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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Ali (23)

City of Liverpool

Morris (45), (47), Mitchley (58), Jebrin (66), Bahula (90)

(1) 1

(1) 5



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Ahmed Ali



Hanley Town (A) 2.2.24

Hednesford's recent excellent run of form is brought to a crashing halt this afternoon as a rampant City of Liverpool side take the hosts apart with a prolific second-half performance to take the points on their very first visit to Keys Park

After extending their unbeaten run to four games with a draw at Kidsgrove Athletic two weeks ago, there was much confidence amongst the home supporters that their team could make it four wins in a row at Keys Park and finally lift themselves out of the bottom three. Manager Harry Harris welcomed back experienced duo Tom Thorley and James McQuilkin for today's game, with the pair coming straight back into the side ahead of Joe Thompson and Jacob Gwilt. Rackeem Reid - signed on a dual registration deal from Rushall Olympic overnight - was the final of three changes on the right flank as he replaced Joe Morley. On the bench, Dan Gyasi was fit enough to return to the squad as a substitute alongside young midfielder Max Martin, who had returned to the club this week on a fresh loan spell from Solihull Moors

City of Liverpool sat in eleventh place coming into today's round of games, sitting five points adrift of the final play-off place having also not played for the past two weeks. Purps manager Paul McNally made two changes to his side from the one that had drawn 1-1 with Avro last time out as the experienced Kenny Strickland came in for Michael Simpson and Jawad Jebrin replaced Callum Schorah

Talk of the imminent completion of the club's takeover by Craig and Amanda Gwilt was rife on the terraces as the club looked forward to their next era under ownership. Despite the upbeat atmosphere amongst many of the 748-strong crowd, it was to prove to be a depressing afternoon for most, despite the Pitmen starting well. Jai Verma was straight into his stride, making a forceful run down the left in the second minute before being tripped by Adam Rooney. Jack Kelly took responsibility for the free-kick, whipping in a dangerous ball from the left-hand side and finding the head of the lanky figure of Reid, who headed tamely wide from six yards out

Verma was again a menace down the left flank in the sixth minute, earning the hosts another free-kick thirty yards from goal after being dragged back by Rooney as he drifted past the right-back in search of space just outside the penalty area. Kelly's free-kick on this occasion was far less effective, as his ball in towards Josh Endall was headed away by the giant Josh Quarless

A quick break from the visitors three minutes later saw Quarless drop deep and lay the ball off to Elliott Morris, who made a strong run down the right as he went toe-to-toe with Kelly before sending over a deep cross that drifted high and wide of Kieran Boucher's goal

The experienced, strong City of Liverpool side were dishing out plenty of aggression on the Hednesford side, conceding another free-kick in a dangerous position on thirteen minutes as Strickland brought Ryan Bopothe down just outside the penalty area and picked up the game's first booking from referee Mr Biggin. Kelly lined up the free-kick once more and struck a powerful shot at goal that hit the wall before being cleared

Despite having the better of the earlier play, the Pitmen were indebted to Kelly to keep them on level terms on sixteen minutes as Max Allen struck a low shot at goal that was palmed away by Boucher but straight into the path of Quarless, who saw his follow-up shot cleared off the line by the left-back

Successive corner kicks from City of Liverpool looked to pick out Quarless on both occasions on twenty minutes, only for Boucher to come out of his goal and claim the second ball in ahead of the former Widnes striker and boot the ball clear of danger

Reid was proving a willing runner down the right for the Pitmen in the opening quarter of the game, making a run into the City of Liverpool box midway through the half and earning the hosts a corner kick off Jack Hont's left boot. Kelly whipped in another sublime ball from the flag kick and found the head of skipper Ahmed Ali, who glanced the ball home from close range to make it two goals in his last two home games for the Pitmen and give Harris's men a deserved lead

The hosts had their tails up, forcing City of Liverpool onto the back foot once more with another dangerous corner kick two minutes later on the left. McQuilkin's ball into the box was aimed at the head of Endall, only for Purps stopper Calvin Hare to pluck the ball out of the air ahead of the defender

Verma - now double-marked by Rooney and Simon Wills - went on another marauding run on twenty-seven minutes as he left both players for dead in midfield before drilling in a powerful shot that Hare saved down to his right

Veteran defender Mike Grogan followed long-time defensive partner Strickland into Mr Biggin's notebook on the half-hour mark as he was booked for a foul on Thorley. Kelly took the resultant free-kick which was cleared as far as McQuilkin, whose follow-up shot from twenty-five yards out sailed high over the crossbar and into the Heath Hayes terrace

City of Liverpool responded with a free-kick of their own from Allen two minutes later, swinging in a cross from the right that Boucher punched away before Michael Williams hacked the rebound into touch, away from the clutches of Danny Mitchley inside his own penalty area

The visitors were growing in confidence and looking more and more of a threat as the half was progressing and had the ball in the net on thirty-five minutes as Quarless made progress down the right and crossed for the incoming Mitchley to turn the ball home from close range, only to be denied by an earlier offside flag against Quarless in the build-up

Sixty seconds later, Rooney was tied up in knots by Verma one time too many, prompting the right-back into bringing the winger down for the umpteenth time in the game and earning himself a yellow card for persistent fouling

Good play down the right from Morris on thirty-eight minutes saw the midfielder create space for himself before pulling the ball back into the path of Mitchley, whose first-time shot whistled just wide of Boucher's right-hand post

Just as though it looked like the Pitmen had done enough to go in at half time in the lead, a dreadful error by the Hednesford defence handed City of Liverpool an equaliser from nowhere in the final minute of the half; a long ball forward from Hare was not dealt with by the Pitmen in the air and fell to Jebrin, whose looping ball forwards caught out both Richie Sutton and Boucher as the pair both left it to each other to deal with. Morris capitalised on this confusion to nip in and turn the ball home at the second attempt, despite Boucher's desperate attempts to clear his lines

The hosts will have been disappointed at both the timing and the manner of the City of Liverpool equaliser, coming so close to the break and bringing back memories of some of the dreadfully poor goals conceded by the team earlier in the season. They had been the better team for much of the first forty minutes of the game and had controlled the play well, only to hand the away side an easy route back into the game with some sloppy and cartoonish defending

Unfortunately for the home side, this late first-half sloppiness was to be just the prelude to an appalling display from the men in white, as they wilted under a barrage of second-half long-ball pressure from their visitors and conceded five goals at home for the first time this season

As early as the forty-seventh minute, the Pitmen were suddenly chasing the game as another terrible error of judgement at the back gifted Morris his second goal of the afternoon. Boucher's free-kick was won by Wills just outside his own penalty area, with the midfielder's long punt forwards sending Morris into space in behind the Hednesford defenders. Boucher made a critical error of judgment as he looked to get to the ball ahead of the former Skelmersdale playmaker, racing out of his penalty area but watching in horror as Morris lobbed the ball over the stopper before beating Kelly in a foot race and turning the ball into the empty net from six yards out. Horrible from the hosts once more at the back and another totally avoidable goal to concede

Ali's frustration got the better of him just a few seconds after the restart as the Somalia International was booked by Mr Biggin for a foul on Wills just outside the City of Liverpool penalty area

Verma was finding it more and more difficult to find time and space on the ball as he was being marked out of the game by two men in purple but was involved on fifty-two minutes as some trickery down the left saw him cut inside before playing Kelly into space in front of him. The full-back's deep, outswinging cross sailed over the heads of both Boothe and Reid in the penalty area and away from danger

Two minutes later, a flashpoint just outside the City of Liverpool box saw Reid and Wills come together, prompting a bout of pushing and shoving amongst both sets of players which eventually saw both players booked for their part

The Pitmen made an early change in the second half as the out-of-luck Boothe was taken off on fifty-six minutes and replaced by the fit-again Gyasi; this saw Reid making the move inside from the right to become the Pitmen's target man

Alas, Gyasi had barely been on the pitch more than a couple of minutes as the visitors further extended their lead to essentially put the game beyond the Pitmen. The Pitmen once again struggled to clear their lines as Quraless won the ball thirty yards from goal and laid it off to Morris, who made a darting run down the right and crossed for Mitchley. The much-travelled striker somehow got the better of the much taller figure of Endall in the air, glancing the ball beyond the reach of Boucher from six yards out and finding the right-hand corner of the net

The hosts huffed and puffed their way through the game but were starting to look ragged and out of ideas, with some of the veteran players in the side really struggling to cover the ground on a heavy, hard and bobbly late winter pitch at Keys Park as City of Liverpool continued to boss proceedings, Jebrin was sent clear down the left by another long punt forwards from Wills on the hour mark, streaking away from Williams but was pulled back by a late offside flag against him from the assistant on the main stand side of the ground

Things went from bad to worse for the Pitmen midway through the second half as City of Liverpool continued to add to their burgeoning tally with another simple but well-worked goal. Hare's long punt forward was chested down by Mitchley and into the path of Allen, who found Jebrin in acres of space out on the left. Much as Hednesford fans have become accustomed to with Verma in recent weeks, Jebrin tricked his way past Williams as he cut in from the wing and dispatched a low, driven shot across the face of goal and underneath the body of Boucher, finding the far corner of the net in the process

Before the game could restart, Harris made his second substitution of the afternoon as the poor and outbattled McQuilkin was taken off in favour of the younger and fresher legs of Martin in midfield

Gyasi had barely featured so far for the Pitmen since his introduction but did look to pick out Reid on seventy minutes with a powerful, driving run down the right that saw him get the better of Hont and stand up a cross from the byeline that was claimed by Hare at his near post

Hare made a timely save with his boot on seventy-two minutes as he diverted a well-struck low effort from Verma around his left-hand post after the winger had skipped past two challenges and fired in a right-footed effort at goal from eighteen yards out

Boucher partly atoned for his earlier errors with a fine save a minute later as he made a superb save to his left to push a free-kick from Quarless away from goal and behind for a corner kick to the Purps

The Hednesford stopper made an even better save from the resultant corner kick as Allen's ball in was met by the head of Morris, who was denied a hat-trick as his looping effort at goal was tipped over the bar by Boucher for another corner

The away side made a double change of personnel with fifteen minutes of the game remaining as midfield man Connor Rankin replaced the tireless Quarless and Xenon Bahula came on for Jebrin in a like-for-like swap on the left flank

Kelly - one of the Pitmen's more consistent performers on a rotten afternoon - saw his game cut short late on as he went down holding his ankle just inside the Hednesford half. After a spell of treatment from physio Adam Paget, Kelly limped off and was replaced by Jacob Gwilt for the final eleven minutes of the game

City of Liverpool also left it late to make their third and final change of the afternoon as Rooney was taken off in favour of Ishmael Sonko down the right on eighty-three minutes

With the game seemingly petering out, City of Liverpool added further misery to the hosts and prompted a mass exodus of Keys Park in the final minute of normal time with a fifth goal; a long period of possession inside their own half culminated in Grogan playing Rankin clear through the centre of the park, with the substitute feeding the ball out to Bahula on the left flank. With absolutely no-one in white remotely close to him, the substitute had time and space to steady himself before firing past the exposed Boucher from fifteen yards out. Another appalling example of the Pitmen's lack of cohesion in defence, something that had haunted them throughout much of the ninety minutes of play

There was still time for the Pitmen to be handed a penalty kick, as deep into added time Reid showed great feet to take the ball past Grogan and forced the defender into bringing him down just inside the City of Liverpool box. Ali stepped up but could not repeat his penalty heroics against Widnes as Hare guessed right and palmed the midfielder's shot away to his left. This pretty much summed up the Pitmen's whole last fifty minutes or so

The small band of away fans were left to celebrate a fine win and three points that moves them back towards the sides above them in the table, whilst the Pitmen remain in the bottom two after Trafford grabbed a late equaliser to pick up a useful point at home to Stalybridge Celtic. It's something of a rarity for the Pitmen this coming week as they travel to Hanley Town for the first time ever in league action on Friday night, desperate to get back to winning ways against a side that have started to slip into trouble themselves in recent weeks

Hednesford Town: Boucher, Williams, Kelly (Gwilt 82), Thorley, Sutton, Endall, Verma, Ali ©, Boothe (Gyasi 56), Reid , McQuilkin (Martin 66)    Subs Unused: Thompson, Morley

City of Liverpool: Hare, Rooney (Sonko 84), Hont, Strickland, Grogan, Wills, Morris, Allen, Mitchley, Quarless (Rankin 76), Jebrin (Bahula 76)       Subs Unused: Schorah

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