21.8.2004

Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Bell (49)

Bedford Town

(0) 1

(0) 0

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469

Matt Turner

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Cirencester Town (A) 24.8.04

Hednesford finally got off the mark in their Southern Premier League campaign as they won their first game of the new season with a single-goal victory over Bedford Town at Keys Park

Having lost both of their previous games 2-1 last week, player/manager Chris Brindley swung the axe on his side with four changes to the side that had started against Halesowen Town on Monday night with Craig Dean replacing Grant Beckett at left-back and Anthony Maguire coming in for the injured Carl Palmer in midfield. Two new players had arrived at the club in midweek with winger Matt Turner and striker Andy Bell both thrown straight into the side in place of David Berks and Damien Charie respectively

Bedford made their first-ever journey to Keys Park sitting just two places above their hosts in sixteenth place, losing 2-0 to King's Lynn in midweek to leave the Eagles on a solitary point earned against Gloucester City on the opening day. Manager Nicky Platnauer made two changes to his side for today's clash as Lee Howarth and Richard Weale came back into the team in place of Noel Quinn and Dean McElory

It was a bright and warm afternoon in South Staffordshire with a light breeze drifting over the pitch; the visitors made the better start of the two as they looked to take advantage of the Pitmen's large number of changes to the personnel. In the fifth minute, Craig Rydeheard's free-kick from the right flank was met by Chris Dillon, who got in ahead of three Hednesford players to clip the ball narrowly over the crossbar from eight yards out

Leon McSweeney looked to add to his two goals in two games for the Pitmen in the ninth minute as he hared after a pass from Turner to toe-poke the ball goalwards ahead of James Taylor, only for Bedford goalkeeper Ian Brown to make a comfortable save at his near post

Four minutes later, Bell's first involvement saw him chest the ball down and play Chris Gray into space down the right. The winger did well step inside and drift past Howarth, crossing from the byeline to the onrushing Maguire at the far post. However, the Villa Park hero from May could only turn his shot wide of the far post with a weak effort

Bedford won a free-kick out on the right in the sixteenth minute following a foul by Dean on Rydeheard; The former Hitchin midfielder swing in the resultant ball and found Tommy Hayes arriving late in the six-yard box, only for the striker to inexplicably miss the ball from close-range

Back came the Pitmen and Turner swung in a fine corner kick that was headed downwards by Richard Teesdale and into the path of Bell, whose shot was blocked by Challinor. The ball ran to the new signing again but his follow-up was also by the Bedford man. Finally, Gray managed to rescue the ball but saw his bobbling shot turned away by Challinor once more

Challinor was involved at the other end of the pitch a minute later as he made a move forwards into the Hednesford half and tried his luck with a twenty-five-yard shot that sailed over Ryan Young's crossbar

Maguire was having a good game having returned from injury and scampered away from Howarth on twenty-six minutes before cutting inside from the flank and taking a touch before attempting a curling shot that beat Brown but also beat the far post

Bell and McSweeney were already showing an understanding up front with some neat interplay to give the Bedford defence the runaround. McSweeney's clever flick to Bell on the half-hour mark saw the former Blackburn Rovers man drive in a low shot from fifteen yards out that failed to trouble Brown

Alex Gibson played a quick one-two with Gray down the right flank to play around Ashley Blake, with Gray pulling a low cross into the path of the incoming Turner. The wide man took a touch but skied his shot over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area

Taylor headed well wide of goal for the Eagles as he got on the end of an outswinging corner kick from Rydeheard with eight minutes of the half remaining after making a late run to the near post

A minute later, the dangerous McSweeney got on the end of a fine pass from Turner but pulled his shot across the face of Brown's goal and wide of the far post

On forty-two minutes, Maguire picked up a half-cleared corner kick from Taylor and unleashed a rising shot that came back off the crossbar and left the woodwork shaking

In the final minute of a low-quality half, Turner took the ball into the Bedford penalty area from the left-hand corner of the box but curled his shot wide of goal

The second period was to prove a far more entertaining affair as both sides enjoyed good chances throughout the second forty-five minutes. It was the home side who struck early on, however, with Bell registering a debut goal for his new club just four minutes after the restart; Blake lost possession to Maguire, who nudged the ball onto Turner down the flank. His cross into the penalty area was met by Bell, who beat Brown to the ball with a neat back-flick to find the net

Bedford went close to an immediate response through Dillon, as he twisted and turned past Teesdale on fifty-one minutes and fired in a low shot at goal that Young saved well down to his right

Bell went close to doubling his tally five minutes later as McSweeney broke through the flimsy Bedford offside trap before pulling the ball back to his new strike partner, who fired agonisingly wide with only Brown to beat

Brown was alert to more danger on the hour mark as he flew across goal to make a full-length stop to turn away a goalbound free-kick from midfield man Lee Williams

More great play from the Pitmen on sixty-four minutes saw the impressive Turner make another run deep into the Bedford penalty area and stood up a cross to the far post, only for McSweeney to head tamely wide of goal

A long, raking pass from Dean three minutes later sent Maguire away down the flank and away from the attentions of Blake. He held the ball up well and laid the ball off to Gray, who dummied the ball into the path of Williams. His shot took a nick off the boot of Taylor and flew just wide of the post

Bell was almost the beneficiary of a mistake from Brown with nineteen minutes remaining as he seized upon a short clearance from the goalkeeper and teed himself up, only to see his chipped shot drop wide of the post as the Bedford number one struggled to regain his position 

Referee Mr Whitehurst allowed several meaty challenges from Bedford to go unpunished, with Weale and Rydeheard both escaping yellow cards in quick succession for fouls on both Williams and Bell

With ten minutes remaining, McSweeney was played in behind the Bedford defence by Turner's fine through ball. The striker took a touch and elected to shoot rather than pass to the well-positioned Bell and fired wide of the near post

The Eagles had been very limited going forwards but did feel as though they should have been awarded a penalty kick with six minutes remaining as Derwayne Stupple played Dillon into the penalty area with a fine pass, only for the striker to take a tumble under pressure from Maguire. Mr Whitehurst was unimpressed with the Bedford appeals and waved away their calls for a penalty kick

With four minutes of the game remaining, Beckett made a late appearance from the substitute's bench as he replaced Dean in a like-for-like change at left-back

With a minute remaining, the Pitmen looked to close the game down as the tiring Turner was replaced by Berks down the flank. Berks can feel a little aggrieved at being dropped after a fine performance on Monday night against Halesowen

A succession of corner kicks from the Eagles in added time were well dealt with by Young and his defence, clearing the danger efficiently under pressure from more men in blue committed forwards by Platnauer. Indeed, it was the Pitmen who had the final chance of the game in added time as McSweeney saw his angled shot tipped away by Brown 

Three points on the board lift the Pitmen out of the bottom three and into mid-table, with Brindley's men looking a more accomplished attacking threat with the likes of Bell and Turner offering enthusiasm and quality in the final third. They will go looking for back-to-back wins in midweek when they make the trip to Cirencester Town on Tuesday night

Hednesford Town: Young, Gibson, Dean (Beckett 86), Barrow ©, Teesdale, Williams, Maguire, Turner (Berks 89), Bell, McSweeney, Gray      Subs Unused: Brindley, Charie, Evans

Bedford Town: Brown, Blake, Weale (McElory 79), Goodrham (James 70), Howarth, Taylor, Challinor (McKenzie 83), Stupple, Dillon ©, Hayes, Rhydeheard     Sub Unused: Quinn

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