on the left – Mulhern again connected to head County into the lead with 12 minutes played.
A minute ahead of the half-hour, County’s advantage was doubled courtesy of a second assist from Turnbull who broke into the box before squaring to Warburton who converted from six yards out.
And a minute ahead of half-time, Warburton made it three with another close-range finish after Minihan had picked up and played across Scott Duxbury’s cross from the left.
Any fears that County’s first-half momentum would fade after the break were dispelled when Mulhern saw one goal-bound shot blocked by O’Halloran within a minute of the resumption, and another, four minutes later, kept out by teenage debutant-goalkeeper, William Crellin.
Mulhern then headed a Walker corner from the right against the crossbar, before Willoughby’s shot, from a cross by substitute Sam Tattum on the right, took a heavy deflection off Ash Palmer and fizzed past Hinchliffe to reduce the arrears.
If there were nerves among the Hatters given around half of the team had featured on the receiving end of the three-goal FC United comeback that forced an FA Cup replay last season, they did not show and County’s overall supremacy was to be deservedly emphasised further before the end.
With a minute of normal time remaining, Mantack’s cross from the left was headed back by fellow substitute Nyal Bell for Turnbull to fire in from the edge of the box.
And, on the stroke of full-time, Mantack superbly chipped a through-ball over Crellin to spark a back-flip celebration from the former FC United loanee.