26.12.2019

BetVictor Southern Premier League Central

Rushall Olympic

Whittall (49) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

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Sam Griffiths

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Tamworth (H) 1.1.20

Today's big Boxing Day local derby is tipped the way of Rushall Olympic this afternoon due to a hotly-disputed penalty award for the hosts, leaving the Pitmen feeling frustrated at having the lions share of possession and chances against the ten men of the Pics

Hednesford's recent league form had seen them return to the top four on Saturday courtesy of a patient 1-0 win over Stratford Town at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park to make it back-to-back wins in the Southern Premier League Central going into today's clash. The caretaker management team of Dean Glover, Danny Glover and Ben Bailey elected to make two changes to the side that had beaten Stratford last weekend, brining in Charlie Gatter for the injured Kieran Morris and Tom Fry in place of Izak Reid at number ten

Liam McDonald's Rushall side had fallen off the pace at the top of the table after a bright start to the season, with the Pics sitting down in ninth place in the table ahead of today's game following a 2-0 home reverse to high-flyers Coalville Town at the weekend. As expected, McDonald named former Hednesford midfielder Richard Batchelor in his side after his recent move from Redditch United alongside former Pitmen defender Asa Charlton, whilst former Hednesford man Lee Smith was named amongst the substitutes. There was no place in the squad for other familiar faces Chekaine Steele and Tyler Lyttle, with neither in McDonald's match day sixteen

Despite the weather having taken a turn for the worst overnight, Rushall's new 3G facility at Dales Lane looked resplendent for today's game. The Pitmen were on the front foot from the off, playing some neat and tidy football on the slick Dales Lane pitch. An early spell of pressure saw Elliot Hodge send over a cross from the left in the third minute that Gatter flicked narrowly wide of Rushall keeper Jon Flatt's far post

A strong run from Osebi Abadaki in the eighth minute saw him drift past Mitchell Clarke down the left and send over a cross that Reece King dithered on, allowing the Rushall defence to clear their lines

The first long throw of the afternoon from Bailey in the fourteenth minute found the head of Gatter, whose flick-on in turn dropped to Glover, However, Rushall's defenders threw themselves in the way of the incoming shot and smothered the ball clear of danger

Glover looked to catch Flatt off guard a minute later as he unleashed a long-range effort that dipped over the head of the former Wolves stopper, but also dipped over the crossbar and into the sizeable Hednesford following behind the goal

Flatt was forced into a save with his feet on sixteen minutes after a quick break from the Pitmen down the right saw Glover play Hodge in on goal, only for the outstretched boot of Flatt to deny Hodge an opening goal. James Hurst's follow-up shot from the edge of the Rushall penalty lacked conviction and drifted wide of goal 

Alex Moore was the first player to be shown a yellow card on twenty-one minutes for cynically taking Abadaki out of the game on the left flank, something that would cost the midfielder dearly later on in the game

Patient play from The Pitmen four minute later saw them confidently play the ball around on the edge of the Rushall penalty area before Abadaki was played in by King, only for the winger to beat Charlton and drill a shot over the crossbar

A deep corner kick from Fry on twenty-nine minutes found Glover lurking at the far post, with the Pitmen's top scorer heading into the side-netting with a downward header

Rushall had been firmly second best for much of the opening half hour, offering little in the way of an attacking threat with chief tormentor Jonathan Letford well shackled by Gatter. It was Batchelor that inexplicably went closest to opening the scoring for the Pics on thirty-three minutes as his right wing cross drifted towards goal and bounced off the top of Andy Wycherley's crossbar

A superb effort from Hurst six minutes later, latching onto a flick-on from Fry, went within inches of a spectacular goal for the Pitmen as his first-time effort from nearly thirty yards out missed the target by a matter of a foot or so with Flatt beaten

Half-time was something the Pitmen really didn't need to come, as they had totally dominated the first half proceedings and at this point you felt that a goal for the visitors was inevitable provided they play with the same verve as the first period. Rushall had looked dreadfully of the pace and could count themselves lucky to be going in at the break still on level terms

This was to prove true at the start of the second half, as Letford won the hosts a fortuitous penalty kick with the first action of the half. Racing through the centre of the Hednesford defence, Letford appeared to overrun the ball and allow Wycherley to make up the ground and take the ball away from the striker. In doing so, he collided with the striker, but only after clearing the ball. To many people's amazement, the referee pointed to the penalty spot, despite heated protests from the Hednesford defenders to point out that Wycherley had won the ball in the first instance. The referee was unmoved and insisted it was a spot kick which Sam Whittall took and scored, despite Wycherley getting a hand on the ball

The Pitmen continued with their patient, measured build-up play and peppered the Rushall goal with efforts from Fry, Hodge and Gover. Flatt and his defenders were working overtime to keep the visitors out, with a number of last-ditch challenges blocking goal bound shots and Flatt making seem important saves

Moore's earlier yellow card was to come back to haunt him in the sixty-eighth minute as he was played in on goal by Levi Rowley, only to throw himself to the ground theatrically under a challenge from Bailey. The referee correctly showed the midfielder another yellow card for a frankly ridiculous attempt to hoodwink the officials and sent the player off

The Pitmen were forced into a change a minute later, as Hurst was once again forced off with another minor injury issue and was replaced by the returning Jack Hallahan in the centre of midfield

Hodge - having a decent game in a roaming role in midfield - tested the reflexes of Flatt on seventy minutes with a well-struck effort form the edge of the penalty area that Flatt palmed away from danger

King was guilty of missing a glorious chance to level matters four minutes later, side-footing Glover's low cross agonisingly wide of the far post from close-range when it seemed easier to score

Still the Pitmen pressed, looking to take advantage of their extra numbers going into the final ten minutes; Abadaki's tricky run in from the left wing saw him create an opening for himself as he drove in a low shot that Flatt did well to turn away from goal at his near post, before saving with his legs to deny Sam Griffiths on the rebound

Flatt made another flying save to keep his side in front two minutes later, tipping over a long-range effort from Hallahan that looked destined for the top corner until the keeper's intervention

From the resultant corner, The Pitmen threw everything at the Rushall defence and tried to claim handball against Batchelor following a cross from Matt Curley out on the right wing, only for the referee to wave away the protests. Glover seized upon the loose ball in all of the confusion and tried to squeeze the ball home from an angle, but again found Flatt in the way with another fine save at his near post

With time slipping away from the increasingly-desperate Pitmen, they elected to make a double change in the final minute of the game as Ethan Jones replaced the disappointing Fry and Reid came on in a straight swap with Abadaki

A flurry of corner kicks in added time failed to create that one clear-cut opening the visitors craved, as the Pics hung on to record a hard-fought win over their local rivals and spark celebrations - sprinkled with a bit of relief, no doubt - amongst the home supporters and players

It had been a game of many positives for the Pitmen's interim management team, who can be delighted with the Pitmen's quality and dominance of the ball, but will have been left frustrated at them not taking at least one of the numerous chances that came their way. The players will have to dust themselves down quickly and out this reverse behind them, as they face league leaders Tamworth at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park on New Year's Day looking for a response 

Rushall Olympic: Flatt, Clarke , Charlton, O'Callaghan Whittall, Pendley ©, Waldron (Lund 88), Moore ▆ ▆ (68), Rowley (Smith 72), Letford (Sawyers 83), Batchelor     Subs Unused: Burroughs, Leachman-Whittingham

Hednesford Town: Wycherley , Curley, Griffiths, Bailey ©, Gatter Hurst (Hallahan 69), Hodge, King, Glover, Fry (Jones 89), Abadaki (Reid 89)    Subs Unused: Morris, Veiga

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