Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Cater (48), Bailey (65)

Banbury United

Stevens (10), (13), M. Roberts (90)

(0) 2

(2) 3



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Oliver Basey



Bromsgrove Sporting (H) 18.11.21

The Pitmen are once again on the receiving end of a late winner from the visiting side this evening, as league leaders Banbury United take all three points courtesy of an injury-time winner from Morgan Roberts

Keenen Meakin-Richards' side had been denied a chance to build on a much-needed win over Leiston ten days ago at the weekend after their game at Lowestoft Town was called off due to a waterlogged pitch at Crown Meadow. Meakin-Richards stuck with the same side that had started against Leiston but brought recent signing Martin Riley into the squad as one of the substitutes. There was no sign of Shaquille Master, Andre Brown, Jono Brown or Patrick Fini, with none of the quartet involved in tonight's game

Table-toppers Banbury had seen their sixteen game unbeaten run ended by struggling St. Ives Town recently but had bounced back to winning ways at the weekend with a fine win over fellow title challengers Coalville Town. Manager Andy Whing made one change to his side for tonight's short trip to Staffordshire as Henry Landers returned to the side in place of Chris Wreh

It was a relatively mild evening for the players and healthy 467-strong crowd to enjoy, with just over a couple of weeks before Christmas. The visitors set their stall out almost immediately and dominated the early play as they stroked the ball around with confidence and purpose to drag the creaking Hednesford defence around the pitch. Despite this, the Pitmen were the first team to get a shot in on goal in the fifth minute; Ben Aquaye's attempted clearance down the Banbury left was intercepted by skipper Ben Bailey, who strode forwards into space and let fly from over twenty-five yards out, prompting Puritans goalkeeper Ben Taylor to make a save low down to his left

The visitors pushed the Pitmen back into their own third of the pitch as they forced successive corner kicks out of the hosts in the ninth minute, with the second kick from Giorgio Rasulo eventually paying dividends; the midfielder's kick was partially cleared by the Pitmen, who played the ball back to Rasulo, who had drifted inside. His follow-up shot from an angle was blocked by Wes Atkinson, with the ball running kindly to the feet of former AFC Rushden man Acquaye, who picked out Jack Stevens inside the penalty area. The Banbury number twenty sidefooted the ball beyond the reach of Oliver Basey and through a forest of legs to find the top corner of the net and give the visitors a tenth-minute lead

Things got worse for the hosts just three minutes later as they conceded a free-kick just outside their own penalty area after the tricky Acquaye was fouled by the back-tracking Lewis Ison. Stevens placed the ball down and curled the ball around the Hednesford wall and beyond Basey once more to give the Puritans a two-goal advantage. A great free-kick

The Pitmen were shocked into life and won a free kick of their own in the seventeenth minute as Carter Lycett was fouled by Connor Roberts. Ison assumed responsibility for the resultant kick but lifted his twenty-five yards effort over the crossbar after clearing the wall

The visitors continued to look the far more dangerous of the two sides on the attack, with Stevens and Acquaye prominent figures in wave after wave of Banbury pressure. Midway through the half, striker Morgan Roberts should have put the game to bed with a third Banbury goal as he ghosted in at the far post to beat Tom Armitage to a long, raking cross-field pass from Sam Brown, only to somehow head inches wide of Basey's right-hand post as he glanced his effort across the face of goal and wide of the target. A real let-off for the Pitmen and the dawdling Armitage in particular

Basey made the first of what to prove to be vital saves to keep his side in the game on twenty-seven minutes, making an outstanding stop to deny Acquaye a certain goal as he somehow managed to turn the ball onto the crossbar, pushing the winger's deflected effort from a Henry Landers shot away from goal before Bailey completed the clearance

A minute later, more good play down the Banbury right-wing saw Connor Roberts get the better of the hapless Armitage and send over a teasing cross that was inches away from the boot of the incoming Rasulo, with Basey once again getting a vital touch to deny the midfield man a tap-in

More corner kicks followed as Banbury continued to turn the screw, with Acquaye seeing his effort on the half-hour mark deflected into the path of Stevens once more, only for the Banbury goalscorer to lift his effort from twelve yards out over the crossbar

The Pitmen had been completely impotent as an attacking threat thus far, with Lycett finally registering a shot of sorts on thirty-two minutes as George Cater cut the ball back to the left wing-back, but his bobbling sidefooted effort from fifteen yards out was easily fielded by Taylor

Sixty seconds later, Basey was alert to the danger as Banbury broke quickly from a Hednesford corner kick, playing Morgan Roberts through on goal. The ball to the striker was slightly heavy from Landers, however, and allowed the on-loan stopper to make a timely clearance

With five minutes of the half remaining, Todd Parker became the first player to be shown a yellow card by referee Mr Ellis after he had fouled Jay Williams in the centre circle

A minute later, Basey was once again called upon to keep the scoreline respectable as another quick break from Banbury saw Acquaye clip the ball over the top of the retreating Hednesford defence and into the path of Landers, who had a free run at goal. His final touch took him away from goal slightly and allowed Basey to position himself well to parry the midfielder's rising shot away from goal

The Pitmen had been solidly second best throughout the first period in what had been another depressingly familiar game to many of the regular watchers of Hednesford; outplayed and outfought by a brighter, livelier side who have pockets of equality within their ranks that the Pitmen simply do not have. Half-time saw the desperately disappointing Courtney Richards hooked by the hosts as they looked for a response from their team in the second half, with Reece Flanagan replacing him in midfield

The Pitmen started the second half with a bang and clawed their way back into the game by reducing arrears just three minutes after the restart; Neat play through midfield involving Ison and Todd Parker saw the ball worked towards Cater on the right flank. The winger took the ball beyond Sam Brown and worked it onto his right foot before firing beyond the reach of Taylor and finding the far corner of the net via a touch off the far post. It was Cater's first-ever competitive goal for the club after a long and frustrating wait for his maiden strike over two separate spells for the club

The Pitmen had their tails up, with Cater buoyed by his strike; he made a darting run from deep on fifty-two minutes as he made a run from halfway right up to the Banbury penalty area, beating Williams before firing in a low shot that Taylor from eighteen yards out

Looking to continue their upward ascent in the second half, the Pitmen made their second change of the game on fifty-six minutes as the ineffective Lycett was replaced by Chay Tilt down the left flank

Despite this bright start to the half, the Pitmen were always susceptible to the counter-attack as Banbury pressed once more. Basey made yet another fine save on the hour mark as he held a goalbound effort from Landers following a Rasulo corner kick that was played into the midfielder's path

Bailey was the next player to be shown a yellow card by the inconsistent Mr Ellis on sixty-two minutes as he brought Landers down to halt the midfielder's progress and halt a quick break from the Puritans, earning the skipper a caution in the process

The hosts finally got themselves back on level terms on sixty-five minutes as Bailey grabbed his first goal of the season; Parker and Flanagan exchanged passes on the right flank before the half-time substitute sent over a fine cross to the far post where he picked Bailey, with the Hednesford skipper heading beyond the reach of Taylor to make it 2-2 with a typically bludgeoning header back across goal from the old stager

The game was now swinging from end to end, with both sides now feeling that the game was there for the taking. Banbury had struggled to counter the Pitmen and had found less time and space on the ball as the hosts closed them down with more purpose and intensity. Great play from Cater on sixty-eight minutes saw him shimmy his way past Brown before playing Atkinson into space beyond him down the right, only for the right-back's low cross into Riley O'Sullivan to be smuggled away by veteran Kelvin Langmead before the striker could turn the ball goalwards

Back came the visitors with a break of their own down the left on seventy-one minutes as Acquaye skipped past Atkinson and clipped an effortless pass into the path of Morgan Roberts, only for the excellent Bailey to do enough to put the player off and allow the ball to roll away harmlessly

With fifteen minutes of the game remaining, the hosts rolled the dice once more as top scorer Andre Landell was brought on in place of the luckless O'Sullivan

Landell was straight into the action, winning a corner kick on seventy-nine minutes off Connor Roberts; Flanagan's corner kick was cleared as far as Bailey, whose looping header back towards goal was claimed by Taylor just before Parker could turn the ball home inside the six-yard box

Basey had his heart in his mouth with seven minutes remaining as he came rushing out of his penalty area to meet substitute Wreh and clatter the striker as he broke clear of the Hednesford defence down the left flank. However, Mr Ellis went easy on the on-loan stopper and showed him a yellow card rather than the red that the Banbury players demanded

The resultant free-kick from Rasulo was whipped into the near post and into the path of Wreh, whose flick header beat Basey but came back off the underside of the crossbar before the Pitmen cleared their lines

You felt that Banbury had another gear they could move into to find a winning goal in the closing stages, as the Pitmen's fragile confidence started to erode with misplaced passes and hurried clearances under no pressure. A corner kick to the Puritans on eighty-five minutes from Rasulo was cleared as far as Rasulo, whose low shot was deflected away from goal by Ison before Alex Babos forced another corner kick with his follow-up shot

Rasulo's corner kick caused the Pitmen more problems as they struggled to clear their lines once more, with Basey having to tip over a miscued defensive header from Bailey for yet another Banbury corner kick

Josh Endall was the latest Hednesford player to be cautioned with only a couple of minutes remaining as he was rightly booked for bringing Landers down in full flight once more

In the first minute of added time, both sets of players clashed just outside the Hednesford penalty area after a foul from Ison on Rasulo prompted a bout of pushing a shoving from players from both sides. Williams ended up on the floor after a clash with substitute Flanagan, which eventually led to both players being booked

The resultant free-kick from Rasulo looked to pick out Landers, who was unmarked at the far post, but the ball carried too much weight and drifted wide of the woodwork

In the third minute of added time, Banbury finally made their late pressure pay as they grabbed a late, late winner through Morgan Roberts; a bout of head tennis from both teams eventually ended with Rasulo controlling the ball and playing a delightful chip over the top of the Hednesford back line, where Roberts was alive to the ball to get in behind Atkinson, producing a superb finish with a powerfully-struck angled drive back across goal and beyond the despairing reach of Basey for the winning goal

The Pitmen could not muster up a response in the final two minutes of added time and were left to ponder yet another late goal conceded to add to the three scored by AFC Rushden & Diamonds and one scored by Coalville Town in recent games. With teams just below them having games in hand, the Pitmen are now starting to look over their shoulders as we reach the midway point of the season with only twenty-seven points in hand. They will need to double this tally to be sure of avoiding a relegation scrap in the coming months as their dreadfully patchy and uninspiring form continues to frustrate. Another home game follows this weekend as the Pitmen play host to Bromsgrove Sporting, one of the sides just behind them in the table

Hednesford Town: Basey , Atkinson, Armitage, Bailey © , Endall , Richards (Flanagan 45 ) Cater, Ison, O'Sullivan (Landell 75), Parker , Lycett (Tilt 58)    Sub Unused: Riley, Clarkson

Banbury United: Taylor, C. Roberts (Reilly 90), Brown, Babos, Langmead, Williams , Stevens (Finch 71), Rasulo, Landers, M. Roberts, Acquaye (Wreh 71)       Subs Unused: Maher, Johnson