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UniBond Northern Premier League

Ashton United

Taylor (20), Richards (84)

Hednesford Town

Ward (40)

(1) 2

(1) 1



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Ross Dyer


Gateshead (A) 8.9.07

After Saturday's poor show, the Pitmen's form from the second half of last season returned with a vengeance this evening  - plenty of the ball, lots of missed chances and poor defending that ultimately cost them the game as Ashton took all three points from tonight's game at Hurst Cross


Hednesford manager Phil Starbuck made one change to the side that had been well-beaten by Kendal Town on Saturday as he moved Danny Blair into the starting XI alongside Ross Dyer and relegated Peter Knox to the bench following an indifferent display from the striker at the weekend. Youth team graduate Tim Sanders was rewarded for his recent form in pre-season and for the reserves with a place on the substitute's bench

Ashton had made an inconsistent start to the new season, drawing 1-1 with Stamford at the weekend after being heavily beaten by title favourites Fleetwood Town last week. Manager Danny Johnson made just the one change for tonight's return to Hurst Cross as Ben Smith came in for Melford Knight in midfield after he had missed the Stamford game due to suspension


The tweak in personnel and formation appeared to have paid dividends early on for the all-blue clad visitors as Dave MacPherson and Blair linked up inside the first minute to set up winger Simon Forsdick, but he lost the ball as he shaped to shoot and Ashton managed to smuggle the ball away from danger

Ashton were nearly gifted an early goal by the Pitmen as Iain Howard's corner kick on three minutes was not cleared by the Hednesford defence, culminating in Tom Marshall scuffing a clearance onto his own crossbar and behind for another Ashton corner kick

Midfield man Tom Ward added to the busy opening by firing narrowly over the crossbar on eight minutes after more good work from Blair and Dyer set up the combative midfielder on the edge of the Ashton penalty area


Ashton responded a minute later with more pressure on the Hednesford defence which led to an Ian Bennett shot from eighteen yards out that flew narrowly wide of Rene Gilmartin's far post

Skipper Dave MacPherson - looking to add to the goal he scored on Saturday against Kendal - should have made Ashton keeper Damien Rooney work on ten minutes, heading Dominic Heath's cross wide of goal

It really was end-to-end stuff, with both sides contributing to a lively game. Ashton's Glyn Barker hit a shot that fell wide of the post on thirteen minutes after Matt Edginton had played him into space down the right-hand side of the penalty area


Dyer thought that he had given the visitors the lead on fifteen minutes as put the ball into the net from twelve yards out, only to be denied by a late offside flag on the main stand side

Ashton used this let-off to good effect as they took the lead on twenty minutes; it was Tommy Taylor applying the finishing touch to a well-worked move involving Barker and Howard to turn the ball past Gilmartin from close-range


 It could so easily have been 2-0 to the hosts just a couple of minutes later as Taylor was allowed to pick up the loose ball unmarked inside the Hednesford penalty area but fluffed his shot at goal with only Gilmartin to beat and lashed his effort into the Ashton fans behind the goal


Dyer could count himself unlucky not to equalise for the Pitmen midway through the first half as his shot was saved by Rooney but looped up and dropped towards goal, only for Chris Adams to hack the ball off his own goal line

The busy Blair, looking to justify his inclusion in the starting line-up, failed to hit the target following a Forsdick cross on twenty-seven minutes that found him lurking at the far post, but turned his angled shot into the side-netting

Five minutes later, a cross from Heath was flicked on by Marshall at the near post and into the path of Gordon Simms, only for the former Wolves defender to head well wide of the far post


The Pitmen finally got the goal their efforts deserved however five minutes from half-time; again, Dyer and Blair linked up well with the latter crossing to the back post, where Tom Ward gambled and dived in bravely to head home his first goal for the Pitmen from close-range, despite Rooney's best efforts

Dyer almost turned the game on its head a couple of minutes later but headed agonisingly wide of goal from a Forsdick cross as he stretched to meet the winger's stood-up cross at the far post


Talented young forward Dyer was at it again just a minute after the restart, testing Rooney with a low drive that the Ashton goalkeeper managed to hold at the second attempt after spilling the initial shot

The 'attempts on goal' column continued to grow for the visitors with Dyer again failing to hit the target on fifty-one minutes after good work from Blair set him up to hit a shot wide of goal from twelve yards out


At the other end, Taylor again wasted a good chance after a slip from Meakin-Richards presented him with a chance on fifty-six minutes, only for the striker to pull his shot wide of goal


Three minutes later, the Pitmen made their first change of the evening as Chris Adam was brought on in place of Heath, who had struggled to get into the game out on the left flank

Dyer, continued to cut a frustrated figure an hour into the game, just failing to get a shot in on goal after a typically thrusting run that was cut out by the boot of skipper Chris Adams


 Another Ward header failed to hit the target for the Pitmen on sixty-four minutes as he nodded a Forsdick cross wide of the target from eight yards out with only Rooney to beat


After dealing with another Dyer shot on seventy-one minutes, Rooney was relieved to see the Pitmen clear their own chances off the line as Blair got in the way of a goalbound Simms header four minutes later and deflected the defender's goalbound header away from danger


The hosts broke quickly on seventy-eight minutes in a rare foray into the Pitmen's half as substitute Gareth Richards played Michael Murray in on goal, only for Gilmartin to make a smart save at the base of his near post

You would have put the smart money on the away side finishing Ashton off as the game entered the final ten minutes, with Rooney making a flying save on eighty-two minutes to turn a goalbound shot from Adam away from goal for a Hednesford corner

However, with just six minutes remaining the hosts shocked the Pitmen with what was to be the winning goal against the run of play. More poor defending from the Pitmen allowed a speculative ball from Bennett to run to Richards, whose bobbled shot beat Gilmartin and found the corner of the net

The Pitmen frantically went about salvaging something from a game they had dominated for large periods, with substitute Adam denied by the palms Rooney on eighty-nine minutes followed by a late effort from Ward that was hacked off the line in added time by Bennett once more

This was already the Pitmen's third defeat of the season, and if Starbuck and his team have any real ambitions of escaping the UniBond Premier League via promotion, they cannot afford many more of these frustrating defeats where they enjoy plenty of possession and create the majority of the chances, only to fluff their lines at the back. Saturday sees them make the long journey up to Tyneside to face high-flying Gateshead in another challenging-looking league game

Ashton United: Rooney, Murray, C. Adams ©, Bennett, McCartney, Forde, Edgington (Garvey 85), Smith, Taylor, Barker (Richards 55), Howard (Knight 70)      Subs Unused: None

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Meakin-Richards, R. Adams, Ward, Marshall, Simms, Heath (Adam 59), MacPherson ©, Dyer, Blair, Forsdick      Sub Unused: Knox, Sanders

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