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F.A. Trophy 4th Round

Burton Albion

Talbot (71), Webster (88) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

(0) 2

(0) 0



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Lee Barrow



Merthyr Tydfil (A) 12.2.05

The Pitmen relinquished their hold on the F.A. Trophy amidst a flurry of cards and controversy at a chilly Eton Park this afternoon as they are dumped out of this season's competition by Staffordshire neighbours Burton Albion

Hednesford made the short trip to Burton off the back of some fine recent form, having remained unbeaten so far in 2005 without a goal conceded in their past six games. They were handed a blow ahead of today's big derby, however, as top scorer Andy Bell was ruled out due to injury. This saw Anthony Maguire come back into the starting XI and the Pitmen adopting a 4-5-1 formation with Leon McSweeney acting as the lone striker. On the bench, there were first-ever call-ups for teenagers Danny Harvey and Ross Dyer as manager Chris Brindley saw his squad stretched to its limit due to injuries and suspensions

Nationwide Conference Burton had also been in fine recent form since the turn of the year, losing only one of their last six games to lift Nigel Clough's side away from the drop zone after an inconsistent first half of the campaign. Player/manager Clough made one change to his side from the one that had drawn 1-1 at home to their other big Staffordshire rivals, Tamworth, on Tuesday night as Sam Shilton came in for Andy Corbett in midfield

In front of a huge crowd, swelled by 400 plus Hednesford supporters who had made the short journey across the county, it was a former Hednesford player who had a great chance to open the scoring with just forty-five seconds on the clock; ex-Pitman Dale Anderson - playing in his 200th game for the Brewers this afternoon - got on the end of a pass from Craig Dudley and volleyed a ball goalwards from the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area, only to see his shot cannon back off Ryan Young's left-hand post and away from danger

The all sky-blue visitors used this let-off to good effect as they pushed forwards in search of a response; in the sixth minute, Leon McSweeney raced onto a Maguire pass but lifted his shot on the run high over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Four minutes later, Maguire won a free-kick for the Pitmen twenty-five yards out, allowing Lee Barrow to spot the ball and bludgeon a shot at goal that young Burton goalkeeper Daniel Crane pushed over the crossbar for a Hednesford corner kick

The Brewers went back down the other end and Chris Hall sent over a fine free-kick in the twelfth minute that was headed goalwards by Barry Miller, only for the ball to drop into the grateful arms of Young

Neat play from the Pitmen - attempting the bridge the two-division gap between the two sides - saw Carl Palmer shrug off a tackle from Andy Ducros and play Matt Turner into space down the left. The former Nottingham Forest youngster got the better of Anderson and crossed for McSweeney, who was a touch too early in his leap and allowed the ball to sail over his head as he attempted to turn the ball past Crane from eight yards out

Burton legend Darren Stride headed just over the crossbar for the hosts in the eighteenth minute as he pushed past a lax piece of marking from Mark Branch to head a Ryan Austin cross from the left high into the Hednesford fans behind Young's goal

Despite Burton edging possession in the opening quarter, there had been very little between the two sides as the Pitmen had impressed with their energy and spirit, having come into the game in good recent form that had seen them record six straight clean sheets

Burton were content to try their luck from range whenever the play allowed them to, with the tricky Dudley unleashing a shot from thirty yards out on twenty-one minutes that sailed wide of Young's goal

Two minutes later, Miller made space for himself down the left and pulled the ball back into the path of Shilton, whose first-time effort a couple of yards outside the Hednesford penalty area lacked direction and was watched wide by Young

Lee Williams won a free-kick to the right of the Burton penalty area after being brought down by Shilton in full flight on twenty-six minutes and whipped in a delightful ball to the far post, where Richard Teesdale stretched to reach the ball but could only glance well wide of the target

The Pitmen were enjoying more of the ball at the point in the game as they chased and harried Burton, forcing loose passes and misplaced balls from the step one hosts and playing the ball up to McSweeney at every opportunity. Maguire and Ross Adams worked the ball down the right flank on the half-hour mark before finding the Pitmen's number ten, who turned quickly and fired goalwards but struck his weak effort straight at Crane

Ducros responded for the home side three minutes later as he made space for himself with some nifty footwork on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area, taking on both Barrow and Branch before shooting straight down the throat of Young

Enter referee Gary Sutton. The Lincoln-based official had been a quiet presence on the game thus far but became the centre of attention from this point onwards as his performance lurched from inconsistent to downward bizarre in handing the Brewers their passage into the next round. The first of countless indiscretions came on thirty-five minutes as he booked both Turner and Branch for fouls on Dudley in the same move, despite both players barely touching the former Oldham man and the pair having not made a single illegal challenge of note so far in the game

This was followed by a caution for McSweeney a minute later as the striker attempted to hold off Austin's aggressive challenge and was booked for a flailing arm that did not even connect with the Burton player

Anderson's reunion with his former club was to only last thirty-seven minutes, as the former West Brom youngster was forced off due to injury and replaced by Robbie Talbot, who had returned to action earlier this season after a car crash in the summer had nearly taken his life

With half-time looming, the Pitmen launched a quick break down the left as Grant Beckett lost Aaron Webster momentarily and attempted to pick out Maguire at the far post, only for the former Preston man to get a little too much on his cross and chip the ball wide of the far post before Maguire could get on the end of the pass

It had been an impressive first forty-five minutes from the visitors, who had more than matched their higher league neighbours in most areas and had two or three decent chances of their own to take a shock lead. Burton had been a little disappointing on the ball but a half-time roasting from Clough had the Brewers firing at the start of the second half as they looked to up the tempo against their step three opponents

Austin did well to take on Barrow and get past him and into the inside-left position on fifty minutes, standing up a cross to the far post where both Miller and Hall were arriving. Young was alert to the danger and made a timely catch to deny the pair a simple tap-in from close-range

The Pitmen came back and had two great chances early on in the second half to take the lead; on fifty-three minutes, Maguire's pass into the path of McSweeney saw the striker bamboozle Stride with his slalom-like run, but his side-footed effort lacked power and was saved by young goalkeeper Crane

Three minutes later, Turner had an event better chance to hand the away side the lead as Palmer played the winger in with a fine angled pass. Turner struck a well-hit shot from the edge of the box across Crane's goal, forcing the former West Brom trainee into a brilliant diving save to his left to push the ball away from goal

Alas, this was as good as it got for the Pitmen as Mr Sutton intervened once more on the hour mark to reduce the visitors to ten men in more bizarre circumstances; Turner and Dudley challenged for a Shilton pass just inside Hednesford half which saw the pair tangle in the centre circle. A simple coming-together, one would conclude, but Mr Sutton saw otherwise and sent Turner off for a second bookable offence. The shock on the faces of the Hednesford players, management and supporters was telling as it appeared to be a terribly incorrect decision from the official

Burton started to take the game to the ten-man Pitmen, who were now playing a more narrow formation with Beckett tucking in to support Williams and Palmer against the wave of Burton pressure. Brindley's tactic appeared to work initially, as Burton failed to register a single shot on goal in a few minutes, which even prompted a visibly frustrated Clough to bring himself on in place of the ineffective Shilton

Some excellent defending from Barrow denied Ducros on sixty-nine minutes as he stepped across the edge of his own penalty area to block the midfielder's shot after Teesdale had given the ball away cheaply to the former Coventry City man

A minute later, Young came to the Pitmen's rescue as he looked to protect his clean sheet by making a fine save to deny the flying Dudley after the forward had skipped past Adams on the left-hand corner of the Pitmen's penalty area

However, Burton's pressure eventually told with nineteen minutes remaining as the brave Hednesford rearguard was breached for the first time in six games; Clough and Webster exchanged passes down the right to play Hall into space beyond Adams. The winger sent over a fine cross that was met by Talbot, who headed beyond the reach of Young from six yards out to finally open the scoring for the hosts

the afternoon got even worse for the Pitmen two minutes later as they were reduced to nine men. Dudley got past Branch and was clipped by the young left-back, once again being deemed a bookable offence by Mr Sutton who promptly showed the teenager a second yellow card and sent him off

Brindley elected to bring himself on a few moments later to shore up the creaking Hednesford defence, changing formation to 5-2-1 with Barrow moving to left-back in place of the red-carded Branch and Brindley playing alongside Teesdale after he replaced Beckett. Marlon Walters was also introduced at the same time in place of Maguire to drop into central midfield as the Pitmen went narrow in their set-up for the final thirteen minutes

Stride could have finished the Pitmen off with ten minutes remaining as he diverted Dudley's low cross over the crossbar from close-range, although it was debatable how much the skipper knew about it as the ball seemed to just hit him

Dudley was enjoying more time and space to create havoc with gaps appearing all over the pitch and set Talbot up two minutes later with a fine slide-rule pass, only for the substitute to fire wide from eight yards out

With five minutes of the game remaining, young striker Dyer - the latest product of the club's successful youth system - made his first-team bow as a late replacement for McSweeney

Mr Sutton was still not down with his inept display, however, and further incensed anyone of a Hednesford persuasion as he awarded Burton a penalty kick on eighty-eight minutes. Dudley went on another jinking run which was halted by Walters, which appeared to be a yard outside the penalty area before Dudley fell in the box. To the disbelief of the players in sky blue, Mr Sutton pointed to the spot, despite Walters and his team-mates showing the divot in the turf sitting outside the box where the tackle had taken place. Walters took his protests a little too far and was booked for dissent

Webster placed the ball on the spot and struck his penalty kick at goal, but was denied by a brilliant stop by Young. However, the Pitmen's joy was short-lived as the assistant referee flagged to Mr Sutton that Young had strayed off his line before the kick was taken and the penalty had to be retaken. Webster made no mistake from the second spot-kick as he sent Young the wrong way to seal the win for the Brewers

Walters can count him lucky not to have followed Branch and Turner in the red card club in added time as he crudely hacked down Hall in frustration. Yet again, Mr Sutton showed staggering inconsistency in his decision making as the most obvious and deserving of cautions went unpunished and only a free-kick was awarded to the hosts

Brindley, Steve Anthrobus and several Hednesford players were involved in a heated discussion with Mr Sutton at the end of the game as they looked to make sense of the official's bi-polar display that had been a major factor in their Trophy exit. The 2004 winners must now shake off this disappointment and return to league duty looking at the positives as they had competed well for seventy minutes against a good step one side and will now look to carry this on when they face high-flying Merthyr Tydfil at Penydarren Park next weekend

Burton Albion: Crane, Webster, Stride © (Kirkwood 90), Anderson (Talbot 37), Ducros, Shilton (Clough 68), Hall, Dudley, Austin, Shaw, Miller       Subs Unused: Ayres, Robinson

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch   (73), Barrow, Teesdale, Williams, Maguire (Walters 77 ▆), Palmer ©, Turner   (60), McSweeney ▆ (Dyer 85), Beckett (Brindley 77)     Subs Unused: Harvey, Evans

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