28.2.2005

Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

McMahon (2), Brindley (71), McSweeney (90)

Cirencester Town

Robison (45)

(2) 3

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

385

Marlon Walters

D W D W L W L L W W

 

Team Bath (A) 5.3.05

The Pitmen move within three points of the final play-off place - for twenty-four hours at least - tonight courtesy of a well-earned three points over a fading Cirencester side at Keys Park this evening amidst sleet-like conditions

Saturday's morale-boosting win at Chesham United had seen the Pitmen move within six points of the tightly-packed play-off chasers above them in the table, with Chris Brindley's men given the first opportunity of the midweek games to earn themselves the win to put them in amongst the top five with under twelve games to go this term. Despite being able to name regular strikers Leon McSweeney and Andy Bell in his squad for tonight's game, Brindley made the bold call to stick with the same XI that had started Saturday's game at The Meadow, meaning the veteran himself carried on up front alongside Paul McMahon as an auxiliary striker

Cirencester's bright start to the season had started to fade as 2004 moved into 2005, with the Centurions coming off a heavy 5-0 at title challengers Chippenham Town at the weekend to leave them wallowing in tenth place in the table and sinking into mid-table. Manager Brian Hughes made three changes to his side from the one that had started at Hardenhuish Park as Alan Bird replaced Kevin Halliday, Marc Richards came in for Adam Mayo and Scott Griffin started up front in place of Ben Fitch

It was a horribly cold and squally late winter evening in South Staffordshire, with the poor crowd of 385 hardy souls greeted with a pudding of a pitch that had copious amounts of sand strewn across it. Cirencester made the running in the opening seconds and pushed forwards in search of an early goal. Griffin beat Lee Barrow to a long ball forwards in the first minute and flicked the ball into the path of Gareth Hopkins, who did well to hold off the attentions of Richard Teesdale before the ball was smuggled away by Marlon Walters

 

The Pitmen recycled the ball well and moved forwards, with skipper Lee Williams playing the ball up to Brindley, who was beaten to the punch by Alan Bird. His clearance to Hopkins was intercepted by Barrow before Walters pounced on the ball and made a driving run back into the Cirencester third of the pitch. He played Brindley into space once more, to the left-hand side of the penalty area, with the player/manager playing an incisive slide-rule pass between Adie Viveash and Bird and into the path of McMahon. The striker did not need a second invitation to clip his first-time effort over the advancing Mark Bryant in the Cirencester goal and into the net via a touch off the far post

 

The visitors could have levelled matters once more just three minutes later as former Walsall man Viveash played a delightful disguised pass to break the lines and slip striker Jody Bevan into space down the left-hand side of the Pitmen's penalty area. The Ciren number ten elected to take one too many touches as he decided what to do with the ball and allowed Young sufficient time to make a block challenge at his near post to deny the striker an equaliser

 

The combative Walters had started the game well, sweeping up in front of the Hednesford defence with several timely challenges and giving the Pitmen legs in midfield. One crunching challenge on Darren Robison in the ninth minute saw him win the ball fairly and send Anthony Maguire away down the right-wing. The wide midfielder cut inside of Bird's flailing challenge but got too greedy with his effort and struck a shot well wide of goal when a lay-off to Williams was a better option

 

Four minutes later, Brindley went close to doubling his side's advantage from a Williams corner kick as he made a late run to the near post and glance the skipper's inswinging corner goalwards, only for his effort to come off his shoulder and drift well wide of the target

 

Sixty seconds later, Bryant was alert to the danger posed from the lively McMahon as the Centurions' number one got to a through ball from Walters ahead of the Pitmen's number ten and smothered it at the feet of the striker

 

Ther Pitme's early pressure paid in the seventeenth minute as they made it 2-0 through the gaffer himself; Walters was the architect of the goal as he made another superb tackle to dispossess Marc Richards in midfield and made another forceful run deep into the Cirencester half before playing McMahon in on goal. The striker turned provider on this occasion as he squared the ball to Brindley, whose first-time chip over Bryant from the edge of the penalty area did enough to beat the stopper for pace and nestle in the corner of the net, despite Bryant's best attempts to keep the ball out

 

Cirencester were struggling to cope with the Pitmen's direct play and almost conceded a third goal midway through the half as Barrow's long free-kick from halfway was flicked on by Brindley and into the path of Steve Brannan, but the youngster lashed his effort high over the crossbar from twelve yards out

 

A rare attack from the visitors on twenty-four minutes saw Sean Wimble dispossess Williams and set Griffin on his way down the right. The striker took two touches and looked to pick Bevan out in the six-yard box with a deep cross, which Barrow did well to toe-poke behind for a Cirencester corner kick

 

Four minutes later, Walters was spoken to by the vastly experienced former Premier League referee Mr Holbrook as he mistimed a tackle on Robison in the centre circle and brought the Cirencester man down with a crude tackle

 

On thirty-two minutes, the away side had their best chance of the game to get back into contention as Viveash played Wimble into space down the left with Ross Adams and Teesdale both struggling to get their challenges in. Wimble played Bevan in on goal, with the striker caught in two minds as to what to do as he lined up a shot before seemingly changing his mind and tried to lay the ball off to Hopkins. However, Hopkins was a little behind the play and the cross-cum-shot drifted wide of Young's far post

 

Bevan was guilty of another chance wasted for Cirencester four minutes later as Wimble's fine pass through the legs of Adams found the striker clear down the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area. Bevan got a little over-excited with his effort though and shot well wide of the target with only Young to beat from ten yards out

Barrow was the first player to be shown a yellow card by Mr Holbrook on thirty-nine minutes as he was booked for a succession of niggly fouls on both Bevan and Griffin, as well as squaring up to Griffin after a free-kick had gone against him

With half-time fast approaching, another foul from Barrow on Griffin handed Cirencester a free-kick just outside the penalty area. A fine delivery from Wimble picked Robison out at the far post, with the midfielder heading firmly past Young from eight yards out to reduce the deficit

The hosts had dominated much of the first period but a poor lapse of judgement right at the death had allowed their visitors to get a foothold back into a game that they had struggled to compete in for long periods

Cirencester continued their positive approach at the start of the second half and went close to levelling matters once more on fifty minutes as Robison and the superbly-named Michael Jackson exchanged passes before playing Bird into space down the left. The full-back picked out Bevan with an outswinging cross that was headed over the crossbar by the striker as he entered the six-yard box

Brindley was back doing defensive duties once more to deny the visitors a goal two minutes later as he headed a looping header from Viveash away from his own goal following another fine free-kick delivery from Wimble down the right

On fifty-four minutes, Cirencester really should have been level as Hopkins git the better of Barrow down the left to receive a pass from Viveash. He steadied himself and worked the ball into his right foot before picking Griffin out, ten yards from goal and unmarked. However, the striker showed a lack of composure at the crucial moment as he lifted his first-time effort over the crossbar when he had time and space to take a touch and shoot. A poor miss and one that Cirencester would regret

Walters was finally shown a yellow card on fifty-eight minutes as he stuck one of his long legs out and brought down Jackson just inside the Hednesford half to stop the midfielder from breaking into space. It was to be the only negative mark on an otherwise flawless performance from the midfielder

Walters was involved again in the attacking third for the Pitmen three minutes later as he brought down a pass from Barrow and played Grant Beckett into space down the left. The left-back squared the ball to Williams, whose long-range effort whistled just wide of Bryant's right-hand post

The Pitmen started to turn the screw on their visitors after Ciren's early chances in the second half as the game reverted to a similar pattern to that of the first half; Teesdsale's glancing header from Maguire's inswinging corner on sixty-three minutes was inches away from the net as he beat Richards to the ball six yards form goal

Three minutes later, McMahon turned well from Viveash's attention and swept the ball out to Adams down the right. Maguire did well to take Bird out of the play with a fine run that allowed Adams to make yardage, crossing to the near post where some unorthodox goalkeeping from Bryant kept the ball away from goal

The Pitmen made their first substitution of the game on sixty-nine minutes as the first of the returning trio of injured players - Mark Branch - came on in place of Maguire. This saw Beckett moved further up the pitch as Branch slotted in at left-back 

Barrow incurred the wrath of Griffin once more on seventy-two minutes as he hauled the striker down just outside the Hednesford penalty area. Despite calls for a second yellow card for the former Notts County man, Mr Holbrook awarded the away side a free-kick only, which Wimble struck over the crossbar from twenty yards out

Three minutes later, the home side made their second change of the game as McSweeney made a welcome return to the side after missing the past two games with injury, coming on in place of the luckless Brannan

This was followed moments later by the sight of his regular strike partner Bell on the touchline, who was afforded warm applause from the home fans as he returned to action as he replaced McMahon

Brindley elected to drop back into defence with Bell and McSweeney's introduction, playing as a third centre-back as the Pitmen looked to hold on to their slender lead. The veteran was still a threat at set-pieces, however, and headed over the crossbar on seventy-nine minutes with a typically towering header that has been his trademark over the years, heading over the crossbar from a Williams free-kick at the far post

Young had had very little to do during the previous eighty minutes or so but was worked by Griffin with seven minutes remaining as he made a timely block at his near post to divert the striker's shot from a tight angle away from goal for a corner kick

Barrow's continued battle with Griffin saw the old stager penalised for coming out stronger in a challenge on the forward with five minutes remaining, despite his protests that he had one the ball cleanly. Wimble struck a well-hit shot from twenty yards out but failed to test Young with his off-target shot

Cirencester pressed hard in the final minutes for a late equaliser to take back to Gloucestershire, pushing more and more numbers forwards and leaving gaps at the back. This was to pay dividends for the Pitmen as they sealed the points with a late breakaway goal; Williams won the ball in midfield and played the ball up to McSweeney, who in turn gave the ball to Walters, who was still full of running in the final minute of the game. Brindley offered himself as an outlet to lay the ball off to on the left, with his fine cross dropping at the feet of McSweeney once more. The Irishman took two touches, working the ball onto his left boot before striking the ball past Bryant from fifteen yards out and finding the net just inside the right-hand post

 

A welcome three points and back-to-back wins that moves the Pitmen up into sixth place in the Southern Premier table until the remainder of the league plays their games tomorrow night. With only eleven games remaining, the Pitmen have put themselves in a good position to push on into the top five but will need a return of their fine form of January to ensure that they will be in the mix at the end of April. They play unfamiliar opponents in familiar surroundings next weekend as they travel to an inconsistent Team Bath, who are now plying their trade at Bath City's Twerton Park ground, looking for three wins in a row to really set a marker in the race for one of those play-off places

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Beckett, Barrow , Teesdale, Williams ©, Maguire (Branch 69), Walters , Brindley, McMahon (Bell 77), Brannan  (McSweeney 75)       Subs Unused: Harvey, Evans

Cirencester Town: Bryant, Arndale ©, Bird, Richards, Jackson, Viveash, Robison, Wimble, Hopkins (Stanley 75), Bevan, Griffin      Subs Unused: Fitch, Mayo, Fraser