2.11.2019

BetVictor Southern Premier League Central

Barwell

Hickey (52) (penalty), Towers (84), Omotola (90), Hollis (90) 

Hednesford Town

Hallahan (6), (41), (75), (penalty), Abadaki (82)

(0) 4

(2) 4

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Jack Hallahan

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Sutton Coldfield Town (A) 9.11.19

A bizarre final few minutes at Kirkby Lane this afternoon sees Gary Hayward's squander a commanding lead to drop two crucial points against Barwell and fall off top spot in the Southern Premier League Central table in the process

Tuesday night had seen the Pitmen move into the second qualifying round of this season's F.A. Trophy courtesy of a 2-1 win over league rivals Stratford Town to set up a reunion with former manager Neil Tooth at Sutton Coldfield Town next weekend. Hayward made only one change to the side that had started at Knights Lane in midweek as Sam Griffiths was passed fit to return to the side in place of Izak Reid at full-back. There was still no sign of regular keeper Daniel Platt, whilst Ben O'Hanlon was inching towards a return to full fitness by joining in with the warm-up before the game

Mid-table Barwell had had a rollercoaster couple of weeks, with manager Guy Hadland's team involved in an incredible double-header against Bromsgrove Sporting; having lost 3-1 at home to the Worcestershire side in league action, Barwell then visited the Victoria Ground in midweek in their F.A.Trophy 1st qualifying round game and promptly thumped Sporting 7-2. Hadland named former Hednesford players Joey Evans and Tristian Dunkley in his starting line-up for today's game, looking to continue their fine recent form of four wins and a defeat in their past five games

A typically autumnal afternoon in rural Leicestershire got off to a great start for the visitors, who forced a number of early set-pieces with James Hurst blazing over from an early Ben Bailey long throw. The Pitmen made their early pressure count however in the sixth minute, with an unlikely source getting the visitors up and running for the afternoon. Danny Glover did well to force his way through the Barwell defence and slip the ball into the path of Jack Hallahan, who received the ball just to the left-hand side of the penalty area. Hallahan's low shot took a massive deflection off defender Jayden Cotterill, wrong-footing keeper Max Bramley in the process and diverting the ball into the corner of the net

Barwell's response came through a number of set-pieces of their own, with Kieran Morris impressing at the back for the Pitmen with his dominance in the air to deny the hosts a clear cut chance. He was also on hand to hack a bouncing ball off the line on thirteen minutes to deny Evans a strike at goal from close-range

There was a break in play for a few moments in the sixteenth minute when the assistant referee on the far side appeared to pick up an injury after getting caught up in a challenge involving Hurst. After a spell of treatment from the Barwell physio, he was passed fit to continue the game

Elliott and Hurst - the Pitmen's two most dynamic players with the ball at their feet - created an opening for the forwards on twenty minutes with a slick passing move and cross into the danger zone, only for both Glover and Brown to be caught on their heels and allow Barwell to clear the danger

A quick break from the Pitmen a minute later saw Glover break clear of the Barwell defence as Elliott played a sublime ball through to him, only for Bramley to make a fine save at his near post to turn Glover's rising shot away from goal

Andy Wycherley was called upon to make his first meaningful contribution of the afternoon on twenty-seven minutes, making a regulation save to deny the tricky Omotani Omotola at his near post after the striker had dispatched a low shot from just inside the Hednesford penalty area

A superb free-kick from Elliott was just begging to be turned home by a number of Hednesford players on thirty-three minutes as the playmaker sent over a delightful cross that missed the boot of a number of men in white at the far post

Hallahan clearly had a taste for more goals, with the young midfielder trying his luck from the edge of the Barwell penalty area once more on thirty-six minutes, forcing Bramley into a low save

Brown went close to adding his tally for his new club on thirty-nine minutes as he made his way into the Barwell box, only to slip at the crucial moment and scuff his low sot wide of goal rather than test Bramley

With half-time approaching, the Pitmen struck again, with that man Hallahan popping up once more to double his, and the Pitmen's advantage going into the break; A neat spell of play down the right from the Pitmen opened a nervy-looking Barwell up once more as Elliott's square ball was cleverly dummied by Andre Brown and into the path of Glover, whose first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area cannoned off the base of the far post and back into play. Hallahan was first to the loose ball and turned it home from close range to give his side what looked to be a commanding lead

There was still time for Hallahan to almost complete a hat-trick with the final action of the half, forcing Bramley into a save down to his left to tip away the midfielder's low drive that looked destined for the far corner of the net

The influential Hurst was forced out of the game suddenly as he felt his left hamstring go after playing a ball out to Matt Curley in the dying seconds of the first half. He was replaced for the start of the second half by Osebi Abadaki, himself recovering from a hamstring pull in the past few weeks

Elliott could have put the game to bed for the visitors with the first chance of the second period, latching onto a lofted cross from Abadaki before clattering the crossbar with a hurried close-range effort that Bramley did well to force him into

The move to bring Abadaki on had meant a tweak in formation for the Pitmen, who looked ill at ease with their new shape and allowed Barwell back into the game just seven minutes after the restart. Bailey was guilty of diving in to challenge Kai Williams in the Hednesford penalty area after the winger had darted inside, forcing Bailey into making a crude challenge that resulted in a penalty kick. Skipper Brady Hickey stepped up and sent Wycherley the wrong way from the spot to reduce the deficit

The away side continued to create chances from set-pieces, however, with a free-kick from Elliott headed narrowly wide by Reece King on fifty-eight minutes

The Pitmen had to make a second enforced change to their side just after the hour mark, as Griffiths pulled up with what looked like a reoccurrence of his injury. Reid returned to the side as his replacement, meaning another spell at left-back for Curley with Reid deputising once more on the right

Abadaki's powerful run down the left wing saw him power past Jake Whitmore a minute later and shoot on the run, firing well wide of goal from a decent position just outside the Barwell penalty area

Edwards was booked for the hosts on sixty-seven minutes for a poor challenge on Bailey, leaving the Hednesford skipper in a heap in his own penalty area after a late challenge from the midfielder that had some calling for a red card

Hednesford's two-goal advantage was restored with fifteen minutes remaining, as they were awarded a penalty of their own with Hickey adjudged to have pulled Glover down in the box as they challenged for a Bailey cross. Glover - usually the club's penalty taker - very sportingly handed the ball to Hallahan to allow him the opportunity to score his first-ever hat-trick, which he did courtesy of a confident spot-kick fired to the right of Bramley to make it 3-1

Bramley kept his side in contention a minute later, making a superb save to tip away a long-range effort from Glover had cut in from the right-wing and struck a powerful shot at goal

With eight minutes remaining, it appeared that the Pitmen were on their way to another fine away win as they added a fourth goal to their tally through Abadaki; the substitute picked up a loose ball just to the left of the Barwell penalty area and sent over a deep cross that drifted past everyone, including Bramley, finishing the far corner of the net for a slightly fortuitous second goal of the season for the winger

With such a commanding lead, Hayward resisted the temptation to put Charlie Gatter on as an insurance policy and left both strikers on the pitch, something that was to come back to cost the Pitmen dearly in the closing minutes. On eighty-four minutes, a long ball forwards from Edwards found Omotala, who took full advantage of some dithering on Wycherley's part to slip the ball into the path of Hickey; his shot was cleared off the line by Morris, only for substitute Jamie Towers to fire home the rebound from close-range

Barwell sensed a chance of an unlikely point all of a sudden and pressed the Pitmen into costly errors as the game entered added time. Glover was guilty of handing the hosts third goal on ninety minutes, attempting to play his way out of danger and losing the ball in a dangerous part of the pitch. Hickey's lofted pass found Omotola, who finished well from ten yards out to make it 4-3

Suddenly, the Pitmen were nervous and jittery in possession, not covering the basics and allowing Barwell to come at them in waves. A breathless final few minutes saw the Pitmen press high and were caught out as Towers broke the offside trap on ninety-four minutes and squared the ball to fellow sub Sam Hollis, who fired home from twelve yards out to complete a fine come back for the home side

Very much two points dropped then for the Pitmen, who had shown the very good side and also the very bad side of their character during another high-scoring game. For all of the excellent attacking play on show for the most of the game, it is the complacency seen in the final minutes that will be the thing taken from this performance from both Hayward and the Hednesford supporters, who will be expecting any arrogance and 'switching off' to be eradicated ahead of what will be a big potential banana skin next week at step four Sutton on their 3G pitch and a manager looking forward to getting one over his former employers if they show any signs of the symptoms of the final minutes of this afternoon's clash

Barwell: Bramley, Whitmore , Putman, McAteer, Cotterill, Edwards , Evans (Brown-Hill 63), Dunkley (Hollis 69), Omotola, Hickey ©, Williams (Towers 56)      Subs Unused: Hakeem, Percival

Hednesford Town: Wycherley , Curley, Griffiths (Reid 63), Bailey ©, Morris, Hurst (Abadaki 45), Hallahan, King, Glover, Elliott , Brown      Subs Unused: Gatter, Fry, Wells

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