Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Cambridge City

Hann (67), Nightingale (81)

Hednesford Town

Lake (41)

(0) 2

(1) 1



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Mark Gayle



Newport (Isle of Wight) (A) 27.4.02

The Pitmen will have to beat fellow strugglers Newport (Isle of Wight) on the last of the season to ensure they remain in the Dr Martens Premier League for 2002-2003 as they are edged out of tonight's relegation six-pointer at Cambridge City by conceding yet another later goal to their opponents

Saturday had seen Kenny Hibbitt's side give their survival hopes a huge shot in the arm courtesy of a late win over Tiverton Town at Keys Park to give his side a two-point buffer over themselves and the bottom three. Hibbitt stuck with the same side that had earned that win over Tiverton, resisting calls in include Kevin Francis after the veteran's last two outings as a substitute had proven highly effective. Hibbitt also welcomed back teenager Tom Griffiths after the former youth team player had recovered sufficiently from a long-term injury. Hibbitt had long ruled out the likes of Ashley Williams, Graham Lancashire, Adam Shakespeare and Damien Charie with all of these players on the long-term injured list

Cambridge returned home off the back of a 3-0 hammering at Stafford Rangers at the weekend to leave the Lilywhites hovering in a precarious position just above the relegation zone themselves. Under-pressure manager Dave Batch made several changes to his misfiring side for tonight's Milton Road clash as Steve Wenlock, Martin Fox, Robbie Nightingale and Kevin Wilkin all returned to the side in place of Russell Flitton, Richard Skelly, Robin Sturgess and Steve Thacker respectively

Cambridge started the stronger as the home side and nearly stole into the lead inside the first two minutes with their first attack of the game. Adam Wilde's deep cross from the left was met at the far post by the head of Nightingale, who beat Gardiner to the high ball and headed straight into the arms of Mark Gayle in the Hednesford goal

Roy Essandoh did well to hold off the attentions of skipper Mark Haran in the seventh minute and play a clever reverse pass into the feet of Nightingale once more, only for the midfielder to drill his shot wide of goal from the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area

Stuart Lake headed tamely into the arms of Cambridge stopper Martin Davies in the eleventh minute as Richard Lucas's short corner to Derek Rae saw the Scotsman pick out his fellow midfielder at the near post

Wilde was denied a certain goal by Haran in the fourteenth minute as a rare mistake from Lake saw him dispossessed by Matt Hann, who played Wilde in on goal down the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area. Haran made a brave and timely sliding tackle to nick the ball away from the forward before he could fire past Gayle from ten yards out

The game was moving from end to end in the opening stages of the game, with both sides keen to earn the win that would essentially clinch their step two status for next season ahead of Saturday's final round of games. Kevin Wilkin's downward header from Fox's cross was hacked away by Lee Barrow on eighteen minutes after the former Nuneaton Borough man had escaped the attentions of Haran in the penalty area

Wale-Kwik Ajet earned the Pitmen a free-kick on the edge of the Cambridge penalty area midway through the first period which Richard Lucas attempted to curl into the far corner of the net but got too much height on the ball, lifting his shot over the crossbar

Nightingale was guilty of a shocking miss for the hosts on twenty-seven minutes, as he somehow missed an open goal from close-range by stabbing a Wilde cross wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy

Four minutes later, the dependable Gayle made a fine save to deny Fox from a free-kick, tipping the left-back's shot over the bar for a corner kick as Fox curled a twenty-yard effort over the Hednesford wall and towards the far corner of the net

Fox had to be called upon at the opposite end of the pitch on thirty-four minutes to clear the ball off his own goal line as Lucas's inswinging corner was headed goalwards by Haran, only to be denied by Fox's intervention standing at the far post

The Pitmen were enjoying more and more of the ball at this stage of the game, although they were struggling to get top scorer Neil Davis and Ajet into the game against an experienced Cambridge defence that had the pair at arm's length

Wilkin was denied a chance by Gayle's quick thinking on thirty-six minutes as he spotted Tim Wooding's long through ball early and smothered the ball at the feet of the striker

The Pitmen grabbed that all-important opener of the evening with just four minutes of a keenly-contested first half remaining through the long-serving Lake; after earning his side the corner kick, Lake was on hand to head home at the far post after Haran had picked up the loose ball following Stewart Airdrie's corner kick and clipped the ball back into the danger zone

In the final minute of the first period, Davis's luckless night continued as he was pulled up for an earlier indiscretion against Wenlock in the build-up to a chance presented to him by Airdrie's through ball from the right flank

The away side were halfway there at the break, having seen off the attacking threat Cambridge had offered in the first half and struck at just the right time. However, Hibbitt's side had shown time and again that they have a penchant for poor second-half displays, and this was to prove to be yet another one of those as they allowed the lead to slip during the second period

Cambridge came out strongly and almost levelled within two minutes of the restart as Nightingale's corner kick was headed narrowly wide by the incoming Wilkin at the near post

Cambridge were becoming more aggressive and direct int heir play as the minutes passed as they desperately looked for a way back into the game. Davis was on the end of some rough justice from the Cambridge defenders, with Jack Wignall booked on fifty-four minutes for a scything the striker down thirty yards from the Cambridge goal

Another poor challenge on Davis three minutes later was ignored by the referee, who allowed play to continue despite the former Walsall man lying injured just outside the Cambridge penalty area. The Lilywhites broke quickly and Wilde played Essandoh in on goal, only for Gayle to come up with another fine block on the edge of his six-yard box

After a succession of corner kicks and free-kicks to ramp up the pressure on the retreating Hednesford defence, Cambridge finally pulled level once more on sixty-three minutes; Wilde's aimless cross from the left flank seemed to drift over the heads of everyone and fall to Hann, who executed a fine volley from fifteen yards out that beat Gayle all ends up and levelled the game once more

Suddenly it was the hosts with their tails up and the Pitmen in an uneasy mood as Cambridge pushed ten yards higher up the pitch in search of a winner; Wilkin's low shot on sixty-six minutes was blocked by Barrow before Gardiner completed the clearance, before Wilde's cross-cum-shot from the left-hand side of the penalty area was tipped over by a back-tracking Gayle for a Cambridge corner kick two minutes later

Ajet provided a brief moment of respite for the under-pressure visitors on seventy minutes as his overhead kick from an Airdrie cross cleared Davies's crossbar by a matter of inches

Goalscorer Hann got another shot away for the hosts on seventy-three minutes after Challinor had played a quick one-two with him, but Gayle was on hand once again to claim the ball on his goal line

Three minutes later, Nightingale's corner was flicked on by Wooding at the far post and somehow failed to be turned home by the three Cambridge players who arrived in the six-yard box, with the ball ending up dribbling away for a goal kick

The Pitmen made their first change of the evening with twelve minutes left as Francis came on in place of Ajet once more to offer a different kind of threat to the Cambridge defence after Ajet's limited contribution

The hosts took the lead for the first time in the game in highly controversial circumstances with nine minutes of the game to play; an earlier phase of play had seen Haran flattened by Wilkin in the build-up, leaving the Hednesford captain down inside his own six-yard box. Incredibly, the referee allowed play to continue with Cambridge recycling the ball through Hann, whose cross was headed home at the far post by Nightingale. The Pitmen were incensed at the referee's award of the goal, with Lake booked for taking his protests too far before the game restarted

Before the game could kick-off again, Wayne Simpson was afforded a rare run-out by Hibbitt as the veteran utility man came on in place of Haran, who could not continue despite a bout of treatment from physio Don Drakeley

Francis headed wide from Airdrie's deep cross with his first contribution on eighty-four minutes, before Davis dragged his shot on the run wide of Davies's near post a minute later after Rae had played him in down the left-hand side of the Cambridge box

Rae himself tried a shot from the edge of the penalty area with five minutes remaining but saw a combination of Cambridge defenders and team-mate Lake in the way of his bouncing shot from twenty yards out

With three minutes of the game left, the Pitmen had the stuffing knocked out of them as Gardiner was shown a red card by the increasingly clueless referee after an altercation with Wilde saw the Cambridge man aim a punch at the centre-back that promoted a reaction from the winger, who went down in comical style in front of the referee. Gardiner was shown a straight red for his reaction, with Wilde somehow only receiving a caution for his part in the tussle

The Pitmen struggled to regain any composure in the final minutes of the game as Cambridge eased themselves to a crucial win that all but guarantees them Southern League football for next season. It leaves the Pitmen needing to win in their very first trip ever to the Isle of Wight on Saturday in a game that is likely to relegate one or both teams dependent on how results pan out elsewhere. The Pitmen have only themselves to blame for being in this situation, despite the excellent work done by Hibbitt since taking over from Paul Raynor; too many late goals conceded, having dropped points to late goals in recent games against Kettering, Stafford and Moor Green recently. They need one mighty performance at the weekend to save their season and avoid back-to-back relegations that could prove incredibly hurtful to the club on and off the pitch if it was to happen

Cambridge City: Davies, Wenlock, Fox (Skelly 57), Wooding ©, Wignall , Nightingale, Hann, Challinor, Wilkin, Essandoh (Gutzmore 77), Wilde       Subs Unused: Sturgess


Hednesford Town: Gayle, Brownrigg, Lucas, Haran © (Simpson 81), Gardiner  (87), Barrow, Lake , Rae (Griffiths 90), Davis, Ajet (Francis 78), Airdrie      Subs Unused: None