1.2.2014

Skrill North

Hednesford Town

Taylor (86)

Altrincham

Densmore (90)

(0) 1

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

703

Kris Taylor

D D L L L W W W W D

Harrogate Town (A) 8.2.14

Despite taking the lead with only four minutes remaining, Hednesford had to be content with a point this afternoon at a rain-lashed Keys Park after Altrincham struck a late, late equaliser to take a share of the spoils

Coming off the back of four successive wins in January, Rob Smith's side had seen their talismatic midfielder Elliott Durrell move on to pastures new in midweek, signing for Skrill Premier side Wrexham before the end of the transfer window. Smith had moved quickly to offset the massive loss of the Pitmen's top scorer with the signing of highly-rated 21-year-old forward Paul Sullivan from Chasetown. The new boy took his place amongst the substitutes for this afternoon's Skrill North clash, with Wayne Riley and Marvin Robinson returning to the side in place of Robbie Thompson-Brown and Nathan Blissett - Blissett had also left the club this week, returning to parent club Kidderminster Harriers after his loan period had expired

Altrincham made the trip down the M6 off the back of successive surprise defeats to Gainsborough Trinity and Worcester City, intermingled around a clutch of postponements throughout a frustrating January for Lee Sinnott's men. They named former Hednesford striker Kyle Perry in their starting line-up, as was Jake Moult, who spent a month on loan at Keys Park back in 2010-2011. There was no place for former Pitmen centre back Tom Marshall, however, who was injured

Persistent showers throughout the week in Staffordshire had left the Keys Park pitch heavy and damp, with the unpredictable weather continuing to leave the spectators second-guessing throughout the game as it swung from wet to sunny and back again

The Pitmen were thankful to John Disney after just four minutes, as the full-back was in the right place at the right time to deny Alty an early opener; Dan Crane made an excellent save from full-back Shaun Densmore, but had to rely on Disney to complete the clearance by hacking the loose ball off the line

Three minutes later, Neil Harvey nodded the ball back into the path of strike partner Robinson, who hammered his effort high into the Heath Hayes end with a wild shot

Both sides seemed to be content to allow the game to be dictated by the midfield as it turned scrappy for the next ten minutes. Dave MacPherson relished the midfield battle, winning a number of fifty/fifty balls and setting the likes of Tom Thorley and Kris Taylor away to create openings for the home side

Taylor - now assuming responsibility for all of the Pitmen's set-pieces following Durrell's departure - whipped in a delightful free-kick on twenty-five minutes, which took a slight deflection off the Altrincham wall and out for a Hednesford corner

Alty looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Nicky Clee a particular threat going forward. One such break on the half-hour mark saw Clee look to play in Joseph Mwasile, but Paul McCone managed to get enough on the ball to deflect it back to Crane

Veteran keeper Coburn was in the right place to deal with a shot from Thorley on thirty-seven minutes, saving well to deny the midfielder following a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area

A minute later, Altrincham should have taken the lead with another swift counter-attack that opened the Hednesford defence up. Again it was Clee who supplied the ammunition, slipping the ball through to Simon Richman. With only Crane to beat, Richman scuffed his effort from just inside the penalty area, making it an easy block for the onrushing Hednesford stopper

Riley - who had such an impact after coming on in last week's comeback victory over Solihull - had been quiet playing in a wider role than perhaps he was used to. His frustrating half was summed up with a wild lash at the ball that flew high over the crossbar from a reasonable position on forty minutes

The best chance of the half fell at the feet of Harvey two minutes before half time, as Disney robbed Richman and delivered a low cross into the near post. Harvey got in front of his marker and diverted the ball goalwards, but failed to get enough power on his effort and succeeded in sidefooting the ball straight at Coburn

Half time was greeted with yet another downpour, with the rain and wind becoming more and more of a problem as the game progressed. The home side made a strong start to the second period, forcing three successive corner kicks within the first two minutes as they looked to turn the screw against a well-marshalled Altrincham defence

Taylor seized upon one of his partially-cleared corners on fifty-two minutes, lashing a twenty-five-yard effort narrowly wide of Coburn's left-hand post

More corner kicks followed for Hednesford, with Thorley taking responsibility for the right-footed corners in place of the departed Durrell. However, the very impressive Gianluca Havern was on hand to deny the Pitmen by heading away with confidence on more than one occasion

Another long-range piledriver from Taylor followed on fifty-five minutes, this time missing the right-hand post by a matter of inches after the midfielder had received the ball thirty yards from goal

Midfield partner Thorley, still looking for his first goal for the club, also tried his luck with a long-range effort on the hour mark, but his left-footed drive was always rising and cleared the Hednesford End stand

A strong period of pressure from the Pitmen culminated in another effort from the impressive Taylor, whose curling effort from a free-kick was watched over the crossbar by Coburn

Moult found a pocket of space to wriggle clear of the attentions of the Hednesford defence on sixty-seven minutes but fired into Crane's side netting from a tight angle out on the right-wing

Sullivan was finally given the green light to make his Hednesford debut with nineteen minutes remaining as he came on in place of Robinson

McCone will have been left feeling relieved by the referee's judgment call on seventy-six minutes, as the big defender brought down Alty substitute James Walshaw right on the edge of the penalty area when he appeared clean through. McCone was only shown a yellow card for the foul, rather than the red that the Altrincham players demanded the referee show. The resultant free-kick from Densmore flew high, wide and well over the crossbar

Two minutes later, the Pitmen injected more pace to their ranks by bringing on Thompson-Brown in place of the tiring MacPherson

Crane had to be at his best to dive on a loose ball with ten minutes remaining, as a ball into the Hednesford box bounced around dangerously before Crane could rescue the ball from the feet of Damian Reeves

Nathan Woolfe was the Pitmen's final fresh pair of legs of the afternoon, as the winger replaced former Northwich team-mate Riley with eight minutes remaining

As the rain continued to lash down, the Pitmen suddenly found a ray of light at the end of a dark afternoon with four minutes remaining; a long, raking ball forward from Darren Campion found Taylor lurking just inside the area, with the midfielder executing a breathtaking first-time volley with the outside of his left boot to fire across the face of goal and find the bottom corner of the net - a brilliant strike from the midfielder, his second goal in three games

And yet, there was to be a final twist in the tail, with the referee adding three minutes on at the end of the game. Altrincham came at the Pitmen in waves with a last-ditch salvo and managed to force home an equaliser with the final move of the game. Working the ball across the pitch from left to right, Walshaw and Richman combined to play the ball to Clee, who slipped the ball into the path of the marauding Densmore. Unmarked just inside the box, Densmore fired beyond the reach of Crane and into the far corner of the net to send Alty home with a hard-earned point

For the Pitmen, it will be seen as two points dropped after having the better of the chances in the second half. The point leaves Hednesford still stuck behind league leaders North Ferriby United this evening, albeit only on goal difference from the Villagers. A difficult trip to Harrogate Town will test Hednesford's ambitions next Saturday, with the Pitmen hopeful of a return for influential midfielder Jamey Osborne after injury

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, McCone , Francis, Taylor, MacPherson (Thompson-Brown 77), Riley (Woolfe 82), Harvey, Robinson (Sullivan 70), Thorley       Subs Unused: Bailey, Osborne

Altrincham: Coburn, Densmore ©, Griffin, Moult, Havern, Leather, Mwasile (Walshaw 63 ), Richman, Perry (Lawrie 63), Reeves, Clee      Subs Unused: Rodgers, Wilkinson, Samberg

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