11.11.2017

F.A. Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Butlin (34)

Cleethorpes Town

North (78) (penalty)

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James Fitzgibbon

 

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Cleethorpes Town (A) 15.11.17

The two sides will do it all again in Cleethorpes on Wednesday night, as a poor second-half performance from the Pitmen allowed the Evo-Stik Division One South side another crack at their higher league opponents

 

The Pitmen had lost the services of utility man Alex Melbourne on Thursday night, with Melbourne choosing to leave the club following the draw to Barwell last weekend. Rob Smith had very little time to bring a replacement in, using his contacts to their full effect to bring in Gainsborough Trinity's right back Charlie Gatter on a month's loan. Gatter was one of three changes to the side, with Sam Oji returning to the side in place of the suspended Ben Bailey and James Fitzgibbon handed a debut in place of AJ George on the left wing

 

Cleethorpes made their first ever trip to South Staffordshire off the back of a narrow defeat to Bedworth United last weekend, denting their recent good form and confidence that had seen them rise up to second in the table. This was all off the back of promotion from the Northern Counties East Premier last term, as well as an appearance at Wembley in the F.A. Vase Final. they could call upon an experienced spine to their side, with former Stevenage man Peter Winn, ex-Harrogate defender Matt Bloomer, former Gainsborough midfielder Liam Davis and ex-Harrogate striker Paul Beesley all in the starting line-up

 

The Pitmen had an early shout for a penalty turned away by the referee after an apparent handball that was preceded by a foul by Joey Butlin inside the Cleethorpes penalty area

 

Skipper Tom Thorley was left in a crumpled heap in midfield on ten minutes after coming off worst in a heavy challenge with Jack Richardson. After treatment, Thorley continued to play with a slight limp for the remainder of the first half

 

A poor free-kick from Darren Campion in the twelfth minute saw Cleethorpes break quickly after winning the ball back, with the home side indebted to the pace and awareness of keeper James Wren, who denied Beesley a certain tap-in with a smothering save

 

The Pitmen responded through the excellent Jim Mutton, who pumped a long ball forwards towards Butlin, whose flick-on played Fitzgibbon in. After holding off the challenge of Cleethorpes full-back Tim Lowe, the former Frome winger struck a left-footed drive that beat Cleethorpes keeper Richard Walton but cannoned off the right-hand post and back into play

 

Fitzgibbon was proving to be something of a find for the hosts, showing good ball control and willing to take players on down the left. A great deep cross from the former Gloucester man on sixteen minutes was aimed at the head of Steele at the far post, only for the experienced Winn to head away from goal

 

A Joe Fitzpatrick corner kick on twenty-five minutes saw the ball bounce around the Cleethorpes penalty area, with Butlin, Oji and Mutton all having swipes at the ball before the visitors cleared their lines

 

The Pitmen had had much the better of the play in the first half hour, and took the lead on thirty-five minutes later as Butlin finally broke his duck for the Pitmen; a superb swinging cross from Fitzgibbon was not dealt with by Cleethorpes, with the ball eventually dropping to Butlin, seven yards from goal. The former Walsall Wood man blasted home the loose ball, despite calls from the visitors for handball against Butlin

 

Butlin was now in the mood for more goals and tested Walton again on thirty-nine minutes with a curling shot after being set up by Jordan Graham on the edge of the penalty area

 

The final action of the second half saw Graham make a mazy run inside from the left wing, beating three players but failing to get his shot away in time and allowing the ball to be cleared by the Cleethorpes defence

 

Thorley's earlier shin injury forced him to come off at half time, with Danny Glover coming on in his place. Glover started the second half in an unfamiliar midfield role, as he replaced Thorley in a like-for-like switch. The captain's armband passed to Campion in the process

 

Butlin registered the first shot of the second half with just a minute on the clock, trying his luck with a drive that was well held by Walton

 

A deep corner from Fitzpatrick two minutes later was cleared as far as Fitzgibbon, whose stinging shot was blocked by a Cleethorpes defender and diverted away for another corner kick

 

From the resultant corner, Glover rose highest to meet the ball at the far post, but got underneath the ball and headed over the crossbar

 

After dominating the game for the majority of the first hour, the tide started to turn as the visitors picked up the pace and enjoyed more possession and chances as the game wore on. A long-range effort from Lowe flew high over the crossbar on fifty-eight minutes, before Danny North's free-kick just dipped over the crossbar from twenty yards out three minutes later

 

A great challenge from Gatter stopped Cleethorpes in their tracks a minute later, with the new boy making an aggressive-but-fair challenge on Luke Mascall just inside the penalty area to clear the ball

 

Wren kept the Pitmen in the lead with another absolutely outstanding save on sixty-five minutes, as neat interplay from Cleethorpes saw the ball eventually fall to Davis, whose goalbound shot from the edge of the six-yard box was tipped onto the crossbar by Wren, denying the midfielder a certain equaliser in the process

 

Graham - who had looked a pale shadow of the player he had been in recent games - was booked in the sixty-seventh minute for petulantly kicking the ball away after the referee had blown earlier for an offside flag

 

Two minutes later, AJ George was brought on in place of the ineffective Steele, who, like the rest of his team-mates, had dropped off the pace in the second half

 

Cleethorpes continued to turn the screw with a number of corner kicks, forcing Wren and his defence to deal with a number of inswinging balls into the penalty area

 

With fourteen minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their final change of the game with goalscorer Butlin replaced by James Lawrie. This saw Glover moved to his more familiar role up front and Lawrie move into central midfield

 

There was a brief respite from the growing Cleethorpes threat on seventy-three minutes through George, who made a mazy run into the penalty area and fired high over the crossbar

 

The inevitable equaliser came with twelve minutes remaining, but it was the Pitmen themselves that were at fault for gifting Cleethorpes their equaliser. Graham's poor judgment saw him lose the ball in a dangerous position, gifting the ball to Richardson. His through ball to Laurence McKay caught Gatter on his heels, with the right-back only succeeding in bringing the substitute down in the penalty area. North stepped up to send Wren the wrong way from the resultant penalty to level matters and set up an awkward last ten minutes for the Pitmen

 

Cleethorpes could smell an upset, and piled forwards in search of a winner, with Wren doing well to deny North after forcing a couple of corner kicks

 

And yet, it was the Pitmen who were to have the best chance of the final minutes to seal their path into the next round; a superb run from man of the match Fitzgibbon saw him cut inside on eighty-eight minutes and curl a shot in beyond Walton, but struck the underside of the crossbar with his effort as Cleethorpes breathed a sigh of relief

 

Both sides will feel that had done enough to have won the tie first time around, but as it is, the two sides will meet again at the Bradley Football Development Centre in midweek to settle the tie once and for all

 

Hednesford Town: Wren, Gatter, Campion,  Fitzpatrick, Mutton, Oji, Steele (George 69), Thorley © (Glover 45) Butlin (Lawrie 76), Graham , Fitzgibbon   Subs Unused: Crooks, Veiga

 

Cleethorpes Town: Walton, Lowe, Winn (Drury 74), Richardson, Bloomer, Donald, Mascall, Davis (McKay 76), Beesley (Aldrich 89), North, Oglesby  Subs Unused: none

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