7.1.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Campion (68)

Bradford (Park Avenue)

Greaves (32)

(0) 1

(1) 1

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529

Jay Denny

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Nantwich Town (A) 14.1.12

Hednesford sluggishly kicked off their home campaign for 2012 with a hard-earned point against one of their fellow play-off hopefuls Bradford (Park Avenue)

Coming off the high of completing a historic double over local rivals Stafford Rangers earlier in the week, manager Rob Smith unsurprisingly stuck with the same side that had won at Marston Road on Monday. There were two changes to the substitutes, as new signings Mark Beesley and Liam Blakeman were added after their midweek switches to the club

Smith's side started briskly, with Nick Wellecomme getting the beating of his man before crossing for Kyle Haynes at the far post; the youngster's header was weak, however, and was easily fielded by Bradford keeper John Lamb

Bradford were forced into an early change to their defence, as Adam Clayton limped off with a suspected hamstring injury and was replaced by James Riley

The visitors gradually grew into the game and could have taken the lead on eleven minutes through Richard Marshall. His low shot after picking up a partially-cleared corner was deflected narrowly wide of the post by Cheyenne Dunkley, conceding another kick

Five minutes later, Michael Duckworth wasted Avenue's best chance of the game thus far; Dan Crane pushed a cross out as far as Duckworth, whose rising shot brushed the crossbar and went over

Hednesford's response came in the form of a low drive from Chris Clements a minute later, just missing the foot of the post with a venomous shot

Jay Denny was booked for a mistimed challenge on Adam Clayton midway through the half, which lead to a great opportunity for Avenue. The resultant free-kick from Marshall  found James Knowles unmarked, but the defender headed inches over the angle of post and crossbar

There was a feeling of inevitability that Bradford would notch sooner rather than later, and on thirty-two minutes they did just that. A quick throw from Rob O'Brien found Marshall, who managed to hold off the attentions of Dunkley before standing up a ball to Tom Greaves, who headed home from close range

Nicky Boshell almost made it 2-0 five minutes later as he rushed onto a through ball from Greaves, but failed to test Crane with a shot that cleared the crossbar

Clements went close to equalising for the Pitmen a minute later, firing a swerving ball towards goal after getting the ball back from a corner, but was denied by the legs of Lamb

Marvin Robinson joined Denny in the book for an aggressive challenge on Knowles, leading to another dangerous looking free-kick from Marshall that Crane was at full stretch to save

Smith's half time team talk could have been a very different affair, with Darren Campion providing the final action of the half in driving a shot right across the face of the Bradford goal, but neither Wellecomme nor Robinson could react quickly enough to knock the ball home from a couple of yards out

Clearly unhappy with the balance of his team in the first half, Smith brought on the attack-minded Elliott Durrell in place of right-back Haynes at the start of the second half. The playmaker made an immediate impact, using his pace to good effect down the Hednesford right wing. His tricky run on forty-eight minutes brought a foul from Boshell and earned the Avenue man a yellow card for his troubles

Clements took the resultant free-kick, whipping in a dangerous ball that was taken off the head of Wellecomme by Lamb, who made a confident catch

Two further changes for the Pitmen followed, as Jamey Osborne replaced Ben Jevons and Beesley made his debut wide on the left in place of Robinson

On fifty-seven minutes, Bradford very nearly wrapped up the game as a contest; a Jordan Deacy corner was met by substitute Riley, whose firm header was expertly saved by Crane as he looked to pile more misery on the Pitmen from set-pieces

There was also a loud shout for a penalty for Avenue on the hour mark, as Marshall's shot appeared to strike the arm of Dunkley. the referee was unimpressed with the calls and continued with the game

Campion, Clements, and Durrell all looked to take responsibility for a free-kick three minutes later, won after a foul on Wellecomme twenty-five yards out. After much discussion, Clements leathered a shot towards goal but got it all wrong with a wasteful effort that flew well wide of the target

The Pitmen finally got their lifeline on sixty-eight minutes with Beesley winning a free-kick after a foul on him by Knowles. Campion struck a long-range free-kick towards goal, perhaps in more hope than expectation. The ball took a slight deflection off a Bradford defender, doing enough to divert the ball past the wrong-footed Lamb and find the bottom right-hand corner of the net

Roared on by the resurgent crowd, the Pitmen went in search of a winner in the final twenty minutes. Clements was finding more space to create chances for the side and was also taking responsibility for all of the set-pieces. A Clements free-kick was played towards the far post on seventy-two minutes, with Dunkley throwing himself towards the ball. However, the ball was just too high for the youngster to get his head to, and the ball sailed out of play for a goal kick

Boshell, who was arguably Bradford's man of the match, made another marauding run forward on seventy-five minutes but chipped the ball wide of the far post with a clever shot on the run

There was almost a winner for the home side with ten minutes remaining, as Pedro Monteiro attempted to scramble the ball home after a Campion corner had dropped in the six-yard box. The big defender managed to poke the ball towards the net, but Bradford's Ross Daly did enough to clear the ball off the line

Despite being perfectly poised in the final minutes, it was an oddly flat end to the game as neither side could muster up a chance of any real note; Bradford will be happy with their away point after a rugged defensive display to frustrate their title-chasing hosts. The Pitmen are on the road once more next weekend as they make the trip up to Cheshire to face play-off chasing Nantwich Town at the Weaver Stadium

Hednesford Town: Crane, Bailey, Campion ©, Monteiro , Dunkley, Denny , Haynes (Durrell 45), Clements, Robinson (Beesley 55), Wellecomme, Jevons (Osborne 55)       Subs Unused: Landell, Blakeman

Bradford Park Avenue: Lamb, O’Brien, Boshell , Daly, Knowles , Clayton (Riley 7), Greaves, Hotte, Marshall ©, Deacey (Bernard 72), Duckworth       Subs Unused: Drury, Law, Savory