23.4.2011

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Dunkley (57), Melbourne (90)

Brackley Town

(0) 2

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

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526

Ben Bailey

W W W W W D L W W W

Halesowen Town (A) 25.4.11

Two second-half goals for the hosts sees them claim a third win in succession to clinch second spot in the Zamaretto Premier League this term as Hednesford defeat mid-table Brackley at a sun-drenched Keys Park

Having enjoyed back-to-back wins over Bedford Town and Weymouth in the last fortnight, Rob Smith's side returned to Keys Park with their slim title hopes still alive, although league leaders Truro City would have to implode spectacularly in their last two games to open the door for the Pitmen to take advantage. Smith made one change to his side from the one that had started against Weymouth last Saturday as left-back Darren Campion returned after serving a one-match suspension to replace Louis Keenen

Ninth-placed Brackley had lost 3-1 at the Pitmen's fellow title challengers Salisbury City on Tuesday night, making it successive league defeats for Jon Brady's men after a 4-1 reverse at home to Swindon Supermarine last weekend. Despite their midweek reverse at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, Brady elected to stick with the same side for this afternoon's trip to Keys Park

It was yet another beautifully bright and sunny Saturday afternoon as early Spring took hold on the weather; Brackley came straight out of the blocks and pushed their hosts back into their own third of the pitch straightway, with Josh Green going agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the second minute. A free-kick out on the left-hand side, just inside the Hednesford half, was taken by Owen Story and floated onto the penalty area, where Green ghosted in behind everyone to head firmly against the crossbar from close-range

Dan Crane had to be on his guard four minutes later as he came out of goal to punch an inswinging free-kick from Jamie Gould away from danger as Michael Chennells looked to turn the ball home at the far post

Kyle Patterson should have done better with the Pitmen's first real chance of the game in the tenth minute; former Hednesford man Carl Palmer gave away a free-kick just inside his half after pulling down Jay Denny, allowing Chris Clements to deliver a fine ball into the penalty area that was somehow missed by the head of the striker as he arrived at the far post, allowing the ball to run away harmlessly

Four minutes later, another free-kick for the Pitmen but a little closer to goal was taken by Darren Campion, whose low driven effort from twenty-five yards out was deflected away from goal by the boot of Paul Dempsey before it could test Stuart Dorrill in the Brackley goal

Skipper Liam Francis headed narrowly over for the hosts in the seventeenth minute, rising above both Cheyenne Dunkley and Nick Wellecomme at the far post to nod an inswinging Clements corner just over the crossbar and into the Heath Hayes terrace

Three minutes later, Clements swung in another dangerous-looking free-kick from the right-hand side of the Brackley penalty area and into the six-yard box, where centre-back Demspey headed the ball behind for a corner kick as he was put under pressure by Francis inside the six-yard box

Back came the visitors, with Palmer making one of his familiar runs from deep on twenty-three minutes to carry the ball thirty yards and play the ball out to the talented Story, whose cross from the right flank was a little too much for Chennells to reach as it skipped across the face of Crane's goal and out of play

Chennells - signed from the recently-defunct Windsor & Eton - was involved again for the Saints two minutes later as he held the ball up well from a long kick forwards from Dorrill, controlling it with his back to goal before playing Story in with a neat reverse pass. The winger took a touch inside but showed too much of it to Dunkley, who made a timely block

On twenty-seven minutes, Chennells made a run into the Hednesford penalty area to latch onto a forward pass from Gould but scuffed his first-time effort well wide of goal with Dunkley closing him down

Story's marauding run and deep cross from the right on the half-hour mark saw the ball drift towards goal and over the head of the backtracking Crane, who saw the ball bounce off the top of the crossbar and behind

Three minutes later, the combative pair of Denny and Palmer clashed in midfield, with both players giving no quarter to the other. Referee Ms Garratt had to pull the two midfielders part and give them a dressing-down before awarding Brackley a free-kick in the centre-circle

Wellecomme's persistence saw the striker pick the pocket of former Solihull man Tom Kemp twenty-five yards goal on thirty-five minutes, playing the ball to Campion out on the left. The full-back made a darting run to the byeline and pulled the ball back into the path of Clements, whose first-time shot was wayward and ended up amongst the home supporters in the Hednesford end of the ground

Crane made a superb stop to deny Brackley the game's opening goal on thirty-nine minutes, diving full-length to his right to turn away an acrobatic shot from Sandy and behind for a corner kick to the visitors

Sixty seconds later, Ross Davidson's first really meaningful contribution to the game saw the winger exchange passes with Patterson down the left wing before breaking into the Brackley penalty area as he beat skipper Chris Willmott for pace. A good challenge from Green put him off his stride, with Davidson losing control of the ball at the crucial moment and allowing Dorrill to make the save

Right on the stroke of half-time, Campion and Davidson linked up down the left to allow the full-back to cross for Wellecomme, whose flicked header across goal but just wide of the post with what was the final action of the half

The Pitmen could count themselves a little lucky to still be on level terms at the break, having allowed Brackley to have the better of the chances and hit the woodwork on two separate occasions without offering much themselves in the final third of the pitch. Wellecomme and Patterson had been well shackled by Willmott and Dempsey, whilst Clements had been closely marked up in midfield by Gould to stop him from playing his usual passing game from deep

The hosts returned to the pitch in a much more positive fashion at the start of the second half as successive corner kicks on forty-eight minutes from Clements tested the Saints' resolve inside their own six-yard box

On fifty minutes, Patterson's clever flick over the head of Dempsey saw him make a pocket of space for himself on the right-hand corner of the penalty area, flicking the ball to the far post where Davidson arrived a fraction too late to turn the ball into the empty net from four yards out

Another Clements corner kick on fifty-four minutes was flicked on by Denny to Wellecomme, who was lurking unmarked at the far post; he controlled the ball with his chest before driving it back across goal but straight into the arms of Dorrill inside his six-yard box

The Pitmen's enterprise at the start of the second half finally bore fruit as they took the lead in the fifty-seventh minute. Campion went across to the right-hand side to take a free-kick after Alex Melbourne had been fouled by Gould, swinging in a superb ball to the far post that Dunkley had the simple task of nodding home unmarked from a yard out

The visitors responded with yet another effort that came back off the woodwork on the hour mark as Story's long ball forwards was seized upon by Chennells, who made a run in behind the backtracking Dunkley before lobbing the advancing Crane from twenty yards out, only to see his effort come back off the left-hand post

Green's long-range effort on sixty-three minutes tested Crane once more, with the Hednesford stopper claiming the ball at the second attempt as he parried the initial shot before landing on the rebound before Chennells could react

The flying Story left Campion in his wake with some more tricky wing play midway through the half, dribbling inside from the left wing and laying the ball off the Palmer, who took a touch before shooting at goal. His effort took a nick off the leg of the giant Francis, doing enough to divert the ball away from goal and behind for a corner kick

The Pitmen opted to make a double attacking change on sixty-seven minutes as Danny Quinn replaced the out-of-sorts Wellecomme and Marvin Robinson came on for Patterson to freshen up the home side's forward line

Two minutes later, Palmer gave away a free-kick to the hosts after felling Clements as the former Crewe player skipped past him thirty yards from goal. The youngster took the resultant kick and forced Dorrill into a fine save to his right as his venomous rising shot was brilliantly parried away by the former Kettering Town youngster

Clements was denied by Dorrill once again three minutes later as Quinn flicked Melbourne's pass into the path of Davidson, who in turn played Clenets into the penalty area with a pass. Dorrill came out of his goal to meet the midfielder and managed to turn his low shot away with his legs. the ball ran back to Clements, who tried to turn the ball home on his weaker left foot but could only scuff his rebounded effort wide of the far post

Francis and Green were both booked by Ms Garratt for getting involved in a disagreement between Chennells and the Hednesford defender on seventy-four minutes, picking up a yellow card apiece for a bout of pushing a shoving just outside the Hednesford penalty area

With ten minutes remaining, Story broke into the Hednesford penalty area and slipped the ball to Chennells, only for a late offside flag on the Wimblebury side to deny the striker a shot at goal. He felt that the decision was unfair and told Ms Garratt what he thought of the offside as the two teams moved back to the halfway line

Time was starting to run out for the visitors, who were looking leggy and tired against a Hednesford team that was finding its second wind with the physical Robinson and the tricky Quinn now chasing the ball up front. On eighty-three minutes, Quinn did well to win the ball from Gould and lay it off to Robinson, who bundled his way past substitute Joe Magunda but could not apply the finish with a bobbling shot wide of goal from twelve yards out

Three minutes from time, Campion's cross was headed away by Dempsey but straight into the path of Clements, whose first time shot sailed over Dorrill's crossbar and into the Heath Hayes terrace

Brackley were committing more and more men forwards in search of an equaliser, leaving gaps at the back for the Pitmen to exploit in the latter stages of the game. In the final minute, Campion's throw down the left saw Quinn control the ball well and lay it off to Melbourne on the edge of the Brackley penalty area, striding into the space left by the Saints defence to fire a superb dipping shot beyond the reach of Dorrill and find the far corner of the net. A superb strike from the youngster and one that finally sealed the win for the hosts

There was a late penalty shout for the hosts as Robinson was hauled down by Willmott, only for the final whistle to blow before any spot-kick could be awarded. News had filtered through that Truro City had beaten Banbury United 3-0 to clinch the title, whilst Salisbury City had lost 1-0 at Bedford Town to make the Pitmen uncatchable in second place. This means that Hednesford can travel to relegated Halesowen Town on Bank Holiday Monday in relaxed mood, with Smith likely to heavily rotate his side to give some of his key players a rest at the Grove with one eye on a home play-off semi-final against either Leamington or Cambridge City

Hednesford Town: Crane, Bailey, Campion, Dunkley, Francis © , Denny, Melbourne, Clements (Gomes 77), Wellecomme (D. Quinn 67), Patterson (Robinson 67), Davidson      Sub Unused: Keenan

Brackley Town: Dorrill, Clifton (Magunda 79), Gould, Dempsey, Willmott ©, Kemp, Story, Palmer, Sandy (Basham 79), Chennells, Green        Subs Unused: Collins, B. Quinn, Peyton-Bruhl

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