23.4.2016

Vanarama National League North

Hednesford Town

Bradford (Park Avenue)

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Jon Royle

L D D L D L W L W D

Nuneaton Town (A) 30.4.16

The Pitmen bring the curtain down on their home campaign this afternoon with an uninspiring point against mid-table Bradford (Park Avenue) at an overcast Keys Park

Having been officially relegated last weekend despite upsetting the form book with a 2-1 win over league champions Solihull Moors at Damson Park, the Pitmen returned home for their final home game of a woeful season with more niggling injury issues for interim boss Kyle Patterson to contend with. Dan Crane was still not fit to return to the side so understudy Lloyd Ransome continued between the sticks after a good display against the Moors. Tom Thorley and Andy Todd both failed fitness tests so were ruled out once again, whilst striker Marvin Robinson was only fit enough to take his place amongst the substitutes. Patterson welcomed on-loan Jack Truelove back into the team after he was passed fit, with the full-back replacing Kennedy Digie. The second of two changes to the side that had started at Solihull involved Paul Ennis coming back into the fray as midfield man Stephane Ngamvoulou had been recalled by parent club Whitehawk in midweek. Another departure in the week had seen winger Shelton Payne leave the club after a four-month spell at Keys Park

Thirteenth placed Bradford made the journey down from West Yorkshire off the back of a 3-1 win over fellow mid-table dwellers Worcester City last weekend; caretaker manager Darren Edmondson made two changes to his side for their trip to South Staffordshire as Richard Marshall and Craig King came in for Simon Ainge and Reece Webb-Foster

With nothing to play for on either side, the action was, perhaps, predictably slow to get going, with Bradford City loanee Dylan Mottley-Henry driving a fifth-minute effort from fifteen yards out well wide of Lloyd Ransome's left-hand post

In the tenth minute, Avenue went close through Philippines International Luke Woodland as the midfielder got on the end of a neat passing move involving Marshall and Jason St Juste but lifted his effort high over the bar from twenty yards out

Avenue striker Lamin Colley was handed a fine chance for the visitors in the fourteenth minute of the game as a fine threaded ball from Woodland saw Colley break the flimsy Hednesford offside trap, only for Ransome to make a fine save as Colley drove his first-time shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper

A minute later, Paul Ennis was presented with the Pitmen's first chance of the afternoon as Adam Thomas made an unchallenged run from his own half deep into the Bradford half before laying it off to Ennis, whose right-footed shot was lifted high over the crossbar from eighteen yards out

Woodland went close again for the away side midway through an uninspiring first period as the midfield took a couple of touches after latching onto St Juste's pass but fired into the Heath Hayes terrace with a mis-hit effort

Glover's neat chest control on twenty-four minutes saw the striker bring down a Sean Williams pass before playing striker partner Tom Peers into space to the left-hand side of the Avenue penalty area; the former Chester man drew stand-in goalkeeper Ryan Jones out of his goal but wastefully fired over the crossbar from twelve yards out

Four minutes later, the lively Mottley-Henry gave Ben Bailey the slip as he made a darting run into the penalty area to latch onto a fine pass from Marshall, drilling a right-footed effort at goal from an angle but only managing to find the side-netting in the process

On thirty-two minutes, Ransome was alert to a speculative effort from Woodland, whose attempted lob over the head of the Hednesford stopper from thirty yards out did not have enough on it and was an easy claim for the backtracking goalkeeper in his six-yard box

An attritional game hit a real lull at this juncture, with both midfields struggling to keep control of the ball and playing loose passes across the threadbare Keys Park turf. Colley's flick-on from a Ryan Qualter throw bounced neatly into the path of St Juste on thirty-eight minutes, but an offside flag against the flying winger pulled play back and denied the former AFC Fylde man a shot at goal from just inside the Hednesford penalty area

With three minutes of the first period remaining, Truelove's rangy pass found Peers making a late run into the Avenue penalty area to get on the end of the lofted pass. Despite Bradford's desperate offside pleas, referee Ms Garratt continued with play, allowing Peers to strike a firm shot at goal from twenty-five yards out that was easily saved by Jones

In truth, it had been a very poor spectacle in the first forty-five minutes, with both sides seemingly just going through the motions and struggling to create clear-cut openings at either end. Ransome had been the busier of the two stoppers but had not been severely tested by a pacy but shot-shy Avenue attack

Much like the first period, the second half was a slow-burner with limited chances in the opening fifteen minutes. Bailey's long throw on fifty minutes was punched away by Jones but only as far as Williams, whose chipped shot from the edge of the box sailed harmlessly over the crossbar without troubling the stopper

Neat play down the left from Bradford on fifty-four minutes saw Ben Gordon create an overlap for St Juste to play into space behind Fitzwater, with Gordon's deep cross to the far post headed over his own crossbar by Francino Francis as Colley lurked with intent

The Pitmen's first substitution of the afternoon came on fifty-eight minutes as Digie returned to the side in place of Truelove, once again playing in an unfamiliar left-back role

On the hour mark, Thomas's run was halted illegally by Luke Dean, who hauled the winger down and received a ticking off from Ms Garratt. Glover took the resultant free-kick and fired in a powerful low shot from twenty yards out that beat the Avenue wall but was saved on the line by Jones

The visitors brought top scorer Chib Chilaka onto the field of play before the game could restart, with the well-travelled Nigerian forward replacing Marshall as Edmondson looked for the goal that would surely win the game for his side

Midway through the second half, another Williams corner kick was met by the head of Francis, who towered above Qualter to nod the ball down to on-loan Jonathan Royle - his low driven shot from fifteen yards out was deflected away from danger by the boot of King, who was standing on the near post and was able to turn the ball behind for another corner kick 

Williams and Glover worked a clever free-kick between them on sixty-nine minutes, with Williams disguising his shot before leaving it to Glover, whose well-struck effort drifted just wide of Jones's right-hand post

The home side's second and final substitution of the game came on seventy-three minutes as Marvin Robinson made his long-overdue return to action after several injury issues, coming on in place of the ineffective and anonymous Ennis to add a physical threat to the impotent Hednesford attack

Ransome made another regulation save for the Pitmen with fifteen minutes of the game remaining as he held a daisy-cutter of a shot from Colley inside his six-yard box after the striker had turned past Francis to get on the end of Woodland's pass

Another long throw from Bailey on seventy-eight minutes was half-cleared by the hosts back to the defender on the right, with the Hednesford skipper's cross a touch too high for Francis to meet at the far post as his central defensive partner came within a whisker of nodding the ball home at the far post

 

A long, hopeful punt forwards from Digie created a great chance for Peers on eighty-two minutes as the ball drifted over the head of Dean and into the path of the onrushing striker; his initial touch was heavy and allowed Qualter to cut out the danger, only for the ball to run kindly for the striker once more - his follow-up shot across goal beat Jones but also drifted narrowly wide of the far post

The pace of the game dropped once more in the closing stages as neither side showed much appetite to go for the win, with play resembling a training game in the final five minutes. Chilaka's one sight at goal came on eighty-six minutes as he exchanged passes with substitute Sam Patterson and entered the penalty area, but dragged his low shot well wide of goal when a pass to Mottley-Henry may have been a better idea

In the first minute of stoppage time, Peers mistimed a tackle on Mottley-Henry to stop the striker from breaking quickly out of his own half, prompting angry words between both sets of players and management and ending in a booking apiece for Peers and Mottley-Henry from Ms Garratt

It had been a very meagre and uninspiring way for the Pitmen to see out their home campaign, with many of the sub-300 strong crowd sloping off before the end of the game after witnessing two sides simply playing out their commitments to the Vanarama National League North and producing an unsurprisingly low key goalless draw. The Pitmen finally bring their rotten campaign to an end next weekend when they travel across the A5 to face Nuneaton Town, who still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs if results go their way next Saturday afternoon

Hednesford Town: Ransome, Fitzwater, Truelove (Digie 58), Bailey ©, Francis, Royle, Thomas, Williams, Glover, Peers , Ennis (Robinson 73)      Subs Unused: Crane, Trainer, Cham

Bradford Park Avenue: Jones, King, Gordon, Dean, Wilkinson, Qualter, Marshall (Chilaka 61), Woodland, Colley (Schofield 83), Mottley-Henry , St Juste (Patterson 67)      Sub Unused: Scott