Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Graham (45), Thorley (89)


Stenson (47), (51), Piggon (64)

(1) 2

(0) 3



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Jordan Graham


Stalybridge Celtic (A) 17.2.18

The Pitmen's unbeaten run at the start of 2018 came to an end this afternoon, as a woeful twenty minutes at the start of the second half saw them come unstuck against the similarly in-form Barwell this afternoon at Keys Park


An impressive showing at Newcastle Town in midweek had seen the nine men of Hednesford move into the semi-final of the Staffordshire Senior Cup, following up their excellent 3-1 win at Farsley Celtic last weekend. Mason Walsh returned to the starting line-up after missing out at Farsley, replacing the injured James Fitzgibbon. The new loan signing from Mansfield Town Jason Law was included in the squad after joining the club the Pitmen in midweek, making the substitute's bench


Barwell's form in recent weeks had pretty much mirrored the Pitmen's, with Jimmy Ginnelly's side moving up the table and sat just below the Pitmen in the standings at the start of play. Youngster Matt Stenson had been in excellent form, scoring in his last two games to take his tally for the season to eleven goals. Ginnelly named former Hednesford midfielder Jake Heath amongst the substitutes as he looked to extend his unbeaten run to seven games


With two sides in such good form, it was perhaps understandable that the opening exchanges saw the opponents cancel each other out. Chances were at a premium with defences on top, with Barwell limited to long-range efforts and the Pitmen relying on set-pieces to create half chances for themselves


In the fifteenth minute Barwell's Nigel Julien had the first serious chance of the game, firing into the side netting with an angled drive that had James Wren diving across his goal


The Pitmen responded though Jordan Graham four minutes later, who got on the end of a James Lawrie free kick to head narrowly over the crossbar with a looping effort


Lawrie found himself becoming the first player to have his name taken by the referee midway through the first half for deliberately blocking a free kick, something that seemed harsh considering the talking to that Barwell's centre-back Liam Kay had received minutes earlier for a crude challenge on Graham


A series of Barwell corners failed to seriously trouble the rigid Hednesford defence, with Brady Hickey heading well wide of the far post with the visitor's best chance from the clutch of set-pieces


Tom Thorley was the next player to end up in the book, as his sliding challenge in midfield earned the Hednesford skipper a yellow card, despite the Barwell players and management going slightly over-the-top with their protestations that Thorley should be shown a red card


A great chance fell at the feet of Graham two minutes later, as Lawrie's inswinging free-kick dropped to the youngster. With the goal gaping, Graham got his shot all wrong, scuffing his effort wide of goal as he attempted to fire into the far corner of the net


Graham turned provider for Danny Glover in the final minute of the half, making a superb run down the right wing and slipping the ball into the path of Glover, whose firm shot was straight at Barwell keeper Liam Castle


With the final action of the first half, however, Graham did get it right, as he grabbed the crucial opening goal in added time. The Pitmen played some delightful football down the right wing, culminating in a cross from Lawrie that Thorley made a mess of with a swing and a miss. As it turned out, the ball fell kindly for Graham on the edge of the penalty area, with the winger firing low beyond Castle to put the Pitmen ahead at the break


Rob Smith's half-time team talk will have been much-changed as a result of Graham's goal, but nothing could have prepared the Hednesford management or supporters for the horror show that followed in the opening exchanges of the second half


With the half only two minutes old, Barwell equalised through top scorer Stenson as the youngster slotted home from close range to take advantage of a loose ball following a fine save from Wren to initially deny Craig Reid


Barwell turned the game on it's head five minutes later, as a quick break from the visitors caught the Pitmen out. Callam Mendez-Jones and Sam Oji both failed to clear the ball, allowing Stenson to force his way through the retreating Hednesford defence to fire past Wren from close range


The Pitmen made a bold double change following Barwell's second goal, with Louis Harris coming on for the ineffective Walsh and Joey Butlin replacing Glover up front on sixty-two minutes


Stenson went agonisingly close to completing his hat-trick on sixty-three minutes as he drove past Mendez-Jones by cutting inside and curling a shot beyond Wren, only to be denied by the far post


Two minutes later, Barwell looked to have put the game beyond the hosts with a killer third goal. Charlie Gatter - who had had a fine first half - blotted his copybook with a poor mis-kick in a dangerous area, allowing Mitchell Piggon to fire past Wren from an angle and find the far corner of the net


The Pitmen responded trough Lawrie, who forced Castle into a fine save on seventy-three minutes as Butlin's cross found the midfielder, with his goalbound header tipped onto the crossbar by Castle and out for a Hednesford corner


Loanee striker Law was brought on for his Hednesford debut a minute later, as the forward replaced Joe Fitzpatrick and moved up front to give the hosts more options up front


Wren made a breath-taking save to keep the home side in contention on seventy-seven minutes, denying Hickey a certain goal with a brilliant one-handed stop after the Pitmen had switched off at a Barwell corner


The Pitmen huffed and puffed their way through the final ten minutes, knocking on the door without really exerting any real pressure on a resilient Barwell defence. They did get a goal back as the game entered the final minute, as man of the match Graham cut inside from the left and curled in a shot that came back off the crossbar; skipper Thorley reacted quickest to the loose ball and turned the rebound home from a tight angle to give the Pitmen hope of a late comeback


Despite Wren coming up to challenge for a late free kick, the Pitmen ran out of time to earn themselves a point, thus allowing their opponents to move above them in the Evo-Stik League Premier table with the win. A trip to relegation-threatened Stalybridge Celtic is next for the Pitmen, as they look for a response to a rare defeat under Smith that has checked their recent good league form


Hednesford Town: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley, Fitzpatrick (Law 74), Oji, Gatter, Walsh (Harris 62), Thorley © , Glover (Butlin 62), Lawrie , Graham   Subs unused: Bailey, King


Barwell: Castle, Whitmore, Nisevic, Stanley ©, Kay, Julien, Towers, Piggon (Story 74), Reid (Bates 84), Hickey (Heath 84), Stenson   Subs unused: Warmington, Percival


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