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F.A. Trophy 1st Qualifying Round

AFC Mansfield

Buxton (58)

Hednesford Town

Griffiths (5)

(0) 1

(1) 1



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Nathan Fox




AFC Mansfield (H) 30.10.18

The Pitmen remain in this season's F.A. Trophy - but only just - after a dreadfully characterless performance saw them hanging on against Evo-Stik Division One side AFC Mansfield to earn themselves a replay on Tuesday night


After two successive draws in the Evo-Stik Premier League in the past week, manager Rob Smith was looking for a response from his wasteful side as they looked to move into the next round of a competition they won back in 2004. There was one change to the side that had earned a late point against Buxton in midweek, with Nathan Fox coming back into the side in place of Sam Grimshaw at left-back. Smith was still without the services of Jed Davies, Charlie Gatter and Matt Dodd, although the first two were inching towards fitness after long-lay-offs


AFC Mansfield - one of the sides affected by the summer fiasco of Shaw Lane's demise - had made a slow start to life at step four since earning a technical promotion in August, lying fifteenth in the eastern league of Evo-Stik Division One. The brilliantly-named Mansfield manager Rudy Funk could call upon a clutch of experienced players plucked from higher levels, including former North Ferriby midfielder Jon D'Laryea, ex-Harrogate man Jimmy Ghaichem and ex-Hednesford loanee Bradley Peace-McDonald, recently released by Mansfield Town


In front of a sparse crowd which was made up by the majority of Hednesford supporters, the Pitmen made a strong start to the game and got their noses in front in the fifth minute. Lewis Archer did well to force a corner kick, which Joe Fitzpatrick took and found the head of centre back Sam Griffiths, whose firm header nestled into the net to register his first goal for the club as he met it unmarked


Despite the boost of an early goal, it failed to inspire the Pitmen who dropped back into their own half and seemed content to try and catch Mansfield on the counter-attack through Archer and Dan Sweeney. They were lucky not to be punished for such a defensive attitude in the twelfth minute, as a long ball from Brad Wells found the former Frickley man Ghiachem down the right wing, with his ball in to Pat Lindley scuffed inches wide of Joesf Bursik's far post by the midfield man


Fox did well to rob Liam Marsden of the ball on seventeen minutes, taking it forward and whipping in a cross that neither Sweeney or Archer could get on the end of 


The Pitmen continued to live dangerously, however, and were extremely lucky not to concede an equaliser on twenty-one minutes; a misplaced shot from Phil Buxton fell kindly to Brad Wells, whose low effort cannoned back off the foot of Bursik's near post. Close and another wake-up call for the sloppy visitors


From the resultant corner, Hednesford failed to clear their lines effectively and allowed Ghaichem to send over a cross to Lindley, who was denied a shot on goal by a last-ditch challenge from Griffiths


Mansfield continued to press, with Ghaichem's attempted shot on twenty-eight minutes turned behind for a corner after another quick break had caught the Pitmen on the back foot


Neat play involving Archer, Callum Coyle and Sweeney saw the on-loan midfield man slip the ball through to his fellow Solihull loanee on thirty-five minutes, but Sweeney dragged his attempted shot well wide of the far post with the Pitmen's first real attempt on goal since their fifth-minute opener


Back came Mansfield, with Bursik on his toes to punch away a dangerous-looking cross from Mark Dudley on forty-one minutes after Josh Craddock had conceded a cheap free-kick to the hosts


Excellent individual play from Sweeney saw the striker create a chance for himself with two minutes left in the half, picking up the ball in his own half before setting off on a run deep into the Mansfield half, only to drive his effort just wide of the post with a shot from the edge of the penalty area


It had been a depressing match to watch to date, with the half-time whistle greeted warmly by both players and officials on a cold day and in a ground open to the elements. However, Smith's half-time team-talk failed to warm the cockles of the Hednesford fans, as the Pitmen once again flattered to deceive after the break with another poor half


With the very first chance of the second half, Bursik was called into action once again, as he made a save low down at his far post to deny Kieran Wells a certain goal after a well-worked free-kick from Marsden found Buxton, who sent over a great cross to Wells at the far post


Fox lashed a long-range effort high over the crossbar on fifty minutes, before Mansfield cranking up the pressure with successive corners that were dealt with by Bursik


A nasty clash of heads involving Reece King and Mansfield's Jordan Annable on fifty-two minutes saw both players receive lengthy treatment for their wounds, with King having to change his shirt after picking up a blood injury to his ear


The Pitmen were finally made to pay for lacking any conviction in their game with a deserved Mansfield equaliser on fifty-eight minutes. A great cross from the right from Brad Wells found Buxton on the penalty spot, with the midfielder rising above Matt Curley to glance his header beyond the reach of Bursik and into the top corner of the net to level matters once more


The visitors were at sixes and sevens, and nearly conceded a quickfire second to Mansfield two minutes later as Buxton's long ball sent Ghiachem through, only for the midfielder to drag his shot wide from fifteen yards out


The hosts continued to press, with Marsden's cross on sixty-five minutes drifting right across the face of the Hednesford goal and out of play when it was begging to be turned in


On sixty-nine minutes, Brad Wells did well to win the ball back on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and drag his long-range effort just wide of Bursik's left-hand post


The away side had been bitterly disappointing as an attacking outfit, with a number of players contributing little to the cause as Mansfield continued to look the more likely to win the tie. Brad Wells again got the better of the Hednesford defence on seventy-four minutes, bustling his way through but taking a heavy touch at the wrong moment and allowing Bursik to claim the ball


However, it was the Pitmen who had the best chance to win the tie with thirteen minutes remaining, as Archer did well to fend off the challenge of Annable as he cut in from the left wing before unleashing a shot that came back off the post and back into play 


Despite the substitutes spending most of the second half warming up, Smith waited until the eighty-third minute of the game to make his one and only change as Tuesday's goal hero Michael Howard came on in place of Coyle to add more pace to the attack


There was a flurry of late bookings for both sides, with Craddock, Sweeney and Fitzpatrick all booked for the Pitmen, before Mansfield defender Jack Broadhead was shown a late red card for a second bookable offence to leave the hosts to hang on to a well-deserved draw and another crack at their higher-league opponents in the week


So, both teams will have to do it all again at Keys Park on Tuesday night with the £3,250 prize money still to be claimed. The draw for the second qualifying round takes place on Monday, so the outcome will act as an incentive to both sides to push for the win that neither could fashion in a dire afternoon's football all round


AFC Mansfield: White, Marsden, Dudley, D'Laryea ©, Annable, Broadhead   (88), Ghaichem, Buxton, Kieran Wells, Lindley, Brad Wells    Subs Unused: Guest, Dear, Wall, Burton, Dawes


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Curley, Fox, Fitzpatrick , Mendez-Jones, Griffiths, King, Craddock © , Archer, Sweeney , Coyle (Howard 83)     Subs Unused: Grimshaw, Cockerline, Francis, Veiga


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