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Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Aylesbury United

French (50), Roberts (90)

(0) 0

(0) 2



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Richard Teesdale



Dunstable Town (A) 19.3.05

Hednesford's recent return to form took a hit this afternoon as fellow play-off hopefuls Aylesbury take the points in their first-ever trip to Keys Park courtesy of two second-half goals

Monday night's 3-2 win over local rivals Solihull Borough had moved Chris Brindley's side back into the top five in the process, now sitting level on points with today's visitors on fifty-two points. Brindley elected to stick with the same side that had beaten Solihull in midweek, continuing his own run in the side in the process. There was a rare appearance amongst the substitutes for assistant manager Steve Anthrobus, with the Hednesford squad stretched to its limit once more due to injuries and suspensions

The Ducks arrived at Keys Park off the back of a poor 4-1 defeat against King's Lynn last week, leaving Danny Nicholls with some decisions to make as he looked to his side for a response against one of their rivals for the top five. Nicholls made two changes to his side for today's game as Gavin Jaggard came in for Dave Baker and debutant Jamie Kearns - a recent signing from Kettering Town - came straight into the side in midfield as he replaced Greg Williams

The Ducks' game plan was clear for all to see from the off, as they lined up with a defensively-minded 4-5-1 formation in a bid to frustrate their hosts. The deteriorating Keys Park pitch was no fun to play on either, with large patches of sand scattered around the turf; both sides struggled to get going in the game as chances were scarce

It took until the eighth minute of the game for either side to register a shot as the Pitmen won a free-kick to the left-hand side of the Aylesbury penalty area. Lee Williams looked to pick out Brindley at the far post with an inswinging kick, but the player/manager headed high over the crossbar as he was challenged by Kearns

Three minutes later, Aylesbury made their first meaningful move into the Hednesford half as Kearns played Drew Roberts into space down the right; he did well to get the better of Mark Branch and crossed into the six-yard box, where Ryan Young made a timely stop at his near post to deny Jaggard a chance from close-range

A free-kick from Joe Mead in the twelfth minute was lofted into the Hednesford penalty area from just inside the hosts' half, flicked on by Jaggard but was booted away from the clutches of winger Sonny French by Lee Barrow's timely interception

The Pitmen had a great chance to open the scoring in the sixteenth minute as Beckett and Branch linked up well down the left to cross for Leon McSweeney, whose looping goalbound header was cleared off the line by Andrew Hodges as goalkeeper Jack Rashid was left stranded on his line

Three minutes later, Rasid caused uncertainty in the ranks as he appeared to claim a Lee Williams pass to Andy Bell but stopped his run at the crucial moment and allowed the Pitmen's top scorer to pick up the loose ball. His attempted lob over the head of the backtracking stopper lacked direction, however, and dropped just wide of the far post. Opportunistic but wasteful from the striker

Midway through the first half, a delightful flowing move from the hosts saw Marlon Walters and Lee Williams heavily involved as the Pitmen opened up the Aylesbury defence. Bell held the ball up well and laid it off to Williams once more just outside the penalty area, whose low driven effort was pushed away by a full-length save from Rashid for a Hednesford corner kick

On twenty-five minutes, a well-worked free-kick routine from the Pitmen that appeared to be straight off the training pitch saw Williams lay the ball off to Grant Beckett, whose well-struck shot from twenty-five yards out was straight into the arms of Rashid

The Ducks were happy to soak up the Pitmen's pressure and look to play on the counter-attack, catching the home side out just before the half-hour mark as Matt Hayward's long ball forwards was flicked on by Paul Edgeworth and into the path of Roberts, who got goal side of Richard Teesdale but elected to take a touch too many and allowed Teesdale to get back and deflect the shot wide of goal for a corner kick

Excellent play from McSweeney on thirty-five minutes saw him leave Mead in his wake with a clever drop of the shoulder to make space in front of him. The Irishman worked the ball onto his left foot but dragged his long-range effort well, well wide of goal

Teesdale was involved at the other end of the pitch for the Pitmen with eight minutes of the first half remaining, glancing a header into the Heath Hayes terrace from a Williams free-kick after beating Liam Fold to the ball in the air

On forty-three minutes, Walters brought Jaggard down to hand Aylesbury a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the Hednesford penalty area. French took the kick quickly and sprayed the ball out to Hodges, whose deep cross was a touch too high for Roberts as he stretched to head the ball into the Ducks fans housed in the Hednesford end of the ground

It had been a largely frustrating forty-five minutes from the Pitmen, who had found Aylesbury well-organised and unwilling to hand the hosts many chances in the final third of the pitch

The Pitmen started the second half with purpose and went close to breaking the deadlock just two minutes after the restart; Ross Adams won a free-kick on the right-wing touchline, allowing Williams to send over a ball that was slightly overhit. Beckett didn't give up on the ball and managed to rescue the cross as he looked to turn it towards goal from a tight angle, only for Hodges to hack the ball clear

Despite showing very little attacking intent in the game so far, Aylesbury shocked the hosts by taking the lead against the run of play in the fiftieth minute. Kearns picked up a loose ball in midfield and took the ball forwards before attempting a shot from twenty-five yards out that was blocked by Barrow. The ball rebounded kindly into the path of French, who unleashed an unstoppable long-range effort that Young could not prevent from flying past him and into the net

The Ducks went in hunt for a second goal in quick succession and almost doubled their lead just three minutes later as Hayward swung in successive corner kicks, with the second one headed narrowly over the crossbar by Hayward, who arrived late in the Hednesford six-yard box

Back came the Pitmen and Brindley almost brought his side level once more on fifty-seven minutes as McSweeney was tripped by Mead to earn the hosts a free-kick. Lee Williams swung in yet another fine delivery from the left and found the head of Brindley, whose powerful header was inches over the crossbar

Brindley continued to be at the centre of proceedings and had another chance to equalise for the Pitmen on sixty-two minutes, this time with his feet; Bell and Walters linked up to play Brindley into space, with the veteran driving in a low shot across goal that was deflected away from danger by Mead for a Hednesford corner kick

The Pitmen made their first substitution of the game on sixty-six minutes as Steve Brannan came on in place of Beckett which saw the Pitmen play a more narrow 4-3-3 formation

A quick break from the visitors on seventy minutes saw substitute Baker - on for Jaggard - make a run down the right as he picked up another cultured pass from the impressive Kearns, whipping in a deep cross that was headed over the crossbar by goalscorer French

Young's long punt forwards with fifteen minutes remaining was flicked on by Brindley and into the path of Bell, who created quickest to the ball as he beat Hayward, who was caught on his heels. However, the young striker dragged his right-footed shot across the face of Rashid's goal and wide of the target

Adams' quick throw-in found Brannan on seventy-eight minutes, with the youngster taking a touch before looking to pick out Brindley once more at the far post. The veteran headed the ball back across goal but neither Bell of McSweeney could react quickest to the ball as Rashid claimed it inside his own six-yard box

With eleven minutes remaining, the Pitmen made a double attacking change as the poaching instincts of Paul McMahon replaced Brindley and the tricky Anthony Maguire came on in place of the more aggressive Walters 

With nine minutes remaining, the Ducks went close to putting the game beyond the Pitmen as Edgeworth's quickly-taken corner kick picked out Hayward, whose downward goalbound header was dived on by Young inside his own six-yard box

The Pitmen pressed higher and higher up the pitch in search of the equaliser that continued to deceive them; Brannan's initial cross on eighty-four minutes was cleared back to him by the excellent Folds, with the substitute's second attempt looping over the head of Rashid but eventually ending up on the top of the net

With three minutes remaining and the Pitmen camped in the Aylesbury half, Bell and McSweeney's quick passing set up Maguire, whose low shot cannoned off the boot of Kearns and narrowly wide of Rashid's right-hand post for a corner kick

From the resultant Williams corner kick, Teesdale's flick-on was cleared as far as Brannan, whose volley back into the penalty area cleared the crossbar from fully twenty-five yards out

As we see on several occasions during a season, a team chasing a game tends to leave the back door open for the opposition to strike once more on the counter, and Aylesbury sealed their win in the final minutes with a classic breakaway strike; Edgeworth and Baker broke down the right-wing as the Pitmen looked to get numbers back, with Baker playing Roberts through on goal down the centre of the pitch. Despite Teesdale's best attempts to get back and challenge the striker, Roberts neatly sidestepped the challenge of the onrushing Young and slotted into the empty net from ten yards out

This second blow deflated the Pitmen and was the cue for an exodus of fans before the three minutes of added time could be played. The hosts had played well over the ninety minutes and had certainly had the chances to take something from the game, but had lacked composure or quality in front of goal against a stoic and well-marshalled Aylesbury defence that gave little up. This sees the Ducks move back above the Pitmen in the table to sixth place as the late run to the play-offs continues to hot up with only eight games remaining. A trip to struggling Dunstable Town is next up for the Pitmen on Saturday as they look to get back to winning ways at Creasey Park in what will be their first-ever trip to the home of the Blues

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale, L. Williams ©, McSweeney, Walters (Maguire 79), Bell, Brindley (McMahon 79), Beckett (Brannan 66)     Subs Unused: Anthrobus, Evans


Aylesbury United: Rashid, Hodges (Ridley 89), Mead, Kearns, Hayward, Folds, French, Lamb, Jaggard (Baker 68), Roberts, Edgeworth       Subs Unused: G. Williams, Brumwell, Lazarus

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