2.10.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Brackley Town

Hednesford Town

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Ben Bailey

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Evesham United (H) 5.10.10

Another week, another new era starts for the Pitmen, as a turbulent fortnight at Keys Park ended with new manager Rob Smith taking charge for the first time in a battling point at Brackley

Bernard McNally's shock departure from the Keys Park hot seat had come off the back of a fine win over Salisbury City two weeks ago, leaving Smith and loyal deputy Larry Chambers to take the reigns at Keys Park after achieving success at Willenhall Town and AFC Telford United in recent years. Smith was conservative in making changes to his personnel for his first game, sticking with the same XI that had beaten Salisbury. The only changes were on the bench as Elliott Durrell and Cheyenne Dunkley both returned to the squad

Brackley had made an indifferent start to the season and lay down in mid-table heading into today's game. Manager Jon Brady made one change to the side that had beaten Cirencester Town two weeks ago with Barry Quinn coming in at the expense of youngster James Clifton in defence. There was also the sight of former Hednesford favourite Carl Palmer linking up for the Saints in midfield after the midfielder had joined the club from the Pitmen in the summer

With the players eager to impress their new manager, the away side made a bright start. Jamey Osborne was immediately into the action, beating two players with a slalom-style run before firing in a low shot that was blocked by Chris Wilmott

An almost identical move two minutes later saw Osborne again make his way into the area, with Tom Kemp this time making a last-ditch block to deny the teenager a goal

Kyle Patterson went closest to opening the scoring on six minutes, latching onto a cross from Sean Platt but lifting his shot over the bar as he leant back under pressure

Patterson was involved again on eleven minutes, linking up with Alfie Carter after his strike partner had turned his marker and played the ball inside for the former LA Galaxy man. However, Patterson was wasteful and pulled his hot wide of veteran Darren Acton's left-hand post

Brackley had been cautious in the opening exchanges going forward, with former Hednesford man Palmer making very little impact. The experienced Steve Basham was almost gifted a goal on twenty minutes when Dan Crane flapped at a cross, allowing the former Oxford United striker to head towards goal. His goalbound header was hacked away by the excellent Ben Bailey, who was doing well to shackle Basham's attacking threat

Turner wasted an excellent opening for the Pitmen on the half-hour mark, labouring on the ball instead of shooting after the ball had dropped to him from a free-kick. An ear-bashing from Smith and Chambers was in order as the centre back trotted back to his defensive position

As half time approached, the game burst into life after Jay Denny and Quinn came together in midfield. Denny's challenge left Quinn lying in agony, earning the former USA U20 international a yellow card for his troubles and the Brackley man leaving the pitch on a stretcher

Half time saw Liam Francis replaced by Dunkley as Smith looked to more solidity from his defence, with the youngster slotting in on the left side of a three in central defence

The Pitmen made a bright start to the second half, with Carter making his presence felt early on. Using his pace to outstrip Michael Blackwood, the burly striker picked up a Patterson ball and slipped into the penalty area, where he fired inches past the foot of the far post as Action came out to meet him

Back came Brackley, with Basham linking up with Blackwood before the striker fired over Crane's crossbar with a rising effort from twenty yards out

This was followed by a Palmer making a surging run towards the area, slipping the ball through to Basham, whose shot was blocked by Bailey on the hour mark

Osborne had cut a frustrated figure since the break, chasing the ball down but having little in the way of the ball at his feet. Eventually, his frustrations got the better of him, with the referee booking Osborne for persistent fouling on sixty-three minutes. It was pretty much his last contribution, as he was replaced by Durrell on sixty-eight minutes

Brackley were still looking the more likely to score at this point in the game, as a Jamie Gould free-kick was clawed away by Crane a minute later, with Bailey completing the clearance after the Hednesford number one had spilt the shot

Brackley substitute Jon Challinor really should have given the hosts the lead with fifteen minutes remaining; a cross from Owen Story dropped at his feet, with the player so surprised at receiving the ball that he simply passed the ball straight to a relieved Crane rather than hit the net from six yards out

Carter's hard-working afternoon came to an end with ten minutes remaining, with Jarred Stevens replacing him up front alongside Patterson

Chris Clements overruled Durrell on eighty-four minutes when the Pitmen won a free kick twenty yards out, with the former Crewe youngster firing over the bar with a venomous effort

The final minutes saw Brackley push the Pitmen back into their own half as they looked to grab all three points. Crane made a good save to deny Blackwood in the latter stages, followed by substitute Robbie Winters firing wide of goal, under pressure from Dunkley

Not one for the purists, this one, but Smith will have been happy with the character shown by the side, particularly in defence. Their first-half performance was far better than the second, which they can hopefully take into Tuesday's home game with Evesham United

Brackley Town: Acton, Magunda, Gould, Quinn (Challinor 45), Wilmott ©, Kemp, Story, Palmer, Green (Appiah 73), Basham, Blackwood (Winters (63)       Subs Unused: Clifton, Bignot

Hednesford Town: Crane, Platt ©, Francis (Dunkley 45), Bailey, Turner, Denny , Osborne  (Durrell 68), Clements, Carter (Stevens 79), Patterson, Gibson      Subs Unused: Keenan, Proffitt