7.5.2005

Southern Premier League Play-Off Final

Chippenham Town

Hednesford Town

McMahon (75)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

1,954

Chris Brindley

W W W L L W W W W W

 

After a topsy-turvy twelve months at Keys Park, the Pitmen finally clinched Conference North football for 2005-2006 as they edged out Chippenham Town in today's play-off final courtesy of Paul McMahon's late goal

Monday night had seen Chris Brindley's side see off the challenge of Merthyr Tydfil in the semi-final, beating the Welsh side on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the end of extra-time. With Lee Williams still unavailable due to injury, Brindley stuck with the same XI again for today's big clash at Hardenhuish Park, where they had already recorded a 1-0 win back in December thanks to Anthony Maguire's goal

Chippenham had seen their title ambitions taken away from them in the cruellest of circumstances on the final day of the league season as Histon beat the Bluebirds 1-0 at Bridge Road to take the title by three points from their visitors. Steve White's side had regrouped well in midweek to beat Bedford Town - also on penalties - and qualify for today's final, taking home advantage by virtue of being the highest-placed side at the end of the campaign. White made one change to the XI that had started the semi-final against Bedford with Gary Horgan replacing the suspended Mark Badman

It was a gloriously sunny and warm early summer's day in Wiltshire, with nearly 2,000 people crammed inside the compact Hardenhuish Park to witness today's game. Over 400 people travelled down from Hednesford, hoping to see their side qualify for the new Conference set-up at the second attempt, having missed out on last year's restructured step two

The visitors - once again clad in what was fast becoming their lucky yellow change shirts and kicking up the considerable slope in the first half - started well and Brindley fed Andy Bell down the right-wing in the second minute of the game. The striker took a touch inside and crossed towards Leon McSweeney, only for Horgan to block the cross. There were muted calls from Bell and Marlon Walters for handball against the defender, but referee Mr Cook was unimpressed and allowed the game to continue

In the fifth minute, Chippenham goalkeeper Mark Hervin launched a long kick forward which Richard Teesdale misjudged the flight of, allowing the ball to drop over his head and into the path of young striker James Constable. The Chippenham number ten struggled to bring the ball under his control however and allowed Teesdale to recover and clear the danger

In the ninth minute, striker Dave Gilroy got on the end of a quick passing move involving Ellis Wilmot and Dean Evans, slotting the ball past Ryan Young from ten yards out. His joy was shortlived however as the assistant on the main stand side of the pitch had raised his flag for an earlier offside call against Constable

The hosts were enjoying a good early spell of pressure and Young had to be alert to deny Constable in the fourteenth minute as Ian Herring's cross into the near post was claimed by the Hednesford stopper ahead of Constable, who looked to toe-poke the ball home from six yards out

Mark Branch launched one of his trademark long throws into the Chippenham penalty area three minutes later as he found Brindley at the near post with his ball in. Brindley's flick-on - aimed at McSweeney - was cleared promptly by Gary Thorne before the Irish striker could get a touch to the ball

McSweeney was handed another chance by the Pitmen a minute later as Grant Beckett's cross from the left was once again flicked on by Brindley and into the path of the striker, who struggled to get the ball under his control and allowed skipper Gary Thorne to clear the ball just inside the Chippenham penalty area

 

Midway through the first half, the dangerous front pairing of Gilroy and Constable linked up once more as they played a quick one-two between them to get past Barrow, only for another offside call against Constable to halt their progress as they broke into the penalty area

Teesdale was on hand to deny Evans a minute later as he threw his body in front of the midfielder's low driven shot from eighteen yards out after a corner from Sam Jones had been partially cleared by the men in yellow

The best chance of the game so far fell to Thorne on twenty-six minutes, as the Bluebirds skipper missed what can only be described as an absolute sitter; Jones's corner kick was cleared back to him out on the right flank, with the midfield man sending over a low cross back into the six-yard box where Thorne found himself unmarked in front of an open goal and somehow managed to slice his effort over the crossbar with the goal gaping. A shocking miss and one that the hosts would come to rue later on in the afternoon

The Pitmen seemed to be shaken into action after Thorne's miss, tightening up in all areas of the pitch as they gave the hosts less time on the ball to play their game and create chances for Gilroy and Constable. Indeed, it was the visitors who had a good chance of their own on twenty-seven minutes as Walters and Branch played Beckett into space down the left wing; his low cross was cleared by Thorne but only as far as Bell, whose right-footed drive skipped past Hervin's left-hand post

Five minutes later, Gilroy snatched at a chance for the hosts as Evans made a run through the centre of the pitch and played the striker through down the left-hand side of the penalty area, only for the Chippenham man to slice his shot into the stand behind the goal

With ten minutes of the first-half remaining, Barrow assumed responsibility with a free-kick just inside the Chippenham half and chipped it into the penalty area towards the far post, where Hervin made a meal of the ball and dropped it at the feet of Brindley, who could not react quickly enough to turn the ball home as Matt McEntegart cleared the danger from a couple of yards out

On thirty-nine minutes, a Chippenham free-kick taken by Jones was met by Constable at the far post, only for Young to push his glancing header over the crossbar for a Chippenham corner kick

The Bluebirds were finishing the half strongly and Rene Regis supplied a pass into the feet of Herring three minutes before half-time. The midfielder wriggled his way past Walters but struck his effort high over the crossbar as Barrow limited the space in front of him

Half-time came at arguably the wrong moment for the hosts, who had looked dangerous in the closing stages of the first period but had found the Hednesford backline - which had finished the season with the best defensive record in the league - in typically dominant form as they denied their hosts many clear-cut chances

The Pitmen - now kicking down the famous Hardenhuish Park slope - started the second half with aplomb and top scorer Bell almost grabbed that all-important goal for the away side just three minutes after the restart; Maguire's free-kick into the box caught Chippenham's defence out as they tried to play Brindley offside but made a mess of their line, allowing Brindley to head the ball into the path of Bell, whose acrobatic overhead kick whistled just past the post. White was incensed at the lack of an offside decision against Brindley and berated the assistant on the main stand side to the point that Mr Cook had to come over and have a word with the former Swindon Town striker about his conduct. Mr Cook also showed Herring a yellow card for his troubles as he continued to remonstrate with the assistant

It was Chippenham's turn to claim a penalty kick from Mr Cook on fifty-three minutes as Evans made a surging run from deep and into the Hednesford box, where Barrow produced another fine tackle to take the ball away from the midfielder. Despite this, Evans and Gilroy surrounded Mr Cook, demanding a spot-kick for Barrow's challenge, which was not forthcoming

Herring's earlier caution for dissent was to come back to haunt him just before the hour mark as he chased Bell down just inside the Chippenham half before sending the striker to ground with a late tackle. Despite Herring's pleas, Mr Cook showed him a second yellow card and promptly sent the player off. White - who had also shown dissent towards the match officials in the semi-final against Bedford - again showed dissent towards the assistant and had to be restrained by his coaching staff after words were exchanged between the two benches

Once the dust had settled on Herring's red card, Maguire whipped in the resultant free-kick and found the head of Brindley once more, but the player/manager's header deflected off the back of Thorne before drifting behind for a corner kick to the Pitmen

The Pitmen's expertise from set-pieces saw Barrow go close a minute later as Branch's free-kick was met by the centre-back eight yards from goal, heading towards goal and only being denied by Thorne's goal-line clearance and a further follow-up save from Hervin

Teesdale became the latest Hednesford player to go close on sixty-six minutes as he met Maguire's dangerous-looking free-kick to the far post with a firm header but was once again off-target as his effort drifted wide of the left-hand post

Maguire was brought down three minutes later by McEntegart right in front of the benches, leaving the young winger on the deck and requiring a lengthy spell of treatment. White, of course, had something to say about the length of time that Maguire stayed down, with him and Hednesford assistant manager Steve Anthrobus once again having a heated exchange between them

The Pitmen made their only substitution of the game on seventy-two minutes as Bell - who was struggling for fitness - was replaced by McMahon up front

And what a decision this turned out to be for the away side, as the former Walsall Wood marksman was to etch his name in Pitmen history just three minutes later with his first touch of the ball; Adams picked the ball up from Maguire on the right and crossed from the edge of the Chippenham penalty area to find Brindley at the far post. The old stager produced another one of his moments of magic as he headed Adams' cross back across goal and into the path of McMahon, who was unmarked at the far post and had the simple task of nodding the ball into the empty net from a couple of yards out to send the Pitmen supporters behind the goal wild and a small pitch invasion break out

The job was not done yet, however, as the Pitmen had at least twenty minutes to see the game out and clinch promotion against a home side shocked into action. Gilroy and Jones were taken off in favour of Sam Allison and Scott Walker as the Bluebirds looked for an immediate response to take the game into extra-time

Walker picked up Thorne's long pass on eighty-two minutes and made his way down the right flank, crossing towards Constable but Barrow once again taking command of the situation with a timely headed clearance

Seven minutes from time, a poor kick from Hervin saw the stopper slice his clearance straight to Brindley, who nodded the ball into the path of the onrushing McMahon; he took the ball into the Chippenham penalty area but Hervin made amends for his earlier indiscretion by making a save with his legs to divert McMahon's low shot away from goal

Two minutes later, Horgan's up and under from the centre circle was nodded down by Constable to Allison, who controlled the ball well but elected to shoot from long-range rather than play Walker into space, lashing his effort over Young's crossbar

With two minutes of time remaining, a succession of Chippenham corners tested the Pitmen's resolves as Young put two over his own crossbar before Brindley dropped back to head the final Walker cross away from danger

In the first of what was expected to be four added minutes due to Maguire's injury, the two sides came to blows in a huge melee in midfield after Evans brought Maguire down with a terrible late challenge, prompting angry reactions from both Walters and McSweeney which saw most of the players on the pitch wade in. It took several minutes for Mr Cook to bring the game to order once more as players continued to have a dig at each other. Walters was sent off for his part in the scuffle, whilst McSweeney and Maguire were booked for dissent and Evans cautioned for the initial foul that started the whole thing off. Perhaps predictably, White wanted his say on the matter and berated Mr Cook to the point that he was sent to the stands for foul and abusive language


Chippenham were fired up by the melee but channelled their aggression in the wrong way in added time as both Horgan and Thorne were booked for fouls. The only real opening they had in what was to be eleven minutes of added time came from a Walker free-kick as he floated the ball to the far post, where Thorne beat Brindley to the header but saw Barrow stick a leg out and turn the ball away from the woodwork for a corner kick

The final whistle was greeted with joy from the large travelling support, who once again spilt onto the pitch to celebrate with their heroes at the end of a superb season for Hednesford that sees them restored to step two football once more next season and a chance to reacquaint themselves with old rivals Stafford Rangers, Moor Green, Kettering Town and Nuneaton Borough. It remains to be seen if Brindley and Athrobus will remain as the management team ahead of the step-up, or whether chairman Steve Price looks to appoint a more experienced Conference manager to give the club a good chance of establishing itself at that level once more. An interesting summer is likely, but for now, the Pitmen can enjoy this afternoon as a reward for all of their hard work during the 2004-2005 campaign

Chippenham Town: Hervin, Regis, McEntegart, G. Thorne © , Herring  (59), Horgan , Wilmot, Evans , Gilroy (Allison 80), Constable, Jones (Walker 80)         Subs Unused: Charity, Astley, Bunyard

 

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow ©, Teesdale, Maguire , Walters ▆ ▆ (90), Brindley, Bell (McMahon 72), McSweeney , Beckett      Subs Unused: Brannan, Campbell, Anthrobus, Evans

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