UniBond Northern Premier League

Bradford (Park Avenue)

Campbell (47), (59), Hall (87)

Hednesford Town

(0) 3

(0) 0



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Elliott Durrell


North Ferriby United (A) 3.3.09

The Pitmen's title ambitions have pretty much evaporated in the space of seven nightmare days, as their fourth defeat on the bounce now leaves their play-off hopes - once looking an absolute certainty - in the balance with defeat at Bradford (Park Avenue) this afternoon

Manager Dean Edwards - coming under pressure to offer a response to his side's slide in form - made one change to his starting line-up from Tuesday night's defeat against another side in the play-off hunt, Ilkeston Town. Anthony Maguire was restored to the side after a long spell on the bench, replacing Sam Hall. Left-back Alex Cowley retained his place in the side, despite a straight red card in midweek for a dreadful challenge on Ilkeston's Steve Istead that saw the Ilson man stretchered off

Bradford, pushing for the play-offs themselves after an up and down season that has seen them change managers with Lee Sinnott now in charge, had stayed in seventh place last week despite a 2-1 reverse at ten-man Ashton United in midweek. Despite this, Sinnott stuck with the same XI for today's game as the hosts went in search of the three points that would narrow the gap between themselves and Ilkeston Town in fourth place

The home side started the best of the two sides, with a second-minute effort from Matt James bouncing off Stuart Brock before inching towards goal. Danny Harvey was on hand to hack the ball away before it reached the line

Bradford quickly followed that up with an opportunity for former Middlesbrough striker Andy Campbell, but he failed to test Brock with an effort that flew wide of goal

Ross Dyer almost conjured up the first chance for the Pitmen, racing onto a great through ball from Elliott Durrell, but his first touch was heavy and the ball rolled away from him

The Pitmen were enjoying more in the way of possession after settling into the game, and Bradford keeper Jon Worsnop had to be alert to deny wing-back Sean Platt after the former Walsall man had fashioned a chance for himself from out on the right-hand side

Worsnop was involved again three minutes later, saving at the feet of Dyer after the striker had been fed by his partner Barnett

Back came Bradford, and Brock was on hand to deny James after the home player had hit a long-range shot at goal. The two keepers seemed to be sharing the limelight at this point in the match, as sixty seconds later, Worsnop denied the onrushing Barnett with a clearance

Draper's hard work won the Pitmen a corner kick on the half-hour, with Durrell finding the transfer-listed Tom Marshall, who hot the ball over the bar from twelve yards out

 The game was real end-to-end stuff, reminiscent of a cup tie in many ways. Former Hednesford captain Mark Haran, now at Bradford after spells at the likes of Stalybridge Celtic and Harrogate Town, headed over from close range after getting on the end of a right-wing cross. The play immediately switched to the opposite end, with Durrell denied at the last second thanks to Worsnop's brave dive at the Hednesford striker's feet

Bradford had a great chance to go into the break a goal to the good, with Mark Bett pulling a shot wide of Brock's goal with only moments left in the half. Dyer's inability to control his first touch came back to haunt him again just before half-time, with his touch allowing Worsnop to intercept and clear

Despite what had been a much-improved showing in the first half, things descended rapidly downhill as the second half got underway. Within two minutes of the restart, the home side had taken the lead; a ball-watching Hednesford defence allowed Campbell to seize upon the ball, before firing a first-time shot past Brock

There was an instant reply from the visitors, who had been stung by the goal. A free-kick from Durrell, who was looking more involved than in previous games, found Marshall, who headed past Worsnop. However, the assistant referee was flagging for offside against Draper, and the goal was disallowed

If that had counted, we could have witnessed a very different game in the second half. As it was, the Pitmen's lack of discipline was to be their undoing for the third straight game. On fifty-four minutes, Haran and Barnett had an altercation. Haran appeared to aim a punch at Hednesford's top scorer, from which Barnett retaliated. The referee, who missed the initial punch, promptly sent Barnett off and left Haran on

This seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Pitmen, and they went further behind five minutes later. A cross from Betts found Campbell at the far post, who had the simple task of scoring from close range

On came loan signing Matt Lewis, with Edwards taking off Durrell to enable his team to play a flat-four in the centre. He could have scored with one of his first touches, picking up a Worsnop clearance just inside the area before hitting a shot that came back off the post, with the Bradford keeper beaten all ends up

The away side were trying their best to salvage something from the game, and they deserve credit for continuing to play football and create chances. Platt again got into a forward position but was off-target with a shot from Maguire's ball across

After Lewis's attempt off the woodwork for the Pitmen, it was Bradford's turn to striker the frame of the goal with fifteen minutes remaining. Bett took the ball forward, before hitting a deflected shot off the bar. Brock was alert to deny James low down as Avenue looked to tie the game up

The inevitable third goal came on eighty-seven minutes, an easy one for Bradford's Chris Hall to convert from close range with very little in the way of challenges

By this point, Duane Darby had been thrown on in place of the completely anonymous Cowley and added a bite to the forward line late on. He set up Lewis with a late chance, but Worsnop denied the Telford loanee with a smart save

In added time, Brock denied Campbell the hat-trick his efforts deserved, saving well close in after yet more lax defending allowed him the time to shoot

Whilst there was no doubt that this was a much-improved performance from the dreadful football that has been served up in recent weeks, luck that was going the Pitmen's way before Christmas now is going the opposite way. With a trip to North Ferriby United on Tuesday night looming - two games, two defeats there so far - Edwards and co. have got it all to do, especially in the area of discipline

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt, Maguire, Gomes, Harvey, Marshall, Cowley (Darby 82), Durrell (Lewis 60), Barnett ▆ (54), Dyer, Draper ©        Subs Unused: Gill, S. Hall, Briggs

Bradford (Park Avenue): Worsnop, Downes, Birch (Stabb 45), Knowles, Haran © Rudd, Bett, James (Whitehouse 90), C. Hall, Campbell, Price      Subs Unused: Patterson, Stamer, Morgan