Southern Premier League

Hemel Hempstead Town

Hednesford Town

Brindley (25), (58), McSweeney (48) (penalty), (72), (83), Bell (75)  

(0) 0

(1) 6



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Leon McSweeney



Stratford Town (A) 12.10.04

An outstanding attacking display from the Pitmen saw them get back to winning ways against lowly Hemel Hempstead Town this afternoon as they tore through their hosts with a potent second half attacking display

The Pitmen had been forced into sitting out last weekend's second qualifying round of the F.A. Cup after their original opponents Sutton Coldfield had been booted out of the competition due to playing the ineligible Damien Markman in their first qualifying round win over Midland Alliance side Stratford Town, thus handing Stratford a reprieve and a date with the Pitmen this coming Tuesday night at Masons Road. Player/manager Chris Brindley made four changes to the side that had started their 2-1 reverse to Chesham United a fortnight ago, bringing new signing Marlon Walters straight into the team in midfield at the expense of Chris Gray. The other three changes saw Matt Turner come back in for Grant Beckett, Carl Palmer make his first start of the season ahead of Anthony Maguire and Mark Branch start ahead of Craig Dean at left-back


Hemel - another side facing the Pitmen for the first time after their move from the Isthmian League in the summer - had found the going tough so far this term and were sitting just outside the relegation zones in eighteenth place. They had exited the F.A. Cup in midweek after being trounced by step four Tooting & Mitcham to make it only one win in the last five games in all competitions for the Tudors. Manager Tony Kelly - facing a cut to his budget following their cup exit - rang the changes to his side from the one that had played in midweek as James Bent, Matt Corbould, Paul Kelly and George Fowler came into the side at the expense of Daniel Braithwaite, Nick Leach, Bobby Highton and Fabian Forde

Despite their recent issues, the hosts made a good start to the game on a bright and sunny October afternoon in Hertfordshire. George Fowler was first to test the reflexes of Ryan Young in the fourth minute of the game as his hopeful effort from fifteen yards out bounced into the grateful arms of the stopper

A well-worked set-piece from the hosts in the eighth minute saw Andy Cook meet a free-kick from Dean Palmer with a header, but once again Young was behind the ball and caught it on his goal line

The Pitmen's first sight of goal came through Andy Bell's persistence three minutes later as he chased down a pass from new boy Walters and forced Dan West into a short backpass to goalkeeper David Lovell, but was not able to hook the ball past the stopper and Lovell saved with his legs

West's game was brought to a premature end on fifteen minutes as he suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury and was replaced by Leach after a lengthy spell of treatment


Hemel midfielder Forde made a run deep into Hednesford territory on eighteen minutes and played Bryan Hammatt through on goal, only for a late offside flag to pull the striker back as he shaped to shoot

Good play from midfielder Lee Williams set Carl Palmer on his way midway through the first period, with the midfielder cutting in from the right and crossing for Leon McSweeney, whose stabbed effort at the near post was just wide of goal

Williams was involved again three minutes later as he created the Pitmen's first goal of what was to be a fruitful afternoon; Gray win a free-kick wide on the right, which Williams whipped into the far post where player/manager Brindley was on hand to powerfully head beyond Lovell from six yards out

Hemel responded with a clutch of half-chances as they looked for an immediate response - James Bent's long-range effort lacked power from twenty-five yards out on twenty-eight minutes and was watched all the way into his gloves by Young

On the half-hour mark, Young claimed the ball at the feet of Hammatt as the striker nipped in ahead of Lee Barrow to reach a fine threaded ball from Palmer but could not beat the former Hucknall stopper

Great play from Matt Turner on thirty-five minutes saw him beat two challenges and cross for Bell, who scuffed his shot wide of Lovell's goal from ten yards out as he took his eye off the ball momentarily

Walters had struggled to get into the game in the opening quarter but was growing into the game with every minute, firing over the crossbar and into the Hednesford fans gathered behind Lovell's goal on thirty-seven minutes

Another shot from distance, this time from Williams, almost caught Lovell out on forty-one minutes as it threatened to dip under the crossbar from nearly thirty yards out, but the ball landed on the roof of the net

The Pitmen were now dictating the tempo of the game and controlled possession in midfield through Walters and Williams. However, it was the hosts who had the final chance of the half in added time as a quick passing move just outside the Hednesford penalty area played Hammatt in once more, but Young was quickly off his line to claim the ball ahead of the hosts' number ten

The Pitmen had been good value for their lead but had not really taken advantage of their domination of the ball in the first period against a disjointed Hemel side that had looked short on confidence

Brindley's half-time talk had an immediate positive effect as the away side doubled their advantage just three minutes into the second half; Williams dispossessed Dean Palmer in midfield and took the ball into the Hemel penalty area as the hosts backed off the midfielder. Lovell finally looked to halt the veteran's progress but only succeeded in bringing Williams down as he looked to take the ball around the goalkeeper. Referee Mr Comley immediately pointed to the spot and awarded the Pitmen a penalty kick, with the Hednesford players suggesting to him that Lovell should also be sent off. The stopper was only shown a yellow card for his indiscretion, with McSweeney sending the relieved stopper the wrong way from twelve yards out

The Pitmen continued to turn the screw and created a good chance on fifty-two minutes as McSweeney's clever disguised pass played Bell in on goal, with the striker showing an unselfish streak to pull the ball back into the path of Turner rather than shoot, culminating in the winger dragging his shot wide of goal from ten yards out

Three minutes later, Bell should have increased the Pitmen's tally as he was allowed to waltz unchallenged into the Hemel penalty area but dragged his shot across the face of goal and wide of the far post

The visitors move further ahead on fifty-eight minutes after more pressure on the Hemel defence from successive corner kicks from Williams; the third corner was played back to Richard Teesdale, whose deep cross was once again headed home at the far post by the soaring influence of Brindley with a looping effort beyond the reach of both Kelly and Tom Neill on the line for the Tudors

The Pitmen's first change of the afternoon came on sixty-four minutes as Maguire was given a run-out in midfield as he replaced the excellent Williams, who was tiring after a fine performance again

McSweeney's header looped over the crossbar two minutes later as he leapt to meet a cross from Maguire, but the ball was slightly too high for the Irishman, who could only glance his effort over

The gaps were appearing in the Hemel side and the Pitmen were running at will through them at this point in the game; another neat piece of play from the clever McSweeney on sixty-eight minutes saw him trick his way past Leach and play the ball into the path of Walters, who got the ball caught under his feet and shot over the crossbar from eighteen yards out

Before the goal kick could be taken, Grant Beckett was given the chance to stretch his legs by assistant manager Steve Anthrobus as the left-sided player came on in place of Turner

McSweeney made it 4-0 to the away side on seventy-two minutes with a superb individual goal as he picked up Brindley's headed clearance on the edge of his own penalty area and made a run fully eighty yards into the Hemel penalty area. After sidestepping Leach, he showed great composure to slot the ball underneath the body of the advancing Lovell for his second goal of the afternoon

Bell was not to be outdone by his strike partner add heaped more misery on the hosts just three minutes later with a fifth goal of the afternoon for the Pitmen; some shocking defending from the hosts saw Corbould's backpass to Lovell fall woefully short of its target, allowing Bell to pounce and fire home from an acute angle

Before the game could restart, the Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon as Gray made a late reappearance in the centre of midfield in place of Carl Palmer

It was completely one-way traffic from the Pitmen and it was now a case of how many they would plunder in the remaining fifteen minutes of the game. Bell wasted a chance to make it six-nil as he turned Gray's cross wide of the post by a matter of inches with a first-time half volley

Walters seemed determined to grab a goal on his debut and tried his luck with yet another long-range effort on seventy-nine minutes but once again lifted his shot over the crossbar

Hemel had offered next to no threat going forwards in a dreadfully poor second-half display, with Forde having their best chance of grabbing what would be a consolation goal a minute later as sub Bobby Highton played a superb forward ball into his fellow substitute's path, only for Young to make a fine save to turn Forde's goalbound shot away from goal and protect his clean sheet

The rout was complete with seven minutes remaining as McSweeney completed a memorable hat-trick to reflect his superb contribution to the game. Walters was brought down just to the left of the Hemel penalty area by the hapless Leach, allowing McSweeney to spot the ball and curl the resultant free-kick over the wall and beyond the reach of Lovell into the right-hand corner of the net

Hemel midfielder Clement James should have done better with three minutes remaining as he was played in on goal by Cook's cross, only to dither on the ball at the crucial moment and allow Young to make the save

It had been a thoroughly dominant ninety minutes from the Pitmen, who had shown real quality in front of goal in the second half to hammer their downbeat hosts and hand them a real stuffing on their own patch. They head to Stratford for the aforementioned F.A. Cup tie in great spirits and will be confident of turning over their lower league opponents and move into the next round of the competition, with Conference stalwarts Southport in wait for the winners in the third qualifying round

Hemel Hempstead Town: Lovell , Neill, Bent, Corbould, West (Leach 15), James, Kelly (Forde 61), Cook, Fowler, Hammatt, D. Palmer (Highton 73)     Sub Unused: Bruce     

Hednesford Town: Young, Teesdale, Branch, BarrowBrindley, Williams (Maguire 64), Walters, C. Palmer © (Gray 75), Bell, McSweeney, Turner (Beckett 68)   Subs Unused: Charie, Evans

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