Vanarama National League North

Hednesford Town

Brackley Town

Ndlovu (19), Diggin (38)

(0) 0

(2) 2



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Kyle Perry


Stockport County (A) 1.3.16

The Pitmen blow a great opportunity to move out of the relegation zone this afternoon as they are beaten by fellow strugglers Brackley at Keys Park to leave them four points adrift of safety at the foot of the table

Having returned home with a point from their 400 mile-plus round trip to Lowestoft Town in midweek, Hednesford manager Frank Sinclair welcomed back winger Shelton Payne for today's game after he had missed the game in Suffolk in midweek; the mercurial wide man replaced Matt Regan on the left side of midfield in the Pitmen's only change to the side that had started at Crown Meadow

Brackley sat directly above the Pitmen in the table, occupying the final relegation spot to make this a true relegation six-pointer with the winner potentially lifting themselves above Corby Town and away from danger. Manager Kevin Wilkin made two changes to his side from the one that had lost at home to Stockport County last weekend as Ryan Austin came in for Liam Slade and Lee Ndlovu replaced David Moyo up front

On another chilly late February afternoon, with the sun poking through the clouds behind the main stand, the hosts made an authoritative start to the game and could have taken the lead with the game's first sight at goal in the fifth minute; Kyle Perry - excellent at Lowestoft in midweek - was played into space down the right by Adam Thomas, with the burly striker's cross knocked down by Ahmed Obeng at the far post into the path of skipper Phil Trainer, only for the experienced midfielder to blaze a shot high over the bar from ten yards out

Payne's first involvement in the game saw him get the better of both Matt Lowe and Junior English in the eighth minute, drifting past the Brackley pair before sending over a cross that was too close to former Hednesford goalkeeper Sam Hornby, who claimed the ball ahead of the incoming Obeng

Another ex-Hednesford man - Steve Diggin - had Brackley's first half-chance at goal in the twelfth minute as he made a late run in behind Kennedy Digie to reach a pass from Lowe but scuffed his effort across the face of Dan Crane's goal and well wide of this former team-mate's far post

On fourteen minutes, Perry used his physical presence to good effect as he flicked on Crane's free-kick and found the pacy Obeng in behind the Brackley defence, only for Hornby to make the save low down to his left to claim Obeng's shot from fifteen yards out

Despite the hosts having the better of the opening exchanges, Brackley came back into contention and took the lead in the nineteenth minute. More questionable defending from the Pitmen, this time from on-loan Jack Truelove, saw Ndlovu pick the ball out on the right-hand touchline from Courtney Cameron and drift past the left-back's weak challenge, leaving the youngster behind as he cut into the penalty area. His firm low shot beat Crane at his near post but came back off the base of the upright, falling kindly to the striker as he followed the ball in and allowed him to scramble the rebound past Crane from close-range to open the scoring

Perry tested Hornby three minutes later as his flick header at the near post from a Payne free-kick was fielded well by the ex-Hednesford trainee, who remained on his line to make the claim ahead of Obeng

Opposite number Crane tipped Diggin's snapshot over the crossbar on twenty-six minutes, watching the ball drift towards goal and pushing it over the bar with a flick of the right hand to concede a corner kick to the Saints

Good play from Thomas on the half-hour mark saw the slightly-built winger get the better of Curtis McDonald with a typically bustling run down the right, drawing the foul from the Welshman as he looked to turn into the penalty area. Sean Williams clipped in the resultant free-kick and found Perry, whose header at the far post was narrowly off-target

Digie went agonisingly close to equalising for the hosts on thirty-four minutes as another Williams corner kick was a little too high for Perry but dropped onto the head of the young centre-back, whose goalbound effort from seven yards out was clawed away by an instinctive save from Hornby, diving to his right to push the ball away from the far corner of the net

More indifferent defending from the hapless Truelove saw him give the ball away to Lowe in a dangerous position on thirty-seven minutes with a sloppy clearance, allowing the striker to thread the ball through to Diggin. The stocky number ten cleverly got goal side of Digie but once again struck his effort well wide of goal from a promising position

A minute later, Diggin - aided by his friend and the third ex-Hednesford man in the Brackley side, Glenn Walker - grabbed the visitors' second goal of the afternoon as Walker broke into the penalty area down the left after leaving Jack Fitzwater behind, playing the ball across to his team-mate who applied the finish with a tap-in from a couple of yards out. Easy

Truelove was having a truly awful game and was deservedly taken off a minute later as he was hooked in favour of Ben Bailey; this saw a re-jig of the Hednesford defence with Digie moving to an unfamiliar left-back role to accommodate Bailey, who lined up alongside auxiliary centre-back George Cleet in central defence

Williams tried his luck with a free-kick from thirty yards out on forty-three minutes after Thomas had been tripped up by Luke Graham in full flight, lifting his effort over the Brackley wall but straight into the arms of Hornby

In first-half added time, Diggin turned the ball narrowly wide of goal from four yards out after good play from Walker once more saw the winger beat Bailey and square the ball to Diggin in an almost carbon copy of the striker's goal

The boos around Keys Park were audible at the half-time break, as Sinclair's team trooped off after yet another dreadfully poor home display that looked to have handed one of their rivals for the drop a crucial three points in their bid to stay up. Obeng had been largely anonymous and was taken off at the break as the Pitmen's second change in quick succession; Tom Thorley came on in his place to shore up the midfield area that the hosts had been second best in for most of the first half

The Pitmen fared better at the start of the second half and created an early opening for Perry on forty-eight minutes as Thomas's run and shot was blocked by Graham and fell into the path of the striker, whose first-time shot had a little too much on it and cleared the crossbar from twelve yards out

On fifty-one minutes, Fitzwater and Thomas linked up down the right to evade the attentions of McDonald, with Fitzwater's cross to the far post volleyed wide by Payne from a tight angle ten yards from goal

Cleet's long punt forwards on fifty-four minutes was flicked on by Perry to Thomas once more, who stole a yard on Walker and took the ball into the penalty area. However, the winger got the ball stuck under his feet and allowed Graham to make a tackle before he could get his shot away from just inside the box

Referee Mr Hull handed Bailey a final warning four minutes later as the substitute brought Diggin down just outside the Brackley penalty area before taking exception to Ndlovu's attempts to get him booked, prompting a bout of pushing and shoving amongst the two sets of players before the official's intervention

Just before the hour mark, the hosts made their final substitution of the afternoon as Danny Glover came on up front as he replaced Thomas to play alongside Perry   

Payne went within mere centimetres of getting the Pitmen back into the game in sixty-two minutes as he cut inside from the left-hand touchline and skipped away from Lowe before curling a shot just past Hornby's far post from eighteen yards out

Two minutes later, Thorley went close to a rare goal for the Pitmen as a flowing move through the centre of the park saw Trainer and Williams link up to play Thorley into space on the edge of the Brackley penalty area; his low shot lacked power, however, and was easily saved by Hornby

Moyo - on as a half-time substitute for Diggin - two adding to Brackley's tally for the afternoon on sixty-seven minutes as a neat flick-on from Ndlovu found the striker in space in behind Digie, only for the Zimbabwe International to fire wide of Crane's right-hand post with a first-time effort

Payne looked to be one of the few players in a black and white shirt to have the talent to unlock the Brackley defence, going on a mazy run into the penalty area on seventy-one minutes before going down in the box under pressure from English. His pleas for a penalty kick fell on deaf ears, with Mr Hull booking the winger for simulation as he felt that Payne had gone down a little too easily

Walker could have added a killer third goal for the away side a minute later as he was given too much time and space to take the ball into the Hednesfird half before firing in a powerfully-struck shot that Crane pushed around his left-hand post for a corner kick


Bailey rose highest to meet a Williams corner kick on seventy-five minutes, glancing a header at goal from eight yards that was always rising over Hornby's crossbar

With ten minutes of the game remaining, Glover's first sight at goal saw the former Telford man race clear of Joe Clarke as he got on the end of a through ball from Trainer, working the ball into his right foot but striking a firm effort just wide of goal from twelve yards out as McDonald closed him down

The game was drifting away from the hosts as Brackley were content to keep ten men behind the ball and look to catch the shot-shy hosts on the counter-attack. On eighty-four minutes, Williams' corner kick was cleared to Walker, who sprinted away from Fitzwater yet again with his pace and took the ball into the left-hand corner, pulling the ball back to the incoming Ndlovu whose shot was blocked by Bailey

With a couple of minutes remaining, Perry's goalbound header from a Williams free-kick was pushed away by Hornby and into the path of Trainer, whose follow-up shot was cleared off the line by McDonald. Glover tried to turn the ball home at the third attempt for the hosts, but more last-ditch defending from Graham and Hornby saw the ball cleared and denied the home side a late rally

Defeat for the Pitmen leaves them three points adrift of safety as Brackley leapfrog Corby Town into nineteenth place and out of the drop zone. Sinclair's men still have a game in hand on Brackley and will look to use it to good effect in midweek when they make the trip up the M6 to mid-table Stockport County in the first of two fixtures between the sides in nineteen days

Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove (Bailey 39), Trainer ©, Digie, Cleet, Thomas (Glover 59), Williams, Perry, Obeng (Thorley 45), Payne         Subs Unused: Ransome, Ennis

Brackley Town: Hornby, English, McDonald, Clarke, Graham, Austin, Cameron (Morley 89), Lowe, Ndlovu (Winters 68), Diggin (Moyo 45), Walker      Subs Unused: Marsden, Mills