19.9.2007

F.A. Cup 1st Qualifying Round Replay

Stratford Town

Hednesford Town

Pedro (70)

(0) 0

(0) 1

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Mario Pedro

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North Ferriby United (A) 22.9.07

At the second time of asking, the Pitmen are through to face Blue Square North side Alfreton Town in the second qualifying round of the F.A. Cup after sneaking past Midland Alliance Stratford Town in this evening's replay at Damson Park, home of Solihull Moors

 

There were plenty of changes to the Hednesford side that under-performed on Saturday as manager Phil Starbuck swung the axe on his under-performing squad. Mario Pedro starting in place of Ross Dyer, with exciting teenage forward Reece Styche, fresh from four goals against Boldmere St. Michaels in the Birmingham Senior Cup on Monday night, replacing Chris Adam. The error-prone Keenen Meakin-Richards was replaced by Paul Robinson at centre-back who was fit again after a short lay-off 

Stratford felt that they should have wrapped up a famous victory over the Pitmen to add to their win over the same club back in 2004 after having several chances to seal their passage to the next round on Saturday. Manager Michael Moore stuck with the same side that had started at Keys Park looking to get the job done at 'home' instead

A confident start from the Pitmen saw Tom Ward lash a shot well wide of goal in the fourth minute of the game, followed two minutes later by a wayward header from Robinson inside the Stratford six-yard box

Stratford's giant striker Rory May - guilty of a number of misses on Saturday - got into a good position to latch onto a Richard Robinson pass in the tenth minute but fired his first effort of the night well wide of goal 

 

The away side responded on fifteen minutes with a Peter Knox header from Pedro's cross that drifted high over the crossbar and into the Hednesford fans huddled behind Mark Sheils' goal

The 'home' side went incredibly close to breaking the deadlock on twenty-two minutes as an effort from youngster Will Grigg found its way through a crowd of players before coming back off the base of Rene Gilmartin's left-hand post and back into play where Ross Adams cleared the ball

The returning Pedro was next to register a shot on goal three minutes later, driving a low shot at goal after a typically jinking run into the Stratford penalty area, only for Sheils to push his effort away down to his right-hand side

 

Another fine run from Pedro on the half-hour mark saw him ghost past two challenges before clipping a cross to the far post, where youngster Styche's volley back across goal was diverted behind by Richard Munday for a Hednesford corner

A defensive reorganisation was required by the Pitmen on thirty-three minutes as Gary Suchareywcz was forced off with a reoccurrence of the leg injury that had kept him out in pre-season. Gordon Simms came on in his place, with Adams moved across to centre-back to cover for Sucharewycz and allow Simms to play at right-back

 

 The Pitmen started to grow in confidence and pegged Stratford back for much of the remainder of the first period; Styche hacked a Pedro through ball just wide of the post with an angled drive on thirty-six minutes

From a Ward free-kick three minutes later, Pedro did well to find a yard of space and cross for Marshall, who did not connect fully with the ball and volleyed over the crossbar as he leant back

With half-time looming, Marshall had another good chance to give the visitors the lead as Pedro was once again the supplier for Marshall, only for the big defender to head Pedro's cross over the crossbar as he stretched to reach the cross

 

It had been a much-improved showing from the Pitmen in the first-half compared to Saturday's pedestrian display, although their impotence in front of goal was continuing as they struggled to break down a resolute step five Stratford defence 

The Pitmen continued to have the better of the chances after the half-time break with skipper Dave MacPherson failing to connect properly to a Pedro cross and turning the ball narrowly wide as he arrived late in the Stratford penalty area on fifty minutes

Lacking the pace of Dyer to stretch the Stratford defence, the Pitmen were more reliant on set-pieces than normal to create openings; a deep free-kick from MacPherson on fifty-three minutes was met by the head of Robinson, whose header back across goal was hacked away from danger by Robinson

May chased down a long kick from Sheils on fifty-five minutes and took advantage of some dithering in the Hednesford ranks to seize upon the ball and force Gilmartin into a save low down to his left

 

The out-of-sorts Knox was hauled off by Starbuck on fifty-eight minutes after offering little in the way of an attacking threat and was replaced by Chris Adam - this saw youngster Styche moved up front in Knox's place

Styche almost snatched a goal on the hour mark to add this four-goal haul on Monday night as he took advantage of a miskick by Sheils and looked to run in behind him, only for Sheils to recover sufficiently to smother the ball at the feet of the 17-yer-old

A great save from Sheils denied Tom Ward three minutes later, diving full-length to his right-hand side to push the midfielder's long-range effort away for a corner kick

The Pitmen's pressure on the Stratford defence continued through more wizardry from Pedro, who left three players in his wake before laying the ball off to Adam, only for the substitute to fire well wide of goal

The visitors finally got the goal that mattered with twenty minutes remaining through the mercurial Pedro as an effort from MacPherson twenty yards out took a deflection en route to goal and fell kindly at the feet of the Portuguese winger, who tapped past Shiels from close-range

The busy Styche's evening was brought to an abrupt and painful ending a minute later as he collided with Mark Faulds with the pair challenging for a Robinson ball forwards. In obvious discomfort, Styche was treated by Don Drakeley before being taken off and replaced by Dominic Heath. Further tests after the game confirmed that Styche had suffered the dreaded metatarsal injury popularised by so many top-flight players in recent years and will most likely be out for a couple of months

Stratford threw more men forwards in an attempt to force the game into extra time, bringing on both Steve Ruck and Adam Overton to boost their attacking options in the final ten minutes of the game

Robinson fired wide from twenty yards out with eight minutes remaining before a quickly-taken free-kick two minutes later from Faulds found Jerome Grandison in space on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area. The winger turned Simms inside out and curled a shot in at goal that Gilmartin watched narrowly wide of his upright

A late flurry of Stratford corner kicks continued to ramp up the pressure on the fragile Hednesford defence, but some stoic defending from Robinson and Adams, in particular, saw the Pitmen over the line. It had been a tough 180 minutes of football against a spirited Stratford side who should do well in the Midland Alliance this season if they play with the same conviction. For the Pitmen, it is a return to league action on Saturday when they make the trip up to Humberside to face struggling North Ferriby United

Stratford Town: Sheils, Miller ©, Alborough, Faulds, Munday, Crawford, Grandison, Robinson, May, Byrne (Ruck 73), Grigg (Overton 80)     Subs Unused: Forbes, Johnson

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Adams, Sucharewycz (Simms 33), Hawthorne, Marshall, Robinson, Pedro, MacPherson ©, Knox (Adam 58), Ward, Styche (Heath 71)     Sub Unused: Wood, Sanders