UniBond Northern Premier League

AFC Telford United

Hednesford Town

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Ross Adams


AFC Telford United (H) 1.1.07

The biggest test of the Pitmen's season to date saw Phil Starbuck's men emerge unscathed with a valuable point at local rivals and league leaders AFC Telford this afternoon to remain joint top of the table with the Bucks after an all-action Boxing Day A5 derby


 Manager Phil Starbuck made two changes to his side from the one that had set a new club record for unbeaten league games against Lincoln United last weekend as left-back Terry Henshaw's three-month loan spell had expired during the week which saw the player returned to Burton Albion; he was replaced by Ritchie Butler as the left-back made his first start for the Pitmen. Up front, Darren Alexander returned in place of Mario Pedro against his former employers as the second change of personnel

Big-spending Telford had cemented their reputation as the early season favourites for the title with a run of form that had kept them top of the table for the past six weeks. Manager Rob Smith made three changes to the side that had beaten Grantham 1-0 at the South Kesteven Stadium last week as ex-Pitman Dean Craven replaced Richard Beale at left-back, former Hednesford loanee Jai Stanley came in for Scott Willis and the livewire Justin Marsden returned to the side in place of Carl Rodgers

 Roared on by a mammoth 4,260 fans - the largest crowd in the history of the Northern Premier League - both sides went about their business early on. A flurry of set-pieces got the large away following behind their side inside the first ten minutes as they pressed the Bucks defence, but both skipper Chris White  and Ross Dyer were guilty of over-hitting good balls into the Telford box that were cleared

 It was the home side that had the first genuine opportunity of the afternoon in the twelfth minute when a neat move allowed right-back Lee Vaughan to break clear down the flank to get on the end of a pass from Marsden. He cut inside of debutant Butler and tried his luck with a low shot that was smothered by Ryan Young, who was quickly off his line to deny the youngster at his near post

 Stanley was next to try his luck three minutes later as he received another fine pass from Marsden but spooned a good chance wide of goal with a wild effort from eighteen yards out


Craven made a late burst into the Hednesford box on twenty minutes to latch onto a cross-field ball from former Hednesford skipper Steve Palmer, but a great challenge from the absolutely outstanding Ross Adams denied him a shooting opportunity as he slid in to take the ball away from the full-back at the crucial moment

Four minutes later, Phil Hadland's run and cross from the byeline found the head of the incoming Iain Screaton, whose effort was partially cleared by the covering Jimmy Turner. The ball dropped to the incoming Butler, who got the ball caught under his feet as he attempted to bring the ball under control and allowed yet another ex-Hednesford man, Richard Teesdale, to clear the danger

Teesdale - the Pitmen's player of the year last term before his summer move to Telford - picked up the first yellow card of the afternoon as he brought White down whilst the pair tussled for the ball

The Pitmen's resolute defence continued to frustrate the home players and supporters with a well-drilled approach to the game; Sucharewycz headed the ball away from goal under pressure from Lee Moore on thirty-four minutes as Marsden crossed from the right

Two minutes later, a superb piece of defending from Adams saw the full-back make a superb block to deflect Steve Foster's goalbound shot from twelve yards out away from goal with Young going the opposite way

Three minutes before half-time, a quickly taken free-kick from Palmer was clipped in behind the Hednesford defence and into the path of Marsden, only for a combination of White and Young to smuggle the ball away from the former Rugby Town man

It had been a keenly-contested first period from both sides, although clear-cut chances had perhaps been at a premium with both defences on top. The Pitmen had looked strong at disciplined at the back but had struggled going forwards at times

 The home started the second half strongly and Foster was played through on goal by Indy Khela's threaded pass on forty-eight minutes, only to be denied once more by another timely tackle from that man Adams


The nervous-looking Butler did well to reach a dangerous Justin Marsden cross ahead of Foster two minutes later and hack it away from danger at Young's near post for a Telford corner kick

Teesdale had the clearest opening of the game so far on fifty-five minutes as he glanced an inswinging cross from Stanley inches wide of Young's left-hand post as he beat his former defensive colleague Tom Marshall to the ball

With an hour on the clock, Pedro was introduced to give the away side some more attacking impetus with the all-red Pitmen struggling to make an impression going forwards, replacing former Telford man Christian Moore

Pedro was straight into the game with a fine pass into the feet of Dyer two minutes after coming on, only for the quick thinking of Craven to deny the youngster a clear strike at goal just inside the Telford penalty area

The away side were starting to find their feet, with White firing over the crossbar on sixty-six minutes after he had sidestepped a challenge from Khela twenty yards from goal and unleashed a powerful effort at goal

Telford stopper Stuart Brock made his first meaningful contribution to the game a minute later as he did well to claim a bouncing ball at the feet of Dyer after Screaton's long ball had caught Telford's defence napping

The Pitmen thought that they had taken the lead with twenty minutes of the game remaining as an inswinging Adams corner was cleared as far as Dyer, whose ball back across goal was turned towards goal by Sucharewycz's slight touch. With the ball heading for the corner of the net, Teesdale got back just in the nick of time to hack the ball off the line as it rolled towards the net. The Pitmen made a strong case to referee Mr Cook that the ball had crossed the line, but after a look across to the assistant on the main stand side he continued with play

Alexander had barely had a kick against his former employers but got some joy in behind the Bucks defence on seventy-four minutes as he linked up well with Dyer, pulling the ball back from the byeline into the path of the incoming Pedro, who attempted a cut lob over the head of Brock but saw his effort land on top of the net

An attacking change for the Bucks with twelve minutes to go saw youngster Tyrone Barnett and Scott Willis introduced, adding more pace and urgency to the home side's attack. Barnett streaked away from Sucharweycz on eighty minutes but found his route to go blocked by the ubiquitous Adams once more, who hacked the through ball from Palmer clear

Willis did well to hold off the attentions of Butler two minutes later as he did well to swivel on a pass from the excellent Stanley but dragged his shot well wide of Young's near post from ten yards out

Stanley had impressed with his dictation of the play in midfield for the Bucks but was guilty of wasting a great chance to win it for the hosts with six minutes remaining as he horribly scuffed a shot from eighteen yards out into the ground and wide of goal


With three minutes remaining, Stanley found the ball at his feet once more after Young's punch fell nicely for him just outside the penalty area, but once again his shot lacked accuracy and he fired well wide of the upright

In the first minute of added time, in an attempt to waste time and beak up the Telford momentum, the Pitmen made their second change of the afternoon as Dave Whittaker came on up front in place of Dyer

Despite the goalless scoreline, neither side came many complaints about the result with both sides playing their part in a fine advert for the Northern Premier League. The league table remains the same and is set up nicely for the second half of this epic double-header at Keys Park on New Years Day

AFC Telford United: Brock, Vaughan, Craven, Turner, Teesdale ▆, Khela, Stanley, Palmer ©, Foster (Barnett 78), Marsden (Willis 78), Moore      Sub Unused: Jones

Hednesford Town: Young, Hadland, Butler, White ©, Marshall, Sucharewycz, Screaton, Dyer (Whittaker 90), Moore (Pedro 60), Alexander, Adams      Sub Unused: Sheppard