9.4.2005

Southern Premier League

Bedford Town

Purzycki (4), Howe (77)

Hednesford Town

Bell (70)

(1) 2

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

617

Leon McSweeney

W W D W L W W W L L

 

Gloucester City (H) 16.4.05

The Pitmen's play-off ambitions take another blow this afternoon at the New Eyrie as fellow top-five hopefuls Bedford score a goal in each half to claim the three points in today's top five six-pointer

Having suffered their first reverse in four games at the hands of Hemel Hempstead Town on Saturday, player/manager Chris Brindley was forced into making a change to his starting XI for the first time in four games as Anthony Maguire was ruled out due to injury and replaced by fellow youngster Steve Brannan in midfield

                                                   

The Eagles had been in fine form since the turn of the year and sat in third place at the start of play; manager Nicky Platnauer made two changes to his starting line-up from the side that had drawn 3-3 at Histon on Tuesday night with young striker Daniel Purzycki coming into the side in place of the injured Chris Dillon up front

With both sides backed by a fine crowd at the New Eyrie, it was the all-blue Eagles that came flying out of the traps and made a fine start to the game as they looked to take the initiative. A second-minute free-kick from Eddie Lawley was missed by everyone in the six-yard box before Derwayne Stupple tried to hook the ball back from the byeline and found the hands of Ryan Young

The hosts took full advantage of their bright start as they took the lead in the fourth minute of the game; Grant Beckett's pass to Mark Branch was short and allowed Ashley Blake to win the ball out on the Bedford right-flank. He spotted Purzycki making a move in between the two centre-backs and sent over a fine cross that the former Stalowa Wola man turned past Young; it was the Polish striker's first league goal of the season after joining the Eagles in the New Year on his first start for the club

It could have been 2-0 to the hosts just a couple of minutes later as the Pitmen switched off in allowing Rene Howe's through ball to find new strike partner Purzycki, but the youngster could not get his foot to the ball and allowed it to squirm away from him

Back came the yellow-clad Pitmen and Bell showed Lawley a clean pair of heels down the Hednesford right flank in the tenth minute before playing Adams into acres of space. The former West Brom youngster took a couple of touches and stood a cross up to the far post, where Leon McSweeney arrived to nod the ball back across goal but straight into the arms of James Robinson with no one following up from midfield

Three minutes later, Teesdale's thumping shot from thirty yards out nearly caught Robinson out as the defender's audacious shot from long-range dipped just over the crossbar as the stopped scrambled backwards to see the ball out of play

The Pitmen continued to press for the equaliser as Brannan's run and pass in the fifteenth minute found Bell lurking, only for the striker to fire weakly into the arms of Robinson

Back came the hosts and young striker Howe warmed the hands of Young two minutes later as he got the better of Lee Barrow and fired in a low shot from twenty yards out

Barrow was involved at the other end of the pitch in the twentieth minute as he made a late dart into the Bedford penalty area to meet a Lee Williams corner kick but headed narrowly over from six yards out as Craig Rydeheard put him under pressure

 

Good approach play from Lawley in the twenty-fourth minute saw him link up with James Taylor down the left flank to play around Brannan and cross for Dillon, whose untidy effort ended up in the arms of Young on his goal line as he tried to hook the ball past the stopper

 

Three minutes later, veteran skipper Lee Howarth - a scourge of Hednesford teams past in the Vauxhall Conference days at Stevenage Borough - played a delightful angled ball over the heads of Barrow and Teesdale and into the path of Purzycki, whose touch deserted him at the crucial moment and allowed Young to make the save from close-range

 

Fine play from McSweeney saw the forward go on a mazy run across the face of the Bedford penalty area on the half-hour mark, taking no fewer than four players out before shooting just wide of Robinson's right-hand post

 

More wizardry from McSweeney three minutes later saw the Irishman jink his way past Lawley and square the ball to Marlon Walters, whose powerfully-struck effort whistled just past the post from fully twenty-five yards out

 

Five minutes before half-time, a well-worked move from the hosts saw Rydeheard and Lawley link up once more, with Lawley's fine pass finding Purzycki lurking in behind Barrow. His shot on the run lacked power, however, and was well saved by Young

Three minutes later, McSweeney won a free-kick for the Pitmen to the right-hand side of the Bedford penalty area after drawing a foul from Rydeheard. Williams took the resultant kick and curled a ball into the penalty area, which McSweeney met it with full force at the far post, but found Robinson in inspiring form as he turned the effort away from goal at full stretch

In the final minute of the half, Branch's long ball forwards looked to have a little too much on it as it headed out of play, only for Bell to do brilliantly to rescue the lost cause and pick up the loose ball ahead of Howarth. He played the incoming Beckett in with a reverse pass, only for Beckett to see his first-time effort turned over the crossbar by Robinson for a corner kick

 

It had been a thoroughly competitive first forty-five minutes from two sides looking for that crucial three points to cement their place in the top five with games rapidly running out. McSweeney had looked a real threat for the Pitmen but had found Robinson on good form and his team-mates wasteful in their finishing

The visitors started the second half well after a half-time pep talk from Brindley and another fine delivery from Williams on fifty-one minutes saw his corner from the left-hand side met at the far post by Barrow, whose effort was cleared off the line by Taylor

McSweeney was doing his level best to get the Pitmen back on level terms but pulled yet another chance wide on fifty-five minutes after hunting down a dallying Rydeheard and winning the ball from him just outside the Bedford penalty area, but was off-target once more

A minute later, Walters missed an excellent chance in the air for the Pitmen as he met a Williams corner with his head but was off-target with his glancing effort

Howarth was the first player to pick up a yellow card in the game on fifty-eight minutes as he was cautioned for a foul on Bell that left the Hednesford striker writhing on the floor

Just before the hour mark, Brannan lost out to Blake, whose first-time pass was helped on by Howe to Purzycki, only for his rising shot to be claimed at a comfortable height by Young

On sixty-two minutes, Bell followed Howarth into the book as his mistimed challenge on Lawley stopped the left-back from making progress up the left-wing for the Eagles

Williams picked out McSweeney with a fine pass through the Bedford defensive line on sixty-three minutes, with the striker flicking the ball onto Bell as he got in behind Howarth. However, referee Mr Green pulled the striker up before he could slot the ball past Robinson as the assistant on the far side had raised his flag for offside against the Hednesford man

Dillon was guilty of a swing and a miss for the Eagles four minutes later as Lawley picked up a pass from Taylor down the left before supplying the ball to the striker, who took his eye off the ball at the crucial moment and produced a classic air shot as the ball ran away from him just inside the Pitmen's penalty area

The Pitmen finally got themselves back on level terms with twenty minutes to go as Walters won a corner out on the right-hand side, allowing Williams to whip in yet another one of his on-point flag kicks that was met at the far post by Bell, who poked the ball home from close-range to equalise for the away side

With the momentum swinging the Pitmen's way, the away side attacked in waves and went close to turning the game on its head just two minutes later as Walters and Beckett linked up top play McSweeney in, only for a smart save from Robinson to deny him

Sixty seconds later, there was panic in the Bedford ranks as an innocuous-looking through ball from Beckett caused issues in the Eagles back line as miscommunication between Robinson and Jackman saw the pair leave the ball to each other, culminating in the defender wildly hacking the ball inches over his own crossbar

However, it was Bedford that were to regain the lead on seventy-seven minutes as substitute Dean McElroy - on for Purzycki just seconds earlier - did well to get himself down the left, escaping the attentions of Brannan and laying the ball off to fellow substitute Parys Okai who crossing for Howe to volley the ball beyond the reach of Young at his near post to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead

The Pitmen were shocked into making an attacking move two minutes later as Brindley brought himself on to play up front with Branch sacrificed to do so. This saw the Pitmen move to a 4-3-3 formation, with Beckett dropping to left-back in the space vacated by Branch

Once again, the visitors were reliant on set-pieces in a bid to get themselves back into contention, with Williams forcing Robinson into a good save from a free-kick on eighty-one minutes after curling his effort over the top of the Bedford wall

Williams stung the palms of Robinson again just a minute later as he received a pass from Walters but saw his long-range effort saved well by the Bedford number one

With six minutes remaining, Brindley made a darting run into the six-yard box and flicked the ball on from Beckett's cross, only to be penalised by Mr Green for an overly-aggressive challenge on Robinson in the build-up

Brindley was again involved two minutes later as Adams exchanged passes with Brannan and crossed from the right touchline, with the player/manager glancing his effort wide from eight yards out after beating old rival Howarth to the ball

McElroy should have sealed victory for the hosts on the counter-attack on eighty-eight minutes as Okai's long, searching ball forwards found his fellow substitute, only for a lack of conviction on McElroy's part saw him dither in front of goal and allow Barrow to clear the danger

In the final minute of the game, the Pitmen won three successive corners, all delivered by Williams, but more excellent defending from Bedford saw them clear their lines under pressure from the likes of Brindley, Teesdale and Barrow

The Pitmen's final chance came in added time, as both McSweeney and Walters tried to get on the end of a bouncing ball from Beckett's cross, but neither could force the ball through the forest of legs in front of them before Bedford cleared their lines

Three points for the Eagles put them in a commanding position in the play-offs, sitting on sixty-five points with three games remaining and staying in third place. For the Pitmen, successive defeats leave their play-off hopes on a knife-edge and in all reality, they will probably have to beat Gloucester City, Aylesbury United and Dunstable Town in their final three games to give themselves a realistic chance of finishing in the top five with other teams around them in form and picking up points today. The first of those games sees mid-table Gloucester make their first-ever visit to the Pitmen's new home next Saturday, having been regular opponents in the old Southern League days of the early nineties at the Cross Keys

Bedford Town: Robinson, Jackman, Taylor (Okai 49), Rydeheard, Howarth © , Wardley, Blake (Challinor 69), Stupple, Purzycki (McElroy 78), Howe, Lawley      Subs Unused: Danaher, Boland

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch (Brindley 79), Barrow ©, Teesdale, Williams, Brannan, Walters, Bell , McSweeney, Beckett      Subs Unused: McMahon, Campbell, Anthrobus, Evans