13.10.2018

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Sweeney (5), (20)

South Shields

Mason (68)

(2) 2

.

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

537

Matt Curley

 

L W L W W L W L L W 

 

Lancaster City (H) 16.10.18

Hednesford's indifferent week finally took a turn for the better this afternoon, as they produced a highly impressive first-half display to earn themselves all three points over high-flying South Shields at Keys Park

 

Back-to-back away defeats to Kettering Town and Nantwich Town had left the Pitmen and their supporters feeling flat upon their return home following five away games in a row, with Rob Smith's side looking to pick up where they left off last month with a 2-0 win over Workington at Keys Park. Smith was without a number of key players for the game, with Charlie Gatter, Jed Davies, Josh Craddock, Matt Dodd and Sam Grimshaw all still missing through injury, whilst Josef Bursik was still on international duty with England U19s. Dan Sweeney, Sheridan Martinez and Callum Coyle made their home debuts for the club after joining the Pitmen in the last fortnight, with Smith electing to make one change to the side that had lost at Nantwich in midweek; out went Callam Mendez-Jones and in came Dan Cockerline, with the Pitmen lining up in a bold 4-3-3 formation

 

South Shields had started their first-ever season at step three well, lying in fourth place at the start of play after sweeping aside all before them at their Mariners Park home, having won all five games so far. Their away form, however, was less impressive, having lost four out of their six games on the road to date. Joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton could call upon a number of experienced faces, having brought in a number of Vanarama National League and National League North-quality players over the summer to strengthen their side; Josh Gillies and Gary Brown (Darlington), Phil Turnbull (Gateshead) and Blair Adams (Hartlepool United) had all arrived before the start of the campaign to add to their considerable experience and  build a consensus that the Mariners would be one of the title favourites this term

 

New man between the sticks Martinez was called upon to make an early stop for the hosts in the third minute, making a fine stop to parry Lee Mason's long-range effort away low down to his left. A fine stop from a player who had endured a tough debut at Nantwich in midweek and a confidence-building save for the temporary stopper

 

The Pitmen, however, would be the first to strike in the game with essentially their first chance of the game in the fifth minute; Matt Curley's deep cross was headed back into the danger zone by Reece King, finding Sweeney lurking around the six-yard box. Sweeney did enough to toe-poke the bouncing ball past Liam Connell in the Shields goal and over the line, despite a late intervention from Brown as he tried to clear the ball off the goal-line

 

Back came the visitors, with the bright and creative David Foley driving a shot well, well wide of Martinez's right-hand post in the eighth minute as Shields looked for a way back into the game

 

A free-kick from Gillies in the sixteenth minute threatened the Pitmen's rearguard as he floated the ball into the penalty area, but his inswinging ball was headed wide by skipper Robert Briggs, who was stretching to meet the ball

 

The Pitmen were enjoying plenty of the ball in midfield, with Joe Fitzpatrick having a productive game in which to display his wide range of passing. Nathan Fox's pass set Lewis Archer on his way down the line on nineteen minutes, only for Archer's deep cross to be turned behind for a corner kick before it could reach King

 

From the resultant corner from Fitzpatrick, Sam Griffiths got the slightest touch on the ball to divert it into the path of Sweeney, who once again displayed superb reactions to fire home from close-range for his third goal in just two starts for the club

 

Foley looked to be Shields' best option going forward with the number eleven slicing his shot high and wide of goal on twenty-four minutes following a great ball over the top of the Hednesford defence from centre-back Dillon Morse

 

Cockerline probably should have extended the Pitmen's lead to a third goal on thirty-three minutes, as he was played in on goal courtesy of a delightful slide-rule pass from the impressive Coyle, slipping the ball past four Shields players and into the feet of the tall striker. However, Cockerline's first touch was heavy and allowed Connell enough time to come out and smother the ball before Cockerline could get his shot away

 

Foley was the first player to earn a booking in the game on thirty-eight minutes, as his late challenge on the excellent Curley prompted the referee to show the winger a yellow card

 

The hosts comfortably held on until the break with their two-goal lead intact, deservedly applauded off at the break by their supporters after a fine performance to this point. The front three had excelled with their pace and movement, whilst the heavily-criticised midfield had risen to the challenge well against more experienced opponents

 

However, there was an expectation that the Mariners would up their game in the second period, and so it proved as they pushed forwards in the early stages after the restart. Foley again tried his luck with an effort from just outside the penalty area on fifty minutes but dragged his shot wide of goal. This was to be Foley's final involvement in the game, as he was surprisingly replaced two minutes later by the prolific Carl Finnigan - top scorer for the club in last season's promotion to step three

 

The pressure continued to build as the half progressed, although the Pitmen stood firm against the threat Shields were posing, with Stefan Galinski and Sam Griffiths again proving an effective central defensive partnership

 

The experienced Turnbull pulled his shot from long-range wide of Martinez's goal on sixty-four minutes before Briggs had Martinez stretching to cover a free-kick from twenty yards out that the Shields skipper curled just wide of the far post

 

Shields finally got themselves back into contention with a goal from attacking midfielder Mason on sixty-eight minutes, striking a fine half-volley past Martinez at his near post after Ben Harmison had headed the ball into his path sixteen yards from goal

 

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon with fifteen minutes remaining, as Michael Howard came on in place of the tiring Archer, who had contributed little to the side since the half-time break

 

Shields did have the ball in the net through substitute Ben Harmison a minute later, but an earlier offside flag pulled the striker up as he fired past Martinez from close-range

 

With seven minutes remaining, the Pitmen made a defensive switch with Mendez-Jones coming on to play at centre-back in place of striker Cockerline

 

Shields continued to press as the game entered it's final five minutes, but struggled to create any real openings of note, with the Pitmen going close to extending their lead once more on eighty-six minutes as Coyle made a late run into the penalty area to get on the end of a cross from Howard, only to turn his shot straight at Connell from a couple of yards out

 

Brown somehow managed to avoid serious action from the referee with three minutes remaining, as he clearly and blatantly hit Howard across the face with his arm after the two had clashed in the centre circle. This left Howard with blood gushing from his nose and requiring a quick patch-up job to see him through until the end

 

Coyle was again guilty of a little youthful exuberance in the final minute of the game, as the on-loan youngster again wasted a good chance to settle matters for the hosts as he lashed his shot high over the crossbar from a good position ten yards out

 

Despite there being five added minutes, Shields failed to test the Pitmen sufficiently in that time, with the hosts now having enjoyed three home wins in a row, thus remedying their early season form at home of three defeats in a row. The Pitmen return home again on Tuesday night when Lancaster City - currently sitting second-bottom of the league - visit Keys Park

 

Hednesford Town: Martinez, Curley, Fox, Fitzpatrick, Galinski ©, Griffiths, King, Coyle, Cockerline (Mendez-Jones 83), Sweeney , Archer (Howard 75)    Subs Unused: Edge, Hollis, Veiga

 

South Shields: Connell, Baxter , Adams, Turnbull (Wright 78), Morse, Brown, Mouanda, Briggs ©, Gillies (Harmison 59), Mason, Foley  (Finnigan 52)     Subs Unused: Hunter, Lough

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