19.2.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Davis (9)

Bath City

(1) 1

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

639

Stewart Airdrie

L W D W L L D D D W

 

Welling United (A) 23.2.02

The Pitmen gave themselves some breathing space in their battle against the drop this afternoon as they edge out fellow strugglers Bath City at Keys Park courtesy of a solitary Neil Davis goal

Three successive draws for the Pitmen had seen them end their mini-slump of form in January but not give them enough of a points haul to move them away from the dreaded drop zone. A fine midweek draw at league leaders Kettering Town had seen Kenny Hibbitt's side show character and defensive solidity that had not been seen for long spells this term to frustrate the table-topping Poppies. Hibbitt made one change to the side that had started at Rockingham Road, welcoming back Tom Poston to the right flank in place of Damien Charie as the former Wolves man looked for a winning response from his side on their return to Keys Park

Bath's season had mirrored the Pitmen's to a large extent, as the former Conference outfit has suffered the same inconsistencies as their opponents to sit just above them in the league table, also in danger of dropping to step three at the end of the season. Manager Alan Pridham made two changes to the side that had beaten Welling United at Twerton Park in midweek as Lee Collier replaced the injured Andy Williams and Luke Scott came in for Adrian Foster in a positional shift to the side that saw them set up with a 4-5-1 formation

The Keys Park ground staff had once again had to work hard on the pitch to ensure the game went ahead with this harsh winter still showing no signs of abating after another chilly spell of weather in midweek. On a heavily sanded pitch, Bath almost took the lead after just three minutes when as Collier's ambitious lobbed shot deceived keeper Mark Gayle and came back of the angle of crossbar and post with the Pitmen scrambling to get back and clear

 

 The home side responded three minutes later through Davis, who was played in by Stewart Airdrie's pass only be denied by a smart stop by Bath keeper Ray Johnston

The Pitmen took the lead in the ninth minute of the game with what was to prove to be the winner as Davis added to the four goals he plundered at Twerton Park in October with another strike; Airdrie was the provider once again, skipping past Scott's non-existent challenge and crossing low into the feet of Davis, who took a touch before neatly firing past Johnston from six yards out

 

Heavy fog enveloped Keys Park at this point in the game, with the floodlights crackling into action a lot earlier than anticipated as both sides struggled in the gloom that had fallen over the ground. Bath went close to levelling matters on fourteen minutes as a free-kick from Collier was flicked on by skipper Colin Towler and into the path of Paul Milsom, only for Gayle to smother the striker's effort at the far post from a tight angle

Three minutes later an inswinging corner kick was glanced just over the crossbar by the incoming Gary Thorne, who beat Matt Gardiner to the ball but headed over

Bath's best move of the match so far on twenty-one minutes which saw Drysdale, Collier and Jamie Gosling involved before Iain Harvey was given a shooting chance by Paul Milsom's back header. Unfortunately, Harvey could not add the final touch to the move as he fired narrowly over Gayle's crossbar from ten yards out after the Hednesford defence had been caught ball-watching

The Pitmen seemed content to sit behind the ball and allow Bath to have possession as the visitors struggled to create much in the way of clear-cut openings. It seemed to many seasoned non-league observers that the experienced Foster - on the Bath bench and a thorn in previous Hednesford sides over the years - would have been more of a difference-maker in the first period had he been on the pitch

A cross from Drysdale looked to have deceived Gayle on twenty-nine minutes as the Hednesford keeper momentarily lost the ball in the fog but recovered well to tip the drifting ball over the bar for another Bath corner kick

Bath were wasteful again from a set-piece five minutes later as Towler weakly headed into the hands of Gayle after Collier's cross had found him unmarked at the far post

 A strong run by Gosling on thirty-six minutes saw the midfielder escape the attentions of Wayne Simpson but ended with him pulling his shot well wide of the goal as he dragged his low effort along the ground just outside the Hednesford penalty area

 

The Pitmen threatened to increase their lead three minutes before the break as a poor Towler header was pounced upon by Davis, whose first-time shot flashed just wide of Johnston's post

The hosts had shown good discipline and professionalism in the first-half to limit Bath to chances via set-pieces whilst taking the one good chance that fallen to them through Davis. The interval saw Pridham make changes to his misfiring Bath side as Foster and Dan Cleverly replacing Milsom and Scott

 

 The hosts started the second half well before the Bath changes could make an effect as Airdrie went close to doubling their advantage on forty-eight minutes; a swift break down the left saw Airdrie pick the ball up and drift inside before trying his luck from twenty-five yards out. The rising shot beat Johnston but not the bar as it came clattering off the woodwork before being cleared by Drysdale

City saw more of the ball as the half progressed, but the half-time change of tactic had robbed them of target man Milsom and a number of crosses from Drysdale and Gosling were headed clear with relative ease by the Pitmen as they cleared their lines. One cross from Drysdale that did stick on fifty-two minutes saw Foster seize upon a flailing header from Lee Barrow and shoot just wide from eighteen yards out with his first real sight at goal

Three minutes later a quick break down the middle from Bath saw Collier play a delightful through ball into the feet of Cleverly, only for a late offside flag to pull up the half-time substitute before he could shoot

And yet the clearer chances continued to fall Hednesford's way as Poston was denied by Johnston in the fifty-seventh minute after a quick break saw the winger played in on goal by Graham Lancashire

The same player was guilty of a shocking miss on the hour mark, somehow failing to find the net at the far post as he turned Airdrie's cross frustratingly wide from only six yards out. A poor miss and one that should have wrapped up three crucial points for the hosts

This was to be Poston's final involvement in the game, as he was replaced on sixty-six minutes by Dean Craven with the Pitmen looking to add another body in the centre of midfield and shore up the centre of the park

Gayle did well on seventy minutes to turn away a goalbound effort from Foster after the striker had turned quickly on a Gosling cross and followed this up a minute later with a more comfortable save to palm Collier's long-range effort over the crossbar

Collier was narrowly off-target from a free-kick on seventy-four minutes as he floated his effort just past the post before the Pitmen broke quickly from the goal kick that saw Lancashire get on the end of Airdrie's pass and strike a shot that Johnston did well to save

Airdrie had enjoyed a fine afternoon down the left flank and received warm applause from the Keys Park faithful as he was replaced by Wale-Kwik Ajet with twelve minutes remaining

With the gloom finally clearing over the ground, the visitors moved to a higher line across the pitch and played more football in the Pitmen's half as they looked to force home an equaliser. A great cross from Gosling on eighty-one minutes saw Mark Haran make a timely interception at the near post to deny Foster a certain goal from a couple of yards out, which led to Towler heading over from Collier's resultant corner kick

Gary Kemp was booked for the away side a minute later after hauling down Ajet in what was the Hednesford substitute's first involvement in the afternoon's proceedings, irking referee Mr. Keane who showed the full-back a yellow card

With five minutes remaining a free-kick from the Bath left was headed back across goal by Thorne and into the path of Foster, who was a matter of inches away from turning the loose ball home but saw Thorne's header deceive him

 

Thorne had by this point moved up front to add a physical presence to the Bath attack and headed weakly over on eighty-eight minutes from a Drysdale cross

With the game entering added time, Bath threw everything at the hosts as Gayle earned his keep with a fine double save to keep his side in front; Foster got on the end of a goalmouth scramble and turned the ball goalwards, only for Gayle to produce a fine instinctive save and follow this up with a smothering stop to deny Cleverly on the rebound

The Pitmen just did enough to hang on in the remaining minutes as Bath tried to force home a leveller, but it's the home side who give themselves a major boost in this six-pointer to leave the Romans in the bottom three and struggling to get themselves out of danger with the games starting to run out. Next weekend sees the Pitmen make the long trip to Kent and face mid-table Welling United, who have only just recently played at Keys Park to claim a 1-1 draw earlier in the month in the reverse fixture

Hednesford Town: Gayle, BrownriggLucas ©, Haran, GardinerBarrow, Simpson, Airdrie (Ajet 78), Davis, Lancashire, Poston (Craven 66)    Subs Unused: Francis

Bath City: Johnston, Kemp , Drysdale, Thorne, Towler ©, Harvey, Gosling, Cook, Collier, Milsom (Foster 45), Scott (Cleverly 45)      Sub Unused: Badman

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