30.3.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Bailey (6), McGurk (30)

Bedford Town

I. Draycott (48)

(2) 2

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

281

Elliott Durrell

W L W W W W L W W W

Rugby Town (H) 5.4.10

One month ago, it appeared that the Pitmen's season was gently sauntering to an end, most probably with a comfortable mid-table finish. Fast forward four weeks and Hednesford find themselves slap bang in the middle of the battle for a play-off place as they signed off a truly memorable March with their seventh win in eight league games

Manager Bernard McNally - likely to be a shoe-in for the March Zamaretto Premier Manager of the Month award after such a great run - was forced into a change up front, with Saturday's scorer Dorryll Proffitt ruled out due to a virus. Former Aston Villa man Adam McGurk was brought in to replace him

Former Wolves man Ady Williams had just been appointed as Bedford's new manager after a season of struggle at the New Eyrie had seen previous manager Le Howarth depart. The Eagles sat precariously just above the drop zone in eighteenth place ahead of tonight's game after a 1-1 draw at home to Banbury United at the weekend. Williams made one change for tonight's game as Rob Miller came back into the side in place of Paul Draycott

With confidence high in the home team they started with a real purpose with Ben Bailey epitomised the home side's spirit, getting on the end of an Elliott Durrell corner on three minutes, but headed over at the far post

This turned out to be a 'sighter' from the young defender, as he swept the Pitmen into the lead three minutes later with a similar move. Once again, Durrell's cross was right on the mark, allowing Bailey to storm into the area and head powerfully home past Mike Armitt in the Bedford goal

The Pitmen were playing much of their football in the Bedford half, forcing the struggling Eagles back as they looked to grab a second goal. On fifteen minutes, the Pitmen forced two successive corners thanks to the persistence of Ross Dyer and Durrell, but the latter failed to deliver either with any accuracy and the chances were gone

Durrell, who has been the team's most influential player in recent weeks, was enjoying the freedom of the park as he went in search of the ball. On twenty-four minutes, his powerful driven shot from eighteen yards was well saved by Armitt

Durrell and Armitt were again involved three minutes later, with Durrell somehow out-jumping the keeper at the near post to head a yard over the crossbar after he had made a run to get on the end of Sean Platt's cross

With the Pitmen on top, you felt they had to take advantage of their domination of possession with a second goal. On the half-hour, McGurk did just that - with a superb piece of individual skill. After picking up the ball on the halfway line, he took the ball deep into Bedford territory before spotting Armitt off his line and bending a shot past the keeper and into the far corner of the net

Top scorer Barnett thought he had scored the Pitmen's third goal seven minutes before the break, turning the ball home from an offside position after the referee had played on following a foul on Dyer

Josh Craddock could also have put Hednesford out of sight with four minutes remaining in the half, racing clear of the Bedford defence with a clever run, but panicked in front of goal and fired wide with only Armitt to beat

Durrell continued his swashbuckling form in the early stages of the second half, making a tremendous run from inside his own half before firing straight at Armitt from the edge of the Bedford penalty area

Despite having been on top up to now, Hednesford then gifted the visitors a lifeline on forty-eight minutes; Decio Gomes's attempt to clear the ball saw him miss his kick, with the ball spinning into the path of Ian Draycott, who tapped past Stuart Brock from three yards out

Barnett almost restored the Pitmen's two-goal advantage from the restart, hitting his shot wide of Armitt's post from just inside the penalty area

Bedford were proving a tougher nut to crack during the second period, as they frustrated the Pitmen with some resolute defending. McGurk almost added to his earlier strike on fifty-six minutes, taking the ball past two players before firing straight at Armitt

Matty Wood was replaced just before the hour mark, with Zak Martin coming on at left-back in his place in what was a like-for-like switch between the full-backs

Barnett went even closer to settling the matter on sixty-one minutes, firing in a rising shot that came back off the crossbar and back into play

Hednesford were certainly totting up the chances, with Dyer racing clear of the Bedford defence on sixty-five minutes after latching onto a through ball from strike partner Barnett but saw his shot well saved by Armitt at his near post

Durrell thought he had claimed the goal his efforts deserved on sixty-nine minutes, running through and lobbing Armitt from the edge of the penalty area. However, Bedford's Graham Clark managed to get back just in the nick of time and hook the ball over the bar for a corner. The resultant kick from Durrell found Barnett, whose header was blocked by Clark on the line and hacked away from goal

With twenty minutes left, McGurk was left frustrated as he too hit the woodwork, crashing a free-kick off the bar after Platt had earned it following a foul

Durrell's quality had caused Bedford problems all evening long, with the youngster again keeping Armitt on his toes with a well-struck free-kick that the Bedford number one parried away from goal

Despite keeping the Pitmen at bay at the back, Bedford had offered virtually nothing up front, with Brock not needing to make a single save in the ninety minutes. Durrell's late run and shot failed to make the net ripple, but Hednesford had done just enough to earn the points in a hard-fought evening's work

Saturday sees the Pitmen's fine form likely to come under severe scrutiny as they make their way down to Hampshire to face long-time league leaders Farnborough, who will be looking for revenge after being soundly beaten at Keys Park earlier in the month

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt ©, Wood (Martin 58), Bailey, Francis, Gomes, Durrell, Craddock, Barnett, Dyer, McGurk      Subs Unused: Chapman, Stevenson, Gibson, Flynn

Bedford Town: Armitt, Hole, Lawley ©, Darby , Wall (Lewis 61), Clark , Daniel, Miller (P. Draycott 85), McDougald, I. Draycott, Cole       Subs Unused: Field, Kavanagh, Nathaniel