Southern Premier League
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Rugby United (A) 1.1.05
A late Anthony Maguire goal hands the Pitmen their first win in five games this afternoon at a cold and breezy Hardenhuish Park as they beat play-off chasers Chippenham Town on their own turf
Last weekend had seen Chris Brindley's men crash to defeat against the ten men of league leaders Merthyr Tydfil, leaving the Pitmen marooned in mid-table ahead of today's trip down to Wiltshire. Brindley elected to make three changes to the side that had started against the Welsh table-toppers as Mark Branch returned at left-back in place of Grant Beckett, midfield man Lee Williams came in for the suspended Leon McSweeney and youngster Steve Brannan replaced Matt Turner out on the left side of midfield. Striker Paul McMahon - who had joined the club in midweek from UniBond Division One side Rocester - was amongst the substitutes
Chippenham returned home after successive away games, beating both Rugby United and Banbury United in the past fortnight to sit in third place in the table ahead of today's pre-Christmas clash. Manager Steve White made just the one change to his side from the one that had beaten Rugby 2-1 last weekend as Gary Horgan replaced James Constable
The Hardenhuish Park pitch was bobbly and hard at kick-off, with both sides struggling with the bumpy conditions early on in the game. Sam Allison's third-minute shot from twenty yards out was more hopeful than accurate and drifted well wide of Ryan Young's left-hand post
Young made the first of several important saves to keep his side in contention in the seventh minute as he tipped a header from Matt McEntegart over the crossbar after the defender had risen to meet Scott Walker's deep cross from the left
From the resultant corner kick, the ball was partially cleared by the head of Lee Barrow and into the path of Gary Horgan, who drove his rebounded shot through a crowd of players but missed the target by a matter of a few inches
Chippenham's good start to the game continued into the ninth minute of the game as Horgan's quickly-taken free-kick was played into the feet of Allison, who showed excellent feet to step past Richard Teesdale's challenge and shoot at goal, only for Young to make a comfortable save inside his six-yard box
The Pitmen finally offered an attacking threat through Maguire three minutes later as he made a run into the Chippenham penalty area to get on the end of a Carl Palmer pass, beating a dawdling Wayne Thorne to the ball but drilling his low shot into the side-netting from a tight angle down the right
Back came the hosts, who went close to opening the scoring in the sixteenth minute as neat interplay in midfield involving Horgan and Lee Davidson played the ball on to striker Dave Gilroy. His clever flick was enough to get him goal side of Barrow, only for the veteran defender to get back to deflect the shot from fifteen yards out just wide of Young's post for a Chippenham corner
Top scorer Andy Bell had found the going hard so far in the game, having been well marked by Bluebirds skipper Gary Thorne throughout the first quarter of the game. The youngster's first real sight at goal came in the nineteenth minute as he received Brannan's pass and made a yard of space for himself just outside the Chippenham penalty area, only to drag his shot wide of goal, failing to test goalkeeper Mark Hervin
Young was alert to the danger posed by top scorer Walker on the break midway through the first period as he raced out of goal to thump a long ball from McEntegart away from goal as he beat Walker to the punch and denied him a clear shot at goal
The hosts were denied a clear cut chance at goal by the referee four minutes later as Walker's threaded pass from the left touchline was missed by Barrow and found Gilroy, who was pulled back before he could fire past Young as the assistant on the main stand side raised his flag for an earlier offside against the player
Hervin made his first meaningful contribution to the game on twenty-six minutes as Palmer won the ball back from Davidson and laid the ball off to Williams, whose first-time effort was turned around the post by the experienced former Bath City stopper for a Hednesford corner kick
Great wing play from Maguire on the half-hour mark saw the former Torquay United man slalom his way past two challenges as he cut in from the right before growing a ball across goal to Bell, whose scoffed first-time effort was weak and was cleared by McEntegart before Marlon Walters could pounce on the ball
Ross Adams was on hand to get Teesdale out of trouble four minutes later as Gilroy picked the centre-back's pocket just outside the Hednesford penalty area and made his way into the penalty area. Adams came across and made a timely challenge on the striker to block his shot and deflect it wide of goal
A deep free-kick from Rene Regis on thirty-eight minutes was headed back across goal by Gary Thorne, bouncing in front of both Gilroy and Horgan before Barrow hacked the ball clear from a couple of yards out to deny the pair
With four minutes of the first half remaining, Williams whipped in a free-kick from the right and found Bell at the far post; the former Blackburn Rovers youngster was wayward with his first-time effort and fired into the Hednesford fans gathered behind Hervin's goal
The hosts had seen the lion's share of the possession and chances in the first half but had failed to take any of the chances presented to them. Gilroy and Allison - both goalscorers in the past two games - had looked dangerous against a one-paced Hednesford defence that had done well to maintain their clean sheet thus far
Williams tested Hervin's reflexes three minutes after the restart as his swerving free-kick from twenty-five yards out was parried away at the foot of his right-hand post by the goalkeeper before Regis completed the clearance
Teesdale headed over of the away side on fifty-one minutes as he met Maguire's outswinging corner kick full-on at the far post but got underneath the ball and glanced it two yards too high to test Hervin
Horgan's long-range effort on fifty-five minutes tested Young once more as the midfielder's thirty-yard daisy-cutter was pushed away from the corner of the net by the goalkeeper
Three minutes later, Palmer's persistence saw him beat Davidson to a fifty-fifty bouncing ball and play Brannan into space down the left. The youngster worked the ball to the byeline as he stole a yard on Regis, crossing well for Bell whose glancing header was held by Hervin at his near post
On the hour mark, the Pitmen made their first substitution of the afternoon as Beckett came on in midfield as he replaced Williams; this saw a reshuffle to the side as Brannan moved into central midfield to allow Beckett to play wide on the left
Brannan sprayed a fine pass out to the right flank and into the path of Maguire on sixty-three minutes; the winger skipped past Regis and pulled the ball back into the path of Palmer, whose tame low effort bobbled all the way through to Hervin
Allison did well to hold off Barrow's challenge four minutes later and flick the ball over the defender's head before playing Walker into space to the left of the Hednesford penalty area. The Chippenham forward stepped inside of Adams' challenge and fired in a rising shot that cleared Young's crossbar from eighteen yards out
Walters incurred the wrath of the referee on seventy minutes as he was shown a yellow card for an overly-aggressive challenge on Ben Kirk following a tussle between the pair in midfield
Bell's goalless afternoon continued on seventy-four minutes as he was pulled back by a late offside flag following Palmer's chipped pass over the top of the Chippenham defence
With fifteen minutes remaining, McMahon was handed his Hednesford debut by Brindley as the former Stafford Town man came on to partner Bell and Marshall after replacing Walters, who had reacted strongly to his yellow card as was possibly removed before was shown another yellow card
Adams punted a long ball forwards from the right touchline on seventy-nine minutes, sending the ball to the fringes of the Chippenham penalty area. McEntegart's header dropped at the feet of Brannan, whose attempted chip had Hervin scrambling back into his goal as the ball dipped just over the crossbar
The game's key moment came with nine minutes remaining, as the Pitmen struck with the only goal of the game; a quick break from the men in white saw Beckett supply Palmer, who took the ball into the Chippenham half before threading a fine pass through to Maguire, who made a perfectly-timed run in behind Wayne Thorne to slot the ball past Hervin from ten yards out. The Chippenham defence appealed in vain for offside against the winger, but the goal stood and Maguire celebrated in front of the travelling faithful
The dangerous Martin Paul - on for Allison - stung the palms of Young three minutes later as got on the end of a Horgan pass to show Branch a clean pair of heels, driving in a shot that Young pushed around his near post for a corner kick to the Bluebirds
With five minutes remaining, Gilroy should have levelled matters once more for the Bluebirds as he found himself in space eight yards from goal to receive a square ball from Horgan, only to snatch at his shot and pull it wide of Young's post. A good chancer wasted by the striker and a let-off for the away side
The hosts were now camped inside the Hednesford half of the pitch as they looked for a later equaliser; Paul saw his close-range effort deflected wide of goal for a corner kick on eighty-six minutes as Barrow stepped across to block the goal-bound effort
From the resultant corner, Walker's cross was headed down into the six-yard box by McEntegart, only for more last-ditch defending from the Pitmen to deny Paul as Adams cleared the danger standing on his own goal line
With two minutes of the game remaining, young striker Craig Marshall was handed a late chance to recreate his form for the youth team as he came on in place of goalscorer Maguire
Branch did well to head away a chance for Gilroy in the first minute of added time, clearing the striker's late flick away from goal at the far post after Regis had crossed from the right flank
In the final minute of five added minutes, McEntegart once again rose highest to meet a free-kick from Davidson but headed narrowly wide of the far post with Chippenham's final effort of the afternoon
It had been a largely back to the wall performance from the Pitmen, who had soaked up long periods of Chippenham pressure but had produced the one true moment of good attacking football to grab the goal that mattered with nine minutes remaining. It had been a welcome return to winning ways for Brindley's side, who move back into the top ten in the table with three points gained today. They return to the home comfort of Keys Park on 27th December as they face struggling Solihull Borough in the traditional post-Christmas derby game, looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season
Young made save after save to frustrate the home players, who managed to create multiple chances, and that allowed midfielder Anthony Maguire to steal an 82nd minute winner, much to the delight of the 100 plus travelling fans.
"They created little and we did not deserve to lose the game. Sam Allison had two great opportunities that the keeper managed to save, although both the strikers did do well."
James Constable was Chippenham's only change as he started his one match suspension and was replaced by Allison. Chippenham took just six minutes to test the Pitmen's goalkeeper when a superb through ball from forward David Gilroy put Allison in space, but his low drive across the goal was saved by Young's out stretched arms.
The home side came close on 33 minutes when a blocked shot from winger Scott Walker fell to Allison. He skillfully sidestepped two defenders before unleashing a fierce strike but once again Young was up to the challenge and gathered the ball.
Four minutes before half time the reigning FA Trophy champions had their first opportunity to score when a corner from Maguire fell to centre back Richard Teesdale. He flicked the ball on to Hednesford top scorer Andy Bell but he headed over from close range.
The hosts escaped, but then an accidental clash between midfielder Gary Horgan and Gilroy with Young left Horgan with a gash on his nose
Ex-Plymouth Argyle trainee Young was called into action again just five minutes later. The Pitmen's defence failed to clear the high ball and Allison fired in a quick snapshot, but Young's fingertips turned the ball around the post.
Striker Gilroy, who is in his second month of his loan deal from Weston super-Mare, squandered the Bluebirds' best opportunity on 16 minutes when he side footed a long throw over from just two yards ou
He was ordered off the pitch by the referee as blood poured from his nose, and went to hospital at half time.
He was replaced by striker Martin Paul, and with a change of tactics Chippenham looked for a goal with their three-pronged attack.
Seven minutes after the break Walker found himself down the left side of the box, he fired in from an acute angle but again the shot was not good enough to beat the inspired keeper.
The Pitmen almost took the lead on 58 minutes when a Maguire cross deflected off the head of Chippenham defender Matt Mcentegart and smacked against the post.
Young denied defender Gary Thorne on 70 minutes when a cross from Walker was flicked on by Gilroy. The centre back connected sweetly with the ball but a great reaction save kept the scores tied.
The visitors had their best spell of the game when Maguire hit over from close range.
On 82 minutes and against the run of play the visitors pinched the important goal thanks to a poor clearance from captain Wayne Thorne.
The left back's kick went to Maguire who from the edge of the area blasted into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later Chippenham almost grabbed a draw when a run from Allison resulted in him hitting a pile-driver towards the bottom corner but Young produced another blinding save to keep his side in the lead.
Midfielder Ben Kirk, who started his fourth match for the Bluebirds this season, had a final shot at goal with a minute left. He connected with Walker's corner but Young managed to save yet again.
The keeper then came to the rescue yet again when he blocked a hooked shot from striker Paul.
To make matters worse, skipper Thorne joined Horgan at Chippenham Hospital after taking a knock to his finger in the closing stages.
Chippenham Town: Hervin, Regis, W. Thorne, G. Thorne ©, McEntegart, Davidson, Horgan (Paul 45), Kirk, Gilroy, Allison, Walker Subs Unused: Charity, Herring, Jones, Wilmot
Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale, Williams (Beckett 60), Maguire (Marshall 88), Palmer ©, Bell, Walters ▆ (McMahon 75), Brannan Subs Unused: Brindley, Evans