BetVictor Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Needham Market

Ingram (17)

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(1) 1



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Kieran Morris




Lutterworth Town (A) 7.9.19

Hednesford's recent run of excellent form is ended abruptly by a well-drilled and defensively sound Needham Market this afternoon on their first-ever visit to the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park, with the away side taking all three points from an uninspiring and characterless home side


Three successive league wins had propelled the Pitmen up into third place in the Southern League Central table ahead of this afternoon's round of games, with confidence high amongst Gary Hayward's side that they could extend their winning run and continue their 100% record so far at home this term. They had been further boosted by the return of combative midfielder Reece King, who had this week moved back to the club from Vanarama National League North side Leamington after a short spell at the New Windmill to take his place amongst the substitutes. There was one change to the starting line-up that had beaten local rivals Tamworth on Bank Holiday Monday, with Liam Truslove coming in for Charlie Gatter in an attacking move by the Pitmen


Fourteenth placed Needham Market made their first-ever jaunt to South Staffordshire off the back of a fine 3-0 win over local rivals Leiston on Monday, lifting the Marketmen into the relative comfort of mid-table in the process with their first win of an inconsistent campaign so far. With this in mind, manager Richard Wilkins named an unchanged side for this afternoon's game as they looked for their first back-to-back wins of the new season


Despite some early morning rain, it was another perfect late summer's day for players and supporters alike, although the scorching temperatures of Bank Holiday Monday had thankfully dissipated throughout the week to leave a more comfortable afternoon's play. Truslove - making his full debut for the club after his goalscoring appearance from the bench against Tamworth - drove the Pitmen's first effort of the game high over the crossbar in the fourth minute with an off-target long-range shot from twenty-five yards out


Two minutes later, a Kristian Scott free-kick was headed into the path of skipper Ben Bailey, whose sweetly-struck half volley from the edge of the Needham Market penalty area was well held by keeper Marcus Garnham


Osebi Abadaki was next to threaten for the hosts on twelve minutes, coming inside off the left-wing and firing wide of goal as he attempted a shot across  the face of the Needham Market goal


Another set-piece from Scott on fifteen minutes saw the midfielder float in a free-kick from the right that Kieran Wells headed narrowly over the bar as the hosts continued to have the better of the opening chances


Despite the chances forming at one end of the pitch, Needham Market were proving a tough nut to crack, showing impressive organisation in defence, led by skipper Kerian Morphew and a neat and tidy passing game through midfield with Joseph Marsden their main creator. It was perhaps little surprise then that the visitors were to grab the all-important goal on seventeen minutes with a quick break down the left-wing, which saw the ball swung into the path of Marsden by left-back Jake Dye. Marsden missed his kick but allowed the ball to run kindly to Luke Ingram, who took a touch before confidently firing low beyond Daniel Platt's dive to give the away side the lead


Back came the Pitmen, stung by the goal, with Bailey's long throw from the left lifted onto the roof of the Needham Market net by a looping Danny Glover header on twenty-two minutes


With a lead to protect, Needham Market tightened up their formation and pushed two banks of four in front of the Hednesford attack to make life difficult for the hosts to create openings, leaving the hosts to pump aimless balls in and around the Needham Market penalty area to be dealt with by a resolute centre-back partnership 


Matt Curley's game ended somewhat abruptly on thirty-four minutes, as the right-back was forced off due to a leg injury and was replaced by centre-back Louis Ezewele, who slotted in at right-back


Wells was presented with a glorious chance to level matters for Hednesford on thirty-six minutes as Truslove's through ball was scuffed by Kieran Morphew to allow Wells a clear sight at goal. However, the striker's deft touch with the outside of his boot lacked conviction and allowed Garnham to make a one-handed save


Platt had to be alert to a looping header from Marsden on forty minutes, plucking the ball out of the air to claim it after Marsden had flicked Ingram's header towards goal


A bout of handbags rounded off the first period, as a coming together in midfield saw Daniel Morphew appear to have words with Sam Griffiths about a challenge. The referee showed yellow cards to Daniel Morphew, Glover and Craig Parker for their part in the disagreement at the end of a frustrating half for the home side


Hayward sent his team out early for the second half, but his team-talk appeared to have had no impact on the team as they continued to labour through the early stages of the second half; long, aimless passes had been a feature of the Pitmen's game, as well as a lack of communication between players when it came to playing simple passes. Needham Market broke quickly down the right-wing on forty-nine minutes, culminating in a shot from Marsden that was deflected behind by the dependable Kieran Morris


The Pitmen's best chance to garb an equaliser was from a long ball forward by Platt on the hour mark, as a free-kick was flicked down by Glover and not cleared by the Needham Market defence. The bustling Wells got into the action and headed towards goal, only to be denied by a fingertip save from Garnham. Kieran Morphew had raised his boot to challenge Wells for the ball and kicked the striker square in the face in the process, prompting vague penalty appeals from the Hednesford players. The referee remained unmoved and awarded the hosts a corner kick


Wells was clearly feeling the effects of the kick to the head and was forced off on a minute later despite a round of treatment. King made his much-anticipated return to the side as his replacement, lining up at the near post for the corner kick to add much-needed height and physicality to the attack


A quick break from the visitors on sixty-four minutes saw them move the ball well across the Hednesford penalty area as Parker played Ingram in down the right, only for the Marketmen's goalscorer to drag his shot wide of the far post


King's aerial prowess saw him twice head towards goal, with a looping effort on seventy minutes from Bailey's deep cross landing on the roof of Garnham's net as King beat Dye to the ball


Another long-range effort from Bailey on seventy-nine minutes saw the skipper pick up a loose ball in midfield before striding forward and firing just wide of the right-hand post


With six minutes remaining, Abadaki's frustrating game was brought to an end as the winger was replaced by Izak Reid in a like-for-like switch out on the wing for the Pitmen


The Pitmen laid siege to the Needham Market goal in the final minutes, resorting to direct balls into the penalty area at every opportunity through Bailey's long throws and crosses from the likes of Scott and Griffiths. A recycled ball back out to corner taker Tom Elliott saw the midfielder swing in a cross that almost evaded the reach of Garnham at his far post in the first minute of added time, only for the ball to once again land on the roof of the Needham Market net


A very disappointing day for another healthy home crowd to witness then, with the Pitmen having shown very little enthusiasm for the afternoon's proceedings and got exactly what they deserved for it - nothing. Next weekend's potential banana skin of an F.A. Cup tie at Lutterworth Town is now the focus, with the spectre of fallen Hednesford sides of the past looming large in the background having been regularly turned over by lower league opposition in the recent past. Improvements needed in the coming week from Hayward and his squad if they are to avoid becoming the latest Hednesford side to fall cheaply at the first hurdle of the competition


Hednesford Town: Platt, Curley (Ezewele 34), Griffiths, Bailey ©, Morris, Scott, Truslove , Abadaki (Reid 84), Glover , Elliott, K. Wells (King 61)      Subs Unused: Gatter, B. Wells


Needham Market: Garnham, Dye, Sturgess, Short, K. Morphew ©D. Morphew  L. Ingram, Squire, Neal (N. Ingram 81), Parker , Marsden       Subs Unused: Collard, McLaughlin, Baker, Shorten

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