Skrill North

AFC Telford United

Farrell (15), (53), (79), Barnett (50), Phenix (56)

Hednesford Town

Blissett (8), Francis (24), Preston (77) (OG)

(1) 5

(2) 3



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John Disney


North Ferriby United (H) 4.1.14

Another week, another second-half capitulation, as the Pitmen let slip a half time lead for the second successive game to collapse to a heavy defeat at local rivals Telford this afternoon at the New Bucks Head

The Pitmen entered 2014 in indifferent form, having allowed Leamington to dominate the second half of Saturday's game and beat them 2-1 to follow on from a 3-3 draw with Telford on Boxing Day. With this in mind, and allowing for the unavailability of skipper Darren Campion due to suspension, manager Rob Smith brought Francino Francis back into the side at centre back and elected to switch John Disney to left-back and play Paul McCone at right back. Wayne Riley was replaced by Marvin Robinson up front, with the big man forming a menacing-looking front line with he equally powerful Nathan Blissett. Greg Pearson's loan period had expired since the Leamington game, with the striker returning to Nuneaton after two goals in eight games

Telford came into this exciting local derby in excellent form, with Liam Watson's men now looking more like the pre-season favourites for the Skrill North title after four games without defeat during December. Front men Adam Farrell and Mike Phenix both gave the Pitmen headaches from set-pieces in the Boxing Day clash at Keys Park, and ultimately proved to be the difference at the end of the game

Horrendous weather had enveloped much of the country over the past twenty-four hours, with the pitch looking boggy and heavy at kick-off, particularly down the centre

 The Pitmen made what seems to be their customary strong start to the game as they got to grips with the wet conditions quicker than their hosts; former Telford man Elliott Durrell fired in an early warning shot for the visitors on five minutes, lashing a long-range shot wide of Ryan Young's right-hand post

Three minutes later, the Pitmen once again took an early lead in a game, with Blissett further enhancing his reputation by grabbing his second goal in two appearances. Neat build-up play between the tall striker and Dave MacPherson on the edge of the area saw the veteran midfielder slip the ball into the path of Blissett, who calmly slotted past Young from close range

Telford made a swift response, as Dan Crane was called upon for the first time in the afternoon on fifteen minutes to deny Farrell with his legs after the big striker had wriggled free

From the resultant corner kick, lax defending from the Pitmen at the near post saw all of their good work undone in a split second.  Matty McGinn's inswinging corner was met firmly by the head of Farrell, who powered his effort beyond Crane and into the net for the equaliser. A man on the near post may well have kept the ball out on reflection

MacPherson - relishing the battle in the midfield mud bath - wasted an excellent opportunity to put Hednesford back into the lead on nineteen minutes as his header from Durrell's free-kick flew well over the crossbar

The referee booked both Blissett and Telford's Charlie Barnett in quick succession for soft fouls, with the Pitmen taking full advantage of Barnett's indiscretion to take the lead once more on twenty-four minutes. Another superb free-kick from Durrell found the head of skipper for the day Francis, who headed past Young from close range to restore the Pitmen's advantage

The inevitable Telford pressure was cranked up another notch following the Pitmen's second goal, with Hednesford battling and defending well in the face of adversity. Crane twice managed to punch clear under pressure from Phenix, with Andy Owens firing well over from the rebound as the Hednesford defence tried to clear their lines

Three more corner kicks followed as the half entered it's final ten minutes, with the Pitmen also having to contend with two very poor decisions against Francis in quick succession which gifted Telford two soft free-kicks in dangerous positions. The second kick from McGinn was well turned over by Crane, who just got enough on the ball to turn it away from goal

From McGinn's corner, an almighty scramble followed in the muddy dugout as Telford tried to force the loose ball home. Disney came to the Pitmen's rescue, hacking the ball off the line after Tom Thorley had missed his kick

So, another slight advantage to the Pitmen at half time, who would have been mightily pleased with their efforts to keep Telford at arm's length in the first half; if only they could reproduce the same effort in the second half

However, just as the reverse fixture on Boxing Day and four days previously at Leamington, the Pitmen simply rolled over and allowed their opponents an easy route back into the game by failing to do the basics straight from the restart

The warning shot came as early as the second minute of the half, as McCone had to be on hand to clear a bobbling ball in front of his own goal after Telford pressure on Crane

It mattered little, as Telford once again took full advantage of Hednesford's flaky defending from set-pieces to equalise on fifty minutes. A long throw from McGinn dropped over Crane's head to Barnett, who fired home with ease to level matters

Things got even worse for the Pitmen three minutes later, as a rampant Telford side swung the game their way through the ever-present threat of Farrell. A neat exchange of passing easily opened up the Hednesford defence, allowing Farrell the chance to fire beyond Crane for his second of the game

Durrell should have put the away side back on level terms a minute later, as the game swung from end to end. The midfielder got in behind the Telford defence and strode forwards as he raced onto Blissett's flick-on, but selfishly fired in an off-target shot across the face of Young's goal rather than square the ball to the unmarked Robinson

Telford ended a crazy eleven-minute spell at the start of the second half by moving further into the lead on fifty-six minutes, perhaps predictably through a set-piece. A corner from McGinn once again flummoxed the Hednesford defenders, with Mike Phenix on hand to knock the loose ball home at the far post after Owens had headed the ball on

With the Pitmen now losing the midfield swamp battle, Smith made the bold decision on sixty-five minutes to put on the attack-minded Robbie Thompson-Brown in place of the visibly tiring MacPherson

This was followed five minutes later by the introduction of Neil Harvey up front in place of Robinson

To be fair, both substitutes made a fair impact after coming on, with Thompson-Brown showing flashes of neat wing play down the right. He won the visitors a corner kick on seventy-four minutes with Kris Taylor's resultant kick falling to Blissett, whose shot was well saved by Young from close range. The rebound fell to Harvey, whose bobbled shot flew wide of goal

Harvey did have a hand in getting the Pitmen back in contention on seventy-seven minutes, as a cross from the right was flicked on by Francis towards Harvey. The striker's weak header towards goal would not have troubled Young had it reached him, but a wicked deflection off Dan Preston sent the ball spinning to Young's left-hand side, wrong-footing him and giving the Pitmen hope at 4-3

Any hopes of an unlikely comeback were very quickly extinguished two minutes later, as Farrell was allowed the freedom of the New Bucks Head pitch to seal his hat-trick. Picking the ball up from deep, Farrell was allowed time and space to move towards the Hednesford goal and fire confidently past Crane from fully twenty-five yards out

This seemed to finish the Pitmen off as a competitive outfit, with the away side defending well in the final ten minutes to guard against an absolute hammering from a confident, slick Bucks side

Indeed, it was Thompson-Brown who went close to making it 5-4 in the first minute of added time, as his right-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area drifted past Young's right-hand post

Another disappointing away day for the Pitmen and their loyal away following, with yet another positive half time position thrown away due to a wretched second-half showing. North Ferriby and their potent attacking threat visit Keys Park this weekend, meaning there is no let-up for the Pitmen's defensive line as they look to recapture their confidence and cohesion of earlier in the campaign

AFC Telford United: Young ©, Baynes, McGinn, Byrne, Preston, Grogan, Phenix (Booth 65), Barnett (Clancy 77), Owens, Farrell, Benjamin       Subs Unused: M. Bailey, Pryce, Gray

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Taylor, B. Bailey, Francis ©, McCone, MacPherson (Thompson-Brown 65), Durrell, Robinson (Harvey 71), Blissett, Thorley       Subs Unused: Riley, Melbourne, Woolfe