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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Kelly (27)

1874 Northwich

Nicholson (4)

(1) 1

(1) 1



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Jai Verma



Newcastle Town (H) 16.12.23

A point gained of two dropped? The Pitmen continue to fluff their lines in front of their own supporters with another winless game at Keys Park this afternoon against fellow strugglers 1874 Northwich

Having been eased out of last weekend's game at Leek, Harry Harris had looked to bring in more firepower to his squad after seeing them struggle to create opportunities in their last two home games. In had come the much-travelled Ryan Boothe from Halesowen Town, who was joined just before kick-off by young attacker Harry Crook, who has been in fine goalscoring form for Dudley Town this season. Crook had to be content with a place amongst the substitutes, whilst Boothe ame straight into the XI as one of two changes to the side that had started against Leek; Callum Niven made way for the new signing, whilst Demetri Brown returned to the side ahead of Joe Thompson

Eighteenth-placed Northwich made their first-ever trip to Keys Park off the back of plenty of upheaval of their own, having failed to win any of their last five games and had seen joint managers Wayne Goodison and Paul Bowyer depart the club last month. New manager Damian Crossley had been appointed last week and elected to make only the one change to the side for his first game in charge from the XI that had started their last game against Avro as Jamal Crawford came in for Matt Birchall in midfield

Constant rain in the area had left the Keys Park pitch heavy but perfectly playable at kick-off. The Pitmen were being watched on by former Manchester City, Hull City and Macclesfield Town manager Brian Horton, who was the club's guest of honour as he returned to his home town club for today's game. Horton would have been smarting at the start the hosts made, however, as they were slow out of the blocks and allowed their visitors to take an early lead in the fourth minute. Max Chimenes was given too much time and space to control a loose ball and picked out Lucas Weir, whose slide-rule pass found Jamie Nicholson free in behind Lucas Yeomans on the left. Despite the angle being against him, former Morecambe striker Nicholson executed a fine driven shot past Kieran Boucher and found the far corner of the net

The hosts continued to struggle to get themselves into the game, with Ritchie Sutton giving the ball away cheaply two minutes later after a miscommunication with Boucher saw the ball run to Chimenes, whose attempted ball to Nicholson ran just too far in front of the goalscorer as the threatened to run in behind Yeomans again

Sutton picked up the game's first booking in the eighth minute as he hauled Weir down in full flight as he approached the Hednesford penalty area, earning the veteran a yellow card from referee Mr Lunn. Nicholson took the resultant free kick and saw his curling effort pushed away by a confident two-handed save from Boucher, diverting the ball away from goal to his left

Successive corner kicks from the away side in the tenth minute ramped up the pressure on the flimsy-looking Hednesford defence, with Michael Williams finally clearing the second ball after the Pitmen had struggled to cope with an inswinging cross from the right

Northwich were happy to play the Pitmen on the counter, looking to use their pace to good effect down the left at every opportunity against a suspect-looking Yeomans. Nicholson and left-back Kacper Mialkowski doubled up on the out-of-sorts full-back in the thirteenth minute as they got the better of the youngster, only for Boucher to easily claim the low cross at his near post ahead of Weir

Boothe and Brown were struggling to get themselves into the game, feeding off scraps from a midfield that was non-existent at times as Northwich continued to dominate the opening quarter. Another free-kick from the visitors on eighteen minutes saw Crawford whip the ball into the box, where skipper Matt Fenton leapt above Williams and headed narrowly wide of the far post from six yards out

The Pitmen have become heavily reliant on Jai Verma to create something from nothing since his arrival and so this was to prove throughout the afternoon, with the diminutive winger bringing the ball inside from the left on twenty minutes before setting up James McQuilkin, whose wild effort sailed high and wide of goal from twenty yards out

Jack Kelly was once again proving to be an ideal foil for Verma down the left, overlapping at every opportunity to give the Pitmen another outlet down the left. Vetrma created room for the left-back to run into on twenty-three minutes as he brought the ball inside, dragging Jack Marrow with him before playing a pass into the feet of the former Nottingham Forest man. His low cross into the feet of Boothe saw the debutant try and force the ball home, but the force of numbers inside the six-yard box from Northwich saw the danger cleared

The Pitmen did get themselves back on level terms, however, with a fine goal from Kelly on twenty-six minutes; working the ball from right to left, Joe Morley, Tom Thorley and Verma were all involved as the hosts moved the ball quickly into the path of the incoming Kelly, who drove a first-time shot beyond the reach of 1874 goalkeeper Ellis Allen at his far post and into the net from fifteen yards out. It was Kelly's first goal for the club since his summer move from Shifnal Town

Verma was heavily involved again for the hosts three minutes later as a quick break from a Northwich corner sent the winger scampering away down the left. His quick feet took Marrow with him as he cut inside before laying the ball off to Boothe, who showed good feet as he tried to work the ball into a shooting chance but was crowded out on the edge of the penalty area

You felt that Northwich were content to sit on the draw at this point as Allen started to take longer than acceptable to take successive goal kicks, earning him a tongue-lashing from the Hednesford fans on the Wimblebutry side who felt that he was taking liberties

More good play from Verma on thirty-three minutes saw him streak away down the left, doing well to keep Thorley's pass in play before jinking his way past Marrow and crossing towards Brown, only for the ball to drift over the head of the striker at the far post

At the other end, Northwich doubled up on Yeomans once more down the left on thirty-six minutes as Nicholson got himself to the byeline after running onto a pass from Matt Woolley, pulling his cross back into the six-yard box where Sutton managed to clear ahead of Chimenes

Crawford joined Sutton in the referee's notebook on thirty-nine minutes as the much-travelled winger was rightly booked by Mr Lunn after stupidly kicking the ball away to stop the Pitmen from taking a corner quickly

Two minutes later, Thorley played a short corner from the left into the path of Verma on the corner of the Northwich box. The winger dropped a shoulder to work a pocket of space for himself but drove his effort inches wide of Allen's right-hand post and rippled the side-netting with his low shot

With a minute of the first half remaining, Chimenes went close to handing Northwich the lead once more as he struck a powerful effort from the edge of the penalty area that had Boucher scrambling across his goal to watch the ball wide of his left-hand post

The final action of the half came in the last of three added minutes as Verma's run and angled shot was saved by Allen down to his right, pushing the ball out as far as Boothe who was adjudged to be offside as he looked to turn the rebound home

In truth, it had been a low-quality first period between two struggling sides, having traded goals but offered little else in the way of any real sustained pressure on the opposition goal, with both keepers making a solitary save each

The Pitmen started the second half well, forcing successive corner kicks out of Northwich within two minutes of the restart but wasting both balls in with some weak inswinging balls from Kelly that were both headed away at the near post

Boothe went close to opening his Hednesfortd account on his debut on fifty-two minutes as he did well to control the ball just outside the penalty area, working it onto his right foot before curling his effort just wide of Allen's right-hand post. Close

A burst into the penalty area from Morley two minutes later saw the youngster make a late run into the box to get on the end of a pass from Thorley, getting goal side of Mialkowski for the first time but drilled his low shot into the side netting with Allen covering his near post

Some roughhouse tactics from the visitors a minute later saw Morley felled to the right-hand side of the Northwich penalty area by Chris McCann, earning the hosts a free-kick in a promising position. Thorley and Kelly stood over the ball, with Kelly taking it with his left foot but striking his effort wide of the post

Northwich made the game's first substitution of the afternoon shortly before the hour mark as winger Crawford was replaced by the more attack-minded striker Birchall

Verma went agonisingly close to giving the Pitmen the lead on sixty-two minutes as his wizardry on the left conjured up a chance for himself; stepping past two challenges as he worked his way across the face of the penalty area, Verma struck a powerful low shot with his right foot that beat the dive of Allen but came back off the base of the far post and back into play

More wastefulness from the Pitmen at a corner followed midway through the second half as Kelly tamely played another inswinging corner from the right straight onto the head of Fenton at the near post, further highlighting one of several issues that the Pitmen have struggled with all season long

Verma and Kelly linked up once more down the left on sixty-eight minutes, with Kelly picking up Verma's pass and sending over a deep cross to the far post that evaded Brown and Boothe as the pair entered the six-yard box

The Pitmen's first change of the afternoon came on seventy-two minutes as Brown - struggling with a lack of fitness having not played in recent weeks - was replaced by Niven up front

The outstanding Verma was left frustrated once more on seventy-six minutes as he saw another effort strike the woodwork. Coming in from the left once more and leaving Marrow in his wake, Verma struck a curling effort towards goal that beat the dive of Allen but came back off the crossbar when many inside the ground thought it was dipping into the far corner of the net

Boucher had to be alert to deny Northwich a minute later, making a smart double-save as he parried Mccann's free-kick away and followed this up with a smothering save to deny Weir on the rebound

With ten minutes of the game remaining, Harris made a bold attacking move as he brought the more forward-facing Thompson on in midfield as he replaced centre-back Sutton, who was on a yellow card and had been prone to errors all afternoon. For Northwich, former Salford City midfielder Sam Adetiloye came on in place of Chimenes at the same time

Two minutes later, Crook was handed his debut by the home side as the attacker came on down the right flank to replace Morley, who had once again proved to be a huge disappointment over the eighty-two minutes he had been on the pitch

Another short corner from the Pitmen on eighty-four minutes saw Kelly pick Verma out on the edge of the penalty area, with Allen making a fine save down to his right to push the Hedneford man of the match's low shot away from goal for another corner kick

The game took a dramatic twist with three minutes remaining as the visitors were reduced to ten men; Crook was played through by McQuilkin, with the substitute breaking the Northwich offside trap and clipping the ball past the onrushing Allen before being brought down by a late challenge by the goalkeeper just outside his box. Mr Lunn deemed Allen to be the last man and promptly sent the stopper off. With all three substitutes used and no replacement goalkeeper even named amongst the 1874 substitutes, Fenton assumed responsibility between the sticks for the remaining minutes of the game. Kelly looked to force a save out of the makeshift goalkeeper from the resultant free-kick but saw his effort go straight into the wall and was cleared

The Pitmen piled forward in search of a late winner, with 1874 dropping all available players back to protect their point in the remaining minutes. Verma earned the Pitmen a free-kick on the left-hand side of the Northwich penalty area on eighty-nine minutes, with Thorley floating a ball into the six-yard box where Boothe tamely headed wide at the far post


A point apiece sees the gap to safety remain at three points for the Pitmen, although they have now passed through the halfway point of the campaign with only twelve points to their name. Very simply put, if they repeat this over the second half of the season, they will most likely be relegated by the time Easter rolls around, meaning that they will most likely need to win around half the games remaining if they are to give themselves a chance of staying up. With only two wins in eighteen games so far, you just can't see where these wins are coming from currently. Another chance to break their home duck follows swiftly for the Pitmen next weekend when they play host to Newcastle Town, one of the two sides they have managed to pick three points up against this season after a 1-0 win over their Staffordshire rivals in August

Hednesford Town: Boucher, Yeomans, Kelly , Thorley ©, Sutton (Thompson 80), Williams, Verma, McQuilkin, Boothe, D. Brown (Niven 73), Morley (Crook 82)     Subs Unused: May, Gwilt

1874 Northwich: Allen (87), Marrow, Mialkowski, Fenton ©, Jones, McCann, Crawford (Birchall 59), Woolley, Chimenes (Adetiloye 80), Weir , Nicholson (Oliver 79)      Subs Unused: Soldhi, Mooney-Munoz


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