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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Blyth Spartans

Airey (3)

Hednesford Town

Harvey (56), MacPherson (67)

(1) 1

(0) 2



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Dave MacPherson


Stafford Rangers (H) 27.8.12

The Pitmen's confident start to the season continued apace this afternoon, as they beat league new boys Blyth at a blustery Croft Park this afternoon

With two wins under their belt already, manager Rob Smith was happy to name the same side that had won their first two games, with the only change amongst the substitutes - youngster Leadun Dunleavy coming in at the expense of Phil Clarke

Despite going into the game in good attacking form, it was the Pitmen's familiar failings at the back that put them on the back foot within three minutes of kick-off. Lee Mason won the ball out wide in a scrap with Darren Campion, before playing a raking ball towards new signing Phil Airey. Francino Francis should have done better in his attempts to cut the ball out, missing the cross and allowing Airey to slide the ball past Dan Crane from fifteen yards out

Blyth were much the quicker into the game, buoyed by their early goal; Nathan Woolfe lost possession in midfield and allowed Mason to send Airey away again - on this occasion, however, the striker's shot was high, wide and handsome

The Pitmen's response came on fourteen minutes, as a corner kick was partially cleared by Blyth, but only to Woolfe. He composed himself and fired over with a rising left-foot shot from fully twenty-five yards

Crane had to be alert on twenty minutes to deny Airey a second goal, as a long ball over the top of the Hednesford defence was headed into the path of the striker by Sam Barnes. As Airey threatened to fire home, Crane managed to block the ball and clear right on the edge of his box

The big keeper was in action again three minutes later, making another crucial block to deny Robbie Dale as he beat the Hednesford defence for pace. The rebound dropped kindly to Airey, who was denied by the outstretched leg of Barnes

Aaron Rey is still waiting for his first goal for the club since his summer move from Marine and should have ended that wait on the half-hour mark with a glorious chance to equalise. Elliott Durrell's persistence saw him play the ball into the path of Harvey who in turn clipped the ball to Rey. The striker's weak right footed shot allowed Blyth keeper Conor Grant to get enough on the ball and turn it away from goal

Dave MacPherson and Jamey Osborne were enjoying more of the ball in a competitive midfield battle, and it was the experienced Hednesford skipper who nearly put the Pitmen back on level terms on thirty-four minutes. MacPherson picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area before unleashing a low drive that missed the left-hand post by a couple of feet

A minutes later, Durrell's powerful run saw him beat three players before cutting across the ball and firing just wide of the far post

After MacPherson had fired over again for the visitors, Airey turned provider for Blyth, laying the ball into the path of Shaun Vipond who was lurking twenty yards out. His shot caused momentary panic in the Hednesford defence, but the well-hit shot just missed the target

In added time at the end of the half, Osborne made a surging run towards goal, before firing agonisingly wide of the post with a driven effort

Smith's half time pep talk clearly had some resonance for the Pitmen, as they took control of the game during the second period and pushed Blyth's quick-witted players back into their own half. Rey forced Grant into a good save early on in the half, turning Harvey's cross goalwards but being denied by a reaction save from the keeper

Two minutes later, Woolfe's driven cross found Osborne, whose sidefooted effort came back off the post before Durrell lashed the rebound high over the crossbar

The growing pressure exerted by the Pitmen finally came to fruition on fifty-six minutes, as a set-piece that Blyth failed to deal with created the away side's equaliser. Woolfe's inswinging corner was headed away, but Barnes' clipped ball back in was allowed to fall to Durrell. His scuffed shot fell conveniently for Harvey, who showed typical predatory instincts to turn the ball past Grant from ten yards out

Hednesford continued to attack in waves, as Spartans struggled to keep the Pitmen from pushing on. Rey tried his luck on the hour mark, cutting in from the right-wing before unleashing a low shot wide of goal

The seemingly inevitable second goal arrived for the Pitmen on sixty-seven minutes; Harvey showed great feet to step away from two challenges out wide on the right, before racing away down the wing and crossing towards Durrell. The ball dropped kindly to MacPherson on the edge of the area, who composed himself before driving a low shot past the bemused Grant and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net

Sparked into action, Blyth made a rare foray into the Hednesford penalty area, where Crane made a smothering save to deny Dale from six yards out

Grant was on form to make a clever save to deny Durrell at his near post on sixty-nine minutes after the playmaker had picked up a poor punch from the Blyth stopper

The Pitmen were forced into a change on seventy minutes, as Sam Barnes came off worst in a challenge with Dale; he was replaced by Ben Bailey in central defence. A minute later, Harvey went off to rapturous applause from the travelling fans as he was replaced by Michael Lennon

Craig Farrell curled a shot just wide for Blyth with fifteen minutes remaining, before a similar effort from the impressive Rey almost finished the game for the Pitmen moments later

The Pitmen looked to shore up their defensive options with twelve minutes remaining, as the more defensive-minded Alex Melbourne replaced Osborne in midfield

There could have been more goals for the away side in the final ten minutes, as they exploited the space created by Blyth pushing on for an equaliser. Durrell again failed to hit the target with a driven effort on eight three minutes, followed by a last-ditch block from a sea of Blyth legs to deny the same player a minute later

With the 'big one' on the horizon against Stafford Rangers on Monday afternoon, this was the ideal preparation for such a big derby so early in the season; a dominant performance in midfield, added to by a superb attacking trio in Harvey, Rey and Woolfe. More of the same please, Pitmen

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick, Hodgson (Blandford 69), Buchanan ©, Mellish, Mason, Vipond, Farrell, Airey (Davis 66), Dale      Subs Unused: Jones, King, Hunter

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion, Barnes (Bailey 70), Francis, MacPherson ©, Osborne (Melbourne 83), Durrell, Harvey (Lennon 71), Rey, Woolfe      Subs Unused: O’Connor, Dunleavy

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