F.A. Cup 1st Round

Hednesford Town

Durrell (75) (penalty)

Crawley Town

Campion (59) (OG), Sinclair (82)

(0) 1

(0) 2



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Francino Francis


Workington (H) 16.11.13

Hednesford Town finally exited this season's F.A. Cup at the first round stage this afternoon, after giving skybet League One side Crawley Town a real game at Keys Park in front of a season's best crowd of over 2,000

The Pitmen's first time at this stage of the Cup since 2005 brought selection headaches for manager Rob Smith, who was without Tom Thorley and Paul McCone (cup-tied) and Dave MacPherson (suspended). Skipper Darren Campion was deemed fit enough to return to the side in place of Alex Melbourne, whilst Nathan Woolfe showed true character to return to the squad as a substitute after the death of his father on Tuesday

Crawley rolled into Keys Park off the back of four successive defeats in League One, the latest coming on Tuesday night at Bristol City. Ritchie Barker's side had dropped to thirteenth in the table despite making a bright start to the season back in August and September. Hednesford on the other hand had won six out of seven games at home this term, the one draw coming against West Auckland Town in a previous round of the F.A. Cup

Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, who outnumbered the disappointing away support many times over, the Pitmen were straight into the action as they looked to make a swift start against a side ranked over sixty places above them in the football pyramid. An early cross from Elliott Durrell was whipped in at pace, but drifted over the heads of the onrushing Hednesford players and dropped out of play for a goal kick

Hednesford's positive opening forced three corner kicks in succession as Crawley struggled to get their passing game going, with Francino Francis going closest with an instinctive effort from Durrell's corner that was turned away for another corner

Jamey Osborne got a 'sighter' in on goal on fifteen minutes, firing over the crossbar with a dipping drive from range after picking the ball up in midfield and taking it forwards

Crawley started to find their rhythm after a shaky first fifteen minutes and went closest to opening the scoring through Josh Simpson on eighteen minutes; neat build-up play down the Crawley left saw Simpson get on the end of a Nicky Adams cross and crash a volley against Dan Crane's right-hand post

The visitors were causing John Disney a number of headaches down the left-hand side, with the Hednesford right-back having to keep his wits about him to deny the dangerous Adams on more than one occasion

Osborne was again wasteful when presented with another opening on twenty-six minutes, picking up Michael Lennon's ball before dragging his shot horribly wide from twenty yards out

The game yo-yo'd from end to end in the final fifteen minutes of the half, as Crawley threatened through a succession of set-pieces which were expertly dealt with by centre-backs Francis and Ben Bailey. Neil Harvey was dragging the Crawley defence across the pitch with his ability, with Lennon fading out of the game after a bright start

Simpson was guilty of wasting the final good opening of the half on forty-three minutes, firing high into the Heath Hayes end after an opening on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

The Pitmen made a barnstorming start to the second half, pushing Crawley back into their final third in an attempt to force an opening goal. A brilliant run from Durrell saw him evade two players on fifty-five minutes, but his deep cross was not attacked by a white shirt and drifted out of play at the far post

A superb ball in from Durrell created the Pitmen's best chance of the game a minute later, as his wicked free-kick from the right-hand side of the penalty area found the head of Bailey, who headed firmly at Paul Jones in the Crawley goal when a header to the left or right of the visitors' stopper would have ended up in a goal for the Pitmen

The hosts were on top of the game at this point, and Osborne went even closer to giving the non-league underdogs the lead on fifty-seven minutes. A mazy run from the midfielder ended with him trying his luck with a curling shot that looked as though it was destined for the corner of the net, until Jones came to Crawley's rescue with a fine full length save to his left

The resultant Kris Taylor corner kick was partially cleared by the Crawley defence, with Disney getting on the end of the loose ball but firing well wide with a miscued volley

Robbie Thompson-Brown - who had worked hard in midfield against high-quality opponents - was taken off just before the hour mark, with the adaptable Melbourne coming on in his place

 Despite spending much of the half on top, the Pitmen were dealt a blow on fifty-nine minutes as Crawley took the lead against the run of play; Adams did well to turn past Disney and deliver a dangerous low cross from the left. Campion, under pressure from Jamie Proctor, could only succeed in scuffing his attempted clearance into his own net as he looked to hack the cross away

Hednesford refused to lie down and accept the inevitable, however, with the hosts continuing to throw everything at their League One rivals. Bailey felt he should have been awarded a penalty on sixty-six minutes as he was hauled to the ground under pressure from former West Brom right-back James Hurst. The referee gestured to the youngster to get to his feet, unimpressed at Bailey's appeals

Lennon's afternoon came to an end on seventy-four minutes, as the pacy Wayne Riley - a man with F.A. Cup upset pedigree at Northwich in previous years - was brought on in his place

The Pitmen's reward for persevering with their attacking approach came on seventy-five minutes, as a run from Osborne saw him attempt to bat former Walsall man Mat Sadler down the left touchline. Sadler clumsily brought the midfielder down, leaving the referee with little option but to award the Skrill North leaders a spot-kick

Durrell stepped up and confidently dispatched his kick to Jones's left to level matters and score his twentieth goal of another prolific season for the playmaker. Game on

The game took on a real F.A. Cup feel to it from this point on, as both sides had chances to win it and avoid a replay in West Sussex a week on Tuesday. Mike Jones had a great chance for Crawley on seventy-seven minutes, firing over the bar from a great position with a rising effort beyond Crane

The Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon a minute later, as Campion was replaced by Aaron Rey; this saw a positional change involving Melbourne and Riley, who both shifted backwards to fill other positions

Just as it looked as though the Pitmen had the capability to clinch a well-earned replay, they were undone at a corner kick with eight minutes remaining. A deep Adams corner from the left was not cleared by the tired-looking Hednesford defence, allowing substitute Emile Sinclair to nip in and shoot past Crane from close-range for what was to be the winning goal

And still, the Pitmen would not lie down and allow Crawley to relax, as a corner kick on eight six minutes saw Francis, Rey and Bailey all try and force the ball over the line, only to be pulled up by the referee's whistle in the ensuing melee

Crawley looked to take advantage of the gaps that appeared at the back for the Pitmen, with Francis staying up front with Harvey and Rey. Crane was forced into his one and only save of the afternoon with three minutes left, as Adam Drury drove a shot straight at the Hednesford stopper as he broke clear on the counter-attack

At the end of four frenetic added minutes, the Pitmen were finally beaten - but could look back with an amount of pride at their display against much more technically adept opponents. The F.A. Cup run may be over, but they have a chance to start another one next Saturday in a competition they have a more realistic chance of going far in - the F.A. Trophy

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion © (Rey 78), Bailey, Francis, Taylor, Osborne, Durrell, Harvey, Lennon (Riley 74), Thompson-Brown (Melbourne 58)       Subs Unused: Woolfe, Anagho-Ntamark

Crawley Town: P. Jones, Hurst (Sinclair 80), Sadler, Connolly, Drury (McFadzean 90), Simpson ©, Walsh, Proctor (Alexander 80), Bulman, Adams, M. Jones      Subs Unused: Essam, Torres, Rooney, Maddison

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