Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Bamber Bridge

Waddecar (88) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Wells (32)


(0) 1

(1) 1



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Kieran Preston




Hyde United (H) 2.2.19

A battling performance from the Pitmen saw them earn a hard-fought point on the road against a strong Bamber Bridge side who snatched a late equaliser courtesy of a penalty kick to deny Nicky Eaden a second successive league win as manager


The Pitmen arrived in Lancashire looking to build on last weekend's impressive showing against Basford United with another positive performance from their newly-constructed side. Eaden had been a busy man once more in the week as he continued to reshape his squad, with Osebi Abadaki, Mate Deczki and Josh Craddock all leaving the club as well as confirmation this morning that winger Matt Dodd had also departed Keys Park for the second time. To replace on-loan goalkeeper Deczki, Eaden had pulled off the impressive loan signing of Kieran Preston from Basford, a man who was ranked as the best stopper in the Evo-Stik Premier League by his peers whilst at Grantham Town last season. He came into the side in the only change to the XI from last week's 3-1 win, with young striker Ashanti Pryce called up to the substitute's bench after his move to the club from Bromsgrove Sporting


Bamber Bridge's season had seen Mickey Taylor's men start the season in fine form following their promotion last summer, but recent form had seen  Brig slide down the table after a mixed festive period of only two wins in six games. Utility man Paul Dawson had this week decided to join league rivals Lancaster City in a blow for Taylor, although he was able to name skipper Jake Lawlor and Chris Marlow in his side after the pair had missed last week's 2-1 defeat at Workington which had left Brig just above the Pitmen in the league table in thirteenth place


The rain that had been forecast arrive just before kick-off arrived right on cue, with the conditions playing a part in what was at times a scrappy encounter as the rainfall grew heavier as the game progressed. The hosts started the game on the front foot, looking an immediate threat down both wings as they attacked the two full-backs at will. An early cross from Ally Waddecar from the right-hand side caused a momentary issue for the Pitmen defence as it drifted across the face of goal in the third minute, requiring a clearance from Alex Melbourne at the far post to clear the ball away


The Pitmen responded through Kieran Wells three minutes later, as the striker nipped in behind the Bamber Bridge defence after being played through by Reece King and sent over a fine cross that Brig keeper Lloyd Rigby made a hash of as he flapped at the ball under pressure from Shane Benjamin. On-loan midfield man Jud Ellis reached the rebound, but could only turn the ball behind as Bamber Bridge held their line


Preston was called upon to make a save for the first time in the afternoon on fourteen minutes, turning a free-kick from the talented Waddecar over his crossbar after Danny Forbes had been fouled by Javan Vidal in a dangerous position


Benjamin and Wells were continuing their fine form from last weekend up front for the Pitmen, linking up well and causing the hosts' defence all kinds of problems with their movement and aggression. On nineteen minutes, Benjamin headed straight into the arms of Rigby from twelve yards out, followed a minute later by an effort from Wells that drifted narrowly wide of Rigby's left-hand post after Vidal had flicked the ball forwards


Brig continued to threaten in wide areas, with a high cross from Marlow testing Preston on twenty-two minutes as the on-loan stopper punched the ball away from goal but only as far as Forbes, whose low drive was only just wide of the post


Three minutes later, another deep cross from the wing from left-back Adam Dodd found the head of striker Matt Dudley, who stopped to head narrowly over Preston's crossbar


Melbourne's driven effort was well wide of goal for the Pitmen on twenty-seven minutes, before Brig had the ball in the net with the next attack through Waddecar, only for his clever flicked finish to be chalked off for an earlier offside flag


The Pitmen took full advantage of this let-off four minutes later, as a neat passing move led to the opening goal for the visitors and a first goal for the hard-working Wells. It was Vidal that was the architect of the move, driving through the heart of the Bamber Bridge midfield and slotting an inch-perfect through-ball into the feet of Wells, who managed to escape the attention of the home defence and prod the ball past the onrushing Rigby from ten yards out


The hosts did not let the goal dampen their spirits and continued to press with their expansive game, forcing a succession of corner kicks as they found more joy down the left wing. Preston twice dealt with balls into the box, with Vidal also doing a fine job to clear his lines from a Waddecar cross on forty minutes


In the final minute of the half, another tricky run from Waddecar saw him step inside a challenge from Melbourne and fire in a low shot that was easily saved by Preston at his near post


Wells went close to adding to his tally four minutes into the second half as he raced onto a long ball forward from Danny Lupano, brushing off the attentions of Phil Doughty before firing just wide from twelve yards out


The hosts looked far more at ease with the slick conditions as the rain continued to fall incessantly at Irongate in the second half, with right-back Callum Spooner driving a low shot into the side netting on fifty-three minutes after Chris Churchman had sent over a deep cross


Ben Bailey did well to deflect a goalbound shot from Waddecar away for a corner kick on fifty-six minutes, with the Pitmen struggling to clear their lines and conceding a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the penalty area which Waddecar fired straight into the wall


Five minutes later, more trickery from Waddecar forced Bailey into an illegal challenge on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area, conceding yet another free-kick on a dangerous position. Dudley took the resultant kick and clipped his shot just over Preston's crossbar from twenty yards out


The pressure was growing on the Pitmen's defence, who were defending stoutly and were showing a real togetherness and commitment not often seen this term. A brief period of relief at the other end saw Benjamin head an Alex-Ray Harvey free-kick over the crossbar on the hour mark following more good work from Vidal


A quick break from the hosts saw Forbes break through the Hednesford defence on sixty-eight minutes, running onto a Waddecar through ball and forcing Preston into a fine save at his near post with a low drive from an angle


A throw-in from Bailey on seventy-two minutes was returned to the defender out on the left wing, with the skipper's low cross only just deceiving Benjamin as he was beaten to the cross by Rigby


 A good cross from Scott Harries very nearly found the boot of Waddecar on seventy-three minutes, with Preston again showing great composure to claim the cross ahead of Brig's main goal threat


The Pitmen's first change of the afternoon came with thirteen minutes remaining, as Jack Hallahan came on in place of Vidal in midfield. It had been another impressive performance from the former Manchester City man in the centre of the park, covering a lot of ground and keeping the play simple


Three minutes later, the visitors made their second and final change of a soggy afternoon, with Wells signalling to the bench that he needed to come off after over-stretching in a challenge. He was replaced by Lewis Archer as the Pitmen added more pace to their forward line


Brig continued to lay siege to the Hednesford goal as the minutes ticked by, with Preston earning his man of the match nomination with key saves to keep his new club in contention. On eighty-two minutes, the stopper made a fine save down to his right to turn away a goalbound shot from Forbes after seeing the long-range effort late as it came through a forest of legs


A Hednesford corner kick from Hallahan caused panic in the Bamber Bridge ranks on eighty-five minutes, with successive shots blocked by the hosts' defenders before Benjamin's low shot was finally turned away from goal


Brig were handed a chance to earn themselves a deserved draw on eighty-eight minutes, but in controversial circumstances, as Marlow's run into the area was checked by Harvey. With no actual contact between the players, Marlow threw himself to the floor theatrically and convinced the referee to award the home side a penalty kick. Unsurprisingly, it was Waddecar that took the resultant kick, sending Preston the wrong way from the spot to level matters once more


And yet, there was still time for both sides to be handed a glorious chance to win the game; in the final minute of the game, Preston was again called upon to make another fine save, this time from Dudley, to deny the striker a certain goal from twelve yards out


A minute later, Waddecar once again stung the hands of Preston as Bamber Bridge made a quick break down the left before playing their top scorer in behind the Hednesford defence


The Pitmen launched their own swift counter-attack after Hallahan had seized upon a goal kick from Rigby, with Benjamin playing Archer clean through on goal. With perhaps too much time to think about it, the substitute put his shot inches wide of the post after beating Rigby to the ball. A great chance to win it at the death

There was still time for Bamber Bridge to have a great chance of their own in the final minute of added time, with Dudley heading a cross from Marlow off the far post to finally end a breathless period of play


All in all, both sides can be reasonably content with their point, although the hosts may feel that they could have taken all three points had it not been for the late heroics of Preston, who had impressed in the Hednesford goal on his debut. With most sides around the bottom half of the table either matching this result or bettering it, very little has changed in the overall complexion of the league table with Hednesford still three points above the drop zone in sixteenth place. They return to Keys Park next weekend when Hyde United visit in another crucial game for Eaden's men as they look to further improve their home form to move away from the drop zone


Bamber Bridge: Rigby, Spooner, Dodd, Lawlor ©, Doughty, Churchman (Linney 83), Waddecar, Forbes (McKnight 85), Dudley, Harries, Marlow         Subs Unused: Charnock, Wilson, Roccia


Hednesford Town: Preston, Lupano, Melbourne, Bailey ©, Moran, Harvey , Vidal ▆ (Hallahan 77), King, Benjamin, Wells (Archer 80), Ellis          Subs Unused: Veiga, Gatter, Pryce

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