Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Sweeney (81)

Bamber Bridge

Barnes (55)

(0) 1

(0) 1



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Matt Curley




Warrington Town (H) 10.11.18

The Pitmen can count themselves lucky to earn a point against newly-promoted Bamber Bridge this afternoon, relying on a superb late goal from Dan Sweeney to level matters after another uninspiring performance


Tuesday's embarrassing defeat to AFC Mansfield in the F.A. Trophy had left the whole club feeling flat and under a cloud due to ongoing worrying developments off the pitch that may or may not put the club's future at risk. Manager Rob Smith had reshaped his squad with the signing of winger Osebi Abadaki from league rivals Hyde United whilst allowing left-sided player Sam Grimshaw to leave the club. Smith had also agreed loan extensions with Solihull Moors for both Callum Coyle and Dan Sweeney for the pair to remain at Keys Park for a further month


Bamber Bridge's strong start to the campaign had seen them lose their successful manager Neil Reynolds to FC United of Manchester in the past fortnight, with newly-promoted Brig replacing Reynolds with first-team coach Mick Taylor to ensure continuity. Last weekend had seen Bamber Bridge make progress in the F.A. Trophy courtesy of a 3-1 win over Colne -  their first win in four games. Taylor's first full week in charge had seen him dip into the transfer market, bringing in full-back Callum Spooner from Atherton Collieries and young winger Matt Barnes on loan from Bolton Wanderers, with both going straight into his squad for today's game


In front of a poor 244 crowd, the Pitmen should have given their spluttering home record a shot in the arm with the first meaningful chance of the game on five minutes, as Abadaki did well to cut inside and play the ball in to Craddock, whose lay-off to Coyle saw the young midfielder challenged by Brig skipper Jake Lawlor. The ball fell kindly to Howard, who lashed his shot over the crossbar from just seven yards out when it looked easier to score


Barnes made an early impact for his new club on seven minutes, forcing Sam Griffiths into making a block as the youngster shaped to shoot from twelve yards out


Brig were forced into an early change two minutes later, as Danny Forbes forced off due to injury despite a spell of treatment. Forbes was replaced by former Stalybridge man Darren McKnight


Sweeney created a half chance for the hosts on twelve minutes, holding the ball up well on the right-hand side of the penalty area before clipping the ball to the far post, but just out of reach of the onrushing Abadaki


The Pitmen wasted their second excellent opening of the game on sixteen minutes, as a Joe Fitzpatrick corner kick found the head of the unmarked Sweeney, who headed over the crossbar from four yards out


The visitors wasted a good chance of their own six minutes later, as Barnes did well to jink his way through the Hednesford defence before lashing his volley high over the crossbar


The talented Ali Waddecar tired his luck with a speculative long-range shot on twenty-five minutes, drilling his shot wide of goal after being set up by Barnes


McKnight was lucky to not turn a Sweeney cross into his own net a minute later, looping the striker's low cross towards his own goal and into the grateful arms of keeper Lloyd Rigby


A mistake from Callam Mendez-Jones gifted Waddecar a clear opening for Bamber Bridge on thirty-five minutes, as the defender's backwards header fell short of Josef Bursik and allowed the midfielder to nip in. However, Waddecar - a modern-day Brig legend with over 100 goals to his name - lifted his effort over the head of Bursik and over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area


A quick break from Brig caught the Pitmen out on forty-one minutes, as Fitzpatrick lost the ball in midfield and allowed the ball to be played up to the free-running Barnes. He, in turn, played in Brad Carsley, who worked the ball back onto his right foot before unleashing a low shot that forced Bursik into a fine save to his left


Barnes was denied a clear shot on goal a couple minutes into the second half as he slalomed his way through the Hednesford defence but was robbed of the ball through a combination fo Bursik and the excellent Matt Curley


The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon early on in the second period, with Coyle limping off on fifty minutes and was replaced in the centre of midfield by Reece King, one of three changes from Tuesday night's horror show


Three minutes later, Sweeney picked up a long ball from Fitzpatrick and drove at the Bamber Bridge defence before pulling the ball back across the face of the Brig defence, with no-one in a white shirt gambling in the six-yard box to put the ball in the net


The Pitmen were once again made to pay the heavy price for wasting their good first-half chances with the away side catching them on the counter-attack once again to take the lead on fifty-five minutes. Carsley headed the ball down into the path of Chris Marlow, who ran through the centre of the Hednesford defence before slipping the ball square to Barnes. The on-loan winger took a touch before firing past Bursik from fifteen yards out to score his first goal for his new club


The Pitmen were handed a perfect opportunity to level matters straight from the restart, as a superb cross from Howard down the right found skipper Craddock unmarked in the six-yard box, who inexplicably headed wide from a perfect position. A terrible miss in hindsight


Another quick break from the visitors caught the Pitmen out once more on sixty-one minutes, with Barnes driving a low shot wide of goal after taking on two Hednesford players on the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area


Brig felt that they should have been handed a penalty kick four minutes later, as Waddecar fell to the floor under pressure from Mendez-Jones. However, the referee remained unmoved by the midfielder's pleas and continued with the game


King had offered little to the side since his introduction but did succeed in following his fellow midfielder Fitzpatrick into the referee's notebook on sixty-six minutes after a late challenge


A headed lay-off from Craddock found King lurking on the edge of the penalty area on seventy-two minutes, but the tall midfielder shanked his shot well wide of goal from twenty yards out


The Pitmen's second change of the afternoon came with eighteen minutes remaining, as Craddock's fitness was once again brought into the spotlight as he again failed to see out ninety minutes after being replaced by Dan Cockerline


The Pitmen continued to huff and puff through the game but looked to be falling short once again until Sweeney decided to have an impact on the match with nine minutes remaining: picking a Curley ball just inside the Brig half, Sweeney drifted inside Kieran Charnock's challenge and took the ball forwards. With very little to lose, Sweeney lined up a shot from fully twenty-five yards out and unleashed an unstoppable left-footed shot that beat Rigby all ends up before rippling the net


Barnes went close for Brig once again on eighty-three minutes, dragging his low shot wide of Burik's near post from a good position twelve yards from goal


Good play from Cockerline three minutes later saw the striker recycle the ball well down the right wing and send over an inch-perfect cross to Abadaki, whose effort lacked conviction as he pulled his shot wide at the far post


In the first minute of added time, Howard was presented with the best possible chance to complete an unlikely win for the hosts, as a Griffiths long throw was flicked into the path of the Preston loanee by King, only for the teenager to scuff his shot straight into the arms of Rigby from five yards out

A point very much earned rather than two dropped for the hosts, who continue to tread water both on and off the pitch as they remain in a mid-table position. Smith - now working on a revised budget - may still make changes to his misfiring squad in the next few days ahead of another tough home game against play-off chasing Warrington Town next Saturday


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Curley, Fox, Fitzpatrick , Mendez-Jones, Griffiths, Craddock ©  (Cockerline 72), Coyle (King 50 ), Howard, Sweeney, Abadaki    Subs Unused: Archer, Gatter, Veiga


Bamber Bridge: Rigby, Dawson , Dodd, Lawlor ©, Charnock, Churchman, Waddecar, Forbes (McKnight 9), Carsley (Dudley 60), Barnes, Marlow    Unused Subs: Vasey, Spooner, Darr

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