6.4.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Davis (11)

Cambridge City

Skelly (10)

(1) 1

(1) 1

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Derek Rae

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Havant & Waterlooville (A) 16.4.02

An uninspiring point apiece at a gusty Keys Park this afternoon does little to help either side's ambitions in moving away from the relegation dogfight heading into the final four games of the season

The Pitmen returned home off the back of a fine victory over Newport County on Monday night, completing a league double over the Exiles in the process and lifting themselves into sixteenth place in the league table in the process - their highest league position of the season to date. Manager Kenny Hibbitt welcomed back the influential Stuart Lake to his side in the one change to the starting XI after he had recovered from a hamstring issue, moving Wayne Thomas back to the substitute's bench

Cambridge made their first-ever trip to Keys Park having made the trip to King's Lynn in midweek to claim 1-1- draw, leaving the Lilywhites a place below the Pitmen in the table and two points adrift of their hosts. Manager Dave Batch stuck with the same side that had started at the Walks, resisting the temptation to bring Leon Gutzmore back into the side after he had recently returned from injury

 

A gale-force wind was blowing across the Keys Park pitch at kick-off, making conditions unplayable for periods of the game as both sides struggled to keep control of the ball off the ground. As a consequence, the first ten minutes of the game saw several misplaced passes from both sets of players as they got a fix on the conditions

Cambridge went close to opening the scoring in the eleventh minute as a deep cross from former Rushden man Tim Wooding swung in a cross from the right flank that Lake had to head over his own crossbar for a corner kick with the ball drifting towards goal

From the resultant corner taken by Ian Skelly, the wind played it's part once more as the ball sailed over the heads of everyone in the penalty area and drifted straight into the far corner of the net, despite Mark Gayle's best efforts to keep the ball out

To the Pitmen's credit, they got themselves straight back into the game within sixty seconds with an immediate equaliser from the restart; Derek Rae's pass found Neil Davis on the edge of the Cambridge penalty area, with the striker taking the ball past Colin Vowden before firing past Cambridge keeper Martin Davies from twelve yards out with a crisply-struck left-footed shot

The Pitmen had the better of the next twenty minutes of the game as they looked to take the initiative; Stewart Airdrie did well down the right flank to beat Skelly and cross for Davis, whose weak header was easily saved by Davies on fifteen minutes

Three minutes later, an up and under from Matt Gardiner was not dealt with by a hesitant Cambridge defence and seized upon by Wale-Kwik Ajet, only for the striker to lash his effort wildly over the crossbar after controlling the ball on the edge of the Lilywhites' penalty area

Midway through the half, Airdrie's corner kick found the head of Rae - lurking just outside the six-yard box - whose glancing header was cleared off the line by Skelly at the near post

Kevin Wilkin wasted a good opening for Cambridge on twenty-even minutes, dragging his low shot wide of the post after former Wycombe F.A.Cup hero Roy Essandoh had played his striker partner into the Hednesford penalty area

On the half-hour mark, Lee Barrow headed just over the crossbar for the home side form ten yards out after Airdrie's corner kick was headed back to him to send over a deep cross to the far post, where Barrow was lurking

Gayle had to make sure that a looping effort from Essandoh did not drop into the net three minutes later as the wind caught a deflected shot from the striker and threatened to dip into the far corner of the net

Ajet wasted a great chance to give the hosts the lead for the first time in the afternoon on thirty-six minutes after a superb slide-rule pass from Andy Brownrigg played the striker clean through on goal, only for Ajet to drag his shot wide of the net after taking the ball around Davies. A poor miss from a player struggling to find the net currently

Davis drove a shot into the side-netting for the Pitmen with four minutes of the first half remaining as he was forced wide by Vowden from the edge of the Cambridge penalty area before getting his shot away from ten yards out

 

It had been a fairly even encounter in the first half that had been low on overall quality, with both sides demonstrating why they are struggling near to the foot of the table. That said, the conditions had played havoc with any sequences of positive play as the ball had spent plenty of time out of play in the first period

 

Cambridge's Robbie Nightingale tested Gayle's reflexes three minutes after the restart, seizing upon a loose pass from Brownrigg before striking a low shot that Gayle claimed low down to his left

 

Davies made a similar save down this right on fifty-one minutes as Rae and Davis exchanged passes before the Scottish midfield man drove in a shot at goal from just outside the penalty area

Lake headed agonisingly wide for the home side on fifty-six minutes as he met a Richard Lucas free-kick at the near post but was off-target with his glancing effort by a matter of inches

The Pitmen were piling on the pressure, particularly from set-pieces, and had their best chance of the half so far on sixty-three minutes; Barrow's deep free-kick was cleared by Skelly but only as far as Brownrigg, whose return shot from twenty yards out was deflected just wide of the post by Vowden for a Hednesford corner

 

Good interplay between Lucas and the influential Rae saw them set Davis away down the left flank on sixty-eight minutes. The Pitmen's top scorer stole a yard on Wooding before crossing towards Ajet, whose weak effort was blocked by Steve Holden before the ball could test Davies

The home side had a strong shout for a penalty kick with fifteen minutes of the game remaining as Davis's first-time shot from Rae's pass appeared to strike the hand of Holden en route to goal. Despite loud protests from the players and supporters, referee Mr Hendley was unimpressed and waved play on

A minute later, a corner for the Pitmen was partially cleared by Cambridge before Lucas fed the recycled ball back to Ajet just outside the penalty area. The forward drove the ball back across the face of the Cambridge goal, where Barrow somehow failed to turn the loose ball home at the far post as he slid in but missed the cross by a matter of inches

Cambridge substitute Gutzmore had come on for Wilkin and lashed his first contribution high and wide of Gayle's goal on seventy-eight minutes with an effort that caught the wind as it headed goalwards

Two minutes later, Davis held off Vowden's attentions to slip the ball into the path of Ajet once more, only for the former Hamilton Academical man to see his shot blocked by the covering Wooding on the edge of the penalty area

Despite the game being perfectly poised going into the final minutes of the game, neither side really had the willingness or quality to take the three points late on; Gardiner headed well wide after successive corner kicks from Lucas on eighty-four minutes, whilst Vowden attempted to turn a bouncing ball home at the opposite end two minutes later but was pulled back for an earlier foul before he could turn the ball home inside the six-yard box

 

In added time, Gayle watched a low free-kick from Nightingale into his gloves as Cambridge won a late set-piece just outside the Hednesford penalty area following a foul on Essandoh by Brownrigg 

In had been, in all fairness, a poor game of football between two struggling sides who had found the conditions a real challenge for the whole ninety minutes. A point for the Pitmen keeps them clear of the bottom three for now, but wins for King's Lynn, Newport (Isle of Wight) and Bath City today means that it is now even tighter than ever at the foot of the table going into the final three weeks of the season. Monday night sees the Pitmen travel to Havant & Waterlooville for a re-arranged league game 

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Lake, Lucas, Haran ©, Gardiner, Barrow, Brownrigg, Rae, Davis, Ajet, Airdrie      Sub Unused: Thomas, Simpson, Francis

Cambridge City: Davies, Wooding, Skelly, Holden, Vowden ©, Beall, Nightingale, Wenlock, Wilkin (Gutzmore 65), Essandoh, Wilde      Subs Unused: Fox, Sturgess

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