26.3.2016

Vanarama National League North

Corby Town

Hednesford Town

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Tom Peers

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Curzon Ashton (A) 2.4.16

Amidst awful conditions at Steel Park, relegation rivals Corby and Hednesford both draw a blank this afternoon as they share the points in an uninspiring ninety minutes that does little for either side's chances of survival

The Pitmen were still smarting from last weekend's bizarre end to their home game against Stockport County, where the hosts gifted the Hatters two goals in added time to extend their depressing run of winless games to ten. Under-pressure manager Frank Sinclair was finally able to call upon midfielder Jonathan Royle after the Wrexham man received his International Clearance in time for today's game. Royle was the first of two changes to the side from the one that had started last weekend's game as he replaced Jack Fitzwater, whilst Stephane Ngamvoulou made a surprise return to the club on a second loan period from Vanarama National League South side Whitehawk as he came in for Modou Cham. These midfield inclusions saw a shift of the personnel, with Kennedy Digie deployed in an unfamiliar right-back role and Tom Peers playing as a lone striker

Basement side Corby returned to Steel Park in the midst of their own nightmare run of form, having failed to win in their last six games. Player/manager Tommy Wright made one change to his side from the one that had been soundly beaten at AFC Telford United last Saturday as Notts County youngster Taylor McKenzie came in ahead of Massiah McDonald to make his Steelmen debut after linking up with the club on loan this week. Young Wolves left-back Ben O'Hanlon had also joined the Steelmen on Thursday's transfer deadline day and was amongst the substitutes

The drizzly rain had been falling for much of the day, with the Steel Park pitch sodden and heavy at kick-off. Both sides struggled to get to grips with the conditions, with several players taking a tumble inside the first ten minutes and passes sliding across the pitch and away from their intended targets

The Pitmen went close to opening the scoring in the third minute of the game after Shelton Payne had won an early corner kick for the visitors, with Sean Williams whipping in the resultant flag-kick onto the head of Digie, whose glancing header arced wide of the far post from eight yards out

In the seventh minute, Royle won the ball from Cleveland Taylor in the centre circle and played the ball into the path of Sean Williams, whose clever through ball looked to find Adam Thomas but ended up in the hands of goalkeeper Sam Donkin as the ball slipped agonisingly away from the reach of the winger

The away side continued to have the better of the play and the rangy figure of Frenchman Ngamvoulou went close to opening the scoring in the eleventh minute as he made a strong run into the Corby penalty area and drove in a shot from sixteen yards out that was diverted wide of the post by the outstretched leg of Edi Appleton for a Hednesford corner kick

Corby's first foray into the Hednesford half on fifteen minutes saw former Derby County man Greg Mills take the ball down the left and play Ben Milnes into space with a delightful outside of the boot pass. However, the assistant on the main stand side raised his flag against the former Boston United forward when he looked at least level with the Hednesford defence when the ball was played

Three minutes later, good play from the hosts saw Milnes lay the ball off to Mills, whose square ball to Taylor saw the midfield man drill a shot in that was well blocked by Royle just outside the penalty area

A mistake from Donkin almost gifted the Pitmen the game's opening goal on twenty minutes as the Corby stopper sliced his attempted clearance straight into the path of Ngamvoulou, who controlled the bouncing ball before attempting a lob back over the backtracking stopper that drifted well wide of goal and skipped behind on the sodden turf

The hosts were forced into an early substitution midway through the first period as player/manager Wright was forced off due to picking up a knock and was replaced by O'Hanlon for his Corby debut

The Pitmen continued to play the better of the football in the first half but lacked any real cutting edge in the final third of the pitch; Peers was working hard against Appleton and McKenzie to little reward, with the young striker doing well to pick up a pass from Ngamvoulou and turn past McKenzie on the edge of the Corby penalty are on twenty-six minutes but drag his low shot well wide of goal

On the half-hour mark, Ben Bailey's long throw from the left was headed away by Appleton but only as far as Peers, whose lofted shot back towards goal bounced away from Payne before the winger could react inside the six-yard box

Payne was involved in a defensive role for the visitors four minutes later as he did well to get back to clear a Mills shot off his own goal line after Royle's loose pass allowed Taylor to take the ball into the Hednesford penalty area and supply the ball to Mills, twelve yards from goal and to the left of the penalty spot

A fine run from Adam Thomas on thirty-eight minutes saw the tricky winger skip through the puddles forming on the far side of the pitch as he got the better of namesake Kalern Thomas, turning past the full-back with some superb skill before he crossed for Peers - the striker headed goalwards but could not get enough behind his effort and Donkin made an easy save

The game's main talking point came on forty-two minutes as the hosts were awarded a penalty kick by referee Mr Barrow; Milnes was played into the penalty area by a pass from O'Hanlon down the left, with the striker tricking his way past Digie and forcing the youngster to bring him down in full flight as he got past the Kidderminster Harriers loanee. Mills stepped up to take the spot-kick and delivered arguably one of the worst penalties you are ever likely to see, somehow putting his kick four yards or so wide of Dan Crane's right-hand post as the stopper dived the wrong way

The Pitmen looked to take advantage of this let-off a minute later as a shot from Nathan Hicks was blocked by Francino Francis and cleared to Adam Thomas, whose run down the right saw him leave O'Hanlon behind before he played the ball into the path of Peers, who was a matter of inches away from connecting inside the six-yard box as he allowed the ball to drift away from the target

It had been a first-half low on quality, with the Pitmen playing the better of the football in terrible conditions but limited to half-chances and mistakes from the opposition. Neither goalkeeper had really been called upon to make a save, perhaps highlighting the lack of quality in both sides' ranks and the reason why they are where they are in the table currently

Bailey had the first sight at goal in the second half just three minutes after the restart as a Williams corner kick was headed into the path of the defender by Appleton, only for his rising shot from twelve yards out to clear the crossbar by a foot or so

More good play from Payne on fifty-two minutes saw the winger lose Ellis Myles as he got on the end of a pass from Phil Trainer down the left flank, taking the ball to the byeline and standing up a cross that got caught in the wind and prompted Donkin to turn the ball onto the roof of his net for a corner kick to the Pitmen

Another effort from Bailey cleared the Corby woodwork once more three minutes later as the centre-back picked up a loose ball following a Williams free-kick that was cleared to him just inside the penalty area, only for the centre-back's shot to arrow over the head of Donkin and into the Hednesford fans gathered in the covered terracing behind the goal

The visitors struggled to clear their lines from a Mills free-kick a minute later as the ball dropped inside the six-yard box and bounced around before Royle hacked the ball away from Milnes

You felt that any goal was likely to come from an individual error or as a result of the conditions rather than any genuine quality, with O'Hanlon's teasing cross on fifty-nine minutes catching the gusty wind and forcing Crane to desperately back-peddle and turn the ball away for a corner kick as it looked to be drifting over his head

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon just after the hour mark as striker Danny Glover came on to give his side some much-needed presence up front as he replaced Peers

Payne took full advantage of a slip from Myles on sixty-four minutes, working the ball past the full-back as he came in from the left flank and unleashed a low driven shot that Donkin did well to hold on the greasy turf

Milnes was denied by a last-ditch challenge from Bailey four minutes later as Mills sent the striker away down through the centre of the Hednesford defence, only for the Corby number ten to take a touch too many which allowed Bailey to come across and make a timely block. The ball ran to Hicks, whose follow-up shot from twelve yards out was a matter of inches wide of Crane's right-hand post

Payne's in-and-out performance was brought to an end a minute later as the Welshman was taken off in favour of Paul Ennis. This saw another shift in formation for the hosts as Ennis moved inside to play alongside Glover with Trainer pushing further forwards down the left

The Pitmen's best chance of the game fell at the feet of Ngamvoulou on seventy-one minutes as neat approach play from Williams and Glover saw the ball laid off to the Frenchman on the edge of the penalty area - his well-struck shot looked destined for the bottom corner of the net until a fine save from Donkin saw the Corby stopper push the ball wide for a corner kick

Williams took the resultant corner kick and found the head of Glover with another one of his fine deliveries, only for the substitute to head over the crossbar with a free header from six yards out

With fifteen minutes remaining and both sides releasing that a draw did very little for their step two futures, chances came at both ends as the game opened up. O'Hanlon's free-kick on seventy-six minutes was met by the head of teenager Michael Ogilvie - on as a substitute for Appleton - but his effort lacked direction and drifted over the crossbar

Two minutes later, Ngamvoulou won the ball in midfield and sent Glover away into space inside the Corby half. The striker worked the ball onto his right foot and struck a rising shot that Donkin watched wide of his goal

With eleven minutes remaining, Sinclair rolled the dice one final time as he brought Blackburn Rovers loanee Cham onto the pitch to add pace to the attack as he replaced Ngamvoulou

Corner kicks came and went at both ends in the final ten minutes as both defences did well to repel the opposition attacks and keep their respective clean sheets. A quick break from the Steelmen on eighty-three minutes saw Hicks make a run down the left on the counter-attack before playing the ball into the path of Mills, whose strong run into the penalty area was checked by a timely tackle from Bailey

Three minutes later, Francis made a rare move into the Corby penalty area to meet a Williams corner kick with a glancing header at the near post, only for former Telford man Duane Courtney to clear his lines with a no-nonsense clearance

In the final minute of the game, a desperate scramble in the Hednesford penalty area saw Milnes, Mills and Taylor all attempt to turn a Kalern Thomas cross home but were denied by some last-ditch defending from Francis and Crane's presence inside the six-yard box

 

 A point apiece maintains both team's respective positions at the foot of the table with the pair now six points adrift of safety after Brackley Town's 0-0 draw against AFC Telford United stretched the gap between them and third bottom. The Pitmen host Worcester City at Keys Park on Monday night in another quick turnaround of games, eager to finally put to bed this long winless run and potentially drag the sixteenth placed Blues into a relegation dogfight in the process

Corby Town: Donkin, Myles, K. Thomas, Courtney, Appleton (Ogilvie 61), McKenzie, Mills, Taylor, Wright (O’Hanlon 21 (Kromah 79)), Milnes, Hicks       Subs Unused: Draper, Marshall

Hednesford Town: Crane, Digie, Trainer, Bailey ©, Francis, Royle, A. Thomas, Williams, Peers (Glover 61), Ngamvoulou (Cham 79), Payne (Ennis 69)       Subs Unused: Ransome, Truelove