14.12.2019

F.A. Trophy 1st Round

Hednesford Town

Chester

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Andy Wycherley

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Chester (A) 17.12.19

The Pitmen produce a spirited display to hold Vanarama National League North high-flyers Chester this afternoon and earn themselves a place in Monday's second round draw in the process

Another topsy-turvy week at Keys Park had seen further player departures from the club as Gary Hayward's departure and further rumours of instability created by chairman Steve Price continued to have ramifications on the playing side. Kristian Scott had followed Hayward to Buxton, whilst Enoch Andoh and Billy Daniels had been released. Andre Brown's loan from AFC Telford had been brought to a premature end, with the Bucks organising a new loan for the striker to the Pitmen's league rivals Stourbridge. Temporary managers Ben Bailey and Danny Glover made one change to the side that had beaten Hitchin Town last weekend, bringing Charlie Gatter into the side for only his second start of the season in place of West Brom loanee Jack Chambers, who moved to the substitute's bench. James Hurst was deemed fit enough to join the substitutes after recovering from his latest hamstring issue that had kept him out of the last two games

Chester - sitting in third place at step two ahead of the game - had beaten league rivals Brackley Town in the previous round to earn their spot in the first round to make it only one defeat in the past six games for Garry Johnson's side. Johnson made two changes to his side that had been beaten by Darlington in league action last weekend, bringing in Danny Elliott and Matty Hughes in place of Gary Stopforth and Elton Ngwatala to face the Pitmen

The Keys Park pitch had withheld the recent downpours well ahead of kick-off, with a fine playing surface greeting the players at kick-off time. Chester settled into a comfortable passing game, pushing the hosts back into their own half in the early stages of the game as they looked to exert their higher-level authority on the Pitmen. Kieran Morris made a timely interception in the sixth minute to turn the ball behind and deny Danny Elliott an early shot on goal

An excellent pass from winger Brad Jackson three minutes later played fellow right-sided player Kevin Roberts in behind the Hednesford defence, with the right-back's cross skipping across the face of the Hednesford goal before being cleared by Matt Curley

The Pitmen continued to defend stoically in the opening fifteen minutes of the game, as Ben O'Hanlon was shown the first yellow card of the game on twelve minutes for a crunching challenge on Elliott in midfield

The Pitmen's first sighting at goal came in the seventeenth minute of the game, as Osebi Abadaki did well to dispossess Kevin Roberts out on the left wing before cutting inside and striking a curling effort that drifted wide of the far post

Hednesford captain Bailey was on hand to rescue his side three minute later as he made a timely block to deny Hughes a goal after the former AFC Fylde man had beaten Andy Wycherley to a long, bouncing ball forwards before allowing Bailey to recover sufficiently and make the tackle

Former Tamworth man Akwasi Asante did well to carve out room for himself on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area on twenty-four minutes, sending over a cross-cum-shot that drifted wide of Wycherley's far post

Despite being second best for the first third of the game, the Pitmen were handed the best chance of the match so far on thirty-one minutes as O'Hanlon headed a loose clearance into the path of Glover, who found himself in space in behind the Chester defence. The Pitmen's top scorer showed a rare lack of composure however, and dragged his effort wide of the post when he really should have tested Russ Griffiths in the Chester goal

Chester responded with a great effort of their own two minutes later, as the excellent Jackson teased his way down the right wing and sent over a fine cross that Hughes somehow glanced a header wide of goal from only six yards out

A long ball forwards from Sam Griffiths was seized upon by Glover on thirty-nine minutes, who had broke clear of the Chester defence once more. He elected to lay the ball off to Tom Fry, with the midfielder attempting a curling shot into the far corner of the net that lacked both power and precision

The second half was to prove more of the same for the 565 people who had attended the game, with Chester having much of the possession and play, only to find the Pitmen well-organised and well-drilled defensively and always looking to catch their step two opponents out with a counter-attack or set-piece

Asante was the first player to try his luck in the second half, cutting inside from the left and side-stepping a challenge from Morris before driving a low shot narrowly wide of Wycherley's far post

Neat build-up play down the left from the Pitmen on fifty-six minutes saw Glover and Fry link up to set the ball to Abadaki, only for the winger to be crowded out on the edge of the Chester penalty area and get a weak shot away that Griffiths saved with ease

Wycherley was called into action on sixty-two minutes to field a goalward header from Roberts, making a fine stop in what was proving to be the loanee keeper's best game for the club to date

The home side made their first change of the afternoon on sixty-three minutes with Gatter replaced by Hurst in the defensive midfield role occupied by the former Burton youngster

Hughes tested Wychelery's reflexes on sixty-six minutes, forcing the keeper into a fine save after Jackson had pulled the ball back into striker's path on the edge fo the Hednesford penalty area

Jackson was at it again four minutes later, testing the resolve of Griffiths once more with his trickery before playing in Roberts, only for the excellent Wycherley to make another fine save low down to his left

Wycherley denied Jackson himself on seventy minutes by plucking the winger's angled drive out of the air at his his near post as Chester continued to press for a winner

With eighteen minutes remaining, O'Hanlon's game was brought to an end as the left-sided player was replaced by Izak Reid for the remainder of the game

The hosts had been overly-reliant on Bailey's long throws and deep corer kicks from Fry to muster up any chances of note in the second period, all of which had been dealt with well by the Chester defence. One such throw from Bailey with fifteen minutes left was recycled well by the Pitmen after Chester were unconvincing in their clearance, culminating in a shot from Morris that flew over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

The visitors had the ball in the net with thirteen minutes remaining, as Wycherley did well to play a shot from Jackson away, only for Asante to turn the loose ball home at the far post. Fortunately for the hosts, Asante was deemed offside at the point of Jackson's shot and the goal was chalked off

The Pitmen's final change of the afternoon came with five minutes of the game left, as Elliot Hodge was brought on in place of the hard-working Abadaki down the left wing

Hodge had a brief sight at goal in the final minute of the game as the Pitmen frantically ended the game with a clutch of set-pieces, striking a bobbling effort wide of goal from just outside the area after the bouncing ball had dropped to him

It had been a pleasing afternoon for the players and supporters of Hednesford at the final whistle, having witnessed a hard-working, disciplined display from the players to hold off the threat of their higher league opponents. The two sides replay on Tuesday night at Chester's Deva Stadium, with the draw on Monday giving the two sides an idea of who they will potentially face in the next round of this season's F.A. Trophy

 

Hednesford Town: Wycherley, Curley, Griffiths, Bailey ©, Morris , Gatter (Hurst 63 ), O'Hanlon ▆ (Reid 72), King, Glover, Fry, Abadaki (Hodge 85)     Subs Unused: Chambers, Veiga, Waddison, Lycett

Chester: Griffiths, Roberts, Taylor, Roberts ©, Livesey, Grand, Jackson, Glendon, Asante (Waring 85), Hughes (Dudley 76), Elliott ▆ (Ngwatala 81)     Subs Unused: Morgan, Waters, Jones, Stopforth

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