24.4.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League Play-Off Semi-Final

Chippenham Town

Powell (61), Allison (90)

Hednesford Town

(1) 2

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

811

Elliott Durrell

W D W W D D W L W L

After a supreme effort in the past few weeks, a weary-looking Hednesford fall at the penultimate hurdle as Chippenham end their play-off hopes at the semi-final stage this evening at Hardenhuish Park

Having taken all three points from the same ground barely two and a half weeks ago, Hednesford headed into the game with real confidence. Manager Bernard McNally made one change to the side that had beaten Cambridge City on Saturday to make this semi-final, with Cheyenne Dunkley ruled out due to injury. His place was taken by Josh Craddock. Ross Dyer's lingering injury picked up last week ruled him out of contention for the evening's clash

Chippenham had sealed their place in the play-offs after picking up some notable scalps in the closing stages of the season by beating Nuneaton Town, Brackley Town, Cambridge City and Farnborough in their last four games, cementing their status as favourites for promotion going into the lottery of tonight's semi-finals. Manager Adie Mings made just the one change to the side that had started against Farnborough at the weekend as defender Steve  Casey returned to the side in place of James Martin

The Pitmen, kicking up the Hardenhuish Park slope in the first half, made a slow start to the game, perhaps understandable considering the number of games they have played in recent weeks. Chippenham's danger man Lewis Powell was first to get a sight at goal after four minutes, just failing to get his head on Gregg Tindle's long throw from the left from eight yards out

Elliott Durrell, recently named as the Pitmen's player of the year, attempted to get the visitors going with a mazy run at goal on eight minutes; his clever darting run took him past three Chippenham defenders, but as he shaped to shoot, a combination of defenders and goalkeeper Chris Snoddy crowded him out

Back came the hosts, with a long punt forward flicked on by Luke Gullick into the path of Powell. His scuffed shot lacked power, however, and the ball bobbled wide of goal

Skipper Sean Platt managed to get forward for the Pitmen on fourteen minutes, crossing for Adam McGurk who volleyed well wide of Snoddy's goal

Indeed, Hednesford enjoyed a good period of pressure in the next fifteen minutes and really should have made it tell with a number of good opportunities. Twenty minutes in, McGurk picked the ball up in midfield and played a slide-rule pass to Durrell, who managed to get away from the Chippenham defence. Snoddy was quickly onto it, smothering the ball at Durrell's feet before the little striker could get a shot in on the left-hand edge of the area

Tindle was on hand to spare Chippenham's blushes midway through the half, getting across to make a last-ditch tackle on Tyrone Barnett after the Hednesford danger man had raced onto a ball from Dorryll Proffitt

Chippenham finally manage to break Hednesford's dominance on twenty-eight minutes with Tindle forcing Brock into a regulation save from twenty-five yards

The Pitmen really should have taken a deserved lead eight minutes later, with Barnett the culprit for the visitors. Durrell's dangerous free-kick from the right-hand side of the penalty area found Barnett twelve yards out, with Hednesford's top scorer volleying the ball towards goal, only to be denied by a smart save by Snoddy

Despite spending most of the half on the back foot, it was Chippenham who had arguably the best chance of the half in the closing stages of the first period. Ben Highmore's through ball found Powell, whose fierce strike looked to have beaten Brock until Liam Francis made a late intervention, turning the ball away from goal

Half time saw the home side make a double substitution, meaning a run-out for the awkward Alan Griffin, a striker who has caused the Pitmen problems for both Chippenham and Swindon Supermarine this term

Now kicking downhill, the Pitmen started well, with Craddock presented with a great chance within five minutes of the restart. Durrell's corner was met by Craddock, but his header lacked direction and flew into the large travelling support behind Snoddy's goal

Powell was still causing the Pitmen problems with his movement, turning provider for Gullick on fifty-five minutes with a ball over the top, but wing-back Proffitt made a fantastic challenge to clear the ball away as Gullick bore down on Brock

Chippenham were starting to take the initiative in the game, as the Pitmen's game started to unravel. Tired-looking passes into touch started to creep into the game, and the hosts took advantage of this by taking the lead just after the hour markHighmore took advantage of a slip from Platt on the left, taking the ball down the line before squaring the ball to Powell, who finished with aplomb from six yards out

Hednesford refused to be downhearted and almost equalised two minutes later. Durrell found McGurk in space in the area, with the Northern Irishman seemingly surprised at the time and space at his disposal. He dallied on the ball for a moment, allowing Snoddy to recover and smother the ball at his feet

Francis was next to test Snoddy on seventy-two minutes, staying up for a set-piece before firing at Snoddy from an acute angle as Chippenham failed to clear the ball

With fifteen minutes remaining, Zak Martin was introduced by McNally for the tiring Gibson, as the Pitmen looked for more bite in the team

Chippenham could have wrapped up the game a minute later, with Griffin hitting the woodwork. A comedy of errors saw the Pitmen fail to deal with Sam Allison's cross, allowing the big striker to hit a shot that came back off the crossbar

The hosts sensed that they were nearly there, and pushed on in search of a clincher. Gullick wasted a good chance when Powell laid the ball into his path with ten minutes remaining, firing high over Brock's crossbar after leaning into his shot

The Pitmen tried to force the issue the best they could as the game entered the final ten minutes, but a resolute Chippenham defence dealt well with a succession of Ben Bailey throw-ins and Durrell corners

As the game entered added time, the Pitmen made one last effort, with Durrell forcing a corner. Brock decided to go for broke and made his way forward to add another body in the Chippenham area. As it was, the ball was cleared at the near post, finding the excellent Allison. His daring run took him over sixty yards, deep into the Hednesford area, with defenders and Brock chasing after him as they raced back into position. Allison held his nerve to roll the ball into the empty net from the edge of the area. Cue mass celebrations from the home supporters and a final whistle seconds later

Despite the defeat, McNally and his troops can be proud of their achievements this season, which has seen the Pitmen recover from a roller coaster first four months to finish in a position they only dared to dream about a few weeks ago. If McNally can retain the bulk of this side, and add extra quality in the summer in key positions, there's no reason why the Pitmen can't take the next step in 2010-2011

Chippenham Town: Snoddy, Adams ©, Tindle, Williams, Casey, Kite, Lye, Gullick, Powell, Highmore (Griffin 45), Davies (Allison 45)        Subs Unused: Martin, Harvey, Lamb

 

Hednesford Town: Brock, Proffitt, Gibson (Martin 75), Bailey, Francis, Platt © , Durrell , Craddock (Wood 86), Barnett, Clements, McGurk      Subs Unused: Chapman, Osborne, Flynn