14.1.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Nantwich Town

Lennon (28), Everall (77) 

Hednesford Town

Dunkley (64), (74)

(1) 2

(0) 2

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Jay Denny

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Chester (A) 21.1.12

The Pitmen somehow manage to clinch a point at improving Nantwich Town this afternoon, despite finishing the game with nine men and at one stage leading with this two-man disadvantage

The shock departure of Pedro Monteiro in midweek forced gaffer Rob Smith into a change at the back, with Ben Bailey recalled to the centre of defence. Up front, Gary Hay returned to the side after missing two games with a virus. There was also a surprise full debut for Andre Landell, as he was named alongside Hay as the second striker; Marvin Robinson and Nick Wellecomme both moved down to the substitute's bench 

It took just two minutes for Nantwich to get into their stride, winning two successive corner kicks. Both short corners only succeeded in finding the head of Dunkley, who confidently headed the second ball away

Campion's competitive streak saw him in the wars on eight minutes, with the Hednesford captain having treatment to a head injury sustained out on the left-hand side

Dunkley and Bailey were required to defend a number of balls in during the opening quarter, as Nantwich looked to take advantage of the young Hednesford defence. With striker Michael Lennon looking for his 100th goal for Nantwich, the duo had to be on their game to keep tabs on the hot-shot. At the other end, Hay's tireless work was keeping the Dabbers defenders on their toes

Chris Clements looked to pull the trigger for the visitors on eighteen minutes, picking up a loose ball before jinking his way past two challenges. However, before he could test Jonny Brain in the Nantwich goal, he was crowded out

Clements was involved again on twenty-two minutes, swinging in a free-kick that found Hay in the box, only for Brain to deny the striker with a save low down at Hay's feet

As the Pitmen pushed forward in search of an opener, it was Nantwich who caught the away side cold with a counter-attack on twenty-eight minutes. Matt Lowe pumped the ball forward, in search of Lennon. Bailey looked to have the ball under control but made a meal of his clearance that allowed Lennon in. The striker brought the ball under control and calmly lobbed Dan Crane to grab his landmark goal for the club

Campion's frustration boiled over five minutes later, as he was shown a straight red card for his part in a clash with Lennon right in front of the dug-outs. On closer inspection, Lennon made a lot of the challenge from Campion, who had words with the home supporters as he trudged off

This saw the Pitmen re-jig their side, with Kyle Haynes switching to left-back and Jamey Osbourne dropping into the right-back role. Despite being down to ten men yet again this season, the Pitmen had their best spell of the game to date, winning a couple of corner kicks in the process. A Clements free kick on thirty-eight minutes was headed wide of goal by Landell, who was having trouble getting the better of Nantwich defender Mat Bailey

Bailey, innocuously, almost put the Pitmen into the lead a minute before the break, as his backpass to Brain saw the ball drift away from the keeper and miss the post by a matter of inches

From the resultant corner conceded by Bailey, Clements clipped his kick towards Dunkley, with the young defender heading wide of goal with a flicked effort

The game continued to ebb and flow in the early stages of the second half, with Nantwich continuing to have the better of the clear cut chances. Veteran Lee Steele, making his Nantwich debut following his controversial departure from Southern League Oxford City in midweek, tested Crane's reflexes with a low shot after being played in by Sean Cooke. Crane did well to get down to the shot and push the shot away for a corner

Steele had an even better chance to put Nantwich ahead two minutes later, racing clear of the Hednesford defence to meet Crane. However, the Hednesford number one stood firm in the face of Steele and saved well down to his left

Osborne incurred the wrath of the referee on the hour mark, booked for a sliding challenge on Lennon just inside his own half. He was very quickly followed into the book by Haynes, who was punished for a similar tackle

Out of nowhere, the Pitmen grabbed themselves a lifeline on sixty-four minutes. Clements' corner kick found Dunkley on the edge of the six-yard box, with the young centre back powerfully heading past Brain to level matters

Within three minutes of getting back on level terms, the visitors were dealt yet another blow; Osborne's challenge on Lennon out on the right-hand side was deemed another bookable offence, reducing Hednesford to nine men with more than twenty minutes remaining

There was an immediate reaction from the Hednesford bench, with Liam Blakeman making his first appearance for the club since returning to the club last week in place of Landell, who had found it tough going

Despite the severe numerical disadvantage, the Pitmen sensationally took the lead with fifteen minutes remaining, as Clements sent over another dangerous free-kick that Dunkley challenged Brain for. Brain made a meal of the clash, allowing Dunkley to prod the ball over the line from close range to possibly set the Pitmen up for an unlikely, and improbable, win

That improbable win was dismissed by Nantwich three minutes later, as Zak Foster - on as a substitute for the Dabbers - managed to get to the byline and cut the ball back into the danger zone. Si Everall turned the ball past Crane from close range, via a deflection off Blakeman, to level matters

Hay's dogged contribution was recognised by the travelling contingent on eighty minutes, as he was replaced by Nick Wellecomme

The final ten minutes saw Nantwich push the Pitmen back into their own third as they searched for a winner. However, the nine men coped remarkably well with the onslaught, as Dunkley, Bailey and Blakeman all dealt with high balls into the area. Indeed, Crane was not called upon to make a save again as Nantwich ran out of ideas against Hednesford's siege mentality 

A useful point, no doubt, but one that was tainted by more disciplinary problems for Smith's physical outfit. That is now eight red cards this term and the third game that the side has been reduced to nine men (Corby, Stocksbridge and now Nantwich). If the club is to be successful this term, and continue to challenge towards the top of the table, this must be addressed. No one wants the side to lose their edge, but being without their best players consistently due to suspensions will have an impact the longer it is allowed to be tolerated

Nantwich Town: Brain, Lowe, McDonald, MacPherson ▆ (Maguire 85), Bailey, Moss, Cooke , Flynn ©, Steele (Everall 64), Lennon, Urwin (Foster 76)      Subs Unused: Mitchell, Solovjovs, Maguire

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes , Campion ©  (33), Dunkley, Bailey, Denny, Osborne  (67),  Clements, Landell (Blakeman 70), Hay (Wellecomme 77 ), Jevons        Subs Unused: Beesley, Durrell, Robinson

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