3.5.2014

Skrill North Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg

Altrincham

Reeves (87), Lawrie (89)

Hednesford Town

Thorley (80)

(0) 2

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

1,974

Ben Bailey

W W W D W W W L D L

Altrincham win 4-3 on aggregate

Despite it being yet another memorable, entertaining season for the Pitmen and their supporters, Rob Smith's Pitmen fall short of a second successive play-off final appearance due to a late two-goal salvo from Altrincham in this afternoon's second leg of the Skrill North play-off semi-final

Having played out an entertaining draw on Wednesday night in the first leg, both teams arrived in Cheshire in confident mood ahead of what had essentially become a one-off cup tie with away goals not counting in Conference play-off games. Wayne Riley's red card at Oxford City saw him miss out due to the start of his suspension, meaning a return to the first eleven for Kris Taylor in Riley's place

Altrincham played much the better of the football at Keys Park in midweek, with Lee Sinnott's side unchanged as they went in search of a fourth successive game without defeat on their home patch in front of a crowd a shade under 2,000

It was a glorious day to be playing football, with bright sunshine greeting the players at kick-off as the two sides went to battle as they looked for that step towards the promised land of the Conference Premier

The game kicked off in a similar vein to the game at Keys Park, with Altrincham quickly into their stride with a neat, compact style of football that was easy on the eye. James Lawrie was first to test the reflexes of Dan Crane in the second minute, firing in a dipping shot from fully thirty yards that Crane did well to tip over the crossbar for an Alty corner

Hednesford responded through loanee Marvin Johnson a minute later, jinking his way down the left wing before shooting wide of the post with a curling effort

James Walshaw - scorer of Altrincham's second goal in midweek - went looking for a penalty to the home side on eight minutes, taking a tumble in the penalty area under pressure from Disney. Mr Jones the referee was unmoved despite Walshaw's protests and gestured to the striker to get to his feet

Midfield maestro Tom Thorley was guilty of wasting a decent opening on eleven minutes for the Pitmen as he volleyed Danny Glover's flick header well wide of goal from a good position on the edge of the penalty area

The Pitmen were playing Altrincham on the counter-attack at every opportunity, with Johnson their main attacking outlet. One swashbuckling run from the winger saw him drive in towards the Altrincham penalty area and send over a cross that was just too far in front of Glover to convert

A goalbound header from Paul McCone was deflected away from goal by Shaun Densmore midway through the half, but somehow the match officials en masse managed to miss the clear deflection and awarded Altrincham a goal kick rather than the Pitmen a corner

Crane was called upon once more on twenty-six minutes to make a tremendous save from young defender Scott Leather, diving to his right to beat Leather's shot away from goal as it headed for the bottom far corner of the net

Lawrie drove a long-range shot wide of goal on thirty-one minutes, followed a corner kick that a combination of Crane, McCone and Disney managed to scramble clear in front of their own goal

Chances for Hednesford had been few and far between in a quiet first half, with Glover getting a rare sight at goal with five minutes of the half left; Thorley did well to win the ball in midfield before playing Glover in. His shot from twenty yards out lacked power or direction and was easily saved by Coburn

The Pitmen finished the first half with a flourish and could have taken an unexpected lead with the final chance of the half. Johnson's deep corner to the far post found the shoulder of Dave MacPherson, with the veteran midfielder's downward header bouncing up and hitting the crossbar before eventually being forced clear

Smith will have been happy with his side's work ethic and commitment in the first half, with the excellent Bailey and McCone thwarting the twin threat of Walshaw and Damian Reeves up front with a masterful defensive display

A confident start to the half from the Pitmen saw them force the first effort of the period from Alex Melbourne after Bailey's throw-in had been cleared to him on the edge of the penalty area. His half volley across the face of goal was only a few feet wide of finding the far corner of the net

MacPherson's game ended abruptly on fifty-five minutes as he was replaced by the pacier Robbie Thompson-Brown in an attempt to add legs to the midfield for the visitors

Neat build-up play around the penalty area from Altrincham on the hour mark saw Leather fire in a shot that took a huge deflection off the outstretched leg of Thorley and drop onto the roof of Crane's net for an Alty corner

Thompson-Brown was bright and breezy in and around the Alty penalty area, looking to repeat his goalscoring heroics in the same fixture earlier in the season. On seventy-two minutes, his curling effort from an angle just evaded Coburn's far post after good work from Thorley

With fifteen minutes remaining, a shattered-looking Taylor was replaced by Marvin Robinson as the Pitmen reverted to two up front in a bid to win the game in normal time

A tense, tight game suddenly burst into life with ten minutes remaining, as the Pitmen took the lead to give their travelling hoards real hope of making it through to the final. Lawrie lost the ball in midfield for the hosts, with Thompson-Brown and Campion combining down the left wing to send over a deep cross to the far post, where Thorley was lurking. The midfielder rose unmarked to head firmly past Coburn and score his second goal of the campaign

Robinson could have put the Pitmen firmly in the driving seat two minutes later, as he headed Thorley's free-kick narrowly over the bar at the near post

They were made to pay for this missed opportunity with three minutes to go, as Altrincham worked the ball down the left wing through Clee and Walshaw. Walshaw's inch-perfect cross found the head of strike partner Reeves, who was left completely unmarked by a tiring Hednesford defence to head past Crane from six yards out

Suddenly, Altrincham had the impetus and pushed forwards in waves as they sensed a winner inside the ninety minutes. Paul Sullivan was thrown on by the Pitmen in an attempt to stem the flow with his pace, but the inevitable winner arrived on eighty-nine minutes through Lawrie. Clee's deep cross was headed back across goal by Reeves and despite the best efforts of McCone to clear the loose ball as it bounced in front of goal, Lawrie arrived to sweep the loose ball into the net from ten yards out

There was still time for Melbourne to go close to equalising again for the Pitmen in the last minute of added time, as his speculative effort from thirty yards was tipped away by Coburn

Over the course of the 180 minutes, Altrincham certainly played the better of the football and will be confident in beating the other semi-final winners Guiseley, who completed their win over Ferriby with a 1-0 win on Humberside in the other semi-final. The Pitmen finish the season feeling proud of their achievements - a fourth-place finish and a play-off appearance to boot, on top of an appearance in the F.A. Cup 1st Round, all in their first season back at step two level. No doubt the futures of a number of players will need to be resolved in the summer as Smith and his team look to build another successful side to once again push for promotion in 2014-2015

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, McCone, MacPherson (Thompson-Brown 55), Taylor  (Robinson 75), Johnson, Glover (Sullivan 88), Melbourne, Thorley       Subs Not Used: Lennon, Francis

 

Altrincham: Coburn, Densmore ©, Griffin (Marshall 83), Moult, Havern, Leather, Lawrie, Richman, Walshaw, Reeves (Perry 87), Clee      Subs Unused: Doughty, Wilkinson, Saunders

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