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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town


Hodkinson (47)

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Current Form


Ryan Brown



And so it ends... The Pitmen are finally put out of their misery on the final day of the season after yet another limp and uninspiring display sees visitors Bootle earn the three points required to claim a play-off place and end any lingering hopes of the hosts remaining at step four on a PPG reprieve

The Pitmen knew that it would require a very specific set of results in today's final round of matches to enable them to stay at step four on a technicality next season; if results for both Brighouse Town and Bridlington Town in the Eastern Division went their way, potentially a win today may keep them up; similarly, if both results failed to end positively for Paul Moore's men, then no matter what they did in today's game would matter. Moore elected to make  three changes to the side that had started last week's 3-1 defeat at Clitheroe as Blaine Rowe came back into the starting XI ahead of Jacob Gwilt, Michael Williams returned at centre-back ahead of Adriano Moke and Joe Morley was preferred to Eden Bailey

Bootle's quest for a play-off place had been hindered in the last week by a one-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player in their recent game against Trafford, meaning that they would need to win today to guarantee a play-off spot and deny Witton Albion fifth place in the final standings. Bootle manager Mick McGraa made only the one change to his Blues side ahead of their first-ever trip to Keys Park from the side that had beaten Hanley Town last weekend as veteran stopper Tony McMillan came in for regular goalkeeper Tony Thompson. Veteran centre-back Ritchie Sutton - who had left Hednesford back in February after a four-month spell  - lined up against his former club at the heart of the Bootle defence

The game was subject to a half-hour delay in kicking off as an accident on the M6 saw the Bootle players and many of their supporters stuck in traffic, only arriving at Keys Park at around 3 pm. The hosts looked to take advantage of Bootle's lack of preparation time with a quick start to proceedings as Jake Jervis won a free kick a couple of yards outside the penalty area in the second minute after a foul from Sean Smith, allowing Jack Kelly to whip the ball in from the right but only finding the gloves of 42-year-old stopper McMillan

Bootle started to come into the game after a slow first few minutes, playing some neat and direct attacking football as they looked to get the ball up to Ben Hodkinson, Tom Peterson and Michael Burkey at every opportunity. Indeed, Peterson's nuisance value was to prove a thorn in the Pitmen's side for most of the afternoon as the Bootle number nine was allowed to bully his opponents repeatedly. A corner kick for the visitors in the fourth minute was played into the near post and towards the brooding Sutton, only for former team-mate Williams to head the ball away

Peterson earned Bootle a free-kick in a dangerous position in the eighth minute as he gave referee Mr Pattison something to think about after being grounded by a challenge on him from Williams. Burkey took the resultant free-kick and swung in a cross to the far post, where Hodkinson looked to force the ball home only to be denied by a boot from Sam Griffiths after a failed attempt to clear the ball by Ryan Brown

With the other games affecting the Pitmen heading towards half-time and with both results currently going their way, there seemed to be a lack of desire and urgency from the home side to take the ball forward. Jai Verma tried to get his side going with a mazy run down the left on eleven minutes, weaving in and out of two challenges as he tricked his way to the byeline before slightly over-running the ball and playing it out for a goal-kick

It appeared that the Pitmen's best route to goal this afternoon may be a set-piece, with Kelly involved heavily as they won a corner kick on fifteen minutes that was played out to the corner of the box, where Blaine Rowe was brought down by Sonny Hilton. Morley elected to take this kick with his right foot and curled in a fine cross to the far post, where Kelly arrived late but could only divert his effort wide of the target

A lacklustre pass from Tom Thorley played his side into trouble on twenty-one minutes as the midfielder's lazy ball towards Rowe was intercepted by Hodkinson, who played the ball on to Hilton down the left. The midfielder laid the ball back to Hodkinson on the edge of the box, with the striker's curling effort narrowly missing Brown's far post

Sutton was again the target from a Burkey corner kick on twenty-four minutes, with the ball being nicked off the 38-year-old's head at the far post by Rowe as the Pitmen struggled to clear their lines

And yet, it was the hosts who went closest to opening the scoring as Verma struck the woodwork two minutes later; patient build-up play saw Morley make a move infield before laying the ball off to Verma, who had drifted inside from the left. He exchanged passes with Rowe just outside the box before unleashing a low shot across goal that cannoned off the far post and back into play with McMillan beaten all ends up

James McQuilkin also thought that he had broken the deadlock on twenty-eight minutes as Rowe did well to win the ball on the right-hand byeline and find Morley, whose cross was sliced into the path of McQuilkin by Jervis, only for the veteran's poe-poked effort to drift inches wide of the far post

It was proving to be the Pitmen's best spell of the game so far, although you still felt that they lacked a certain quality in the final third of the pitch. On thirty-one minutes, Jervis did well to hold off the attention of Scott Sephton and lay the ball back to the incoming Lewis Farmer, only for the youngster to fire high and wide of goal from twenty-five yards out with a wild effort

Brown produced an outstanding save to keep the scoreline blank ten minutes before half-time as Hilton picked up a half-hearted clearance from Griffiths on the edge of the area and struck a first-time effort that looked destined for the top corner of the net until Brown brilliantly palmed the midfielder's shot away for a corner kick away to his right

The young stopper made an equally brilliant stop just a minute later as a throw-in on the right for Bootle was worked across the face of goal and into the path of Peterson, whose turn and shot from eighteen yards out was pushed away by the Brown to his left-hand side this time

With four minutes of a keenly contested first half remaining, Verma earned the Pitmen a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal after a trip on him by Jay Roberts. McQuilkin went across to take the kick and picked out Griffiths at the far post with a cute ball into the box that was headed wide by the Hednesford skipper

It had been a fairly even first half, with the Pitmen having arguably the better of the chances against a lively and direct Bootle side, but failing to have the composure in front of goal to take any of them With the Brighouse and Bridlington games well into the second half at this point and with both sides earning enough points, a win for the Pitmen would be irrelevant going into the second half


With the very first action of the second half, Bootle grabbed the all-important lead and crushed any lingering hopes the hosts would have had in claiming the three points; another Thorley error of judgment was to cost his side as the veteran midfielder as he failed to cut out a pass from Peterson towards Joe Woolley, allowing himself to be out-battled for the loose ball by the midfielder, who fed Burkey into space down the left; his square ball was turned goalwards by Peterson, who saw his effort deflected into the path of Hodkinson by Kelly and allowed the ex-Marine striker to turn the ball into the empty net from close-range. Another soft, sloppy and easily avoided goal to concede, perhaps summing up the Pitmen's season as a whole in one move

From the restart, more defensive woes almost gifted Bootle another goal as Thorley was caught in two minds as to how to clear the ball and only succeeded in laying it off to Roberts, whose cross from the right flank was headed goalwards by Peterson, forcing another brilliant parry from Brown to turn the ball away from goal hight to his left

Three successive corners from the Pitmen tested the resolve of the experienced Bootle back line - an aggregate age of 171 years between the four defenders and McMillan - but failed to turn the screw as the men in blue held firm, knowing that the win would keep them ahead of Witton Albion in the final standings

On fifty-four minutes, Jervis made a strong run into the box down the middle after picking up a pass from Farmer, going to ground under a challenge from Septon that was deemed too light a touch by Mr Pattison, and the game continued, despite Jervis's pleas for a spot-kick

Peterson was denied by man of the match Brown once more on fifty-five minutes as the stopper pushed his shot from twenty yards out around the post for a corner kick. Burkey's corner kick was aimed at Sutton once more, but Brown was having none of it and plucked the ball out of the air at the far post

Jervis was left a frustrated figure once more shortly before the hour mark as he made a powerful run into the box to meet a pass from Morley, only to be denied by a late flag against him from the assistant on the main stand side of the ground

Woolley picked up the game's first booking on sixty-four minutes as he was cautioned by Mr Pattison for a totting up of fouls in midfield, with the latest one on McQuilkin a challenge too far for the referee's liking

The Pitmen's first substitution came midway through the second half as youngster Danny Edwards came on in midfield for Thorley; a sad end to the season for a modern-day Hednesford great in Thorley, who will most likely be leaving the club in the summer after a very indifferent campaign and poor final day display

Morley followed Woolley into the referee's notebook on sixty-seven minutes as he was yellow carded by Mr Pattison for a foul on Smith that stopped the left-back from making progress down the left flank in front of the benches

Verma drew ironic cheers from the disgruntled home crowd two minutes later as he made a barnstorming run into the box from the left but got his angles all wrong and fired high into the Heath Hayes terrace from eighteen yards out. Final scores were starting to filter through at this point, with a win for Brighouse and a draw for Bridlington

On seventy-two minutes, the hosts made their second change of the game as the ineffective Morley was brought off by Moore, replaced by the more physical presence of Matthew Barnes-Homer up front

Within seconds, Hodkinson picked up a yellow card for Bootle for a foul on Thorley, something that saw Peterson having a little too much to say for himself and earned him a ticking-off by Mr Pattison in the process

With fifteen minutes of the game left, Bootle made their first change of the game as McGraa started to have one eye on a potential play-off semi-final; off came midfield man Hilton, who was replaced by Craig Carney

Three minutes later, McGraa made another change to his Bootle personnel as goalscorer Hodkinson was given a well-earned rest, coming off and being replaced by Conor Harwood up front


With ten minutes of the game remaining and the game fast petering out into nothing, the hosts threw on another striker in the form of Bailey as he replaced Kelly


A rare piece of goalmouth action saw Burkey send over a fine corner kick on eighty-one minutes that was flicked on at the near post by Sephton towards Peterson, only for a goal-saving header from Williams to deny the striker a certain goal at the far post

Carney could have put the game to bed for the visitors two minutes later as Bootle broke quickly and in numbers through Peterson and Burley, playing Carney clean through on goal with a slide-rule pass that the former Stockport County man tried to turn past Brown with his first touch, only for the goalkeeper to make another timely stop with a save down to his left to push the ball away from the far corner of the net

Bootle's final change of the afternoon came on eighty-four minutes as striker Peterson was the latest first-team regular to be given a rest as he made way for Anthony Miley for the remainder of the game

Farmer picked up a booking on eighty-six minutes as he was penalised by Mr Paittison for a frustrated-looking foul on Woolley ten yards outside the Bootle penalty area

It was McQuilkin who picked up the Pitmen's final booking of a desperate season in the final minute of normal time as he clattered into Carney and stopped the experienced midfield man from making another move past him. Miley's resultant free-kick was played into the six-yard box, where Hodkinson was denied a shot at goal by Griffiths's clearance

With six added minutes on the board, Jervis could have levelled for the Pitmen in added time as Verma did brilliantly to create space for himself, jinking past Roberts once more and standing up a cross that Jervis headed high over the crossbar from four yards out

The last yellow card of the afternoon was handed out to the old stager McMillan in the fifth minute of time added on as the much-travelled former Barrow and Warrington Town stopper was booked for time-wasting at a goal kick. He was followed very quickly into the book as Roberts was also booked by Mr Pattison with the last action of the game for a foul on Verma

The final whistle was greeted, perhaps understandably, with muffled boos and no shortage of negative comments from the terraces as the Pitmen's fate was sealed. It had been yet another woefully tame display from the hosts, who had once again offered very little as an attacking threat and had been undone courtesy of more poor defending - something that has become a staple of their 2023-2024 campaign. Bootle move on to a play-off semi-final clash against neighbours Prescot Cables, whilst the hosts now stare down the reality of regional football at step five for the first time in living memory


It's been a truly, truly appalling twenty-four months for Hednesford Town Football Club; successive relegations, ownership issues, the club being kicked around like a political football behind the scenes which has left it in a sorry, sorry state in April 2024. The hope now is that under new owners Craig and Amanda Gwilt, the club can now press the big reset button in the summer, look to perhaps make some personnel changes behind the scenes and start to build for 2024-2025 in the Midland Football League and onwards; there's no doubting the ambition of the new owners, but they'll have to start from a much lower level than perhaps they were expecting to in their first full season in charge of this once-famous club. Another summer of much change is likely to be on the horizon so we expect a very different football club, both on and off the pitch, to emerge in July

Hednesford Town: Brown, Rowe, Kelly (Bailey 80), Thorley (Edwards 65), M. Williams, Griffiths ©, Verma, McQuilkin , Jervis, Farmer , Morley (Barnes-Homer 72)  Jervis     Subs Unused: Gwilt, Moke

Bootle: McMillan, Roberts, Smith, Hughes, Sephton, Sutton, Hilton (Carney 75), Woolley , Peterson (Miley 84), Burkey, Hodkinson (Harwood 78)      Subs Unused: Carberry, Burton


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