Skrill North


Sheridan (12)

Hednesford Town

(1) 1

(0) 0



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Paul McCone


Altrincham (H) 30.4.14

The Pitmen bring the curtain down on their Skrill North league campaign this afternoon with a narrow defeat at mid-table Barrow, despite fielding what was essentially reserve side that failed to extend the team's unbeaten run to nine games as manager Rob Smith kept one eye on his team's impending play-off semi-final

Having clinched their place amongst the top five for the end of season play-offs on Bank Holiday Monday, Smith and his troops arrived in Cumbria off the back of eight unbeaten games in Skrill North, meaning the pressure was off going into their final game of the season. With that in mind, Smith made major changes to his side as he looked to rest key personnel ahead of a likely showdown with either Altrincham or old foes North Ferriby United next midweek. With that in mind, Ben Bailey, Dan Crane, Darren Campion, Danny Glover, Marvin Johnson, Dave MacPherson and Tom Thorley were all given the afternoon off, replaced by Robbie Thompson-Brown, Charlie Anagho-Ntamark, Francino Francis, Michael Lennon, Paul Sullivan and Kris Taylor. There was a debut between the sticks for youngster Dale Reaney, with the former Cheltenham keeper given a chance to impress after linking up with the club recently

Darren Edmondson's Barrow had settled into a safe mid-table spot in recent weeks, having been rock bottom of the league at Christmas before a superb run of form in February and March saw them briefly flirt with a possible play-off challenge. Back-to-back defeats to Bradford (Park Avenue) and Harrogate Town in the previous week meant that the Bluebirds would finish amongst the likes of Colwyn Bay, Leamington and Stockport County in the middle of the pack

A neat start from the Pitmen saw Anagho-Ntamark go close to giving the visitors an early lead in the second minute - picking the ball up on the edge of the penalty area and dragging his low shot wide of goal with a bobbled shot

Starting his first game in nearly three months, Taylor returned to his role of assuming responsibility for many of the set-pieces and tested Barrow keeper Tony McMillan on five minutes with a dipping, swerving free-kick that saw McMillan turn the ball over the crossbar

Barrow responded five minutes later through striker Tom Corner, who turned Francis on the edge of the area and fired just over the crossbar with a powerfully-hit shot

Despite starting well enough, the Pitmen started to drop back into their own half and allow Barrow more time and space on the ball. This was to prove their undoing midway through the half, as Reaney was called upon for the first time in a Hednesford shirt to make a save. Corner's initial shot was brilliantly beaten away by Reaney, who parried the ball out to the edge of the box. Sam Sheridan seized upon the ball and fired in a firm rising shot that beat Reaney before crashing off the underside of the crossbar and down onto the goal line before being hacked clear by John Disney. The assistant on the right-hand side signalled that the goal was good, with the referee backing up his fellow official and awarding the goal. McCone and Francis both received a ticking off from the referee for their protestations following the award of the goal

The Pitmen thought they had drawn level immediately, as Lennon confidently fired beyond McMillan from twelve yards out, only to be denied by an earlier offside flag

With so many changes to the side, Hednesford's play was perhaps understandably splintered and lacking in any real cutting edge. Lennon was putting in his usual shift to probe and hassle the Barrow defence, with Wayne Riley continuing his recent good form with some neat touches in midfield

Otherwise, it was Barrow who looked the more accomplished of the two sides, with Alex Ray-Harvey going close to doubling the home side's lead on thirty-three minutes. After getting in behind the Hednesford defence, the midfielder fired horribly over the crossbar when it seemed easier to hit the target

You got the feeling that the Pitmen's best chances of the afternoon were going to come from set-pieces, with two such balls creating chances for the visitors just before half time. On forty minutes, Taylor struck a low, bobbling free-kick beyond the Barrow wall but straight into the arms of the experienced McMillan. Two minutes later, a Riley corner kick found the head of McCone, whose header was easily fielded by McMillan on his goal line

 Hednesford started the second period on the front foot, with Anagho-Ntamark headed narrowly wide of goal from Riley's corner kick on fifty-three minutes

Taylor was still looking to find his range with his free-kicks and corners after such a long spell on the sidelines, with two wayward corners in succession frustrating his team-mates as they lined up for the kicks

Chances were certainly at a premium as the half progressed, with both sides seemingly playing out the remainder of the last game of the season in second gear. Sheridan had another chance to shoot from long-range for Barrow on seventy-two minutes but his shot took a deflection off Gareth Arnison and spun into the arms of the grateful Reaney

Anagho-Ntamark was well off target with his wayward header on seventy-four minutes, miscuing Taylor's free-kick and glancing the ball yards wide of goal

Barrow continued to look dangerous, with Arnison giving McCone and Francis a difficult afternoon's work with his movement up front, ably assisted by Corner. Indeed, McCone and Reaney had been the standout performers for this mix and match Hednesford side in a disjointed outing for the Pitmen

In the final minute of the game, Anagho-Ntamark was taken off and Tom Thorley introduced, but the midfielder failed to get a touch of the ball as the referee soon brought proceedings to an end

With Guiseley winning 3-1 against Gloucester City, the Pitmen just about hung on to fourth place by virtue of goal difference, meaning that they would meet third-placed Altrincham over two legs, starting with a first leg at Keys Park this coming Wednesday night. With the exception of Jamey Osborne, Smith will have a full-strength side to call upon after resting his key men this afternoon, as the Pitmen go in search of a historic and scarcely believable second successive promotion in the next seven days

Barrow: McMillan, Burns, Cowperthwaite, Sheridan, Williams, Reynolds, Harvey, Davies (Mwasile 76), Corner (Rushton 80), Arnison (Marsh 80), Cribley      Subs Unused: Edwards, Meechan

Hednesford Town: Reaney, Disney ©, Melbourne, McCone, Francis, Taylor, Anagho-Ntamark (Thorley 90), Riley, Lennon, Sullivan, Thompson-Brown      Subs Unused: Johnson, Glover, Robinson, Campion

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