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Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Simkin (34) (penalty), (69)


Chelmsford City

Watkins (23), (84)

(1) 2

(1) 2




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Darren Simkin




Newport County (H) 8.3.03

It's now five games without a win for the Pitmen, as Ian Painter's side once again fluff their lines at Keys Park to allow fellow mid-table dwellers Chelmsford City to claim a late point this evening to take home to Essex


Last Monday's defeat against high-flying Chippenham Town was the Pitmen's second successive home defeat, leaving Ian Painter's men with only one win in 2003 so far and suddenly starting to look nervously over their shoulders at the bottom half of the table. Painter continued his tinkering of the side, once again making changes to his XI by taking Adam Jenkins, Bryan Small and Kevin Francis out and replacing them with fit-again duo Michael Bingham, Shaun Wray and Mark Jones. Painter also rotated his defence by electing to play Wayne Simpson at centre-back and switching him with Darren Simkin in defensive midfield


Chelmsford arrived at a chilly Keys Park off the back of a 2-0 win over Bath City at the weekend, leaving them in twelfth place in the table after a season of inconsistency from Paul Parker's side that had seen them lose as many games as they had won so far. Parker - the former Manchester United. and England full-back - made two changes to the side that had beaten Bath, bringing Tony Samuels and Lewis Reid in for Jack Midson and Keith Sharman respectively. Young goalkeeper Tim Bruce continued between the sticks for the visitors as regular keeper Alex Nicholls was once again unavailable due to injury 


The visitors made a strong start to the game and showed far more attacking intent than the Pitmen in the opening exchanges. Former Cheltenham man Dale Watkins - one of the league's top scorers this term - was a constant threat to the Hednesford back line, creating a chance for himself in the seventh minute as he produced a cute flick over the leg of Simpson before firing just wide of Bingham's left-hand post


Watkins linked up well with Austin Berkley on eleven minutes, exchanging passes with the midfielder before drifting into a pocket of space to take the ball back off his team-mate. A quick shot on the turn saw Bingham into action, making a fine save with his left hand to turn Watkins' shot away from goal


From the resultant corner kick, Brindley's clearing header was deflected back towards the Hednesford goal by Samuels, but only into the grateful arms of Bingham, who was following up


The Pitmen had looked lax and uninterested in the opening fifteen minutes of the game, with Ashley Williams one of few players in white impressing the very low Keys Park crowd as he made his way up and down the right wing. A cross with plenty of whip on it from the youngster on fourteen minutes was dealt with by Ian Cousins, who managed to turn the ball behind with his head to deny Jones a chance. It was the sort of cross you were wishing that the giant Francis would have been fit and available to attack had he not failed a fitness test earlier in the evening


A quickly-taken free-kick from former Swansea and Barnet midfielder Mike Basham caught the Pitmen out on nineteen minutes, finding another vastly experienced former professional Brian Statham lurking on the corner of the Hednesford penalty area. The former Spurs man hit a volley from over twenty yards out that dipped narrowly over Bingham's crossbar, although the Hednesford keeper appeared to have his angles covered


Chelmsford finally broke the deadlock after this spell of pressure on twenty-three minutes, as Watkins notched for the visitors with another inciteful move; Berkley and Samuels moved the ball quickly down the wing for the Clarets, with Berkley cutting in from the flank and drilling a low ball into the penalty area. Watkins did enough to get in front of Simpson and turn the ball past Bingham at his near post with a typical poacher's finish


Once again, the Pitmen found themselves behind in a game, something that had become all-too-familiar since the festive period had started. Wray's return to the side from a long-term injury had been limited to very few touches, whilst David Berks on the opposite flank was having his quietest game so far since joining the club last month as Chelmsford shackled the Pitmen's creative threat


The hosts' best chance of getting back into the contest appeared to be from set-pieces, particularly with Chris Brindley coming up for corners and free-kicks at every opportunity. The Hednesford skipper reached a cross from Williams on twenty-eight minutes, but got underneath the ball and headed high over the crossbar from six yards out


Brindley did well to reach a free-kick from Simkin three minutes later as he nodded the ball down into the path of Jones, only for the striker to scuff his effort into the ground and wide of Bruce's goal


The Pitmen got themselves back onto level terms on thirty-four minutes after being handed a lifeline from the Chelmsford defence; Steve Piearce - lacking in chances up front so far - got in front of Ian Wiles for the first time in the evening as Wray worked the ball into the box from the left wing. Wiles only succeeded in tripping over the striker as he bore down on goal, prompting the referee to point to the penalty spot. Simkin spotted the ball and leathered the ball past Bruce from twelve yards to equalise for the Pitmen with his second goal in the last three games


The Pitmen looked a far more cohesive unit with the boost of a goal, with Wray finally getting some joy down the flank with his tricks and flicks against Statham. Wray's pace on thirty-eight minutes saw him drift past the veteran and clip a cross into the Chelmsford near post, only for Wiles to get his foot to the ball first to turn the ball away from Piearce's left boot


In first-half added time, Basham's deep corner kick was headed into the side-netting by Samuels, who had drifted out of the six-yard box to get a run on Simpson and beat the veteran defender to the cross


Despite a ropey start to the game, Hednesford will have been pleased with their application later on in the first half to get themselves back on level terms going into the second period


Both defences were on top at the start of the second period, as clear-cut chances were at a premium for both sides. Piearce's strong run into the Chelmsford penalty area was halted by a strong but fair challenge from Cousins on fifty-three minutes, leaving the striker requiring treatment from Don Drakeley after he had hit to solid turf harder than he would have wanted


The highly experienced ex-Welling man Mike Rutherford tried his luck from an optimistic distance for the away side three minutes later, firing a powerful low shot that skipped past Bingham's right-hand post


The Pitmen made an attacking change just after the hour mark, as Anthony Maguire came on for Simpson in a move that saw Simkin return to centre-back alongside Brindley


A minute later Simkin was involved at the other end of the pitch again, as he doubled his - and the Pitmen's - tally for the evening to put them ahead. A ball in from Berks hung in the air for what felt an eternity, with Simkin reacting quickest to the cross and nodding beyond the clutches of Bruce and finding the far corner of the net with the slightest of glances


With something to defend, the Pitmen appeared to try and close up shop as the game entered it's final twenty minutes. Derek Rae dropped into a more defensive role in front of the back four and broke up any possession Rutherford or Basham had in and around the Hednesford penalty area. Indeed, the best chance Chelmsford were to have in that ten-minute spell was a wild, high and off-target shot from Samuels, who had finally found a yard of space just outside the Hednesford penalty area on seventy-three minutes


Jones had found the going tough up front for the Pitmen all evening, with the former Wolves man taken off on seventy-six minutes as Stewart Airdrie was brought on. This meant that the Pitmen had three wingers on the pitch all at once, with Wray dropping into a more central role to accommodate Airdrie down the left side


The Pitmen's cautious approach to the final spell of the game meant that they invited pressure onto themselves from Chelmsford, who created a number of good openings. On eighty minutes, Bingham punched away a dangerous inswinging cross from Statham that looked to be heading straight at substitute Jack Midson, followed a minute later by some unorthodox defending from the Pitmen to hack a bouncing ball away from goal after Basham's free-kick was not cleared initially


With the game still in the balance somewhat, the Pitmen made their final change of the game with ten minutes left. Some fans were left perplexed at Painter's decision as he brought on striker Graham Lancashire for Piearce in a like-for-like swap, rather than introduce the more defensively-minded Small


However, the Pitmen were once again on the end of another late strike from their opponents, as their fragile confidence was broken on eighty-four minutes. Watkins - who had had a quiet second half by his standards - was on the mark once again, as he slotted home from close range following a good move down the Chelmsford right had seen Berkley and Statham double up on Stuart Ryder and cross low into the six-yard box, where Watkins was lurking


Both sides had chances to claim all three points as the game flowed from end-to-end in the final minutes, much in the same way as a cup tie. Williams unleashed a rising shot on the run with four minutes remaining, with Bruce turning the ball over the crossbar as a precaution. Simkin could have claimed an unlikely hat-trick from the resultant corner kick but headed straight into the hands of Bruce from eight yards out


At the other end, Midson did well to play the ball through the legs of Brindley and find Watkins on eighty-eight minutes, only for a sliding challenge from Ryder to turn the ball away from danger


In added time, Simkin took one for the team as he brought down Basham just inside the Hednesford half to halt the flying midfielder, earning himself a fifth yellow card of the season an ensuring a one-match suspension in the Pitmen's next game


It had been an entertaining encounter under the floodlights, with both sides contributing to an end-to-end game that was a fine advert for the Southern Premier League. However, the Pitmen's familiar failings were in full display once more, with their infuriating defensive inconsistency costing them dearly at key points in the game. Chelmsford will be pleased with their part in the game, showing quality in front of goal in the form of Watkins to strike at the key moment. Newport County complete a Keys Park triple header on Saturday, with the Exiles still harbouring ambitions of a late run at the top three in what will be another tough encounter for Painter's troops


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Ryder, Simpson (Maguire 62), Brindley ©, Simkin, Wray, Rae, Jones (Airdrie 76), Piearce (Lancashire 80), Berks     Subs Unused: Small, Jenkins


Chelmsford City: Bruce, Statham, Cousins, Reid (Sharman 79), Wiles ©, Slatter (Kersey 84), Basham, Rutherford ©, Samuels (Midson 74), Watkins, Berkley      Subs Unused: Saunders, Larkin

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