28.9.2019

BetVictor Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Griffiths (57)

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Acquaye (6)

(0) 1

(1) 1

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MoTM

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412

Tom Elliott

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Blyth Spartans (H) 5.10.19

The Pitmen are held to their first draw of the season this afternoon by a neat and tidy Rushden & Diamonds side who will be the happier of the two sides at sharing the spoils at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park

 

Hednesford's September form had seen them win four consecutive games and put themselves at the top of the Southern Premier League Central table going into this afternoon's round of games, a point clear of local rivals Rushall Olympic ahead of this attractive-looking game against a Rushden side sitting in fourth place in the table. Kristian Scott and Ben O'Hanlon were both ruled out of the game due to injury, with Gary Hayward handing a full debut to Ghanian winger Enoch Andoh following his bright cameo in the 3-2 F.A. Cup win over Barwell last weekend in the one change to the side

 

Rushden - some people's tip as dark horses for the league title - arrived at Keys Park after a 1-1 draw against strugglers Hitchin Town on Monday night, leaving Andy Peaks' side three points off top spot after seven games. Peaks had assembled a neat, tidy footballing side of locally-based players that looked to get the ball down and play quick one and two touch football, a feature of many sides in the Southern Premier League this season

 

The wet weather this week had seen the Staffordshire Senior Cup tie against Tamworth called off due to a waterlogged pitch, with further showers leaving the playing surface heavy but green ahead of kick-off. A quickly-taken free-kick from the visitors in the third minute played Nat Gosnal-Taylor in behind Sam Griffiths, with his cross turned into the side-netting by Ryan Dove at the near post

 

The Pitmen failed to heed this early warning from Diamonds, and conceded another early goal as they had done against Barwell last weekend - and what a beauty it was; in the sixth minute, Kieran Morris conceded a free-kick twenty-five yards from his own goal which allowed midfielder Ben Acquayne to place the ball down and curl a delightful left-footed free-kick into the top left-hand corner of Daniel Platt's net - a superb strike

 

Back came the home side, who had a great chance to equalise almost immediately as Ben Bailey's long ball was headed into the path of James Hurst, whose fiercely-struck shot was brilliantly saved by Ben Heath in the Rushden goal, making a fine one-handed stop down to his right to deny Hurst a fourth goal in three games

 

Three minutes later, a mazy run from Osebi Abadaki saw the winger cut inside and beat Zack Reynolds before firing just wide with a low shot from the edge of the Rushden penalty area

 

Bailey was alert to a dangerous cross from Matt Slinn on sixteen minutes, cutting out the cross just ahead of Dove to deny the Diamonds striker what would have been a tap-in after the away side had moved the ball quickly in midfield to set Slinn away

 

Rushden's number nine Tom Lorraine managed to get goal-side of Morris on twenty minutes as he was played in by Acquaye, firing into the side-netting with an angled drive but was adjudged to have been in an offside position when receiving the ball and the Pitmen were awarded a free-kick

 

A superbly-taken free-kick from the impressive Tom Elliott found the head of Bailey on twenty-four minutes, with the Hednesford skipper glancing his effort inches wide of the far post with Heath well beaten

 

Heath was forced into another good save to deny Hurst two minutes later, making a fine stop at his near post to push the midfielder's drive away and following that up with a smothering save with his legs to deny Andoh on the rebound as the home side continued to press but not take their chances

 

Another fantastic free-kick from Elliott on the half-hour mark was begging to be turned home by any of the incoming Hednesford players in the Rushden penalty area, only for the ball to drift wide of the far post as it missed everyone on its way across goal

 

Andoh tested Heath's reflexes once more on thirty-seven minutes, firing low at goal after a spell of pinball in the Rushden penalty area, only for the impressive Heath to safely field the shot from twelve yards out

 

Half-time had left the Pitmen frustrated once more, as another first-half had gone by with them lacking conviction in front of goal, thus threatening their September winning run against a side that still looked dangerous on the break against a Hednesford defence lacking in pace

 

There was an immediate improvement in the Pitmen's game plan at the start of the second period, with Elliott forcing Heath into an early save as he parried the midfielder's shot away from goal. Kieran Wells attempted to turn the rebound home, but the ball was travelling at too much of a pace for him to compose himself in time and the ball was cleared

 

Clever wing play from the impressive Andoh on fifty minutes saw him beat Gosnal-Taylor with his quick feet before sending over a cross to the near post where Wells flicked the ball straight into the hands of Heath

 

Reece King was next to try his luck from the edge of the Rushden penalty area four minutes later, firing wide with a drifting effort after Abadaki had played him in from the right-wing

 

The hosts finally got their reward for a bright start to the seconds period with an equaliser on fifty-seven minutes; a delightful, incisive chipped pass from Elliott caught the Rushden defence out, with Griffiths making a late run into the box to seize up Elliott's fantastic pass to run the ball into the net past Heath from close range for his first goal of the season

The Pitmen had their tails up, with Abadaki a continual threat down the right wing with his pace for the hosts. A surging run on the hour mark saw Abadaki beat Sam Brown and cross for Wells, only for a last-ditch challenge from Gosnal-Taylor to deny the striker a tap-in

The visitors seemed content for the Pitmen to have the ball for long periods of the second half, soaking up the pressure and attempting to catch them on the counter-attack with their pace through the likes of Acquaye and Gosnal-Taylor

The home side made their first change of the game on seventy-one minutes, as the luckless Wells was replaced by Danny Glover up front as Hayward looked for something different from his forwards

Fantastic build-up play from the Pitmen on seventy-four minutes opened up the Rushden defence, as Hurst and Glover linked up well to put Elliott in on goal only for Heath to once again come to Rushden's rescue with a fine save

Another fierce effort from Hurst on seventy-six minutes saw the former West Brom man strike another long-range shot at goal which took a wicked deflection off a Rushden defender before dropping just wide of Heath's post. From the resultant Elliott corner kick, Hurst's lob at the far post dropped narrowly wide of the far post after he had clipped the ball back across the face of goal

 

The Pitmen's second substitution of the game came on seventy-seven minutes, with Tom Fry handed another chance to impress off the bench as he came on in place of the tiring Andoh

Another brilliant piece of wing play from Abadaki on eighty-three minutes remaining saw him run past Brown once more before sending over a fine cross that was headed well wide by King, who probably should have done better with his effort at the far post

A mistake from Bailey almost let Rushden in for an unlikely winner with three minutes remaining, as his miscued header set Rushden substitute Jack Bowen away down the right wing, resulting in a shot on the run from Acquaye that found the side-netting as he was pressured by Hurst​

 

A draw was a useful enough point gained for both sides, although the Pitmen will feel that they should have taken all three had they not wasted the large number of chances that came their way in the second half to win it. It's a return to F.A. Cup duty for the Pitmen next weekend, as they host National League North strugglers Blyth Spartans in the third qualifying round of the cup and a chance to earn themselves over £11,000 and a shot at a National League side in the fourth qualifying round

 

Hednesford Town: Platt, Curley, Griffiths, Bailey ©, Morris , King, Andoh (Fry 77), Hurst, K. Wells (Glover 71), Elliott, Abadaki    Subs Unused: B. Wells, Gatter, Daniels

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds: Heath, Reynolds , Brown, Ashton, Collard, Gosnal-Taylor, Acquaye, Slinn, Lorraine (Bowen 78), Dove, Hicks      Subs Unused: Cooper, Akubuine, McDonald, Casey

 

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