24.4.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Cambridge City

Hednesford Town

Craddock (57), Barnett (68), (82)

(0) 0

(0) 3

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Tyrone Barnett

W W D W W D D W L W

Chippenham Town (A) 27.4.10

The Pitmen's final push for the play-offs ended in success this afternoon, as a convincing second-half performance saw them pick up the three points needed to finish fourth in the table. The result also saw opponents Cambridge, so long frontrunners in the race for a top-five place, finish just outside the play-off places

Ross Dyer was ruled out before the game with injury, allowing Adam McGurk to return to the starting line up in his place. Josh Craddock was dropped to the bench in the other change to the starting XI, with Dorryll Proffitt replacing him in midfield

Cambridge started this afternoon's winner-takes-all clash in the final play-off place and will have been confident of keeping hold of the spot, having been in the play-off picture for the majority of the last nine months. A 3-2 win over relegation-threatened Hemel Hempstead Town had seen the Lilywhites move on to seventy-one points going into today's game, with manager Gary Roberts electing to stick with the same XI from the midweek game at Vauxhall Road

With so much at stake for both sides, it was perhaps expected that the opening exchanges were tense in the April sunshine at Milton Road. Stuart Brock was first of the goalkeepers called into action on three minutes, making a regulation save to deny Jamie Barker, who scuffed his shot straight at the Hednesford number one

Cambridge continued to threaten, albeit from range, with Tony Burke whipping in a cross-cum-shot  that Brock did well to claim over the top of Barker, who had gambled inside the area

Kicking down the Milton Road slope, the navy-blue shirted Hednesford responded with Tyrone Barnett firing in a shot on goal that was well held by Cambridge keeper Zac Barrett

The home side were carving out chances for themselves in the opening quarter but were struggling to make any count. Barker was causing Ben Bailey and Liam Francis problems with his movement, getting into another good position on eighteen minutes but completely messing up his shot by skewing it wide

Back came the Pitmen, with Francis making a real nuisance at a corner kick on nineteen minutes; his header from Elliott Durrell's corner was turned over for another corner kick by Barrett

Top scorer Barnett looked in a particularly menacing mood as he dragged the Cambridge centre backs all over the pitch in an attempt to create time and space. He managed to escape their attentions midway through the first half, getting on the end of a fine move involving Chris Clements and Durrell but allowed Barrett enough time to race out and whip the ball away from him as he shaped to shoot

Hednesford suddenly looked the more threatening side, and Barnett went closest of anyone on twenty-five minutes, timing his jump to perfection in reaching Durrell's lofted free-kick ahead of Barrett, but his looping header came back off the crossbar, much to Barnett's frustration

Cambridge's John Kennedy took advantage of a slip from Aaron Gibson on twenty-nine minutes, picking the ball up after the Hednesford left-back had miskicked, but his shot from twenty yards was watched over by Brock

Ten minutes before half time, Brock managed to field a Cambridge corner but was crudely fouled in the process. After getting to his feet, he started moving very gingerly and passed the goal kicks to Bailey as he seemed to struggle to half time with a leg injury

On thirty-nine minutes Durrell went close to breaking the deadlock for the Pitmen, making one of his driving runs down the right before testing Barrett low down at his near post with a powerful shot

Barnett could have given the Pitmen the lead right on half time, as Durrell's venomous shot came back off Barrett and into the path of Hednesford's number nine - fortunately, for keeper Barrett, he managed to get enough on Barnett's toe-poke to turn the ball away from goal

With results at other games still requiring the Pitmen to win, Bernard McNally's team talk would have been simple - go out and win it. They emerged with some purpose in the second half and pushed Cambridge back into their own half in the early stages

A superb through-ball by Clements set the tone for the Pitmen five minutes after the restart, sending Barnett away from the Cambridge defenders. Once again, however, the excellent Barrett was alert to the danger and managed to beat Barnett to the ball on the edge of his area

Skipper Sean Platt was next to try his luck, making a run to the edge of the area to get on the end of a flowing move involving Proffitt, Clements and McGurk, but Barrett was equal to his rising shot and saved well

McNally decided to change things early on in the half, as he looked for more creativity in midfield. On came Craddock for McGurk on fifty-six minutes, which turned out to be arguably the best substitution of the whole season

Sixty seconds later, Gibson's lofted throw-in caused havoc in the Cambridge defence - Proffitt and Barnett both had a swing at the ball before it dropped kindly to Craddock, who fired the Pitmen into a crucial lead from ten yards out with his very first touch of the ball. Cue joyous celebrations from the large travelling contingent behind the goal

It was all Hednesford now, as Cambridge struggled to get up a head of steam. Durrell's movement kept Cambridge on their toes, as he continually tried to set Barnett free with clever through balls behind the home defence

Barnett finally got his reward for a brilliant shift on sixty-eight minutes, getting on the end of another long throw from Gibson to head past Barrett and into the bottom corner. Two goals to the good, and with other results going their way, a fourth-place finish suddenly looked a reality

Durrell had deserved a goal for his efforts too, but Barrett was on hand to deny the playmaker a goal with a smothered save on seventy-four minutes as Durrell threatened to break clear

The hosts had offered virtually nothing in the way of clear-cut chances since half time, with Steve Gentle briefly testing Brock with a weak header that Brock easily claimed

Clements almost joined in the celebrations with a third goal on seventy-nine minutes, picking up Barnett's ball on the edge of the area and firing in a shot that was turned away for a corner

Barnett put the gloss on a great away performance on eighty-two minutes, scoring his second of the afternoon to chalk up his twentieth goal of the season. Tired-looking defending from Cambridge failed to clear the ball allowing Barnett to force his way into the area and slot the ball past Barrett from eight yards out

It could have been even better for the Pitmen in the final few minutes, with Francis, Barnett and Durrell all having chances to extend their lead further, but a combination of Barrett and poor finishing saw the away side settle for three

With results dribbling in from all over the Zamaretto League at full time, it soon became clear that the Pitmen had indeed finished fourth, earning them a trip to Chippenham Town on Tuesday night in the semi-final and pushing their hosts out of the top five at the final hurdle as a late equaliser for Brackley Town at Truro City saw them qualify for the play-offs instead

Cambridge City: Barrett, Bexfield, Krause, Elenge, Stewart, Midgley (Gentle 65), Burke, Cambridge ©, Barker, Fuller (Coulson 65)       Subs Unused: Nightingale, Mitchell, Nicell

 

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt © , Gibson, Bailey, Francis, Dunkley, Durrell, Clements, Barnett , McGurk (Craddock 56), Proffitt      Subs Unused: Martin, Wood, Chapman, Flynn