Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Ashton United

Moses (14), Baguley (80) 

Hednesford Town

(1) 2

(0) 0



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Callum Flanagan


Marine (H) 22.8.16

The Pitmen's winning run comes to an abrupt end in a showery Manchester this afternoon, as a goal in each half from Ashton United ends the away side's unbeaten record this season and sees them drop to eighth in the table after a controversial afternoon at Hurst Cross

Following their late show at Stourbridge on Tuesday night, Hednesford manager Liam McDonald was forced into two changes to his side as more injuries hit his side for the second game running. Top scorer Tristian Dunkley missed out after limping off at the Amblecote, whilst Ashley Sammons was only passed fit enough to be on the bench after also coming off in the second half on Tuesday. In came Michael McGrath and debutant Jamie Matthews, who had finally been granted International Clearance by the Latvian FA to play

Ashton had once again made a good start to the new Evo-Stik Premier League season, as they looked to improve on three successive play-off finishes this term under the stewardship of joint managers Steve Halford and Paul Phillips

The Pitmen were on the back foot before the game had kicked off, as their white home shirt was deemed too much of a clash with Ashton's red and white halved shirts by the referee Mr Rodgers,  thus forcing the visitors into donning an old blue and black Ashton away kit to take the field

This seemed to throw the Pitmen off their stride, as they made a sluggish start; in the very first minute, Dan Crane went walkabout an allowed Danny Wilkins to beat him to a long ball out on the right. Fortunately for the man making his 300th appearance for the Pitmen, Wilkins' cross-shot was well wide of goal

The visitors started to get a grip of the unusual colour scheme, as well as the unusually long grass on a sloping pitch and went close to taking the lead in the fourth minute as McGrath headed a Sean Geddes corner kick onto the top of the crossbar at the far post

Three minutes later, Simeon Maye went even closer to opening the scoring for the Pitmen, as his header from the inside-right position crashed off the outside of the post via a touch from player/manager Phillips - Ashton's very vocal goalkeeper

Matthews was making his mark on the game on his debut for the club, forcing Ashton centre back Joe Connor into an illegal challenge to stop the striker from running in on goal. Despite calls from the Hednesford supporters for a red card, Connor was only shown a yellow card for bringing Matthews down

The Pitmen paid the price for not taking their chances in the opening minutes, as Ashton struck first on thirteen minutes. A poor, lazy pass from McGrath was stolen by Wilkins, who played Ryan Crowther in. His pass set up Tunji Moses, who drove home past Crane from just inside the penalty area

Ashton began to take advantage of their one-goal lead, pushing Hednesford back and going close twice in quick succession from Richard Smith and Lee Gaskell, who both placed shots onto the roof of the Hednesford net

Rhys Thompson made a move forwards from right back to test Phillips on thirty-six minutes, driving a shot straight at the keeper that was spilled initially before Phillips collected the rebound in front of Matthews and George Carline

A bizarre set of events played out on the cusp of half time, with Matthews shown one of the strangest red cards you will ever be likely to see. After trying to get the referee's attention a minute earlier after picking up what appeared to be a coin, Matthews repeated the sequence after a Hednesford corner kick, attempting to get the assistant referee on the main stand side to notify the referee. After the assistant ignored Matthews' plea, the striker threw the coin out onto the touchline, near to where the assistant was standing. The assistant deemed this an aggressive act by Matthews, and after consultation with Mr Rodgers, Matthews was red-carded

The second half was to be an uphill battle for the Pitmen, who made a change early on with the introduction of Danny Glover in place of the disappointing McGrath to give the Pitmen more punch up front

Crane kept his side in contention with a good save to deny Wilkins on fifty-six minutes, before making an even better save on the hour mark to turn Chris Baguley's low shot behind for a corner kick. From the resultant corner, Smith fired well over from twenty yards out after James Mutton had partially cleared the ball

Despite concerns over his fitness, the talented Sammons was introduced in place of the out-of-sorts Geddes on sixty-four minutes as a straight swap in the attacking midfield area

Sammons was immediately into the action, firing straight into the grateful arms of Phillips with a trademark long-range strike from over twenty yards out on sixty-seven minutes

With just under twenty minutes to go, striker Gurjit Singh was brought on in place of Rhys Thompson, in a move that saw Simeon Maye move to right-back

Despite the Pitmen's efforts to earn an unlikely point, Aston made the game safe with a killer second goal on eighty minutes. Adam Mather's cross was brought down by Wilkins, who squared the ball to Baguley. He in turn calmly sidefooted the ball past Crane

Singh went closest to reducing arrears with two minutes remaining, making a mazy run beyond two Ashton defenders and firing in a low shot across the face of goal that clipped the outside of the left-hand post before going out of play

The Pitmen felt they had a legitimate call for a penalty kick in the final minute, as Alex Gorton appeared to handle Bramall's cross out of play for a Hednesford corner kick. The referee was unimpressed, however, with the claims and booked Glover for over-protestation

So, a step backwards for McDonald and his team as they continue to learn about themselves and life in the Northern Premier League. There will be many teams of Ashton's ilk in this league - big, strong, well-organised - and it will be a test of the Pitmen's ambitions as to how they get past powerful but limited teams in the league. Marine visit Keys Park on Monday night which offers an ideal opportunity to get back to winning ways

Ashton United: Phillips, Mason, Mather, Gorton, Connor, Moses (Gee 67), Baguley, Smith (Lees 67), Wilkins, Gaskell (Banim 83), Crowther      Subs Unused: Frost, Dorney

Hednesford Town: Crane, Thompson (Singh 72), Bramall, McGrath ▆ (Glover 3), Mutton, Flanagan Maye, Thorley ©Matthews ▆ (44), Geddes (Sammons 64)Carline      Subs Unused: Ransome, Francis

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