UniBond Northern Premier League

Ashton United

Howard (61) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

(0) 1

(0) 0



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Stuart Brock


Kendal Town (H) 15.11.08

Well, it had to end sometime... The Pitmen's eight-game winning streak ended at a cold and damp Hurst Cross this evening as a tired-looking Hednesford side relinquished their long winning run to an Ashton United side looking to push on in their quest for a play-off place at the end of the season


Pitmen boss Dean Edwards was forced into one change to his side from Saturday's mauling of Worksop Town as Sam Hall's knock saw him replaced by Sean Platt, although the youngster was passed fit enough to take his place on the bench. Chad Sheppard, who was also an injury doubt, also made up the numbers amongst the replacements

Ashton had spent much of the opening third of the season hovering around the play-off places but had lost three of their last five games, including a 3-0 reverse at Frickley Athletic on Saturday. Manager Danny Johnson made two changes to his side as Ian Kearney, Astley Mulholland and Robbie Talbot came in for Chris Middleton, ex-Hednesford man Karl Brown and Gareth Richards

The Pitmen started as they have done in many of the recent games - with a high tempo, looking to grab an early advantage. However, neither of the in-form strikers were able to make a telling contribution in the opening exchanges in front of a poor Hurst Cross attendance, made up of a handful of hardy souls that had made the Monday evening trip up in the rain from South Staffordshire

Ross Dyer's best chance was from a looping header after eight minutes, but he could not get enough purchase on it to test young Ashton United keeper Terry Smith

Ashton grew in confidence after weathering the early pressure from the league leaders. Robbie Talbot, who scored in the Keys Park encounter a few weeks ago, was first to test the Pitmen's resolves with a long-range effort that was only a couple of yards wide of goal

Ashton's top scorer Iain Howard was next to try his luck, hitting a swerving shot from out wide that failed to trouble keeper Stuart Brock

The Pitmen responded with a Tyrone Barnett shot that was always going over after he was presented with a shooting chance by Platt on the edge of the penalty area

The closest the away side came to scoring in the first half was through playmaker Elliott Durrell on twenty-seven minutes. His skill saw him pick up on a loose ball, before attempting to lift the ball over Smith, who was a number of yards out of his goal. However, Durrell's clever shot was turned over by a desperate stretch from Smith as he attempted to make up the yardage

The host's best chance of the half fell to Ian Kearney, who headed a high cross from Ian Bennett onto the top of Brock's crossbar on thirty-seven minutes, although the experienced custodian appeared to have the effort covered

The Pitmen picked up the tempo ahead of the break, with Tom Marshall striding forward and hitting a thunderbolt of a shot from only a few yards inside the Ashton half. His rising shot was held by Smith as it headed for the roof of the net

Skipper Ross Draper was covering his usual mileage with a tidy display, and he had a good chance just before the break to add to his recent goal glut but volleyed over the bar from a good position

The same player tested Smith right at the start of the second half, making a darting run to the edge of the area to collect Barnett's lay-off and fire in a shot that Smith turned away for a corner

The Pitmen were probing and pushing, but with Barnett and Dyer looking a shadow of their recent selves, most likely due to their efforts in the past couple of weeks, there was little in the way of an attacking outlet for the away side

Marshall created a great opening for the Pitmen ten minutes after the restart, making a barnstorming run down the left touchline by beating two Ashton players. He sent over an inviting cross, that was just out of reach for the onrushing Dyer and Sean Platt at the back post

Ashton substitute Gareth Richards almost grabbed an opener with his first touch of the ball, but Brock came to the Pitmen's rescue with a magnificent instinctive save with his legs

A minute later, and the game's big decision arrived. Howard managed to get away from the Hednesford defence, and as he shaped to shoot, was brought down by the backtracking Decio Gomes. The referee had no doubt in awarding a penalty, which Howard took and fired into the left-hand corner of Brock's net

Almost immediately, Edwards made a double substitution, bringing on David Brown and Adam Burley for Elliott Durrell and Danny Harvey respectively

That seemed to have little impact on the side, although Brown looked threatening with a number of runs down the right-hand side in a twenty-minute cameo

With the game entering the closing stages, Ashton thought they had wrapped up the three points when Richards played an instinctive ball through the Hednesford defence to the onrushing Howard, who fired across Brock and towards the far corner of the net. With a number of people already celebrating, the ball dribbled wide of the post by a matter of inches

Back came the Pitmen, as they searched for a late leveller. Draper, who seemed to have assumed the responsibility of having all of the Pitmen's efforts, pulled a shot over the bar after being set up by Maguire with eight minutes remaining

After winning a late, late corner, Maguire wasted a great opportunity by firing well over the bar, followed by a shot from sub Hall that was well held by Smith

The Pitmen's long winning run ends with them having opened up a five-point gap back to the chasing pack. Kendal Town - currently occupying second place in the table - are the Pitmen's next opponents on Saturday as they travel to Keys Park in another mouth-watering league game

Ashton United: T. Smith, Frost, Rose, Bennett, Kearney, Prescott, Mulholland (O'Neill 82), B. Smith, Deegan (Flanagan 90), Talbot (Richards 60), Howard      Subs Unused: Middleton, K. Brown

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt, Maguire, Gomes, Harvey (Burley 68), Marshall, Briggs (Hall 81), Durrell ( D. Brown 68), Barnett, Dyer, Draper ©    Subs Unused: Stamps, Sheppard