12.3.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Alexander (38), Starbuck (59)

Burscough

McGinn (17), Alexander (72) (OG)

(1) 2

(1) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

461

Darren Alexander

D L L W L D L L W D

Burscough (A) 17.3.07

The Pitmen will probably be looking at this as two points dropped rather than one gained after having the best of the second-half chances and dropping two defensive clangers to allow fellow play-off challengers Burscough to take a point from tonight's Keys Park clash

Player/manager Phil Starbuck continued his run in the side after his successful inclusion on Saturday, bringing Ross Adams back into the XI in place of the injured Gary Sucharewycz and Justin Jenkins ahead of Alan Dodd in the two changes from Saturday's side that had beaten rock-bottom Grantham Town

Liam Watson's Burscough side were on a charge up the table and were unbeaten in their last five league games heading into tonight's rearranged game. Watson made one change to the side that had drawn against Leek Town at the weekend as Gary Brabin returned to partner top scorer Cieran Kilheeney up front in place of Kevin Leadbetter

Starbuck almost gave his side the dream start to proceedings in the second minute of the game with the home side's first attack of the game; Jenkins headed a Phil Hadland cross down into the path of the veteran former Nottingham Forest man, whose volley from twelve yards out whistled inches wide of Burscough goalkeeper Tony McMillan's right-hand post

The Pitmen's assertive start continued through Ross Dyer three minutes later as whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the right-wing that was met by Jenkins, only for the striker to head wide at the far post

The in-form visitors were handed a good chance to open the scoring in the ninth minute as a long ball over the top from Farrell Kilbane was misjudged by Tom Marshall, who allowed the ball to bounce past him and into the path of midfielder Robbie Booth, who shot over the crossbar from a promising position fifteen yards from goal

The Pitmen responded through Dyer once more, who made a fine run down the right and got the byeline before chipping the ball towards Darren Alexander. McMillan misjudged the flight of the ball and dropped it at the feet of the striker before making a smothering save at the second attempt

 More poor defending from the hosts handed Burscough the opening goal of the evening on seventeen minutes; slack passing from the back involving Ryan Young, Adams and Marshall allowed Matty McGinn to steal the ball and run in on goal unchallenged to fire into the virtually unguarded net. An awful goal to concede at any time and certainly not one you would want to gift to a play-off rival due to a bout of amateurish mucking about at the back

Hadland attempted to drag the Pitmen back into the game four minutes later, dribbling across the edge of the penalty area and past three challenges, but his rising shot was always going over the bar as he mis-hit his effort from the edge of the box

Kilbane - the brother of former Preston, Sunderland and Eire midfielder Kevin - was the first player to be shown a yellow card midway through the first half as he was booked for a poorly-timed tackle on Starbuck in midfield. The Pitmen's player/manager required a lengthy bout of treatment from Don Drakeley before returning to the pitch for the free-kick, which Warren Beattie whipped in and was consequently headed over the crossbar by the out-of-luck Jenkins

The experienced Brabin was giving Adams a trying time at the back with his aggression and hold-up play. He received a pass from Booth on twenty-seven minutes and shrugged off the attentions of the centre-back but got his laces underneath the ball just inside the Hednesford penalty area and lifted his shot over the crossbar

Just after the half-hour mark, Beattie won the ball in midfield and supplied Dyer with the ball just inside the Burscough half. The teenager took a couple of touches and picked out Alexander with a fine pass, only for the former AFC Telford man to drive his first-time effort well wide of goal

Kilheeney showed his striker's instinct to get a shot away on thirty-five minutes as he made a run into the penalty area to get on the end of a pass from Alan Moogan, onyl to be tacked by Marshall just outside the penalty area. The ball ran for the striker once more and despite him ending up on the ground, he still got his shot away and fired just wide

Referee Mr Cox was irking both sides with his constant stop-start attitude to the game and not allowing a promising encounter to flow as it wanted. He stopped play on thirty-seven minutes for no apparent reason to talk to both benches, leaving the Keys Park crowd unsure as to what had gone on to warrant the play being stopped

A minute later, the Pitmen got themselves back on level terms as Screaton's throw-in was cleared as far as Dyer, who recycled the ball by whipping in a low cross into the penalty area. Starbuck was alert to the ball and got enough to divert it into the path of the incoming Alexander, who sidefooted past McMillan from eight yards out

The Pitmen finished the half strongly and Hadland did well to pick up the ball from Starbuck on the overlap, crossing to the far post where Alexander beat Neil Fitzhenry to the ball but headed wide of goal

In the dying seconds of the first half, Jenkins failed to put the Pitmen into the lead as his header was deflected towards goal by McGinn and was eventually turned away by McMillan

Hadland had felt his hamstring go when he crossed for Alexander's chance a few moments earlier and was forced off at the break as it could not be treated. He was replaced by Jamie March at left-back

 Once again, Jenkins must have been wondering if he had smashed a set of mirrors or stepped on a back cat as his desperately unlucky run in front of goal continued on forty-eight minutes;  the big striker's initial shot from fifteen yards out was blocked by McMillan before the ball dropped to both Starbuck and Alexander, who saw his shot on the turn deflected behind for a corner kick.

 

From Adams' resultant corner, the ball dropped to Jenkins inside the Burscough six-yard box, only for the former Hinckley United man to once again be denied by McMillan from a couple of yards out

The Pitmen's early pressure on the Burscough goal continued as Dyer exchanged passes with Screaton just outside the Burscough penalty on fifty-two minutes before playing Starbuck in on the left-hand corner of the box. The player/manager took two touches before unleashing a low shot that McMillan got his body behind

Four minutes later, Marshall's powerful free-kick clipped the Burscough wall and deflected into the path of Dyer, who could not control the bouncing ball and allowed Kilbane to clear the danger

 The Pitmen finally got their noses in front just before the hour mark and it was the gaffer himself who once again proved his worth to the team with a second goal in two games since coming out of retirement. March was felled just outside the area by Dominic Morley and a free kick was awarded. Starbuck looked to take the kick quickly but changed his mind and instead struck an absolutely superb free-kick over the Burscough wall and high into the roof of the far corner of the net - undoubtedly one of the goals of the season for the Pitmen, scored by the manager

However, the home side sat back in an attempt to defend the slender lead and allowed Burscough to dictate the next ten minutes of play as they looked to get back into the game. The tricky Kilheeney did well to get in front of Marshall on sixty-two minutes to meet a cross from Chris Price, but his backward header drifted over the crossbar

A quickly-taken corner kick from McGinn three minutes later found Booth on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area, with the midfielder's curling effort tipped away by Young and subsequently cleared by Adams

A quick break from the Pitmen on seventy minutes straight down the centre of the pitch saw skipper Chris White play Beattie into space. The on-loan Preston man showed Morley a clean pair of heels and nudged the ball into the path of Alexander, whose left-footed shot was wildly off-target as he was put under pressure by Kilbane

The Pitmen made their second substitution of the evening on seventy-one minutes as Mario Pedro came on for Starbuck once more as the player/manager started to suffer from a lack of stamina

 

The visitors got themselves back on level terms and set up a fascinating final quarter of the game a minute later as another debatable free-kick awarded by Mr Cox was spotted by Booth out on the left. His deep inswinging ball into the penalty area was aimed at the incoming Brabin and Kilbane, only for the unlucky Alexander to see the ball bounce off him and nestle in his own net as he tried to turn the ball away from his goal

The luckless Jenkins had once again failed to grab the goal that his efforts deserved and was replaced with fourteen minutes remaining by Dave Whittaker up front

Both sides looked to claim the points in the final period of the game, with good chances at both ends. Screaton's long throw found White lurking on the edge of the penalty area on seventy-six minutes, with the Hednesford skipper unleashing a rising shot that looked goalbound until a timely header away from goal by McGinn

Kilheeney stabbed a Price cross just wide of goal on eighty-one minutes before a timely challenge from Adams denied second-half substitute Leadbetter a clear sight at goal two minutes later

A marauding run from Pedro with four minutes to go saw the Portuguese winger play the ball to White, who in turn spread the play to find Dyer on the opposite wing. His pace got him past McGinn and to the byeline before crossing into the six-yard box and towards Whittaker, only for Burscough to clear their lines

The visitors were seemingly hanging on to the draw from this point onwards as some blatant time-wasting and more bizarre refereeing decisions aided the men in green as the minutes ticked away

 

In added time, Watson's attempt to waste time by failing by denying the Pitmen an attempt to retrieve the ball was pulled up by the fussy Mr Cox, who incredibly sent Watson off rather than tick him off for his time-wasting

It had been a fast-paced and entertaining evening of football, with a point a fair result on the balance of play between two sides with plenty to play for. The two sides will do it again on Saturday when the Pitmen travel to Victoria Park in the reverse fixture, looking to ward off the looming threat of the Linnets in the league table as they now aim to solidify their place in the play-offs

Hednesford Town: Young, Dyer, Hadland (March 45), White ©, Marshall, Screaton, Beattie, Starbuck (Pedro 71), Alexander, Jenkins (Whittaker 74), Adams      Subs Unused: None

Burscough: McMillan, Tomlinson, McGinn, Fitzhenry, Kilbane , Morley (Parry 87), Booth, Moogan, Brabin (Leadbetter 70), Kilheeney, Price      Sub Unused: Roberts