F.A. Trophy 1st Round


Walker (12), Marwood (45), Tait (86), Maddison (87)

Hednesford Town

Francis (82)

(2) 4

(0) 1



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Tom Thorley


Gloucester City (A) 7.12.13

Ten seasons after their Villa Park triumph, Hednesford failed to mark a decade since the greatest day in the club's history with a run in this season's F.A. Trophy as they were taken apart by an impressive showing from Skrill Premier side Gateshead this afternoon

Coming off the back of last week's narrow league defeat at Brackley Town and a sloppy showing in the Staffordshire Senior Cup in midweek at Newcastle Town, manager Rob Smith had made moves into the transfer market to arrest a slide in confidence surrounding his strikers; out had gone Aaron Rey - released by the club after talks - and in came Greg Pearson, on loan from Skrill Premier side Nuneaton Town

Gateshead, starting the afternoon in a mid-table position in non-league's top flight, had recently appointed former Tamworth and York City manager Gary Mills as their new manager, with the new man at the helm targeting a return to Wembley with his new side after winning this competition with York in 2012. Included in his side were former Everton and Sunderland midfielder John Oster and former Wolves man Colin Larkin

In front of a sparse crowd in the vast International Stadium, Gateshead made a quick, confident start to proceedings as they looked to exploit space in and around the Hednesford penalty area early on. Quick feet from Larkin on six minutes saw him escape the attentions of Darren Campion and make a move down the right-wing, with Francino Francis hoofing the cross away from danger six yards from goal

Dan Crane was called upon for the first time in what was to be a busy afternoon for the Hednesford custodian on ten minutes; James Marwood got on the end of a flowing move through the middle that involved Oster, with Crane making a fine save low down to his left to deny Marwood

Crane's opposite number Adam Bartlett breathed a sigh of relief a minute later, as he took a little too long to clear his lines and kicked his clearance straight at Jamey Osborne. fortunately for the keeper, the ball rebounded kindly into his arms as Osborne looked to react to the bouncing ball

The Pitmen were made to pay for not seizing upon their only chance so far, as another superb Gateshead move opened up their defence again and created the opening goal for Josh Walker. Craig Baxter fed the ball into the feet of Larkin, who once again turned inside Campion and crossed for Walker, who fired across Crane and into the bottom far hand corner of the net

Hednesford responded straight from the kick-off through top scorer Elliott Durrell, who took the ball deep into Gateshead territory and fired in an unstoppable dipping shot that came crashing off the underside of the crossbar. Neil Harvey was first to the rebound but scuffed a weak shot narrowly wide of the post when he really should have got his effort on target

The sides continued to trade blows going forwards, with Oster firing over for the hosts and Osborne forcing Bartlett into a save low down on nineteen minutes

Gateshead were bright, inventive and quick on the break, with Oster supplying neat, precise passes through the channels to give the overworked Hednesford defence problems on the big open spaces on the International Stadium pitch. Larkin lashed a shot just wide on twenty-seven minutes after another good move saw the winger nip in behind the Pitmen's back line

 Hednesford's attacking threat had all but dried up as the half entered it's final ten minutes, with Durrell's half-blocked shot dropping into the hands of Bartlett on thirty-six minutes

As the Pitmen looked to get to the half-time break with only the one goal against, they were undone with the last kick of the half courtesy of a long, searching ball from Bartlett. Ben Bailey allowed the ball to bounce over his head, with Marwood nipping in ahead of Francis to turn the ball past Crane

Despite the blow of conceding late in the first half, Hednesford made a better fist of things in the opening stages of the second half, as they looked to cut out the defensive errors and compete with Gateshead in midfield. Tom Thorley stood out from his team-mates as he played a number of neat, intelligent balls to get the Pitmen going

And yet it was Gateshead who continued to carve out the better chances, with Larking going on another mazy run on fifty-three minutes before dragging his shot wide of Crane's goal

Pearson was introduced by the Pitmen on the hour mark, taking the place of the disappointing Harvey up front alongside Wayne Riley

Crane kept the Pitmen in the game on sixty-four minutes, as Marwood's corner kick was firmly headed towards goal by substitute Carl Magnay. Crane somehow managed to divert the goalbound header over the crossbar, turning the close-range effort over when it looked as though Magnay would head home unmarked

Riley was also replaced by Smith on seventy minutes, with Michael Lennon in his place coming on to support Pearson up front as the visitors looked for more penetration up top

With fifteen minutes left, Pearson thought he had grabbed his first goal for the Pitmen as he turned the ball home from close range, only to be denied by a late offside flag

The Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon with eleven minutes left, with Alex Melbourne coming on in place of Kris Taylor

There was brief hope for the Pitmen on eighty-two minutes, as big defender Francis reduced arrears for the visitors with his fifth goal of the season; Thorley won a free-kick wide on the left-hand side, with Durrell floating the resultant ball into the six-yard box. Bartlett failed to convincingly clear the ball, fumbling it as he looked to claim the ball on the six-yard box. Francis seized upon the bouncing ball and turned it into the net from close range to half Gateshead's advantage

Spurred on by this glimmer of hope, Hednesford pushed Gateshead back in search of what looked an unlikely equaliser earlier in the game. Pearson wriggled clear of the Heed defence a minute later as he got on the end of Osborne's through ball, but fired weakly into the hands of Bartlett when he really should have found the net

At the other end, Walker somehow failed to kill the Pitmen off on eighty-six minutes, as he intercepted a John Disney throw-in and raced clear of the Hednesford defence. With only Crane to beat, the striker somehow contrived to put his shot wide of the right-hand post

The Pitmen were their own worst enemies from the resultant goal kick, as Crane and Disney got into a mix-up as they rushed the ball and allowed Oster to steal in and claim the ball. He rolled the ball into the path of Joe Tait, who sidefooted home from close range

Worse was to follow a minute later for the tiring Pitmen, who were opened up once again by another quick move down the left. A cross from Lewis Sirrell found Tait, who forced the horribly exposed Crane into a fine save from close range. The rebound fell kindly to Marcus Maddison, who had the simple task of turning the ball into the empty net

So, there's to be no fairytale anniversary run for the Pitmen in this season's F.A. Trophy, with Smith's men now solely focused on building on their excellent start to life in Skrill North with a number of tough but winnable games to come in December. Smith will still be looking to his strikers for a goal return after another game without a goal for any of his four front men, starting at Gloucester City next weekend

Gateshead: Bartlett, Baxter, Sirrell, Chandler (Maddison 72), Curtis, Clark © (Magnay 60), Larkin (Tait 60), Turnbull, Walker, Oster, Marwood      Subs Unused: Brown, Ramshaw

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, Taylor (Melbourne 79), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Pearson 60), Riley (Lennon 70), Thorley      Subs Unused: McCone, Woolfe

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