18.8.2001

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Crawley Town

Hamilton (10), Waugh (19), Holmes (61), Carroll (69)

Hednesford Town

Lucas (16)

(2) 4

.

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

814

Richard Lucas

L

 .

Tamworth (H) 20.8.01

Life back in the Southern League doesn't start too well for the new-look Pitmen, who are well-beaten by Crawley Town at a rainy Broadfield Stadium this afternoon at the start of the 2001-2002 Dr. Martens League campaign

 

It had been a summer of much change at Keys Park for Hednesford following relegation from the Nationwide Conference in May, with manager Colin Lambert moving on alongside a large number of players. New manager Paul Raynor had arrived at Keys Park as the club's player/manager and had swiftly made major changes to the squad. A number of new faces were making their first-team debuts for the club today, with Richard Lucas, Lenny Curtis and Raynor starting the game with fellow new faces Kevin Francis, Graham Lancashire and Craig Hopkins amongst the substitutes

 

Crawley - a traditional opponent of the Pitmen's until Hednesford's promotion to the Conference in 1995 - were starting the season as one of the more fancied sides in the league, having built up an impressive squad of experienced players amongst their ranks. The Red Devils had recruited well during the summer months, bringing the likes of Jimmy Dack back to the club from Farnborough Town and Warren Waugh from Exeter City to add to their ranks that included the in-demand Nigel Brake, who had been scouted by a number of Football League clubs

 

It was a wet, miserable afternoon in Sussex, not the sort of weather associated with the traditional sunny conditions of a curtain-raiser. The home side dealt with the conditions better in the opening stages, with Brake's through-ball to Danny Carroll drew a foul by skipper Mark Haran. Brake's subsequent cross was met by the head of Warren Bagnall, but he glanced wide under pressure from new boy Curtis

 

The hosts did grab their first goal of the season on ten minutes, however, as another set-piece from Brake was lead to the opener; a corner kick from Brake was not cleared particularly convincingly by the Hednesford defence, with Wayne Simpson deflecting the ball into the path of Dave Hamilton. The midfielder drove the ball back goalwards with a first-time shot, deceiving Mark Gayle in the Hednesford goal and nestling his effort into the bottom corner of the net

 

The Pitmen responded well though player/manager Raynor, whose clever lob over the Crawley defence found Neil Davis in the thirteenth minute, only for the Hednesford striker to fire narrowly wide of Andy Little's goal from fifteen yards out

 

They did, however, get themselves back on level terms three minutes later, as new boy Lucas grabbed a debut goal for his new club. Raynor was involved again in the centre of midfield, picking the ball up from Val Owen and spotting his former Boston team-mate making a run in behind Stewart Holmes. Raynor's precision ball over the top found Lucas, who showed great composure to steady himself and fire past Little from an angle to equalise

 

Having done the hard work in getting themselves back on level terms, the Pitmen then blotted their copybook once more with a tame conceding of a second goal on nineteen minutes. Brake's cross caught the Pitmen ball-watching somewhat, allowing summer signing Waugh to take two touches before firing past Gayle from close-range unchallenged. A poor goal to concede

 

There was a lengthy break in play on twenty-five minutes, as Carroll and Gayle both required treatment following a clash of heads inside the Hednesford penalty area after the pair had challenged for a Dack cross

 

The hosts continued to be a threat, particularly on the counter-attack, with Dack doing well to escape the attentions of Simpson on twenty-nine minutes and thread the ball through to Bagnall. Under pressure from Curtis, Bagnall was caught in two minds as to what to do and only succeeded in scuffing a weak shot straight at Gayle

 

The Pitmen were showing plenty of willing but a lack of creativity in the opening forty-five minutes, relying somewhat on the long, angled ball up to new signing Francis to utilise his height in flicking the ball on for Davis, without any real luck so far. Dean Craven's persistence saw him do well to win the ball off Marc Pullan on thirty-seven minutes, but his cross was far too high for either Francis or Davis to get anything on inside the Crawley penalty area

 

There was further break in play on forty minutes, as Francis clashed with John Ugbah and came off worse in the coming-together. The big man departed the field for urgent treatment, leaving the visitors to soldier on until the half-time break with only ten men

 

A terrific run from Brake in first-half added time opened up the Hednesford defence once more as he timed his run to perfection to meet Carroll's pass, with his cross headed goalwards by Waugh. Gayle produced an outstanding save down to his right, turning Waugh's header away from goal and denying the striker a second goal of the afternoon

 

Half-time allowed the Pitmen to regroup and for physio Don Drakeley to patch up Francis ahead of the second half. The big man was straight into the action at the start of the second half, heading Raynor's free-kick high over Little's crossbar after beating Pullan to the ball at the far post

 

Looking to add more guile to their side, Hednesford made their first change of the afternoon early on in the half, as midfielder Stuart Lake came on in place of defender Curtis on fifty minutes

 

Haran's goalbound header from a Craven cross on fifty-five minutes was blocked by Holmes at his far post as the Pitmen pressed before Owen was presented with a fantastic chance to equalise once more three minutes later; a quick break found the away side with three players against one, with Owen driving forwards from deep. Rather than pass to Davis or Stewart Airdrie, Owen elected to try his luck with a deft chip over Little's head that sailed over the crossbar

 

They were to pay the price for this three minutes later, as Crawley put clear daylight between the two sides just after the hour mark. Gayle - who had had a fine game to this point - was the guilty party, as he allowed a fairly speculative low drive from Holmes to slip through his grasp and into the net from twenty yards out as the greasy surface claimed it's victim for the afternoon

 

The Pitmen responded to this blow by bringing on another debutant in the form of ex-Rochdale striker Lancashire, replacing Raynor on sixty-four minutes as the player/manager elected to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines

 

Crawley continued to press forwards, with a deep cross from Holmes headed wide of Gayle's goal by Bagnall on seventy minutes. A minute later, Dack drifted past Simpson with relative ease and drove a low cross in towards the six-yard box, where Gayle had to smother the loose ball at the feet of the incoming Waugh

 

The scoring was complete with a fourth Crawley goal on sixty-nine minutes; a quick break down the right-wing saw Holmes feed Brake, with Brake's superb cross drilled home by Carroll on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

 

Left-back Lucas had been one of the bright spots for the Pitmen on a dreary opening day with the ex-Sheffield United man making a great overlapping run on seventy-six minutes to support Airdrie, picking the ball up off the winger and darting into the Crawley penalty area. His cross-cum-shot found Francis at the far post, only for the striker to get his feet mixed up and scuffed a shot well wide of goal

 

With ten minutes remaining, Dack's run from deep saw him drift past two challenges and allow the midfielder space to pick his spot. Gayle partially atoned for his earlier error with a fine save to his right-hand side, palming the shot away from goal

 

Simpson was booked for a late challenge on Carroll with seven minutes remaining before Owen followed his team-mate into the notebook after showing dissent at a decision that went against him three minutes later

 

With the game drifting to a conclusion and the result long decided, Hednesford had a chance to reduce arrears through Lancashire. The substitute did well to hold off the attention of Keith Sharman and turn swiftly on the edge of the penalty area, only for Little to field his shot well inside the six-yard box

 

Not exactly the start Raynor or his team would have wanted on the opening day, having been a solid second best all afternoon against an impressive attacking Crawley side. They get a chance to start the season in earnest on Monday night as they face local rivals Tamworth for the first time in league action for a number of years

 

Crawley Town: Little‚ Holmes‚ Ugbah‚ Sharman ©, Pullan, Hamilton (Sargeant 67), Carroll, Brake, Bagnall (Marlow 80), Waugh, Dack
Sub Unused: Payne

 

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Simpson , Lucas, Curtis (Lake 50), Haran © , Owen , Airdrie, Craven, Francis, Davis, Raynor ▆ (Lancashire 64)       Sub Unused: Hopkins

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