16.3.2004

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Crawley Town

MacDonald (8), Armstrong (39), Fear (51), (58), Hankin (59), Vansittart (86)

Hednesford Town

Anthrobus (44)

(2) 6

(1) 1

 

Attendance

MotM

Current Form

Next Match

1,404

Ryan Young

D L W W L W W D L L

 

 Cambridge City (A) 20.3.04

The Pitmen crumble to their worst defeat of the season at title challengers Crawley Town this evening to pile more pressure on manager Barry Powell after his side are completely outclassed by their hosts at Broadfield Stadium

Saturday's demoralising defeat saw the Pitmen make the long trip to West Sussex low on confidence and morale as they remained third bottom of the Dr. Martens League table having only chalked up the solitary league win this calendar year against Havant & Waterlooville a couple of weeks ago. Despite coming up against a free-scoring in-form side in the shape of Crawley, Powell was bold in his selection for tonight's game as he brought Steve Piearce into the starting XI in place of Danny Steve Evans to make a three-pronged attack with Mark Danks and Steve Anthrobus. Powell also made a like-for-like switch on the left flank as Chris Gray was restored to the starting line-up for Danny McGhee despite receiving a red card late on in Saturday's game for causing a melee between the Hednesford and Merthyr Tydfil players

Francis Vines' Crawley side has recently moved ahead of long-time league leaders Weymouth at the top of the table after a fine run of recent form that had seen the Red Devils win four of their last five games in the league. Vine stuck faith in the same side that had beaten Chippenham at Hardenhuish Park on Saturday as Crawley looked to pile further misery onto the Pitmen and reinforce their place at the top of the table as the only title chaser playing in tonight's round of games

The Pitmen's nightmare evening started before they had even arrived at the Broadfield Stadium, as their coach broke down near to Heathrow Airport and only arrived forty-five minutes before kick-off so had little to no preparation time. Crawley were backed by a big crowd ahead of kick-off and rewarded their fanbase with a flying start to the game as they exerted their authority on the visitors early on. In the third minute, a fine pass from Daniel Marney set Paul Armstrong away on goal in behind the static Hednesford defence, only for Ryan Young to make a fine save with an outstretched left arm

The home side swept into the lead with the opening goal of the evening in the eighth minute of the game; Ben Judge's run and cross from the right flank dropped the ball into the path of the prolific Charlie MacDonald, who took advantage of slack Hednesford defending to control the ball and fire past Young from close range for his nineteenth goal of the season

The Pitmen could have levelled matters just four minutes later with their first venture into the Crawley penalty area as a Les Hines corner kick was met by the head of Chris Brindley, only for his powerful effort to be headed off the line by Mo Harkin

The visitors were struggling to get their passing game going and were guilty of simple passes going astray, either straight to the opposition or straight out of play, much to the irk of the small band of beleaguered Hednesford supporters who had travelled down through the London rush hour to follow their team

Young was on hand to keep his team in contention on eighteen minutes, making an instinctive save to turn Armstrong's low shot around the post for a Crawley corner kick which was subsequently headed high over the crossbar by former QPR and Wales defender Karl Ready

The impressive MacDonald played a neat one-two with Armstrong midway through the first half as he darted in behind the Pitmen's defence, only to drag his effort well wide of Young's goal from a great position just twelve yards out

Danks was talked to by the referee about his response to a late offside flag against him on twenty-seven minutes after taking exception to the assistant flagging him as offside as he raced onto a Carl Palmer through ball

 

Young was proving to be the busiest man on the pitch during the first period, making another smart stop on the half hour mark to hold MacDonald's opportunistic shot from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

 

The Hednesford stopper was on hand to bail Lee Barrow out four minutes later as he made a fine stop to deny Marney after the winger had brushed off a dreadfully poor challenge from the centre-back as the pair challenged for a Marc Pullan through ball

The hosts doubled their lead on thirty-nine minutes as Armstrong picked the ball up just inside the Hednesford half and was given far too much time and space to advance on the Pitmen's penalty area and fire confidently past Young from fully twenty-five yards. A fine strike no doubt, but yet more 

questionable defending from the visitors

The Pitmen were thrown a lifeline right on the stroke of half-time as Danks did well to rob a dithering Judge on the edge of the Crawley penalty area and fed Anthrobus, who forced the ball past an advancing Andy Little in the Crawley goal

Unfortunately, this was as good as it got for the Pitmen as an indifferent evening took a torrid turn for the worst at the start of the second half as Powell's half-time message was soon forgotten by a turgid team display after the break

A low shot from Armstrong a couple of minutes after the restart was the warning of what was to come as the hosts made it 3-1 on fifty-one minutes; Marney did well to beat Hines down the right and send over a cross that was firmly headed home by former Wimbledon midfielder Peter Fear at the far post

The Pitmen's evening got even more challenging two minutes later as skipper Steve Palmer was forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and was replaced by Anthony Maguire in midfield

The home side were rampant and dominated possession as they took advantage of the Pitmen's inner turmoil. MacDonald dragged a good chance wide of Young's near post on fifty-five minutes before Fear struck again three minutes later as a sweeping move down the Crawley left saw Mo Harkin's cross turned home by Fear once more from close range having made a late run into the penalty area

The away side were at sixes and sevens and conceded a further goal straight from the restart as Anthrobus gifted possession straight back to the home side which allowed Fear play Harkin in on goal down the left hand side of the Hednesford penalty area. Harkin took a touch before unleashing an unstoppable shot beyond the reach of Young from an angle to make it 5-1 with over an hour remaining of the game

Powell and his management team had been left shell-shocked at just how quickly their team had been taken apart in the early stages of the second period as Crawley provided further evidence of their title credentials. Danks was unceremoniously hauled off by Powell on sixty-three minutes and replaced by Steve Evans as the Pitmen dropped to a more defensive formation - something that they should probably have done much earlier in the game with the benefit of hindsight

The game was held up for a spell on sixty-five minutes after a sickening clash of heads between Ready and Piearce at a Hednesford corner saw both players laid out in the Crawley six-yard box. After both players received lengthy spells of treatment, a groggy looking Piearce was forced off and replaced by Damien Charie, receiving warm applause from both sets of supporters as he went off with concerned physio Don Drakeley

The hosts could afford to bring on the prolific Joff Vansittart on seventy-four minutes to prove the depth of their talented squad as he came on in place of MacDonald, who received a standing ovation from the main stand as he went off

Crawley suffered their own injury concern to a player on seventy-seven minutes as Harkin badly turned on his ankle as he challenged for the ball with Gray and fell awkwardly off the pitch. After another lengthy spell of treatment, Harkin was stretchered off to leave the Red Devils with only ten players having already made their three changes

A rare venture into the Crawley half in eighty-one minutes by the Pitmen saw Maguire and Carl Palmer exchange passes on the edge of the Crawley penalty area before Palmer shot inches wide of the far post from eighteen yards out

Vansittart rubbed further salt into the wounds with a sixth Crawley goal on eighty-four minutes as the ten men further stretched their commanding lead. Marney's inswinging corner kick was met by the head of the former Farnborough man, who firmly headed beyond the reach of Young from close range to finish the Pitmen off

There was to be nearly ten minutes of added time, with both sides essentially going through the motions in the final minutes as the outcome of the game had long been decided. The Pitmen returned to Staffordshire now facing an uphill battle in their quest to finish in the top thirteen as they now sit six points behind thirteenth placed Moor Green and only three points off bottom club Chelmsford City. Powell's demoralised troops are on the road once more on Saturday as they travel to tenth placed Cambridge City in dire need of some inspiration as the games start to run out to save their season

Crawley Town: Little, Judge, Harkin, Fear, Ready ©, Smith (Kirkwood 71), Pullan (Gregory 71), Armstrong, Wilson-Denis, MacDonald (Vansittart 74), Marney      Subs Unused: Hemsley, Payne

Hednesford Town: Young, Simkin, Hines, Gray, BrindleyBarrowC. Palmer, S. Palmer © (Maguire 53), Anthrobus, Danks (S. Evans 63), Piearce (Charie 69)        Subs Unused: McGhee, P. Evans

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