Vanarama National League North

Hednesford Town

Payne (12) (penalty), (24) (penalty), Fitzwater (35)

Alfreton Town

Heaton (32), Bradley (62) (penalty), Smith (70)

(3) 3

(1) 3



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Adam Thomas


Stockport County (H) 19.3.16

The Pitmen blew a great chance to chalk up a much-needed win this afternoon as more defensive incompetence allows ten-man Alfreton to come back from two goals down and earn themselves a point at Keys Park

Frank Sinclair's return to the Hednesford hot-seat in midweek had seen the Pitmen earn themselves a 2-2 draw at Gloucester City, leaving the hosts bottom of the Vanarama National League with nine games remaining. Sinclair made one change to his side in the centre of midfield. for today's return to Keys Park as Tom Thorley was replaced by Phil Trainer

Eleventh-placed Alfreton had also earned themselves a point in their midweek encounter at Aggborough, drawing 1-1 against Worcester City; long-serving Reds manager Nicky Law made two changes to his XI from their midweek starting line-up as Joe Leesley and Adam Smith came in for Andi Thanoj and Jordan Robertson

Having gone eight games without a win, the Pitmen started brightly on their own turf and created two good openings in the first seven minutes; Blackburn Rovers loanee Modou Cham - making his home debut - made a marauding run down the right as Adam Thomas played him into space in the third minute, cutting in from the flank and electing to shoot from an angle, dragging his left-footed effort well wide of the far post from sixteen yards out

On the opposite wing, Shelton Payne was giving youngster Joe Doyle-Charles a torrid time with his pace and trickery, taking the ball past the former Ilkeston Town man in the seventh minute and clipping the ball into the penalty area, where Tom Peers stretched to reach the ball but headed over the crossbar from eight yards out

The Pitmen were rewarded for their enterprising start to the game as they earned themselves a penalty kick in the twelfth minute of the game; Payne was once again the chief protagonist, picking up a pass from Tom Thorley before driving into the Alfreton penalty area and running past Doyle-Charles before being brought down just inside the penalty area by Niall Heaton's mistimed tackle. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, despite the Alfreton protests, with Payne picking himself up to take the resultant kick and slotting it beyond the reach of goalkeeper Matt Duke and into the bottom left corner of the net. However, the kick was ordered to be re-taken by the match official as two players had encroached into the penalty area before the kick had been taken, with Payne showing nerves of steel to net from the second kick despite Duke's best efforts to keep the ball out

The game appeared to take a major swing towards the hosts two minutes later as Alfreton found themselves reduced to ten men. A free-kick was won by the tricky Lindon Meikle just outside the Hednesford penalty area, lined up by skipper Dan Bradley. Alfreton striker Sam Jones was making himself a nuisance in the Hednesford wall, pushing and cajoling the home side as he tried to upset their concentration - Ben Bailey took exception to the striker's physical approach and pushed him out of the wall, culminating in Jones angrily kicking out at the Hednesford skipper and stamping on him. Cue a mass brawl involving both sets of players and some angry words between Sinclair and Law on the touchline, eventually leading to a straight red card for Jones

With the man advantage, the Pitmen pressed for a second goal with purpose as Thomas made a drifting run into the penalty area after some neat build-up play in midfield had found him in behind Todd Jordan, only for the ex-Stoke City man to lift his shot high over Duke's crossbar from the edge of the penalty area

Meikle's wing play created Alfreton's first real sight at Dan Crane's goal in the nineteenth minute as the former Eastwood man showed Jack Fitzwater a clean pair of heels down the left and pulled the ball back into the path of Bradley, whose first-time effort flew a couple of feet wide of Crane's left-hand post from thirteen yards out

The hosts doubled their lead in the twenty-third minute as they were awarded their second penalty kick of the afternoon; the pacy Cham played a one-two with Sean Williams and took the ball into the penalty area down the right-hand side before another mistimed challenge, this time from the backtracking Jordan, brought the young forward down. It was once again an easy decision for the referee to make, with Payne stepping up once again to take the spot-kick - this time, his penalty was less assured than his first one as Duke guessed right and got a hand to it, but could not stop the ball from rolling past him and into the net to his right

The hosts were very much on top of proceedings and should have extended their lead four minutes later as Bailey rose highest to meet Thorley's inswinging free-kick from the left but glanced his effort wide of Duke's far post from ten yards out

More good play from Peers - who had extended his loan from Chester in the past week until the end of the season - saw the young striker bring down a long ball forwards from Kennedy Digie on twenty-nine minutes and work the ball onto his right foot, sidestepping Heaton's attentions but shanking his shot from twenty yards out high over the crossbar

Despite barely having a kick in the first half-hour of the game, Alfreton somehow found a route back into the game as they reduced the deficit on thirty-two minutes. A corner kick from Bradley was played to the far post, where the home defence was caught ball-watching and allowed Heaton to rise unchallenged and head into the corner of the net from close-range

The Pitmen struck back almost immediately, however, and restored their two-goal advantage with ten minutes of an entertaining first-half remaining. More wing wizardry from Payne saw him beat two players down the left before the hapless Doyle-Charles brought him down in full flight, adjacent to the edge of the Alfreton penalty area. Williams took the resultant free-kick and floated the ball into the six-yard box, where on-loan full-back Fitzwater was on hand to head home from close range for his first-ever senior goal

With the two-goal cushion restored, the Pitmen continued to look the more threatening of the two sides as Trainer won the ball in midfield on forty minutes and played Cham into space with a clever pass. The forward took the ball across the face of the Alfreton penalty area but could not get his shot away as Heaton eventually cleared the danger

With two minutes of the first half remaining, Peers had a superb chance to put the game to bed and make it 4-1 as he was played clean through by a fine Williams pass that intersected the Alfreton defence, only for the normally-reliable striker to pull his low shot narrowly wide of the far post with Duke beaten

It had been a fine first-half display from the hosts who had dominated the possession and chances, although much of that will no doubt have been as a consequence of the early red card for Jones

Law got stuck into his team at the break and the visitors emerged on the front foot at the start of the second period. Midfielder Tom Allan got on the end of a flowing move through the centre of the pitch on fifty minutes but could only drag his low shot wide of goal after Bradley had played the ball into his path

Two minutes later, Bradley tested the under-worked Crane for the first time in the game as Sam Smith controlled a pass from Jordan well and laid the ball off to the Cannock-born midfielder, whose first-time effort was pushed away by the experienced stopper

The impressive Thomas should have put the game beyond doubt on fifty-five minutes as he cut in from the right flank after picking up a pass from Fitzwater, dancing across the face of the Alfreton penalty area before pulling his left-footed shot inches wide of Duke's left-hand post

A minute later, Keys Park was left a little surprised to see Cham's number go up on the substitute's board as the hard-running youngster was replaced by Kyle Perry up front

This seemed to change the Pitmen's approach to the game for the worse, as their slick and quick-witted passing play was abandoned in favour of aimless long balls forwards towards the burly figure of Perry. The ten men of Alfreton seemed to pick up on this shift in tactic and looked to use it to their advantage

On fifty-nine minutes, Bradley's downward header grom Duke's free-kick found Smith, who tricked his way past Digie before drilling in a shot from twenty yards out that Crane held inside his six-yard box

The Pitmen were looking a little ragged at the back as Alfreton pushed forwards in search of a comeback that had looked unlikely at the break, with the home side's young defence struggling to cope with the direct nature of the Reds' play. They were indebted to an offside flag against Smith on the Wimblebury side on the hour mark as Meikle's run and through ball found Smith clear of the hesitant Pitmen backline, only for the striker to be denied a shot by the assistant's flag

Alfreton were awarded a penalty of their own on sixty-two minutes as another fine run from the ever-willing Meikle saw the winger brought down by a clumsy Fitzwater tackle just inside the Hednesford penalty area. Bradley took responsibility for the resultant spot-kick and fired confidently past Crane from twelve yards out to make it 3-2

The visitors were very much on top at this juncture, making light of their numerical disadvantage as they attacked at will against a flaky and dispirited Hednesford defence. Leesley drove a long-range effort over the crossbar on sixty-five minutes after a clearance from Digie had only dropped as far as the midfielder, standing thirty yards from goal

Crane palmed away a header from substitute Thanoj two minutes later as Bradley's well-delivered free-kick from the right was flicked on by the former Albanian U21 international at the far post, forcing Crane into a smothering save low down to his right

More woeful defensive organisation from the Pitmen was to gift Alfreton their well-deserved equaliser on seventy minutes however as Bradley once again delivered a fine corner kick into the penalty area from the left, finding Smith completely unmarked in the six-yard box to head past Crane from a couple of yards out. Ridiculously easy for the striker

The hosts were simply trying to cling on to their point at this point as they seemed completely devoid of confidence and inspiration. Some voices on the Heath Hayes terrace started to call for Sinclair's head once more after witnessing a tame and uninspiring second-half display that had allowed Alfreton a route back into the game that they should never have been given

Fitzwater had to get his challenge on Meilke just right on seventy-three minutes, sliding in and just about getting enough on the ball to push it away from the flying winger as he entered the Hednedsford penalty area and shaped to shoot

Three minutes later, Bradley was off-target with an ambitious shot from twenty-five yards after spotting Crane slightly off his line and attempting a chipped effort over the head of the stopper

Alfreton were completely dominating the midfield area, playing neat triangles around Williams and Trainer at will as they broke from deep to supply passes to the hard-running Smith. A late and very contentious offside flag denied the striker a clear shot at goal on seventy-eight minutes as Cecil Nyoni's through ball played Smith clean through, only for the assistant to once again raise the flag just before he could shoot past the exposed Crane

With ten minutes remaining, a visibly frustrated Sinclair elected to make another attacking change by bringing on Danny Glover in place of Payne, whose early threat had been completely nullified by the change in tactic early in the second half

Still the visitors threatened and Crane scooped a cross-cum-shot from Meikle over the crossbar on eighty-three minutes as Smith lurked with intent in the six-yard box

A minute later, Crane made his best save of the afternoon as he made an instinctive stop down to his right-hand side to turn away a low driven shot from the edge of the penalty area from Leesley that looked to be creeping into the far corner of the net

Alfreton's second half endeavours started to catch up with them in the final minutes, as the Pitmen ended the game stronger and went close to taking all of the points with a late salvo. On eighty-seven minutes, Bailey's long throw was flicked on by Digie at the near post and into the path of Glover, whose snap-shot from twelve yards out was blocked by Heaton and cleared by Nyoni

In the final minute of the game, a Williams free-kick was lofted into the Alfreton penalty area and flicked on by Perry into the path of Peers, whose angled drive ended up in the side netting from just six yards out

In added time Duke, denied Peers a winner with the final attack of the afternoon as the Pitmen recycled a Thorley corner kick through Thomas, whose clever pass into the feet of Peers saw the striker stab the ball towards goal from six yards out, only to be denied by the legs of the Alfreton stopper

A point gained or two dropped? On the balance of the first-half display, certainly, two dropped for the hosts, who allowed a commanding lead against a side with fewer players to slip through their fingers due to the combination of terrible defending and tactical naivety from Sinclair. Next weekend sees the Pitmen hoping for a large late-season attendance as they welcome fallen giants Stockport County to Keys Park, keen to avenge their 3-0 defeat at Edgeley Park just two weeks ago and look to finally end a nine-game winless run

Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove, Bailey ©, Digie, Trainer, Thomas, Williams, Peers, Cham (Perry 56), Payne (Glover 80)

Subs Unused: Ransome, Ennis, Robinson

Alfreton Town: Duke, Doyle-Charles, Jordan, Allan (Thanoj 50), Heaton, Nyoni, Leesley, Meikle (Jackson 69), Jones ▆ (14), Smith (Robertson 87), Bradley ©        Sub Unused: Wilson