17.3.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Burscough

Brabin (11), Price (43)

Hednesford Town

(2) 2

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

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399

Darren Alexander

L L W L D L L W D L

Marine (A) 24.3.07

Hednesford's closest challengers Burscough move to within a point of the second-placed Pitmen this afternoon after two first-half goals condemn the away side to a fifth defeat in ten games and leave their season on a knife-edge

Despite the two sides playing each other just five days previously, Hednesford player/manager Phil Starbuck made a number of personnel and positional changes to his side as skipper Chris White was ruled out due to injury; this saw Jamie March come back into the side in White's place and force Dave Whittaker into playing in an unfamiliar midfield role once more. Up front, there were wholesale changes to the strikeforce as both Justin Jenkins and Darren Alexander were replaced by the returning Danny Bacon and new signing Jon Douglas, who had linked up with the club in midweek from basement side Grantham Town

In-form Burscough - only four points behind the Pitmen ahead of play after the entertaining 2-2 draw between the two sides at Keys Park - were unchanged from Monday night's game as Liam Watson's side looked to make it seven games unbeaten and close the gap on Starbuck's fading team with a game in hand

On an overcast and very windy day in Lancashire, a fifth-minute free-kick taken by Starbuck was cleared by the Burscough defence to Robbie Booth, who broke quickly into space and played Gary Brabin in on goal, only for the alert presence of Ryan Young to deny the experienced front man with a smothering save at his feet to force the ball behind for a corner kick

From the resultant corner kick, Brabin met Matty McGinn's outswinging corner kick with a powerful header but saw his effort clear Young's crossbar by a matter of inches

In the ninth minute, Brabin turned provider for the UniBond Premier League's top scorer Cieran Kilheeney as he played the ball into the path of his strike partner, only for Young to once again make a fine save as he diverted the striker's low driven shot away from goal with his feet

The Pitmen responded a minute later with a neat passage of play involving Warren Beattie and Ross Dyer played Douglas into play down the right. The debutant took a couple of touches before driving a ball across the face of goal, but just too far in front of the incoming March at the far post

The opening goal of the after arrived a minute later with what can only be described as a freak strike from Brabin; the striker picked the ball up in the centre circle and spotted Young off his line and lobbed the goalkeeper from sixty yards out with a wind-assisted strike that sailed over the head of the stopper and dropped into the corner of the net

Burscough goalkeeper Tony McMillan was tested for the first time in the game on fifteen minutes as he pushed a shot from Danny Bacon around his post for a Hednesford corner 

 

Marshall also tested the reflexes of McMillan five minutes later with a powerfully driven free-kick from twenty-five yards out that was palmed away by the experienced stopper

Bacon and Douglas were looking to develop a quick understanding up front after being hastily put together by Starbuck ahead of today's game and lined up well on twenty-three minutes to play Beattie into a pocket of space, only for the on-loan midfielder to lose the ball as he shaped to shoot on the edge of the Burscough penalty area

Great play from Dyer on twenty-six minutes saw the striker get away from Farrell Kilbane and play March into space. The left-back's ball back to Dyer was a touch too far in front of him and he could only toe-poke an effort wide of McMillan's right-hand post, under pressure from Mike Tomlinson 

The normally prolific Kilheeney was guilty of a shocking miss on the half-hour mark as he unwittingly missed an open goal as he took his eye off the ball momentarily and allowed Price's cross to skip across goal and away from danger inside the six-yard box

Kilbane should have doubled Burscough's lead five minutes later as Brabin headed down a Price cross and into the path of the incoming Kilbane, whose follow-up header was inches away from finding the net at the far post

A quick break from the Pitmen on forty minutes saw Bacon chase down a long pass from Ross Adams and hold off Dominic Morley before playing the ball into the path of Douglas, only for his rising shot to clear the crossbar

This was to cost the Pitmen dearly as Burscough doubled their lead just before half-time; McGinn's corner kick was headed goalwards by Brabin, who saw his effort headed off the line by Beattie. Young scrambled the ball away from goal but only succeeded in pushing the ball to Price, who fired home from close-range

In injury time, the hosts almost made it three-nil as Brabin got the better of Iain Screaton inside the Hednesford penalty area but was denied a clear scoring opportunity by March's last-ditch tackle

Burscough had been good value for their lead at the break against a Hednesford side that had looked a little disjointed in the first period with some of the players looking a little out of their depth in positions they were not comfortable playing in

The visitors emerged brightly in the second half and Starbuck looked to replicate Brabin's wonder-strike two minutes after the restart as he tried his luck from just inside the Burscough half that drifted over the crossbar

Starbuck got on the ball again to play Bacon in on fifty minutes, only for the striker to dally on the ball too long as he shaped to shoot and allowed Kilbane to make a recovering tackle

 

March won a free-kick for the away side on fifty-five minutes after being fouled by Brabin, allowing Beattie to float a ball into the penalty area that Whittaker headed goalwards, only to be claimed by McMillan on his goal line

Kilheeney's luck had very much deserted him this afternoon as he capitalised on a rare error from Adams on the hour mark to poke the ball towards goal but missed the net by inches with a close-range effort

Starbuck's impact on the team has been less than the last two games and he elected to replace himself on sixty-two minutes with the introduction of Jenkins

Two minutes later, the Pitmen made their second change of the afternoon as March was replaced by Mario Pedro down the left to give the visitors more attacking threat down the flank

Screaton lashed a shot wide of goal on sixty-seven minutes as he picked up a pass from Dyer from twenty yards out and charged into the Burscough penalty area

At the other end, Brabin held the ball up well against Adams and turned well, curling a shot over the crossbar from fifteen yards out despite Kilheeney being well placed

Booth did well to beat Screaton to a bouncing ball on seventy-five minutes and created space for himself, only for his shot to lack power and dribble into the arms of Young

Jenkins headed high over the crossbar from a Beattie free-kick two minutes later as he beat Kilbane to the ball before Morley headed similarly over the Hednesford crossbar sixty seconds later at the other end

Bacon's frustrating afternoon in front of goal was brought to an end on eighty-one minutes as the combative Alexander came on in his place up front to try and get the Pitmen back into the game

Pedro did well to skip past two challenges and make his way into the Burscough penalty area three minutes later, but found McMillan equal to his effort at his near post

With three minutes of the game remaining, Beattie was played through on goal by Alexander's flick, but McMillan was once again on top of proceedings by making a comfortable save

In the final minute of the game, Dyer got on the end of a bouncing ball as Whittaker looped the ball back into the penalty area but lifted his shot over the crossbar

Defeat leaves Burscough just a point behind the Pitmen in the table and the teams below them homing in on Starbuck's side with just eight games to play. One of those sides looking to usurp Hednesford in the remaining few games provides the opposition next weekend as play-off chasers Marine play host to the Pitmen for the first time ever 

Burscough: McMillan, Tomlinson, McGinn, Fitzhenry (Parry 87), Kilbane, Morley, Booth, Moogan, Brabin, Kilheeney (Leadbetter 87), Price      Sub Unused: Roberts

Hednesford Town: Young ©, Marshall, Screaton, Adams, March (Pedro 64), Beattie, Whittaker, Starbuck (Jenkins 62), Dyer, Bacon (Alexander 81), Douglas      Subs Unused: None