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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Benjamin (4), Ellis (49), (64)


Basford United

Reid (9)


(1) 3

(1) 1



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Shane Benjamin


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Bamber Bridge (A) 26.1.19

The Pitmen finally get their year going at the fourth time of asking, as Nicky Eaden's much-changed side win their first game of 2019 in style to complete a league double over big-spending Basford United at Keys Park


Last Saturday's defeat to Stalybridge Celtic - particularly the manner of the defeat - had been the final straw for new man at the helm Eaden, who had overseen three successive defeats since taking over at the club. Out went no less than five players, as Isaac Cooper, Rudy Misambo, Jed Davies, Romario Martin and Andre Johnson all paid the price for the Pitmen's lack of results in recent weeks. Ryan Shaw had also returned to Boldmere St. Michaels, whilst there was no likely way back for dual-registered players Mikey Nelson and Sufyan Zia. In came a whole host of new faces as Eaden used his contacts extensively to bring in players more suitable for the Pitmen's fight for safety. Shane Benjamin, Kieran Wells, Lance Moyo, Ashanti Pryce, Jon Moran, Javan Vidal and Danny Lupano had arrived in a busy few days at the club, with six new faces making full debuts as Eaden made wholesale changes to his misfiring side. On the injury front, Nathan Fox just missed out on a return to the side and joined Lewis Archer and Charlie Gatter amongst the injured players. Josh Craddock finally returned to the squad after a long spell out injured, with the midfielder named amongst the substitutes


Basford's early season form had put them in the hunt for back-to-back promotions, scoring goals aplenty in the early stages of their debut season at step three. However, Martin Carruthers' side had hit a poor patch of form over the festive period and had lost all four of their previous league games, including a bizarre 8-3 defeat at home to mid-table Hyde United. Carruthers had moved back into the transfer market to arrest the dip on form, making the impressive double acquisition of the experienced Shaun Harrad from Matlock Town and Coalville Town striker Dan Creaney on loan. With Creaney's former Coalville strike partner Nat Watson already at Basford, Carruthers was banking on the pair reuniting to find the form from last term that saw them score sixty-six goals between them in the Evo-Stik Premier League. There were two familiar names in the Basford squad for the home supporters to recognise, with former Hednesford captain Stefan Galinski starting the game in central defence and ex-loanee Jack Thomas lining up amongst the Basford substitutes


The new-look Pitmen got off to the best possible start in search of their first win of the year, as Benjamin made an almost instant impression at his new club in the fourth minute. Ben Bailey's long throw from the right was flicked on at the near post by Reece King, with 37-year-old Benjamin showing a true striker's instinct to get goal side of Dom Roma to turn the ball past Saul Deeney in the Basford goal from close range


However, the Pitmen's flying start was checked by Basford with their first meaningful attack five minutes later, with a certain amount of luck involved in the away side's equalising goal; Galinski played the ball back to Matt Thornhill from the left-wing, with the midfielder finding James Reid just inside the Hednesford penalty area. Reid's attempted cross towards Harrad and Creaney took a huge deflection off the boot of Lupano, looping up and over the head of Mate Deczki in the Hednesford goal and dropping into the empty net, in many ways similar to the unlucky goal conceded at Scarborough Athletic two weeks previously


The Pitmen remained resolute and positive, however, and started to show real character and understanding between their new recruits and the players inherited by Eaden. Jud Ellis did well to take the ball forward down the left wing on fourteen minutes, drilling in a low shot from the edge of the penalty area that Deeney saved low down to his right-hand side


The burly Wells - a scorer against the Pitmen for AFC Mansfield this season at Keys Park in the F.A. Trophy - went close to opening his account for the Pitmen on nineteen minutes, narrowly missing a Bailey cross from the right after Bailey's throw had been headed back to him


The keenly contested clash between Galinski and Benjamin reached a boiling point on twenty-eight minutes, as Galinski over-exaggerated the contact between the pair as they challenged for a high ball. Benjamin was booked for his part in the tangle as Galinski was treated


A slip by Lupano almost allowed Creaney in on goal on thirty-two minutes as the striker nipped in behind the right-back after the ball had bounced awkwardly behind him, only to lash his long-range effort high and wide of goal


Harrad skewed a half-chance wide of goal four minutes later as Moran's weak back header gave the experienced striker a sniff at goal, only for the ex-Tamworth and Burton man to miscue his shot from a tight angle


Back came the Pitmen with a spell of pressure from set-pieces towards the end of the first half, with Moran and King dominating the aerial battles against Galinski and Roma in the penalty area without any real end product


Benjamin received a final warning from the referee just before half-time for one aggressive challenge too many that required the presence of skipper Bailey to calm the striker down


The hosts could be pretty happy with their first-half performance, having got to grips with both the sizeable number of personnel changes and the experience of the Basford team who were looking to pay on the counter-attack for much of the first half


Eaden's half-time team talk had the desired effect on the Hednesford players as they made another fine start to the half as they had done in the first period to take the lead once more. On forty-nine minutes, Wells and Vidal combined to play the ball to Benjamin, who played a delightful through ball between two Basford defenders and into the path of Ellis, who had made a run in behind them to the left of the penalty area. The on-loan AFC Telford man showed fantastic composure to take the ball first time and drive a low shot beyond Deeney and into the far corner of the net for a debut goal to remember


A deep free-kick from Alex-Ray Harvey found Bailey lurking at the far post on fifty-five minutes, with the skipper doing well to somehow shepherd the ball back to Benjamin on the edge of the area before the striker dragged his effort narrowly wide of the far post


A long, rangy ball from Lupano would ultimately lead to the pitmen's killer third goal on sixty-four minutes as Basford failed to clear their lines from the right-back's free-kick, allowing Benjamin to tee up Ellis on the edge of the area to execute a stunning first-time shot beyond the reach of Deeney and find the top corner of the net. A fine goal


Deczki was alert to the Basford threat a minute later, making a smothering save to deny Harrad from close range following a long ball forward. The rebound dropped to substitute Courey Grantham, whose header was fielded well by the on-loan Hungarian stopper


The Pitmen's first substitution came with fourteen minutes remaining, as the impressive Vidal was warmly applauded off after a fine debut in midfield and was replaced by Jack Hallahan


The Pitmen were now well in charge of proceedings, showing genuine confidence on the ball and playing neat triangles of play as they looked to catch Basford out at the back through the impressive Wells and Benjamin. And yet it was Basford who had the best chance of the final ten minutes, as Grantham drove a low shot inches wide of Deczki's right-hand post from twenty-five yards out


With five minutes remaining, more superb forward play from both Benjamin and Wells saw Wells tee up Hallahan on the edge of the penalty area, but dragged his low shot well wide of Deeney's goal


As the game ticked into added time, Benjamin was afforded a richly-deserved standing ovation by the main stand as he was replaced late on by Osebi Abadaki


A much-needed and well-earned win for the Pitmen, their first at Keys Park in five games dating back to November when they defeated Warrington Town. The new players had shown a desire and willingness to work hard and play as a team to earn the result, something lacking in Hednesford teams for many months now. If Eaden's men can build on this fine performance and result - completing a league double over one of the more fancied sides in the division - then another five wins from their remaining fourteen games should be enough to secure step three football once more at Keys Park in 2019-2020 


Hednesford Town: Deczki, Melbourne, Lupano, Harvey, Moran , Bailey ©, Vidal (Hallahan 76), King, Benjamin  (Abadaki 90), Wells, Ellis    Subs Unused: Dodd, Craddock, Veiga


Basford United: Deeney, Bateman, Reid (Thomas 66), Roma, Carr ©, Galinski, Nash , Thornhill, Watson (Goodson 66), Harrad, Creaney (Grantham 56)    Sub Unused: Preston

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