9.11.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Piearce (25) Thorne (74) (OG)

 

Bath City

Eaton (11), Williams (72)

(1) 2

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(1) 2

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Kevin Francis

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Newport County (A) 16.11.02

 The Pitmen's inconsistencies were in full view once again as they returned to league action with another frustrating draw against mid-table Bath City at Keys Park this afternoon

 

Hednesford had made progress in the F.A. Trophy last weekend at a wet and wild Clevedon, winning 4-2 to earn an away tie against league rivals Ilkeston Town in the second round. Their return to league action coincided with manager Ian Painter handing debuts to two new faces signed in midweek - former Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper Michael Bingham replaced the error-prone Adam Jenkins and was joined by the highly-experienced Bryan Small, with the former Aston Villa full-back coming straight into the team at left-back to replace the injured Wayne Simpson. Stewart Airdrie was rewarded for a fine cameo as a substitute at Clevedon with a return to the starting line-up in place of the out-of-form Graham Lancashire

 

Bath arrived in Staffordshire sitting in thirteenth place in the league table at the start of play, having lost 4-3 in an exciting F.A. Trophy game at Halesowen Town last weekend. Manager Alan Pridham could call on a number of players with Conference experience or higher within his ranks, including ex-Southampton man Frankie Bennett, forward Andy Williams and the dangerous Jason Eaton. Keeper Mark Bryant was earning a reputation as a fine keeper at this level, having kept the experienced Mark Hervin on the sidelines for much of the season so far

 

Kevin Francis - still working his way back to full fitness - tested Bryant in the fifth minute of the game, striking a low shot from the edge of the penalty area that the Bath stopper saved with ease

 

Bath countered through Gary Kemp, who forced debutant Bingham into a save on nine minutes as his powerful header from an Andy Williams cross was fielded well by the new Hednesford stopper

 

 In the eleventh minute, Bath stole into the lead as another individual error from the Hednesford defence continued to be their undoing this season; Ashley Williams lost the ball cheaply to namesake Andy, allowing the midfielder to pull the ball back into the path of Eaton, who finished well from close range to give Bingham no chance

 

The Pitmen once again used the goal conceded as a watershed moment in the game and played with more threat as the half wore on. A free-kick from Carl Adams on twenty minutes found the head of Chris Brindley, who did not get a clean contact on the ball and only succeeded in heading the ball into the ground and allowed Bath skipper Gary Thorne to clear

 Simkin wasted a good free-kick two minutes later, firing straight into the wall twice despite Bath appearing not to have set up their wall with any real conviction just outside their penalty area

 

Francis glanced a Stewart Airdrie cross over the bar on twenty-four minutes as Hednesford cranked up the pressure on the visitors, with the big man finding joy against the Bath defence in knocking high balls down into the path of the in-form Steve Piearce

 

The Pitmen pulled themselves level on twenty-five minutes, as Francis did indeed supply his strike partner with the equalising goal; Airdrie's run and cross was turned behind for a corner kick, which Adams delivered straight onto the head of the former Birmingham City man. His flick header found Piearce, who scrambled the ball home from close-range as Bath were caught ball-watching inside their own six-yard box

 

Bryant had suffered a hand injury in the melee that had led to the Pitmen's equaliser, requiring a lengthy spell of attention before he could carry on. The hosts paid particular attention to this and fed the likes of Adams and Airdrie at every opportunity as they looked to test the keeper with high balls into the box

 

 Piearce was hungry for more goals and lashed a volley just wide of Bryant's left-hand post on the half-hour mark after Paul Ware had set him up inside the Bath penalty area

 

Francis was the next Hednesford player to waste a good opportunity to put the Pitmen in front on thirty-four minutes, getting his legs in a tangle from close-range and fluffing his sidefooted effort wide of goal from only eight yards out

 

Airdrie tried his luck with an angled effort on forty minutes, cutting inside from the left wing as he left Stuart James in his wake and striking a rising shot from a tight angle that sailed over the angle of crossbar and post

 

Another Francis effort right on the stroke of half-time should have handed the Pitmen the lead at the break, as Ware's free-kick was fumbled by Bryant into the path of Brindley. Brindley's scuffed shot was also saved by the Bath keeper but only into the path of Francis, who inexplicably pulled his shot wide from a great position

 

 With his side ending the half on top, Painter made a bold attacking substitution at half-time with the introduction of Shaun Wray for the out-of-sorts Williams down the right flank in a move that saw Simkin move to right-back from his central role

 

Wray was straight into the action in the early stages of the second half, wriggling free of Mike Trought's attention before Paul Milsom put a stop on his free-flowing run on forty-eight minutes

 

A minute later, Francis again was guilty of a shocking miss as the chances continued to stack up for the veteran striker. Airdrie's cross was perfect for the striker, who elected to head straight at Bryant from point-blank range rather than guide it home, allowing the injured stopper to palm the ball away

 

Bingham was alert to the dangerous Eaton on fifty-five minutes, making a fine double save to deny the former Cheltenham man by reacting well to a low shot and getting up quickly to smother Eaton's rebound

 

A Ware free-kick again picked out unmistakable figure of Francis on the hour mark, but again the striker got his angles wrong with a header that sailed high into the Heath Hayes terrace

 

The game had become increasingly open as the half had worn on, with both sides sensing a win was achievable with a little luck and application. Despite having little in the way of clear-cut chances in the second half, Bath took the lead once again on seventy-two minutes as the Pitmen were once again the masters of their own downfall. This time it was the usually-reliable Adams at fault, allowing Bath substitute Bennett to pounce on his poor pass and fly past Small down the right flank before picking out Williams with a low cross - Williams had the simple task of turning the ball past Bingham from ten yards out to put Bath back into the lead

 

However, the Pitmen's response was almost instantaneous, as they levelled matters once more with their next attack. Wray's trickery down the right saw him skip past Trought once more before sending over a devilish cross that skipped off the head of the back-tracking Thorne, who could only watch on in horror as his touch took the ball away from Bryant and found the net to hand the hosts a second goal of the afternoon in fortuitous circumstances

 

With the game finely poised, both sides had chances to take the points on the final ten minutes; Francis's torrid afternoon continued on eighty-two minutes with another header from Wray's cross that was straight down the throat of Bryant, followed by an Adams corner kick that Brindley glanced over the crossbar

 

Milsom wasted the away side's best chance late on, as a quick counter-attack from Bath caught the Pitmen on their heels in added time through a quick one-two from Eaton and Williams. A pass from Williams found Milsom on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area, but the forward lifted his effort high and wide of goal when he should really have tested Bingham

 

In fairness, a draw was a fair result for both teams' efforts, with the Pitmen again left frustrated at individual errors costing them dearly with soft goals conceded as a result of poor decision-making. Next weekend sees Painter's troops travel down the M5 towards South Wales to play the much-fancied Newport County, who had had a disappointing campaign so far this term

Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams (Wray 45 (Charie 89)), Small, Robinson ©, Brindley, Simkin, Airdrie, Ware, Francis, Piearce, Adams (Rae 77)     Subs Unused: Lancashire, Ryder

 

Bath City: Bryant, James (Bennett 66), Trought, Thorne © (Honor 79), Kemp, Rollo, Mintum, Harvey, Eaton, Milsom (Cleverley 70), Williams     Subs Unused: Wilmott, Jefferies

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