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Nationwide Conference North

Hednesford Town


Tarrant (6), (72), Wilson (25) 

(0) 0

(2) 3



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Andy Bell



Alfreton Town (A) 14.1.06

The Pitmen crashed to yet another heavy defeat at Keys Park this afternoon as mid-table Barrow struck three unanswered goals to complete a league double over Hednesford

Caretaker manager Steve Anthrobus - still looking to stake a claim for the job on a full-time basis - stuck with the same XI that had produced an excellent performance against Nuneaton Borough on Monday but had only been rewarded with a point against the play-off chasers. Lee Williams was passed fit to take his place amongst the substitutes as the veteran midfielder looked to return to the side after missing the past two games with injury

Mid-table dwellers Barrow made their first trip to Keys Park since April 1999 off the back of a shock 4-1 reverse to local rivals Lancaster City on Monday afternoon, leaving Phil Wilson's inconsistent side down in fourteenth place in the table ahead of today's game. Despite their heavy home defeat five days earlier, Wilson made only one change to his side as he handed a debut to midfielder Carl Heiniger in place of Andy Howarth

The hosts made a brisk start to the game and should have taken the lead in the second minute through teenager Ross Dyer; Tommy Whittle's long kick forwards was flocked on by Brannan and into the path of Dyer, whose low driven shot was deflected behind by goalkeeper Simon Bishop for a Hednesford corner kick

Andy Bell picked up a pass from Sean Platt in the fifth minute and turned well past Steve Flitcroft's challenge but pulled his shot wide of goal from fifteen yards out

A mistake from skipper Colin Hunter gifted the visitors the opening goal of the afternoon a minute later as he mis-controlled a forward pass from Carl Heiniger and allowed the ball to run into the path of Neil Tarrant, who ran into the Hednesford penalty area before slotting the ball past the onrushing Whittle from eight yards out

Three minutes later, Heiniger drifted past a challenge from Platt on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and drilled in a low shot that bounced twice before skipping past Whittle's near post

Back came the wounded Pitmen and Bell linked up well with Mark Briggs in the twelfth minute to play Platt into space down the right. The Walsall loanee worked the ball onto his right boot and crossed for Dyer, who was denied a tap-in at the far post by a timely interception from Guy Heffernan

Heiniger went close to doubling the Bluebirds' advantage in the fifteenth minute as Chris Butler's pass sent the winger away down the left, cutting inside of a Ross Adams challenge before shooting narrowly wide from a tight angle

In the twentieth minute, Brannan and Briggs combined in the centre of midfield to send Bell away down the left-wing, with the striker's low driven cross just a little too far in front of Dyer to enable the youngster to turn the ball home from close-range

Midway through the half, Hunter's free-kick from the left was flicked on by Richard Teesdale but drifted just wide of the far post as both Bell and Tom Marshall failed to get a touch on the ball as it drifted across goal

Once again, the hosts were made to pay a price for their missed chances as Barrow doubled their lead courtesy of another individual error, this time from Whittle. Heiniger's free-kick from out on the left wing was played into the near post, where Whittle claimed the ball initially before spilling the ball into the path of the manager's son Kyle Wilson, who had the simple task of turning the ball home from close-range after reacting quickest to Whittle's heinous error

Four minutes after conceding the second goal, the Pitmen looked to get themselves back into the game through Bell once more, who raced onto Dyer's reverse pass to get in behind the Barrow defence but shot wide of Bishop's near post from ten yards out

The hosts were forced into making a change on the half-hour mark as Hunter was forced off due to injury and was replaced by Leon McSweeney, which forced the shots into making a tweak to their formation as they went to a 3-4-3 set-up

On thirty-four minutes, Tom Marshall tried his luck with a powerfully-struck free-kick from thirty yards out that drifted just over Bishop's crossbar after Bell had been brought down by Jonathan Smith

A quick break from Barrow on thirty-nine minutes saw Tarrant's flick-on find Gavin Knight in behind the Hednesford defence, with the likes of Teesdale and Adams relieved to see a late offside flag go up against the striker as they appealed for a decision against the Barrow number ten

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Briggs was given the freedom of the Keys Park pitch as he picked up a loose ball just inside the Barrow half and was allowed to make a run to the edge of the penalty area unchallenged before shooting just over the crossbar

The half-time whistle was met with muted and frustrated boos from the home supporters, who were growing tired of the Pitmen's individual errors that were costing them again and again and had gifted Barrow two simple goals in the first half

With Anthrobus's half-time words still ringing in their ears, the Pitmen started the second half with real aplomb and should have reduced the deficit in the opening minutes as chances came and went. Brannan played McSweeney through on goal with a neat pass on fifty-eight minutes, but the substitute's low shot was saved by the legs of Bishop from ten yards out

Two minutes later, Platt's deep cross to the far post from the right flank was headed back across goal by Bell, but Bishop scooped the ball away from danger before Dyer could capitalise on the bouncing ball

Bishop was involved again for the visitors on fifty-five minutes as he made another timely stop to deny Bell once more, pushing the striker's shot around the post for a Hednesford corner kick after Dyer had clipped the ball into his strike partner's path

A minute later, Dyer's game was brought to a halt as he was taken off in favour of Hednesford's top scorer Paul McMahon as the hosts looked to strike whilst they were on top

The away side's first real opening of the second half came just before the hour mark as Heiniger's corner kick was headed downwards by Smith and into the path of Tarrant, who saw his first-time effort from eight yards out saved by Whittle

Williams made his return to the side on sixty-four minutes as he was brought on in the centre of midfield in place of Brannan, who was once again walking a disciplinary tightrope after incurring the wrath of referee Mr Pardoe earlier in the half

A minute later, the Pitmen were presented with a great chance to get themselves back into the game as Williams' first touch from the left was crossed towards Teesdale, who brought the ball down at the far post but could not get his shot away as the ball would not sit for him, allowing Flitcroft to eventually clear the danger

A quick counter from the away side on sixty-eight minutes saw Knight pick up Wilson's long, rangy ball forwards and hold off Tom Marshall's challenge before playing the ball 'around the corner' to Tarrant, who dragged his right-footed effort well wide of goal from a promising position twelve yards out

Tarrant was not going to be denied however and grabbed his second goal of the afternoon on seventy-two minutes as Knight's through ball intersected the two centre-backs and played Tarrant clean through; despite the Hednesford defence appealing in vain for offside against the striker, Tarrant was allowed to take the ball into the box and firing past Whittle from ten yards out

This knocked the stuffing out of the Pitmen, whose tempo slowed considerably in the final fifteen minutes of the game as the points drifted away from them. Williams sent over a corner kick on seventy-six minutes that was headed high over the crossbar by Teesdale, who appeared to get in the way of Marshall as the pair rose to meet the ball at the far post

With ten minutes remaining, Tarrant went close to grabbing his hat-trick as a free-kick from Heiniger was headed up into the air by Smith and into the path of the striker, who could only nod the ball over the crossbar from eight yards out as Adams made a challenge on him

With the game petering out as a contest in the final minutes, the Pitmen forced Bishop into a double save in added time as Bell swivelled on a Williams pass just inside the penalty area and struck a rising shot that was tipped over the crossbar by the Barrow stopper

A minute later, Bishop parried a long-range effort away from Briggs away from the target to ensure that his clean sheet was maintained and that the Pitmen could not get themselves back into the game late on

It had been another ninety minutes of what could have been for the Pitmen, who had certainly not been outplayed as the scoreline may suggest, but not taking chances at one end and conceding soft goals at the other is a recipe for relegation with the games coming thick and fast in January and February and only twenty points on the board. They take a trip over to Derbyshire next Saturday to a side directly above them in the table in the form of Alfreton Town

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Adams, Hunter © (McSweeney 30), Platt, Teesdale, T. Marshall, Brannan (Williams 64), Briggs, Dyer (McMahon 56), Bell, Beckett      Subs Unused: Branch, Jenkins

Barrow: Bishop, Heffernan, Butler, Flitcroft, Smith, Cotterill, Wilson, Anthony, Tarrant, Knight (Hill 79), Heiniger      Subs Unused: Rushton, Howarth, Swarbrick, Mawsby

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