Evo-Stik Northern Premier League


Grayson (35), Taylor (55)

Hednesford Town

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Tom Thorley


Skelmersdale United (H) 18.2.17

Hednesford's season is rapidly drawing to an anti-climax as the managerless Pitmen crashed to defeat at play-off chasing Buxton tonight at a cold Silverlands. This leaves them still requiring in the region of four points to be safe for another season and enable them to build once more in 2017-2018 as this once-promising season peters out with no more than a whimper


Saturday's thrashing at the hands of league leaders Blyth had seen the caretaker management team make several changes to their side in the three days since. Dan Preston's loan from AFC Telford United had expired, with the big centre-back returning to his parent club following Saturday's defeat; Gavin Caines returned to the side to partner Dan Brenan to fill the gap left by Preston. Callum Roberts was handed a debut by the Pitmen after the young Shrewsbury Town left-back had had his loan spell extended at the club. Tony Clarke was given another chance to prove his worth, coming in for the out-of-sorts Vinny Mukendi after the big striker had shown poor attitude in the Blyth games


Buxton, on the other hand, had enjoyed a consistent season to date as they had hovering around the top five for most of the campaign as the Bucks looked to finally get themselves out of step three after several years at the level. They had moved into the top four the previous weekend courtesy of a narrow 2-1 victory over our local rivals Stafford Rangers, with manager Martin McIntosh sticking with the same team that had prevailed at Marston Road for today's game. They had remained strong at Silverlands all season, only losing twice in all competitions at their home

Buxton looked to pile on the misery for the all-red Pitmen in the early stages of the game with former Brad Grayson out-muscling Brenan in the fourth minute and lashing his low shot well wide of goal


It was the hardworking Clarke that went closest to firing the Pitmen in front on nine minutes as he made a powerful run through the centre of the Buxton defence, only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge by the experienced Ricky Ravenhill


Dan Crane came to his team's rescue for the first time in a busy evening for the stopper on twelve minutes, racing out of his goal to deny Greg Young a clear sight at goal from the edge of the penalty area with a smothering stop at the Buxton man's feet

Buxton midfielder Alistair Taylor was denied a chance to open the scoring four minutes later as a late offside flag against the former Barnsley man denied him a clear run through on Crane's goal


Neat build-up play from the Pitmen down the right on twenty minutes saw Kyle Haynes and Danny Glover combine to set Clarke away once more, but again the burly striker failed to get his shot away cleanly and allowed the ball to be cleared by Ravenhill


Clarke thought he had finally ended his Hednesford goal drought on twenty-six minutes, as Glover's slide-rule pass was rifled into the net by his strike partner only to be pulled back by a late offside flag, much to Clarke's frustration


The Pitmen were forced into an early change midway through the first half, as midfielder Jordan Fitzpatrick was forced off due to injury. Lewis Wright came on in his place for some much-needed match action after his return from injury recently

Wright was into the action early on as he floated in a free-kick from the right touchline that was clicked on by Brenan and into the path of Glover, only for a fine block from Danny Burns to deflect the ball behind for a Hednesford corner, which was clipped in by skipper Tom Thorley and headed wide by Caines


Glover wasted a good chance to test Jan Budtz in the Buxton goal on thirty-three minutes as he lifted his effort high over the crossbar from twelve yards out when it looked easier to get his shot on target

Two minutes later, Clarke's towering header from a Wright cross was cleared away from danger by Burns as Glover looked to turn the loose ball over the line from six yards out

The visitors were made to pay for not taking any of their early chances as Buxton took the lead on thirty-seven minutes; Veteran Ravenhill prodded the ball through to Grayson, who in turn confidently slotted the ball past Crane to give Buxton the lead with a simple move that left the Hednesford defence flat-footed


Buxton went close to doubling their advantage almost immediately, as substitute Jamie Jackson's shot from range was well saved by the legs of Crane as Buxton looked to quickly press home their advantage

Clarke did well to play strike partner Glover into space just inside the Buxton penalty area on forty minutes, only for the former Port Vale man's shot to drift well wide of Budtz's far post as it flew across the face of goal


Thorley tried his luck with a long-range free-kick with a couple of minutes of the half remaining, lifted a shot straight into the hands of Budtz after being fouled by the experienced Brad Abbott twenty-five yards from goal

It had been another frustrating half from the Pitmen, who again had found themselves struggling with that double-whammy of issues - can't score, conceding too easily - that had plagued their form since the departure of Liam McDonald in November 


The Pitmen started the second half very well indeed, however, pushing Buxton into their own third and creating several openings in the first few minutes of the half. Haynes' cross on forty-eight minutes was aimed for Clarke, but Budtz did well to claim the cross ahead of the striker


It was Glover who was presented with the best chance to equalise for the away side on fifty-one minutes, as he broke clear of the Buxton defence but dithered at the wrong moment as he shaped to shoot, and allowed Matty Williams to clear the ball. A melee followed as The Pitmen tried to force the ball home, with Budtz making a fine stop to deny Wright his first goal for the club on the rebound


Stuart McNaught was next to have a chance for the Pitmen a minute later as an outswinging Thorley corner dropped to him, only for Budtz to deny the former Sutton Coldfield midfielder with a save from close-range


And yet again, Buxton made the Pitmen pay for their missed chances and openings as they made it 2-0 on fifty-five minutes with their first real attack of the second half. Jackson showed the dreadfully poor Caines a clean pair of heels and played the ball to Abbott, whose subsequent cross was volleyed home by Taylor for his third goal of the season from eight yards out


Mukendi was introduced to the play a minute later by the visitors, coming on to add power to the forward line in place of the tiring Glover as the visitors looked for some kind of inspiration to get themselves back into the game


Jackson - a thorn in previous Hednesford sides when playing for the likes of Worksop - nearly added a third goal to Buxton's tally on sixty-two minutes, driving a shot narrowly wide of goal after being given too much time to pick his spot from fifteen yards out


The Pitmen made their final change of the evening on sixty-eight minutes, with the luckless Clarke withdrawn in favour of new boy Alfons Fosu-Mensah, who could probably count himself unlucky not to have started the past couple of games after a good debut against Barwell a couple of weeks ago

Abbott's long ball out to Joel Bembo-Leta saw the left-back get the better of Haynes on seventy-one minutes and cross for Grayson, only for his header to flash past Crane's right-hand post 


Fosu-Mensah's first action since coming on was to force Budtz into a superb save on seventy-eight minutes, driving in a low shot from fifteen yards that was brilliantly turned away by the former Wolves goalkeeper for a Hednesford corner kick

Two minutes later, Grayson and Abbott linked up well to chase down McNaught and rob him of the ball before setting Jackson away down the left flank. He cut inside and pulled the ball back into the path of Taylor, whose shot ended up in amongst the shivering Buxton fans huddled behind Crane's goal


Crane was earning his wage once more for the Pitmen with another fine save on eighty-four minutes, tipping over Joe McGee's cross-cum-shot to hand Buxton a corner kick as the Bucks continued to push for a killer third goal


The frustration of the evening got too much for substitute Mukendi, who was given his marching orders in the final minute of the game after ridiculously picking up two yellow cards in sixty seconds for a combination of foul play and aggression towards the officials to end a miserable evening for the Pitmen and their supporters. This meant that the Pitmen had had a man sent off in both fixtures against the Bucks this term after Calum Flanagan's red card in the home fixture back in October


The Pitmen's interim management team continue to struggle to get a tune out of their squad as they search for the handful of points to confirm the club's participation at step three for next season. They have a great opportunity to record that all-important first victory in five games with the visit of rock-bottom Skelmersdale United to Keys Park at the weekend


Buxton: Budtz, Williams, J. Bembo-Leta, Ravenhill, Burns, Young ©, McGee, Abbott, Grayson (Travis 90), Taylor (Hinsley 79), Walker (Jackson 25)       Subs Unused: F. Bembo-Leta, Jameson


Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Roberts, Thorley ©, Brenan, Caines , Fitzpatrick (Wright 25), McNaught, Clarke (Fosu-Mensah 68), Glover (Mukendi 60 ▆  (90)), Washbourne      Subs Unused: Ransome, Hurren