F.A. Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Bedford Town

Paul (41), Slinn (65)

Hednesford Town

(1) 2

(0) 0



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Mark Gayle



Havant & Waterlooville (H) 20.10.01

A week of turmoil at Keys Park ends with one manager leaving, another manager arriving and a former manager stepping into the hot seat for one game only as the Pitmen are dumped out of the F.A. Cup today at Ryman Premier League side Bedford Town

Monday night's defeat at Ilkeston Town was to prove to be Paul Raynor's last stand as Hednesford manager as chairman Steve Price brought the former Nottingham Forest player's short tenure as manager to an end after fourteen turbulent games. The club had moved quickly to make the ambitious and notable appointment of the hugely respected former Wolves midfielder Kenny Hibbitt as their new manager in a move that had taken the non-league world by surprise a little. Hibbitt elected to watch his new club from the stands today before formally taking the reigns on Monday which saw the Pitmen's most successful manager ever John Baldwin return to the dugout to manage the side for this one-off occasion. Baldwin made two changes to the side that had started at Ilson in midweek, bringing Stuart Lake back into the side in place of the injured Mark Haran and handing a debut to 17-year-old Damien Charie after resting the out-of-form Graham Lancashire

Ryman League hosts Bedford - who beat Leyton FC in the previous round - came into today's tie off the back of another home game in midweek, defeating Chesham United 2-0 at the New Eyrie to move into mid-table after a mixed run of recent form. Manager Roger Ashby stuck with the same side as he had selected for the Chesham game as he went in search of a win to add to the Pitmen's recent woes and move into the final qualifying round in the process


On a bright sunny autumn afternoon with leaves blowing across the New Eyrie pitch, the hosts were into their stride immediately created a great chance in the fourth minute as Paul Turner's pass sent the rangy Wayne Dyer away in behind the Hednesford defence. With the Pitmen's back line expecting an offside flag that never came, Dyer ran in at goal unchallenged but was denied by a fine save from Gayle, who had spotted the danger early and advanced on the midfielder to block the shot before Lake completed the clearance

Bedford's Kevin Slinn went close for the hosts three minutes later as he latched onto a pass from Dyer, only to drag his low shot wide of Gayle's near post with an angled effort

Neil Davis responded for the visitors in the tenth minute of the game as he picked up a pass from Andy Brownrigg before attempting to place the ball past James Heeps in the Bedford goal, but tamely struck his shot straight at the home stopper who made a stop with his legs

Martin Paul - the Eagles top scorer this term so far - had a great chance to put his side ahead on sixteen minutes as Slinn showed Wayne Simpson a clean pair of heels and played his strike partner in on goal, only for Gayle to once again prove himself equal to the shot with a fine save

Four minutes later, a corner kick from the hosts proved troublesome for the Hednesford defence as they failed to effectively clear their lines, allowing Turner to lash a first-time shot just wide of Gayle's goal from ten yards out

The Pitmen had looked disjointed and out of ideas so far, perhaps befitting a team in a state of uncertainty and flux at present, although no-one in white was exactly impressing their soon-to-be manager sitting in the stands watching with a standout individual display

On twenty-seven minutes, a great run from Stewart Airdrie saw him beat Dyer for pace down the left-wing and attempt a curling shot into the far corner of the net, only to send his effort the wrong side of the post

Airdrie was in action again two minutes later, this time beating Grant Haley down the flank and crossing from the byeline towards Davis, who was denied a free header at goal by a timely header away from Turner

Slinn won a free-kick on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area on thirty-three minutes after drawing a foul from Simpson and got on the end of a high, floated ball to the far post from Craig Adams but flicked his header just wide of goal at the far post

A Hednesford corner kick from stand-in skipper Richard Lucas five minutes later saw the ball headed back across goal by Lake at the far post to Brownrigg, whose clever lay-off to Paul Bagshaw saw the winger lift his shot just over the crossbar

However, it was Bedford who struck three minutes later with the opening goal of the afternoon through Paul; a corner kick from Adams on the left found the head of the unmarked Paul at the far post, with the striker having the simple task of nodding past Gayle from close range for his sixth goal of the season. A poor goal to concede from a team desperately lacking in defensive stability and organisation at present

The visitors almost got themselves back on level terms just before half-time as Bagshaw danced his way into the Bedford penalty area and squared the ball to debutant Charie, who was denied a first Hednesford goal by a flying save from Heep

Baldwin's one-off half-time team talk did little to change the course of the game in the Pitmen's favour as the second half started in a scrappy encounter with the game constantly disrupted by petty fouls and neither side being able to keep the ball for any period of time

The Eagles had the first genuine opening of the half six minutes after the restart as Dyer skipped past Lucas down the right-wing and crossed towards Slinn, only for the striker to be denied a free strike at goal by a late interception from Simpson

Adams and Dyer linked up well in midfield to play their way past Lake and the anonymous Dean Craven and give Paul space to run into on fifty-eight minutes. The striker sold Simpson a fine dummy before trying his luck from the edge of the penalty area, only for his weak effort to land into the hands of Gayle

A minute later, Baldwin made his first attacking change of the game as Lancashire came on for Bagshaw, who had run down a number of blind alleys all afternoon and failed to supply a forward line starved of service

Lucas was given a dressing-down by the referee on sixty-two minutes for dragging down Dyer after another run from the lanky midfielder had skipped past the left-back, giving him little option but to pull the Montserrat International back by his arm

The Pitmen were hit by a sucker punch from the home side on sixty-five minutes, as the Eagles doubled their lead to leave the away side with a mountain to climb.  Paul did well to escape the attentions of Lake down the right flank and crossed for Slinn, who turned the ball home from six yards out to beat Gayle without a player in a white shirt near him. Once again, a dreadful goal to concede from the Pitmen's perspective

With his side facing defeat and still looking fairly impotent up front, Baldwin made a bold double change on sixty-seven minutes as Kevin Francis came on in place of Shakespeare and youngster Robbie Meacham returned to the side in place of Airdrie. This saw the Pitmen go with three up front and play a more direct game down the middle of the pitch

Francis managed to flick a Lake free-kick into the path of Davis on seventy-two minutes, only for a combination of poor finishing from Davis and a good covering tackle from Paul Covington to deny the striker a goal and a way back into the game for the Pitmen

Lancashire was struggling to get himself into the game, taking a wild swing at Meacham's pass on seventy-eight minutes and lashing a shot well wide of Heeps' goal, to ironic cheers from the fed-up Hednesford supporters behind the goal

Charie showed neat skill to take the ball past Covington and into the Bedford penalty area with nine minutes remaining, only to suffer a moment of stage fright and launch his angled shot high over the crossbar

Bedford were more than content to soak up the Hednesford pressure and play on the counter-attack as the away side committed more and more men forwards in search of something to get themselves back into the game. A quick breakaway from the hosts on eighty-five minutes saw Eddie Lawley break clear and square the ball into the path of the oncoming Paul, only for Gayle to once again prove his worth with another fine save

With the game heading into added time, successive Hednesford corners ramped up the pressure on the Bedford defence; an inswinging kick from Lucas was met by the head of substitute Francis, but his off-target effort sailed into the stand behind the goal

The final whistle saw Hibbitt emerge from the stand and instruct the players to recognise the presence of the supporters who had travelled down to watch them. If the former Cardiff and Walsall manager wasn't aware of the task ahead of him already, he will be acutely aware of it now after a depressingly familiar performance from a misfiring, unbalanced squad of mainly experienced players who seem to be struggling for fitness and consistency. Hibbitt has a week to work his magic on what he has inherited before they host Havant & Waterlooville at Keys Park next weekend back in the Dr. Martens Premier League

Bedford Town: Heeps, Haley, Miller, Covington, Tucker, Turner, Dyer (Berry 73), Adams (Wilson 73), Slinn (Williams 87), Paul, Lawley       Subs Unused: Jones, Finley


Hednesford Town: Gayle, Shakespeare (Francis 67), Lucas ©, Simpson, Lake, Brownrigg, Airdrie (Meacham 67), Craven, Bagshaw (Lancashire 59), Davis, Charie      Subs Unused: Williams, Jenkins