3.12.2011

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Ashton United

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Pedro Monteiro

W W D L W W W L W D

Mickleover Sports (H) 10.12.11

The Pitmen blew a great chance to keep the pressure on the top two courtesy a frustrating afternoon's football at a chilly Keys Park against a stubborn ten-man Ashton United side

The afternoon's visitors Ashton started play in seventeenth place, struggling for form after a bright start to the season. With the hosts returning to winning ways in midweek against Matlock Town, manager Rob Smith named an unchanged side, looking to further extend their proud unbeaten league run at home to thirteen months

Ashton keeper Terry Smith was called into action early on in proceedings, as he had to field a Chris Clements free kick on five minutes as the midfielder looked to continue his superb scoring form this season

A minute later, he was dealing with a Cheyenne Dunkley effort from the edge of the box, as a Clements corner dropped into the path of the young defender to allow him to fire straight at Smith

Ashton were offering little going forward, relying on counter-attacks to force the ball forward. Kyle Haynes denied Matty O'Neill on twelve minutes, blocking the former Burnley man's shot with a brave challenge

Smith was very much the busier of the two keepers in the opening quarter, as he was on hand to save from Elliott Durrell as the little playmaker rattled in a volley from range on sixteen minutes

Ashton's best period of the game going forward followed, as they enjoyed much the better of the chances during the next twenty minutes. Ian Bennett's tremendous run should have brought a save out of Dan Crane, but his shot skewed horribly wide of goal

O'Neill was also wasteful with a twenty-yard shot midway through the half, firing wide through a crowd of players after Crane had pawed a corner into his path

Ashton's Danny Caldecott was guilty of wasting an opportunity from almost the same position midway through the half, as he also missed the target with a shot from the edge of the area

The Pitmen responded with Campion sending over a corner kick that Dunkley headed high over the crossbar from ten yards out

Both sides were looking solid and strong at the back, with clear-cut chances at a premium for both sides. Pedro Monteiro and Dunkley were continuing their good recent form in central defence, with Monteiro enjoying one of his best games since joining the Pitmen in the summer

Marvin Robinson had had a quiet game up to this point for the hosts, with only a solitary effort to his name in the first half on the half-hour mark. Clements set the big man on his way, but his wayward shot failed to test Smith as he advanced on the six-yard box

Ashton forced a number of set-pieces as the half started to come to a close, with three successive corner kicks setting off the alarm bells at the back for the Pitmen. However, Monteiro again dealt with the danger with authoritative defending

Durrell could have sent the Pitmen in ahead at the break, timing his run to perfection to chase down Clements' through ball. His well-hit shot was saved by Smith, who positioned himself well o deal with the shot

Half time saw the Pitmen make a tactical change, as the powerful, experienced Gary Hay was introduced up front in place of Chris Shaw. This move saw Darren Campion move to left-back, with Hay playing up top with Robinson

Just six minutes after the restart, the visitors were reduced to ten men as Kevin Sanasy was sent off for his part in a clash with Monteiro. The Portuguese defender was also booked for his part in the melee

With Ashton down to ten men, they set out to frustrate the Pitmen with as many men behind the ball as possible. Chris Amadi was left to forage up front on his own as United looked for a crucial point to move away from the drop zone

Clements fired the ball just wide of goal four minutes later, not getting behind his shot properly as he lined up a trademark long-range effort

Hay's introduction saw him quickly into the action, heading Clements' corner kick narrowly wide of goal as he found space in the six-yard box

The same player was guilty of heading wide again just a minute later, missing the target after he had got on the end of Durrell's cross from the right-hand side

The Pitmen introduced more firepower with a quarter of the game remaining, as Mark Danks came on in place of Haynes. This gave the Pitmen a large number of striking options, with Durrell, Hay, Robinson, Clements and now Danks all pushing the Ashton defence to its limits

Jay Denny made a rare foray forward on seventy minutes, looping a Danks cross inches wide of goal with a well-placed header

Two minutes later, Durrell's driven ball across goal was almost turned into the net by Robinson, but the ball was inches too far in front of the striker as he homed in on goal

A minute later, Danks went closest to breaking the deadlock, as he came in from the wing with a charging run. His curling shot beat Smith but came back off the foot of the post and into play

Amadi's thankless task of running the line on his own saw him force a good chance for himself, as he held off Monteiro's challenge before firing straight at Crane

Danks again threatened with a low shot fourteen minutes from time, striking the ball behind when well placed. This was closely followed by a shot from the quiet Jamey Osborne, whose twenty-yard shot was watched wide by Smith

The final minutes saw almost desperate defending from Ashton, as the Pitmen attempted to press home their numerical advantage. Durrell's cross from the right was headed with by Denny on eighty-one minutes, followed by a similar effort from Chris Clements

 A succession of corners and free-kicks added to the tension in the ground, as the resolute Ashton defence continued to frustrate the Pitmen. In the final minute, Campion struck a goalbound shot that was tipped over by Smith

A highly frustrating afternoon for the hosts, who register a goalless draw at home in the league for the first time this season that leaves them three points off top spot in third place. Another struggling side in the form of Mickleover Sports make the short trip to Keys Park next Saturday as the Pitmen look to go into the Christmas schedule still in touch with the top two of Cheshire rivals Northwich Victoria and Chester 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes (Danks 66), Shaw (Hay 45), Monteiro , Dunkley, Denny, Osborne, Clements, M. Robinson, Durrell, Campion ©       Subs Unused: Quinn, Bailey, Jevons 

Ashton United: Smith, Frost, Roberts , Murphy, Melling, C. Robinson, O’Neill (Harrop 62), Bennett, Madeley (Amadi 62 (Piana 90)), Sanasy  (51),  Caldecott       Subs Unused: Smith, Lambert 

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