17.4.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Banbury United

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Tyrone Barnett

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Rugby Town (A) 20.4.10

Hednesford's hopes of making the play-offs take another blow this afternoon as the Pitmen fail to claim all three points for the second home game in three days with a hugely frustrating draw against Banbury that saw them miss a late penalty kick

With skipper Sean Platt suspended for one game, the Pitmen were forced into a reshuffle in defence; Chris Clements replaced Platt out on the right side of defence, with youngster Ben Bailey rewarded for his excellent form this season with the captain's armband. Ross Dyer switched places with Dorryll Proffitt, with the latter linking up with Adam McGurk and Josh Craddock in midfield and Dyer dropped to the bench

On a beautifully sunny spring afternoon at Keys Park, an above-average crowd looked forward to the home side taking another step towards the top five, thus making up for the team's inability to beat Stourbridge on Thursday night. A bright start from the home side saw Tyrone Barnett straight into the action, causing Banbury's defenders problems with his movement early on. He was unceremoniously brought down on the edge of the area after three minutes, allowing McGurk to place the ball down. His weak free-kick, however, struck the wall and spun away from danger

Proffitt showed Banbury a clean pair of heels on five minutes, using his pace to beat three half-hearted challenges before firing just wide of Banbury goalkeeper Joe Murrell's left-hand post

Banbury responded with Ollie Stanbridge launching their first real attack of the game, running fully twenty-five yards unchallenged before Bailey made a scruffy tackle just inside the area, just getting enough of the ball to turn it away from goal

The Puritans went close to taking the lead on eleven minutes; Stanbridge's cross found Jason Taylor on the edge of the area, with the Banbury man hitting a rising shot that beat Stuart Brock but came back off the crossbar

Elliott Durrell, bright and busy as normal, created a great chance for Barnett on nineteen minutes, turning swiftly and playing the big striker in, but Hednesford's top-scorer blazed over from twelve yards out

Proffitt was next to test Banbury's resolve a minute later, making a late run from midfield to pick up the ball, taking the ball around Murrell but making the angle too tight for himself and allowed his shot to be blocked by a covering Banbury defender

The same player was guilty of wasting a great opportunity midway through the first half, exchanging passes with Durrell on the edge of the area before getting his foot under the ball and lifting it high over the bar with a skied shot

The Pitmen were enjoying a good period of pressure but continued to waste chances as the half progressed. Durrell was next to create a chance on twenty-five minutes, running onto Barnett's clever through ball before firing wide of goal after Murrell had narrowed the angle

Murrell was becoming busier by the minute, dealing with a Clements shot on the half-hour mark after the Crewe loanee had made a move forward to support the attack. He followed this up a minute later with a smart save to turn McGurk's low shot away for a corner. After clearing the resultant corner, the Banbury number one seemed to be struggling with an injury but carried on

Banbury were feeding off scraps up front, with Taylor offering a threat four minutes later as he got on the end of a Lewis Hilliard cross, but volleyed over the bar

Liam Francis had the Pitmen's last chance of the half, ghosting in at the far post to get his head to Durrell's free-kick, but headed wide of Murrell's goal

Despite Bernard McNally's pep talk at the break, the second half followed in much the same vein, as the Pitmen continued to fritter chances away. Matty Wood was replaced by the speedy Aaron Gibson after an indifferent half for the former Telford man

On fifty minutes, McGurk got on the end of a move involving Durrell and Proffitt but fired over when he should have made Murrell work

Murrell's injury finally caught up with him ten minutes into the second half, with the visitors bringing on substitute keeper Mark Scott

Scott was straight into the action for Banbury, turning away Proffitt's shot after the Hednesford man had rolled his man eighteen yards out

Taylor was still offering a threat up front for Banbury, holding off Francis and hitting a dipping shot just over Brock's crossbar

Scott's goal was coming under more and more scrutiny the longer the half progressed, with Craddock firing over from long range on sixty-two minutes. A minute later, Barnett out-jumped Scott as he met Gibson's cross, but the ball dropped wide of the far post

On sixty-nine minutes Proffitt was replaced by Dyer, who moved up front to play alongside Barnett as McNally looked to add more attacking threat. His movement almost created a chance on seventy-one minutes, as he forced his way into a goalscoring position as Durrell took the ball into the area. However, a rush of blood by Durrell saw him shoot wide, rather than square the ball to Dyer, who was in a superb position

Five minutes later, the game was turned on its head courtesy of a critical decision from the referee. Barnett picked the ball up on the edge of the area, before rolling Marvin Martin and putting himself clean through. He took the ball around Scott, whose clumsy challenge saw him bring Barnett down. The result? A Hednesford penalty and a red card for Scott, who will probably consider himself unfortunate to be sent off as Barnett appeared to be moving away from goal and the angle for the shot would have been narrow

Having already brought their substitute goalkeeper on, Banbury were forced into putting midfielder Declan Benjamin in goal to face the resultant penalty from McGurk. To everyone's amazement, McGurk placed a weak kick to Benjamin's right, allowing the midfielder to make a fairly easy save. A dreadful penalty from the Northern Irishman

McGurk tried to make amends with a fierce shot eight minutes later but fired over the bar. A minute later, the Pitmen thought they had their golden goal, when Durrell slid in to turn Gibson's cross home, only to be denied by a late, late offside flag

The Pitmen were getting more and more desperate for a winner, as they forced Banbury to protect their stand-in keeper in the final minutes. Clements tried his luck with an angled drive that was just too high. Barnett turned Durrell's cross home with three minutes left, but a much earlier offside flag put paid to his hopes of a winner

It was left to McGurk, the hero at Chippenham but the villain of the piece here, to have the Pitmen's final chance in added time, getting on the end of a flowing move down the right, but slicing his shot wide of goal

Despite the scoreless draw, this was as open and exciting a game as you will have seen all season. This will be of little comfort to the Pitmen, who have made their play-off hopes look a lot slimmer than seventy-two hours previously

Hednesford Town: Brock, Clements, Wood (Gibson 45), Bailey ©, Francis, Dunkley , Durrell, Craddock, Barnett, Proffitt (Dyer 63), McGurk      Subs Unused: Martin, Chapman, Flynn

Banbury United: Murrell (Scott 52 ▆ (76)), Stanbridge, Martin, Milner, Learoyd, Haisley , Coleman , Benjamin , Hilliard (Stone 89), Taylor (Redknap 83), Staff       Sub Unused: Ashton