2.4.2016

Vanarama National League North

Curzon Ashton

Brooke (48), (50), Guest (84)

Hednesford Town

Ennis (69), Royle (71)

(0) 3

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

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329

Dan Crane

D L D L L D D L D L

Tamworth (H) 9.4.16

Despite a spirited second-half fightback from the Pitmen, Curzon Ashton complete a league double over their visitors as a late goal from Joe Guest earns his side all three points

Heavy rain over Sunday and Monday had seen the Pitmen's midweek home game against Worcester City postponed due to a heavily waterlogged Keys Park pitch. Hednesford manager Frank Sinclair elected to make two changes from his side from the one that had laboured to a 0-0 draw at Corby Town last Saturday as Paul Ennis replaced Adam Thomas and Danny Glover was preferred to Tom Peers up front 

Tenth-placed Curzon were playing their second home game of the week, having drawn 0-0 against near-neighbours FC United of Manchester on Monday night. Manager John Flanagan made wholesale changes to his side for today's game as goalkeeper Cameron Mason was handed his league debut in place of regular number one Hakan Burton, Matt Flynn replaced Alex Brown, Liam Tomsett came in for Matty Warburton and Ryan Brooke was favoured ahead of Simon Woodford

On a cool and overcast afternoon in Greater Manchester, the home side started the game on the front foot with Niall Cummins going close to opening the scoring in the third minute of the game; Tomsett's turn and pass found the striker goal side of Francino Francis just inside the Hednesford penalty area but dragged his low shot wide of Dan Crane's left-hand post from fifteen yards out

Good play from the Nash once more two minutes later saw full-back Connor Hampson make a run down the left, leaving Kennedy Digie in his wake before sending over a cross to the far post that was sidefooted wide of the post by the incoming Jordan Wright

Crane made the first of a string of fine saves for the Pitmen in the eighth minute as a deep cross from the flank from Wright found the head of Brooke, whose goalbound header from close-range brought out a fine instinctive save from the experienced stopper, who pushed the ball away from goal for a corner kick

The Pitmen's first forward move came in the twelfth minute as Stephane Ngamvoulou picked the ball up in midfield and took the ball deep into the Curzon Ashton half, playing a neat one-two with Glover on the edge of the penalty area before lifting his shot from eighteen yards out narrowly over Mason's crossbar

Cummins was to be denied by another fine save from Crane in the fourteenth minute as the former Burscough striker was sent clear of a hesitant Hednesford defence by Tomsett's fine through ball. Cummins looked to steady himself but was put off by the onrushing Crane, who managed to do enough to put the striker off and blocked the shot from eighteen yards out

Centre-back Jon Hunt headed a good chance wide of goal for the Nash four minutes later as he rose highest to meet a free-kick from Tomsett out on the right but looped his effort high over the crossbar from eight yards out

Midway through the first half, Brooke missed a great chance to give the hosts a deserved lead as Cummins and Guest combined to play him into the penalty area; with only Crane to beat, the ex-Oldham Athletic striker dragged his shot wide of the target from ten yards out

Ben Bailey made a timely challenge to stop Guest from firing in a shot at goal from close to the penalty spot on twenty-six minutes after the forward had picked up Phil Trainer's half-cleared clearance and tried his luck from twelve yards out

Sinclair had seen enough from his shot-shy side and made a bold tactical change before the half-hour mark as centre-back Francis was sacrificed in favour of Thomas; this saw Digie move to centre-back alongside Bailey and Thomas slotting into a right wing-back role

The change in formation almost bore fruit within two minutes as the Pitmen had the ball in the net through Glover, who challenged young stopper Mason for a Shelton Payne cross had turned the ball home from close range. However, referee Mr Hart felt that the striker had pulled Mason back in the build-up and the goal was disallowed

A quickly-taken free-kick from Chris Rowney on thirty-five minutes sent Guest away down the left as the forward raced onto the pass ahead of Digie, controlling the ball well on the edge of the penalty area and jinking past the on-loan defender but driving his low shot straight into the arms of Crane at his near post

A long kick forwards from Mason three minutes later was flicked on by Brooke and into the path of Cummins, who got the better of Digie as the pair battled for the bouncing ball but could only toe-poke the ball straight at Crane, who made another comfortable save

Despite being under the cosh for much of the first period, it was the visitors who finished the half the stronger; a Sean Wiliams corner kick on forty minutes was flicked on by Trainer at the near post and into the path of Bailey, who attempted to chest the ball down at the far post but could not bring the ball under his control and allowed Curzon Ashton to clear the danger

Glover went within the width of the post of opening the scoring on two minutes later after Royle had won the away side a free-kick five yards outside the Nash penalty area. Former Port Vale man Glover lined up the resultant free-kick and struck a powerful right-footed shot through the Curzon wall and bounce off the base of Mason's right-hand post before drifting behind

Both sides had been wasteful in front of goal in a low-quality but fairly entertaining first half on, what has to be said, was a superb playing surface for this time of the season at the Tameside Stadium. Crane had been the much busier of the two goalkeepers but had been a solid presence as he looked for back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season

This hope was dashed within three minutes of the second half as the hosts took the lead with their first attack since the restart. Guest's ball into the penalty area was cleared by Bailey but only as far as Wright, who controlled the ball on the edge of the penalty area and steered his shot beyond the reach of Crane and into the far corner of the net, despite the winger losing his footing as he shaped to shoot

With the Pitmen reeling at this early goal, the home struck again just two minutes later to double their lead in quick succession; Tomsett's run and pass into the penalty area found Brooke, who found himself enough time and space to turn and clip his shot over the body of the diving Crane and into the net from twelve yards out

Tomsett's free-kick tested the reflexes of Crane once more on fifty-three minutes as the midfielder lifted his shot from twenty-five yards out over the Hednesford wall, prompting Crane to tip his shot over the crossbar for a corner kick to the hosts

Sinclair had once again assumed his regular motionless, hands-in-pockets position after the home side's two-goal blitz, electing to make his final two substitutions on fifty-seven minutes as former Nash loanee Jack Truelove replaced the hapless Trainer and Modou Cham came on in place of another ex-Curzon man, Payne

On the hour mark, Crane continued to deny the hosts as he made yet another fine save to deny Brooke, pushing the forward's shot away from goal with a timely parry after Brooke had broken through the flimsy Hednesford offside trap to get on the end of Hampson's pass. The ball dropped into the path of Wright, who lifted the rebound high over the crossbar as he looked to turn the ball home with a first-time shot on the run

Cham made a good run down the right flank for the despondent Pitmen three minutes later, streaking away from Hampson into space in behind the Curzon defence. After taking a touch Cham laid the ball back to Thomas, whose inswinging cross was punched away by Mason as Glover looked to head the ball home at the far post

Another fine delivery from Williams, this time from a free-kick on the right, found the head of Digie at the far post on sixty-seven minutes - his downwards header back across goal dropped in front of Ennis but was a little too far in front of the former Stalybridge man and the ball drifted away from danger

Ennis did reduce the deficit for the Pitmen two minutes later, and in some style too; Williams and Thomas brought the ball out of the Hednesford half and played Ennis into a pocket of space in the centre of the park, where the diminutive forward took a couple of touches before executing a superb lob over the head of Mason from fully thirty yards out and into the far corner of the net. Superb technique from Ennis, something that we have seen too little of in what has been a frustrating season for the player

Just as Curzon had struck twice in quick succession earlier in the half, so did the Pitmen as they pulled themselves level on seventy-one minutes as an inch-perfect Williams corner kick was met by the head of Royle, who powerfully headed beyond the reach of Mason from six yards out. It was the midfielder's first goal for the club since joining on loan from National League side Wrexham a couple of weeks ago

You felt that the momentum was swinging back towards the visitors at this point, particularly with news filtering through of Brackley Town, Corby Town and AFC Telford United all drawing or losing at this point in the game. Royle won the ball from Rowney on seventy-four minutes and played Ngamvoulou into space just inside the Nash half. The Frenchman went on a typically powerful run into the penalty area but overran the ball at the crucial moment and allowed Hunt to clear

Flanagan had made a double attacking change of his own at this point as he looked to stem the tide of the Hednesford attacks, bringing on the vastly experienced Mike Norton up front in place of Hampson and lanky striker Dan Cockerline in favour of the tiring Cummins

Mason made a fine save to deny Thomas on seventy-nine minutes, making a block on his line to claim the ball ahead of Glover after the winger had made a run inside from the right flank and left two Curzon Ashton players in his wake before shooting from twelve yards out

Glover was denied by Mason once more on eighty-three minutes as the rookie stopper smothered the ball at the feet of the striker after Ennis's threaded pass had picked Glover out in behind the home defence

Despite the Pitmen having all of the late play, it was the home side that were to grab the all-important fifth goal of the afternoon as Curzon worked the ball down the left through Tomsett and Danny Shaw, playing Guest into space on the corner of the box. The winger took a touch before rifling a superb shot beyond the reach of Crane and into the far corner of the net. Another superb opportunistic strike

This seemed to knock the stuffing out of Sinclair's troops as passes started to go astray in the closing stages of the game and their attacking intent dissipated. Williams whipped in a free-kick from the right on eighty-seven minutes that was headed up in the air by Bailey but was claimed by Mason on his line ahead of Ngamvoulou

In added time, Mason was perhaps a little lucky to remain on the pitch as he kicked out at Glover after taking exception to the striker's unwanted attentions as he looked to clear the ball, raising his boot at the striker whilst the match officials were following the ball at the other end of the pitch

An eleventh winless game leaves the Pitmen with a mountain to climb in this final month of the season if they are to stand any chance of staying up this season, particularly with some daunting-looking games against champions-elect Solihull Moors as well as play-off chasers Nuneaton Town and Tamworth. Their tough run-in starts with a home game against the Lambs next Saturday in what will be a crucial Staffordshire derby for both sides, but for completely different reasons

Curzon Ashton: Mason, Flynn, Hampson (Norton 72), Hunt, Shaw, Rowney, Wright, Tomsett, Cummins (Cockerline 72), Brooke, Guest       Subs Unused: Crothers, Burton, Woodford

Hednesford Town: Crane, Digie, Trainer (Truelove 57), Bailey ©, Francis (Thomas 29), Royle, Ennis, Williams, Glover, Ngamvoulou, Payne (Cham 57)      Subs Unused: Ransome, Robinson