6.10.2018

F.A. Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Kettering Town

Solkhon (15) (penalty), (32) (penalty), (70) (penalty), Borg (88)

Hednesford Town

(2) 4

.

(0) 0

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502

 

Nathan Fox

 

W W L W L W W L W L

 

Nantwich Town (A) 9.10.18

Hednesford's F.A. Cup run ends at the third qualifying round stage this terms, as Southern League Central league leaders Kettering Town take full advantage of a dreadfully ill-disciplined display from the visitors to ease to an easy win at a wet and miserable Latimer Park this afternoon

 

Manager Rob Smith was delighted with his team's response to last weekend's defeat at Marine with a morale-boosting win over Grantham Town in midweek, with the Hednesford supremo making only one change to the side that started at the South Kesteven Stadium; Sam Grimshaw was ruled out after pulling up in the second half at Grantham and was replaced by Nathan Fox at left-back. Smith had been busy in the transfer market in the previous week, adding to his ranks ahead of the game with the signings of striker Dan Sweeney on loan from Solihull Moors and goalkeeper Sheridan Martinez - recently with AFC Telford United - both of whom were named amongst the Pitmen's substitutes

 

Kettering had made a blistering start to their start to the season, sitting top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Central on twenty-one points from eight games so far. Former Chasetown manager Marcus Law - now in charge of the Poppies - had built a pacy, powerful side that had scored freely in both league and cup so far this season, offering a stern test of the Pitmen's fragile confidence going into a tough encounter

 

The rain that had fallen all morning continued to hammer down on the Latimer Park pitch at kick-off, making the requirement for neat, tidy passing a must on such a slick surface. Kettering dealt with the conditions the better, and went close to opening the scoring on eight minutes; a deep free-kick from Ben Milnes found the head of Michael Richens, who glanced his effort just wide of goal

 

The Pitmen responded with a good chance of their own in the thirteenth minute after they had won a corner on the right-hand side. Fox's corner was played short to Joe Fitzpatrick, whose shot was well saved by Paul White in the Kettering goal. The away side tried to force the rebound home on two occasions before Fox drilled his shot from an acute angle into the side-netting

 

However, the Pitmen found themselves chasing the game two minutes later, as the first of an unprecedented three penalty kicks was awarded to the hosts. Former Eastwood and Alfreton winger Lindon Meikle - a thorn in previous Hednesford sides - was too quick for Callam Mendez-Jones, streaking past him as he made a run into the penalty area, leaving the young right-back with little option but to bring him down. Veteran defender Brett Solkhon - a man with over 500 appearances for the Poppies behind him - stepped up and fired home the spot-kick low to Josef Bursik's left-hand side to give his side an early lead

 

The Pitmen responded with a period of pressure that saw them force three successive corner kicks, culminating on twenty-one minutes with a deep cross from Matt Curley that found the head of Jermain Hollis, whose flick header was deflected into the arms of White

 

Bursik was called into action for the first time two minutes later, making a fine stop to deny Milnes at the second attempt as Kettering continued to press with their neat play in and around the Hednesford penalty area

 

The Pitmen were once again the architects of their own downfall just after the half-hour mark as they made life doubly difficult for themselves with another piece of indiscipline. Another quick break from Kettering caught the Pitmen out once again, with Fitzpatrick culpable this time with a lazy trip to stop the run of Rhys Hoenes. Solkhon stepped up once more and fired home his second spot-kick of the afternoon in exactly the same position as the first one, powerfully to Burik's left and into the net to put Kettering two up

 

There was yet another shout for a penalty from the home side three minutes later, as Steve Towers clashed with Bursik as he challenged the young Hednesford keeper for the ball. Despite this one looing the most blatant of all three incidents so far, the referee Mr. Lafin waved away the protests and the game continued

 

Michael Howard did have the ball in the net for the visitors on thirty-six minutes, but the whistle had long gone for a foul committed by on-loan Callum Coyle before the midfielder had played his fellow loanee in on goal

 

Stefan Galinski - still looking for his first goal for the Pitmen - rose to meet a Fitzpatrick corner kick on forty-one minutes, getting up above the Kettering defence but heading well, well wide of the Kettering goal

 

Towers - previously of Barwell and Coalville amongst others and another player who has enjoyed success against the Pitmen previously - went close to settling the game as a contest just before half-time, rising highest to head a corner kick just wide of Bursik's right-hand post

 

The Pitmen had been desperately disappointing in such a big game, rarely threatening and creating all their own problems at the back with a nervy, disjointed display against a side you felt had more to give. Hoenes had been the pick of a very impressive team performance from the Poppies, who were proving their worth as league leaders with pace, creativity and movement that Smith's side had simply no answer to

 

The away side showed more purpose at the start of the second half, as the rain finally started to die off. Right-back Durrell Berry was on hand to make a timely interception for the hosts, denying Howard a chance at the far post as Curley and Howard linked up

 

The Pitmen made their first change of the game very early on in the second half, with Dan Cockerline coming on on fifty-three minutes to add to the numbers up front in place of the out-of-sorts Mendez-Jones. This saw Hednesford revert to a flat back four and Cockerline join Archer up front as a pair

 

Cockerline's introduction gave the Pitmen a focal point up front for the first time in the afternoon, with the on-loan youngster showing a number of decent touches on the deck and bringing the likes of Fox and Coyle into the game in midfield

 

Just before the hour mark, the Pitmen made their second substitution of the game with Sweeney handed a debut following his switch from Solihull this week as he came on in place of the disappointing Howard, who had found Berry a tough opponent

 

The Pitmen's final change of the game came on sixty-four minutes with the introduction of Reece King into midfield in a like-for-like swap with Hollis - another player who had disappointed when it mattered on the day and was deservedly withdrawn

 

King was straight into the game a minute later as his header from a Curley cross was palmed away by White and into the path of Archer. Hs attempted chip back into the danger zone was also pushed away by the Kettering keeper to his left-hand side. This was the closest the Pitmen were to get in an attempt to get themselves back into the game, and an indication of the kind of day it had been for the away side and their supporters

 

Again, the Pitmen were left to rue their missed chance, as yet more awful ill-discipline saw Kettering handed a third and final penalty kick with twenty minutes remaining. A quick one-two involving Hoenes and Dion Kelly-Evans saw Kelly-Evans streak past Sweeney, who had tracked back from his striking position, leaving the substitute trailing and only able to clip the defender as he entered the penalty area. 36-year-old Solkhon stepped up once more and yet again fired home to Burik's left-hand side for an unusual hat-trick of penalties

 

The third goal had flattened the Pitmen as they looked to get back into the game, with chances drying up for the visitors as the game entered the final fifteen minutes. Sweeney - who had looked useful since coming on - had a shot easily saved by White, before Fitzpatrick was fortunate to only be shown a yellow card for a poor challenge on Hoenes in midfield to pretty much sum up the youngster's poor afternoon of misplaced passes and an inability to make his presence felt in the centre of the pitch

 

King arrived at the far post to get on the end of an inswinging Fox corner kick on seventy-five minutes but found the ball arriving a little too high and only succeeded in heading wide of goal

 

A fourth and final goal added a little gloss to the Kettering performance with two minutes remaining, as a superb run from Meikle down the right wing saw him slip the ball across to substitute Andrea Borg, who had the simple task of tapping the ball home at the far post unmarked

 

A dreadful, forgettable afternoon for the visitors, with plenty of parallels of the 4-0 defeat at Histon back in 2005 at the same round of the F.A. Cup as a sobering comparison of uncompetitiveness. The Pitmen were beaten today by a far better side, who played quick, attractive football on the floor and were on hand to take full advantage of some horribly ill-timed and terribly lacking inexperience and indiscipline. There is a swift return to league action with no replay needed on Tuesday night, as Hednesford once again hit the road with a short trip up the M6 to face Nantwich Town at the Weaver Stadium

 

Kettering Town: White, Berry (Graham 86), Solkhon ©, Richens, Meikle, Milnes (Borg 68), Hoenes (Hotter 80), Kelly-Evans, Kelly, Towers, Rowe-Turner    Subs Unused: Toseland, Elsom, Rhiney, Davidson-Miller

 

Hednesford Town: Bursik, Mendez-Jones (Cockerline 53), Griffiths, Fitzpatrick , Galinski ©, Hollis (King 64), Curley, Coyle, Archer, Howard (Sweeney 59), Fox    Subs Unused: Martinez, Edge, Brown, Turner

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