9.2.2013

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Ashton United

Barlow (64), Hogan (66)

Hednesford Town

Lennon (47), Durrell (75)

(0) 2

(0) 2

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Dave MacPherson

W W W L W L W W W D

Grantham Town (H) 16.2.13

The Pitmen's three game-winning run in the league was brought to a halt on a cold, tough afternoon as a strong and well-organised Ashton side came from behind to very nearly claim all three points at Hurst Cross

Big centre back Francino Francis had served a one-match ban during last weekend's win over Nantwich following his red card against Rushall Olympic and returning to the side in place of Sam Barnes. Striker Michael Lennon's recent good form saw him keep his place in the side, ahead of a fit-again Neil Harvey, who had to be content with a place on the bench

On a boggy, soft pitch that had suffered from the elements in recent days, both sides managed to make the game an exciting spectacle, as they both chased points to keep them in the hunt for the top five places

Strike partners Aaron Rey and Lennon almost combined to open the scoring just two minutes in, with Rey scuffing his shot wide of goal after good hold-up play from Lennon

Two minutes later, an inswinging cross from Nathan Woolfe almost caught Ashton keeper Paul Phillips unaware, as the ball caught the wind and drifted towards goal. However, Phillips was relieved to see the ball dip just over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net

After Dan Crane had easily fielded Scott Hogan's shot, Pitmen centre back Ben Bailey was the first player of the afternoon to find his way into the referee's notepad, as he was adjudged to have committed a foul just yards outside his own box

Alex Melbourne followed his defensive partner into the book just two minutes later, as Ashton started to press the Hednesford defence into making errors in their own half

Good work from Woolfe midway through the first half saw the winger step inside two challenges before unleashing a low right-footed shot that Phillips did well to push away from goal

Woolfe was involved again on the half-hour mark, as Osborne slipped a free-kick into the path of the former Bolton man. His cross found the head of Ben Bailey, who forced Phillips into a save with a powerful header that the keeper turned over his crossbar

Three corners in succession failed to break the deadlock for the visitors, with Lennon trying his luck with a slippery turn just inside the area but a shot wide of goal

With three minutes remaining in the half, Rey was presented with an excellent opportunity by Woolfe again, as the winger got free down the left-wing and sent over a glorious cross towards Rey. He appeared far too casual with his effort, sidefooting wide of goal rather than putting any power behind his shot

Ashton could have stolen into the lead in the final minute of the half, as a quick break saw Matty Barlow play Matty Kosylo through on goal. However, his shot lacked power and gave Crane a reasonably simple stop to make

With half time imminent, Durrell wasted a great chance to add to his season's tally as Woolfe set him up with a square ball from the right. The midfielder got too much on his swerving shot however and skewed it over the crossbar

Rob Smith's half time team talk seemed to have the desired effect, as the Pitmen took the lead with the first attack of the half; Craig Robinson made a hash of his clearance, allowing Rey to seize upon the loose ball. Rey slipped the ball into the path of Lennon, who corrected his feet and slipped a low shot beyond Phillips to score only his second league goal of the season

Hednesford looked to put the game beyond Ashton with a ten-minute bout of pressure, playing neat, incisive football through midfield. Dave MacPherson was having another great game for the Pitmen, doing the dirty work in the centre of the park to allow the likes of Durrell and Woolfe to prosper

It was MacPherson who tested Phillips' reactions on fifty minutes, volleying straight at the Ashton keeper from twenty yards out, before Lennon thought he had added to his tally as he fired home, only to be denied by a late offside flag

Woolfe wasted a great chance from a free kick on fifty-eight minutes, striking his left-footed free-kick into the wall from an excellent position when you expected him to lift his shot over the defensive line

The game turned on its head just after the hour mark, as a crazy two-minute spell saw Ashton turn a losing position into a potentially winning position as they took advantage of some comedy Hednesford defending

On sixty-four minutes, a seemingly harmless long ball down the Ashton left was chased down by Hogan and Melbourne. The Hednesford right-back appeared to give up the cause, as the ball looked to be drifting out for a goal kick, but Hogan persevered and toe-poked the ball back across the goal before it ran out of play. Barlow continued his run into the box and was left with the simple task of tapping the ball past Crane from close range

With their next attack, Ashton took the lead, as a rush of blood from Dan Crane cost his side dearly. Alex Frost's long ball down the right saw Crane beat Hogan to the ball, a couple of yards outside his penalty area. Rather than hammer the ball into the stand, Crane elected to control the ball, making a hash of his footwork and allowed Hogan to steal the ball from him. Hogan kept his cool to calmly fire into the empty net from an angle to give Ashton a lead they could barely have imagined two minutes previously

The Pitmen picked themselves up and were back on level terms nine minutes later; the ball fell kindly to Durrell, who, with no backlift, fired a superb low shot past Phillips from the edge of the area

Lennon's hard work and commitment saw him receive warm applause from the visiting supporters three minutes later, as he was replaced up front by Harvey for the final twelve minutes

Osborne was ruing his bad luck a minute later, as the midfielder skipped past two challenges as he ran into the penalty area, only for his progress to be halted by Robinson's clumsy challenge. Rather than award what some felt was a stonewall penalty, the referee instead booked Osborne for diving, despite the youngster's protestations

Either side felt they had a chance of winning the game in the final ten minutes, with glorious chances at both ends. Francis had to hack the ball off the line on eighty-two minutes, as Ashton substitute Dennis Sherriff turned his shot past Crane

In the final minute, a free-kick from Durrell wide on the left was floated into the path of Harvey at the far post - his header was saved by Phillips before Harvey thought he had won it for the Pitmen as he bundled the rebound over the line. However, an earlier offside flag curbed the big striker's celebrations

There was still time for both Rey and Bailey to head towards goal, but Phillips was not to be beaten at the end of an entertaining, end-to-end game

With leaders North Ferriby disposing of Witton Albion in one of the day's other games, it means the Pitmen will now require two wins from their two games in hand to draw themselves level with the Villagers at the top of the table. One of those games is on Tuesday night, as mid-table AFC Fylde make their first-ever visit to Keys Park in a crucial game for the Pitmen

Ashton United: Phillips, Frost, Caldecott, Baker, Robinson, Lynch ©, Kosylo (Johnson 62), Moore, Burns (Sherriff 70), Barlow, Hogan       Subs Unused: Burke, Baguley, Harrop

 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Melbourne, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson, Osborne, Durrell, Rey, Lennon (Harvey 76), Woolfe      Subs Unused: O’Connor, Barnes, Disney

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