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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League


McGinn (45) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Clements (22), Hay (34)

(1) 1

(2) 2



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Dan Crane


Marine (A) 24.1.12

Hednesford's players reserve arguably their best performance of the season today to put league leaders Chester to the sword in their own back yard, ending the hosts' long unbeaten home record in the process

Wary of the free-scoring opposition they were to face, manager Rob Smith decided to keep it tight in midfield with a five-man line-up across the middle, leaving Gary Hay as the lone striker. Elliott Durrell came in ahead of Andre Landell, who failed to impress on his first start for the club at Nantwich last week

Chester's performances this term had seen the crowds at the Exacta Stadium swell in recent times, with 3,500 plus watching on Boxing Day against Nantwich. This top of the table clash again brought out a 3,000 plus crowd, as both sets of supporters shaped up for a memorable encounter

Unsurprisingly, it was Chester who were straight onto the offensive, trying to utilise the strong wind on their backs in the first period. Two successive corner kicks in the second minute tested the Pitmen's resolve, with giant striker Matty McNeil the main target for any balls into the penalty area

The home side's momentum was upset just five minutes into the game, as Levi Mackin - on his debut for Chester - fell awkwardly out on the left-hand side and was carried off with what turned out to be a broken collarbone. He was replaced by Michael Wilde

Chester got back into the groove on fifteen minutes, as Dan Crane was called into action for the first time in what was to be a busy afternoon for the stopper, pushing away an effort from Antoni Sarcevic. Two minutes later, Matty McGinn fired wide with a speculative wind-assisted effort from fully thirty yards

McNeil was guilty of dithering on twenty-one minutes as he was set up by Sarcevic on the edge of the area. He delayed getting his shot away, allowing Cheyenne Dunkley to block the ball and clear

Despite spending much of the first quarter camped in their own half, the Pitmen's response on twenty-two minutes was swift, decisive - and spectacular. A loose ball was picked up by top scorer Chris Clements, who drove at the retreating Chester defence and beat two half-hearted challenges. From fully thirty yards, Clements dispatched a swerving, swirling shot that dipped away from the reach of Chester keeper Jon Danby and dropped perfectly into the top corner of the net. Goal of the season? At this stage, it will take some beating

Chester's frustrations boiled over four minutes later, as Christian Smith ploughed into Jamey Osborne right in front of the two benches, earning a yellow card for his efforts when no-one in the ground would have complained if the referee had shown a straight red

Hednesford were grateful to Crane for another smart save on thirty-two minutes, as a corner kick dropped at the feet of Wilde. His shot from the edge of the six-yard box was smothered by Crane, who managed to stop the goalbound shot with his legs before diving on the ball

As Chester pressed in search of an equaliser, the Pitmen stunned them with a sucker punch second goal on thirty-four minutes. A long ball out of defence drifted in the wind, which caught out Chester's Michael Taylor as he looked to play the ball back in. His miscue saw Hay seize upon the ball and outmuscle the defender's challenge before slotting the ball confidently past Danby from the edge of the area

A shocked Chester looked to regain their composure in light of the shock scoreline, and Jamie Rainford curled a free-kick onto the top of the net with another wind-assisted ball a minute after Hay's strike

As the Pitmen looked to see out the rest of the first half two goals to the good, the referee gifted Chester a lifeline with virtually the last kick of the half. A free-kick from the Chester right was floated into the box, in the general direction of McNeil. After backing into Dunkley, McNeil appeared to fall somewhat comically ten yards out, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Vociferous challenges from the Hednesford players followed, but it was left to McGinn to fire past Crane from the spot to reduce arrears 

The Hednesford supporters, many tucking into a pie at the break, were expecting nothing short of the repeat of the 'Alamo' in the second half, as the large, vocal home crowd roared Chester on at the start of the second period

As it was, it was the Pitmen who very nearly grabbed a third goal on fifty-one minutes. A Clements corner found Ben Bailey unmarked, but the young defender's header was cleared by the hand of Danby

Osborne was enjoying one of his better games for the Pitmen in recent weeks, finding space to play in midfield as the game started to become stretched. On fifty-eight minutes, his smart flick was narrowly off target, as the away side continued to look the more threatening

This threat started to subside after the hour mark, as Chester started to find their feet again and once more pushed Hednesford into their own third. Robbie Booth was presented with a great chance as he was played in by Wilde but fired narrowly wide of Crane's post from the edge of the penalty area

The Pitmen returned to their counter-attacking form of the first half, as Clements again shimmied his way through and hit a long-range shot at goal, but was way off target with his sixty-third minute effort

Two minutes later, Smith decided to make a change to his hard-working side, bringing on former Chester top scorer Mark Beesley in place of Elliott Durrell down the left-hand side

Booth was again unfortunate with his effort on sixty-nine minutes, firing in a swerving shot that had Crane scrambling across goal, only for the ball to miss the woodwork by a matter of inches

Crane cemented his pick as man of the match on seventy-two minutes, as he made a superb save to deny Wilde; Booth's deep cross was headed firmly towards goal by the substitute, only for Crane to make a magnificent reaction save on his goal-line

Chester fans must have been getting that feeling of 'it's one of those days' fifteen minutes from time, as McNeil somehow managed to head over the crossbar after reaching McGinn's corner just a couple of yards out

Clements was given a standing ovation by the Hednesford faithful two minutes later, as he was replaced by Liam Blakeman in a defensive move from the Pitmen's management team

After Taylor had headed wide from another McGinn corner on eighty minutes, Chester seemed to run out of ideas going forward, exasperated by the chances they had missed. The Pitmen suddenly looked the more likely to score, as they took advantage of tiring Chester legs to launch a number of counter-attacks. Beesley could have marked his return to Chester with a goal on eighty eighty-three minutes, but his curling shot was wide of goal

Andre Landell was introduced a minute later in place of Hay; his first action was to dance past Alex Brown down the left-hand side, putting him one-on-one with Danby. However, the youngster tried to take the ball around Danby and made a hash of possession as he shaped to shoot, allowing McGinn to track back and make a desperate clearance

As Osborne looked to tick the clock down, he was subject to another horrible looking challenge by Smith, who somehow escaped another yellow card, despite calls from Hednesford players and supporters for the referee to do so

As the game moved into added time Chester were denied a point by the brilliant Crane, who made a breathtaking save to turn Smith's shot away from goal. Jay Denny was on hand to make a crucial block to deny Wilde on the follow-up

The final whistle was greeted by wild celebrations from the Hednesford supporters and players, as the Pitmen toasted a vital win - and league double - that moved them joint top of the table this evening. Midweek sees the Pitmen look to move clear at the top of the league table if they were to win at Marine and other results go their way

Chester: Danby, Mackin (Wilde 7), McGinn, Horan © , Taylor, Smith , Sarcevic (Booth 53), Rainford (Simm 79), McNeil, Brown, Howard

Subs Not Used: Ormrod, Judge

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Campion ©,  Dunkley, Bailey, Denny, Osborne, Clements (Blakeman 74), Jevons, Hay (Landell 84), Durrell (Beesley 64)        Subs Unused: Robinson, Grice

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