1.2.2020

BetVictor Southern Premier League Central

Needham Market 

Page (1), Mills (33), Hunt (36), Baker (84)

Hednesford Town

Bailey (9), Glover (74), Hodge (78)

(3) 4

(1) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

225

Ben O'Hanlon

L W L L W L W D L L

 

Nuneaton Borough (H) 4.2.20

The Pitmen's recent spell of indifferent form continues this afternoon as they are edged out of a high-scoring encounter on their first-ever trip to Needham Market - their first away defeat of 2020

Last weekend had seen Hednesford fall to defeat at home to Stourbridge, displaying many of the familiar traits of previous Pitmen teams of recent years when playing in front of their own supporters - hard work and spirit ultimately falling short of overall quality as the opposition claimed all three points by nicking the crucial winning goal. The interim management team - now in their third month in charge with no sign of a permanent appointment - made .. changes to the side that had started against the Glassboys, with young loan duo Tom Solanke and Soiyir Sanali handed their first-ever starts for the club as they replaced Elliot Hodge and the departed James Hurst. Jack Hallahan had recovered from a recent bout of illness to take his place amongst the substitutes, taking the place of Tom Fry

Needham Market - 1-0 winners over the Pitmen at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park in September - had spent much of the campaign so far marooned in mid-table, although the Marketmen were unbeaten in their previous two games after wins over Redditch United and AFC Rushden & Diamonds had lifted them into sixteenth place in the table. Manager Richard Wilkins made one change to the side that had beaten Rushden in midweek, bringing in Noah Collard in place of Jordao Diogo

A delightfully sunny day in Suffolk was soon covered with a dark cloud for the Pitmen, as they conceded a tame goal with the first action of the game; Matt Curley failed to clear his lines and allowed Adam Mills to get his shot away. Shaun Rowley did well to parry the initial shot at his near post but only succeeded in pushing the ball straight into the path of Callum Page, who fired into the empty net from close range to give the hosts a very early lead

The Pitmen, to their credit, forced their way back into contention after the gift of an early Needham Market goal, forcing a succession of corners and throw-ins to ramp the pressure up on the hosts' defense. In the ninth minute, one such corner from the excellent Ben O'Hanlon dropped in the Needham Market six-yard box and was turned home by skipper Ben Bailey for his second goal in two games

The Pitmen were to have much the better of the next fifteen minutes of the game, playing neat and tidy football and stretching their opponents across the pitch. Osebi Abadaki's shot from the edge of the Needham Market penalty area on fifteen minutes took a wicked deflection off Jake Dye as is whistled inches wide of the near post with home keeper Finlay Shorten beaten

On twenty-one minutes, a long throw from Bailey found Reece King lurking at the near post, with the lanky midfielder glancing his header wide at the near post

Despite having most of the play, the Pitmen were struggling to create clear-cut openings, being overly-reliant on set-pieces to create chances and brute strength to force Needham Market's hands whilst remaining suspect at the back. The Hednesford defence was breached once more on thirty-three minute with Curley at fault once again as he allowed Callum Sturgess collect a long ball and run past him to slip the ball through to Craig Parker, who unselfishly squad the ball to Mills to apply the finish from close-range

Curley's nightmare game got even worse three minutes later, as he once again handed Needham Market a gift-wrapped opening by playing a sloppy back-pass that played Hunt clean through on goal to apply a cool finish past a horribly exposed Shaun Rowley. There was some confusion, however, about an offside flag raised by the assistant on the main stand side, leading to a debate between the officials before the goal was eventually given

The frustration was clear for all to see on the face of the Pitmen, who were once again staring at a double league defeat at the hands of today's opponents. Sanali and Glover were both booked in quick succession towards the end of the first-half for petty offences as the visitors ended the half on the back-foot

They were nearly made to pay a heavy price for more defensive slackness at the start of the second half as Hunt picked up a long ball from Shorten to burst past Curley and Charlie Gatter and force a save out of the onrushing Rowley on forty-eight minutes before Sam Griffiths hacked the loose ball clear

A quick break from the Pitmen down the left on fifty-five minutes saw Abadaki feed Solanke, who in turn set up King on the edge of the penalty area; King, however, wanted too long to think about the shot and eventually side-footed a tame effort at goal that was deflected into the hands of Shorten by Dan Morphew

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on fifty-seven minutes with the introduction of Hodge in place of the tiring Sanali down the right flank to offer more flair in wide areas

Another superb delivery from O'Hanlon on sixty-one minutes saw the former Wolves man pick out top scorer Danny Glover with a delightful cross, only for Glover to head over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Three minutes later, Needham Market should have wrapped up the points as a low cross from Hunt picked out Mills, whose low shot flew inches wide of the post when it looked easier to score

On sixty-eight minutes, the Pitmen made their second substitution of the afternoon as Hallahan returned to the team after his lay-off as he replaced the impressive, but tiring, Solanke

The Mills miss appeared to spark the Pitmen into life once more, and a game that looked beyond them suddenly came back into their grasp with a quickfire double strike. A long throw from Bailey on seventy-four minutes was perfectly weighted for Glover, who glanced a header beyond the reach of Shorten and into the corner of the net for his sixteenth goal of the season to reduce arrears

Four minutes later, and incredibly the visitors were level once more, as Hodge spectacularly put them back on level terms; Griffiths did well down the left to win the ball back and feed the winger, who was standing just outside the Needham Market penalty area. After taking a touch, the substitute unleashed an unstoppable effort that arrowed into the far corner to leave Shorten and his defence completely flat-footed

With the momentum behind them going into the final ten minutes, there appeared to be only one side likely to go on and win the game as the Pitmen continued to press. However, another fatal mistake from Curley proved to be the difference on eighty-four minutes as the hosts nicked the lead back once more. Glover's pass out to Curley was seized upon by Mills, who stole the ball cheaply from the right-back before playing the ball forwards to Collard. He, in turn, fed Hunt into the space vacated by Curley down the Needham Market left, allowing there striker time to cut the ball back and find James Baker - only just on as a substitute - to turn the ball past Rowley from close range for the winner

There was still time for more drama inside the Needham Market penalty area as the minutes ticked by as Abadaki's deep cross was flicked on by Hodge and into the path of Glover, whose shot from a tight angle was cleared off the line by Dan Morphew

An exciting game for the neutral no doubt, but a bitterly disappointing defeat for the Pitmen after twice getting themselves back into contention before more individual errors cost them at least a point. The players will have to regroup quickly as the games continue to come thick and fast with the visit of local rivals Nuneaton Borough to the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park on Tuesday night

Needham Market: Shorten, Dye, Sturgess, Collard, K.Morphew ©, D. Morphew, Marsden (Baker 82), Page (Santa 90), Hunt, Parker, Mills      Subs Unused: Diogo, Godward, Munson

Hednesford Town: Rowley, Curley, GriffithsBailey ©, Gatter, Solanke (Hallahan 68), O'Hanlon ,  KingD. Glover , Sanali (Hodge 57) , Abadaki      Subs Unused: Reid, Fry, Veiga

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