1.1.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

AFC Telford United

L. Moore (69)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

3,005

Ross Adams

W W W D W W W W D L

Whitby Town (A) 13.1.07

The Pitmen's long and record-breaking unbeaten league record finally came to an end this evening as they are edged out of today's New Year's Day derby against league leaders AFC Telford, losing for the first time in twenty UniBoind Premier League games to hand the impetus to the Bucks in the race for the league title

After the 0-0 draw between the sides at the New Bucks Head seven days previously, Hednesford manager Phil Starbuck made two changes to the side for today's big derby clash as Mario Pedro returned to the side in place of Ross Dyer and Dave Whittaker came back in up front to replace the injured Christian Moore

Since the two sides had played on Boxing Day, league leaders Telford had played Kendal Town and earned themselves a 1-1 draw at Parkside Road to move a point ahead of the Pitmen in the table. Manager Rob Smith named an unchanged side for the third game in a row, with former Pitmen Dean Craven, Richard Teesdale, Jai Stanley and Steve Palmer all making their return to Keys Park after being named in the starting XI

The 3,000 plus crowd, swelled by a large away following from the Bucks, witnessed something of a chess match in the opening exchanges as the two evenly matched sides played with great caution so as not to hand the advantage to their fellow title chaser

The first sight at goal came to the men in red in the tenth minute as Indy Khela clipped a fine pass into the feet of the ever-willing Justin Marsden, who showed Ross Adams a clean pair of heels before attempting a shot from an angle that flew high over Ryan Young's crossbar

 A crunching tackle by Ritchie Butler on Steve Foster giving the away fans something to protest two minutes later as they felt that the left-back had taken the player first just outside the Hednesford penalty area. However, referee Mr Sinclair was unimpressed with Foster's protests and the game continued

Hednesford's first sight of goal arrived on fourteen minutes as Darren Alexander picked up a loose pass from Teesdale and fired in a shot that goalkeeper Stuart Brock punched away from goal; his attempted clearance dropped as far as Pedro, only for his tame header goalwards to be easily fielded by Brock on the rebound

Two minutes later, Whittaker collected the ball on the edge of the Telford penalty area before firing in a rising shot that Brock again fielded well, standing in the centre of his goal

Telford's expensively-assembled strike duo of Lee Moore and Foster were once again keeping the Pitmen's defence busy with their trickery and running off the ball, with Moore denied a clear shot at goal on eighteen minutes by Screaton's sliding challenge after a fine piece of play involving Stanley and Foster

A hopeful long-range shot from Pedro drifted high over Brock's crossbar midway through the first half before Marsden was pulled up by a very late offside flag as he streaked away from a hesitant Hednesford back line

On twenty-seven minutes, Teesdale's downward header into the Hednesford six-yard box created chaos in the ranks as a mass of players tried to get their foot on the ball, only for Young to finally clear his lines with the ball bouncing around near to his goal line

On the half-hour mark, Hednesford skipper Chris White tried his luck with a dipping shot over the crossbar following one of Pedro's jinking runs and a ball to Phil Hadland, who supplied a fine cross for the midfielder

 

Hadland was doing a terrific job in nullifying the threat of Craven, forcing the Bucks left-back into a defensive position for much of the first period as he pushed forwards at every opportunity

Brock made a comfortable save down at the feet of Whittaker on thirty-six minutes as the former Witton Albion man overran the ball slightly after taking a fine pass from Butler into his stride just inside the Telford penalty area

Three minutes later, Teesdale headed high over the crossbar and onto the car park behind the Hednesford end stand as he got underneath an out-swinging corner kick from Stanley

 Two minutes before half-time, Screaton found a pocket of space just outside the Telford penalty area and drove in a low shot that Brock watched into his hands

The first period had been pretty much a carbon copy of Boxing Day's ninety minutes - both sides essentially cancelling each other out in all areas, proving that these two title-chasers were indeed very evenly matched. Having seen a heavy dumping of rain on the pitch in the past few days, it was also noticeable at the break how the Keys Park surface was starting to cut up with tackles flying in at all angles

A great cross from Ross Adams on forty-nine minutes was flicked on by Whittaker and towards Pedro, only for full-back Lee Vaughan to to spot the danger quickly and clear the ball in a timely manner

The turning point in the game came on fifty-four minutes as the Pitmen were reduced to ten men; a ball cleared by Vaughan was chased down by Alexander and Turner, with the Hednesford striker miss-timing his challenge on the centre-back and pole-axing Turner with a two-footed challenge, prompting a mass brawl involving both benches and most of the players on the park. After calming the situation down and speaking to his assistant on the Wimblebury side, Mr Sinclair chose to show Alexander a straight red for the tackle

Starbuck elected to counter the loss of Alexander by bringing on the more physical Dyer for the ineffective Pedro on the hour mark as he felt that his side could still win the game in the final thirty minutes

Khela won the ball from the dawdling Screaton on sixty-four minutes and made a move forwards before slipping the ball into the feet of Moore, whose attempted shot on the stretch saw him get his laces underneath the ball and lift it high over the crossbar

A mistimed tackle by Craven on Hadland had the benches up in arms once more on sixty-seven minutes, although the former Hednesford man escaped with just a warning from the referee

The Bucks finally made their numerical advantage count on sixty-nine minutes as they took the lead with what would prove to be the winning goal; Moore picked up the ball and ran across the Hednesford penalty area, leaving four Hednesford players in his wake as he looked to create an opening for himself. Before anyone in white could get a challenge in, he fired the ball past Young and into the far corner of the net with a well-taken goal from fifteen yards out

Telford were very much on top at this point as they kept the ball well and made the Pitmen work for the possession. Stanley blasted a twenty-five-yard effort over Young's crossbar on seventy-one minutes

Tom Franklin made his return to the side after an injury lay-off with fifteen minutes of the game remaining as he came on to add fresh legs to the midfield in place of the tiring White; Young was handed the captaincy for the remainder of the contest

 

Moore also lifted a long-range effort over the crossbar for the Buck with eleven minutes remaining as he picked up Palmer's pass but tried his luck with a first-time effort, under pressure from Screaton

The Pitmen's best bet of getting themselves back into the game appeared to be from set-pieces; a deep free-kick from Adams on eighty minutes was a little too deep for Whittaker and was claimed by Brock at the far post. However, Brock took exception to the challenge on him from Dyer and reacted by kicking out at the striker. The referee deemed Brock's actions to be violent conduct at awarded the Pitmen a penalty kick, much to Telford's disgust and the Pitmen's delight. Whittaker spotted the ball up but struck a weak spot-kick low to Brock's left that the keeper saved with relative ease

 

Telford went straight down the other end on the counter-attack and Palmer saw his long-range shot deflected narrowly wide of the far post by Marshall's last-ditch challenge

The penalty miss seemed to deflate the ten-man hosts as they struggled to create openings of note in the final few minutes; an Adams corner kick was headed straight up in the air by Sucharewycz on eighty-six minutes before being punched away by Brock, but the Bucks defence stood firm against a tepid Hednesford attacking threat in what was left of the game

 

Three points for Smith's Bucks side puts them in a strong position at the top of the table as we head into 2007 with the Pitmen now four points behind their local rivals. A trip up to Whitby Town on Saturday will give Starbuck's side the opportunity to shake off this disappointment and look to return to winning ways once more as they face the Seasiders for the first-ever time in league action, in what will be the first of a quickfire double-header between the two sides

Hednesford Town: Young, Hadland, Butler, White © (Franklin 75), Marshall, Sucharewycz, Screaton, Pedro (Dyer 60), Alexander (54), Whittaker, Adams      Sub Unused: Sheppard

AFC Telford United: Brock, Vaughan, Craven, Turner, Teesdale, Khela (Jones 82), Stanley, Palmer ©, Foster, Marsden (Barnett 85), L. Moore      Sub Unused: Willis