29.3.2011

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Campion (34)

Didcot Town

Stanley (13)

(1) 1

(1) 1

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Darren Campion

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Evesham United (A) 2.4.11

The Pitmen's long winning run is brought to a halt this evening by a stoic Didcot Town side that earned themselves a crucial point in the fight against relation and halted the home side's march up the league table in the process

Having earned a ninth win in succession against Oxford City on Saturday, the Pitmen went in search of a tenth win this evening with, perhaps understandably, an unchanged side to the one that had beaten Oxford three days previously. A win would potentially lift Rob Smith's side up to joint second place in the table, just behind Truro City and league leaders Salisbury City to potentially make it a three-way scrap for the title in April

Didcot - hovering precariously in eighteenth place in the table and only a point above the relegation zone - had been beaten 2-1 at play-off chasing Leamington at the weekend, with under-pressure manager Ady Williams making two changes to his side for tonight's re-arranged game as Jordan Tabor and Michael Bartley came in for the injured Andy Gunn and Jamie Vincent respectively

With the clocks moving forwards on Sunday night, the game kicked off with the sun setting behind the main stand, with the temperature dropping quickly as the game progressed.  The cock-a-hoop hosts looked to make a quick start to the game and could have taken the lead in the second minute as Darren Camipn made a thrusting run down the left-wing, beating Jamie Heapy and crossing for Marvin Robinson, who stretched to meet the ball and could only volley his effort over the crossbar from six yards out

Chris Clements - superb against Oxford on Saturday - was at his creative best once more in the sixth minute as he controlled the ball in midfield and delivered a perfectly-weighted pass over the Didcot defence and into the path of Robinson once more, only for the big striker to check his run and allow the pass to skip away from him as he shaped to shoot

In the ninth minute, an inswinging Clement's corner dropped onto the head of skipper Lee and Francis, only for the big defender to head over the crossbar from eight yards out

A surging run from Elliot Osbourne-Ricketts in the thirteenth minute was halted just outside the penalty area by opposite number Ross Davidson, leading to a free-kick being awarded to the visitors. Davidson and Campion took exception to the decision and argued to the referee without success that Davidson had played the ball before the man. Alex Stanley took the resultant free-kick and dispatched a fine effort beyond the Hednesford wall and into the right-hand corner of the net, completely bamboozling keeper Dan Carne

Back came the hosts, stung into action after conceding a shock goal to their struggling visitors. Dunkley cleared the crossbar with a wild shot from fifteen yards out on sixteen minutes after a Clements corner I've been partially cleared to him by the Didcot defence

Robinson forced Didcot stopper Sam Warrell into a fine save with his legs in the twentieth minute as Jay Denny's pass into the feet of the former Derby County man saw him turn past Jason Costello and fire in a powerful low shot from sixteen yards out that Warrell turned behind with his legs

Campion was the first player of the evening to receive a booking for having one opinion too many for the referee's liking on twenty-four minutes as he argued that Osbourne-Ricketts had fallen a little too easily under his challenge and was shown a yellow card for dissent

Good approach play from the hosts on twenty-eight minutes saw Clements play the ball into the path of Wellecomme, who held the ball well with Costello at his back before laying the ball into the path of Campion who was making a run down the left. The left-back's deep cross looked pick Kyle Haynes out only for the youngster to scuff his shot well wide of goal

Wellecomme should have equalised for the hosts just after the half-hour mark as Haynes made a run down the right-wing and sent over across towards the striker, whose header from six yards out failed to test Warrell in the Didcot goal as he headed over the crossbar. A good chance wasted by the former Stafford Rangers man

However, the Pitmen did pull themselves level once more two minutes later as another superb piece of play from Clements opened up the Didcot defence; after taking the ball ten yards into the opposition half, Clements cleverly disguised his pass by looking one way and playing the ball the other, slipping Campion into acres of space to the left-hand side of the Didcot penalty area. The left-back - scorer of two goals in last Tuesday night's win over Halesowen Town - needed no second invitation and drilled his first time shot beyond Warrell at his near post and into the net to make it 1-1

You felt that this would spark the hosts into life and they would surely go on and win the game with the game level once more. A Clements corner kick two minutes later found the head of Decio Gomes, only for the powerful centre-back to head high over the crossbar from ten yards out

With five minutes of the half remaining, a rare attack from the visitors saw right-wing Heapy's cross cleared by Francis bit only as far as Tabor, who controlled the ball well and attempted an ambitious effort from twenty-five yards out that Crane watched over the crossbar

In added time at the end of the first half, Davidson's clever play saw him jink his way past Andy Williams and play the ball into the path of Wellecomme, only for an offside flag to deny the striker a shooting opportunity

It had been a frustrating forty-five minutes for the Pitmen and their supporters, having had the better of the chances once more but had found the Didcot defence hard to break down and had limited them to very few clear-cut chances. The visitors had offered very little going forward themselves but will be happy with their first-half display

Clements skied the first chance of the second half high into the Heath Hayes terrace on forty-nine minutes after Wellecomme had tricked his way into the Didcot penalty area down the left and laid the ball back to the young midfielder

The visitors responded with some patient build-up play down the left wing on fifty-two minutes as Williams and Bartley linked up well to play the ball around Haynes. Bartley drifted into the penalty area and laid the ball off to Dave Lawrence, who miscued his shot from ten yards out and sliced it over the crossbar when he probably should have taken a touch

Tabor was booked for the away side on fifty-four minutes for a foul on Denny in midfield and was followed into the book by team-mate Michael Alexis two minutes later as he brought Wellecomme down as the pair challenged for a long ball forwards from Crane

Dunkley was next to go close for the hosts on the hour mark as Haynes picked up the ball in midfield after a Clements free-kick was cleared to him, with the on-loan Cheltenham Town man sending the ball back into the penalty area where Dunkley rose highest to head inches wide of the left-hand post with a looping effort

Three minutes later, Francis was the latest player to receive a booking for a bout of shirt-pulling at a corner kick as the Hednesford captain tried to get goal side of Bartley

The Pitmen made their first change of the evening on sixty-seven minutes as Smith made an attacking switch with striker Kyle Patterson coming on in place of defender Gomes

Patterson looked to have an immediate impact on the game as he picked up a header from Denny on the edge of the Didcot penalty area on seventy minutes and chipped the ball to the far post, where Wellecomme was denied a free header at goal by some quick-witted defending from Alexis

From the resultant Campion corner kick, Francis flocked the ball on at the near post looking for the run of Dunkley at the far post, but Heapy spotted the danger and hacked the ball away from inside his own six-yard box to deny Dunkley a free shot at goal

With fifteen minutes remaining, Burton Albion's on-loan striker James Ellison came on to try and nick the all-important winner for the Pitmen as he replaced Robinson up front

Clements wasted a great chance to put the home side in front for the first time in the evening two minutes later, lashing a right-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area over the crossbar after Campion's initial shot was blocked and fell kindly to the midfielder eighteen yards from goal

It was like a scene from the Alamo in the final ten minutes as the hosts camped inside the Didcot half in search of that elusive second goal. On eighty minutes, Denny played the ball down the right to Haynes, whose dipping cross was completely missed by Warrell as he flapped at the ball and missed his punch. Fortunately for the stopper, it was enough to put Patterson off as he stopped his run into the six-yard box and missed what would have been a simple tap-in at the far post

Another deep cross from Haynes two minutes later found Campion on the far side, with the left-back's return ball skipping across the six-yard box before being cleared away from Wellecomme by the impressive Costello

A quick break from Didcot on eighty-five minutes saw Osbourne-Ricketts lift the ball over the top of the Hednesford defence and into the path of Lawrence, whose low driven cross into the six-yard box was somehow not turned into the net by Bartley, who slid in but failed to make contact with the ball at the near post

Campion fired a direct free-kick straight into the Didcot wall from twenty yards out on eighty-six minutes before Ellison was a little too casual in his shot a minute later after another superb raking pass from Clements had sent the substitute away in behind the Didcot defence, only for the striker to weakly chip the ball straight into the arms of Warrell from the edge of the penalty area

Campion quickly took a free-kick out on the left flank with two minutes remaining, sending the ball high into the night sky and into the Didcot penalty area, where Stanley did well to head the ball away from the clutches of Patterson. The ball dropped kindly to Wellecomme, who struck a superb right-footed volley back at goal that looked to be heading for the top corner of the net until Stanley managed to divert the ball away from goal with a last-ditch block

The resultant Clements corner was played short to Campion, who floated a cross out to the far post where Davidson headed over the crossbar, under pressure from Alexis

In the first minute of added time, Campion tried to repeat his earlier low strike as he made a run into the Didcot penalty area down the left and struck a left-footed shot at goal that drifted well wide of the far post with what was to be the Pitmen's final effort of the evening

So, the long winning run comes to an end in frustrating circumstances for the hosts, although credit has to go to Didcot for an excellent backs-to-the-wall performance in defence to deny the home side the points. A point keeps Smith's side in the hunt for a possible tilt at the title in April, but with Truro and Salisbury also in excellent form, they will most likely need some favours off other teams to have a chance of this. After three games in a row at home, the Pitmen make the short journey down the A5 on Saturday to face Evesham United at their temporary lodgings, Worcester City's St. Georges's Lane ground

Hednesford Town: Crane, Gomes (Patterson 67), Campion , Dunkley, Francis © , Denny, HaynesRobinson (Ellison 75), Wellecomme, Clements, Davidson       Subs Unused: Bailey, Keenan, Melbourne

Didcot Town: Warrell , Heapy ©, Williams, Alexis , Costello  (Bedwell 76), Stanley, Mutero, Tabor (Huggins 59), Bartley, Lawrence, Osbourne-Ricketts      Subs Unused: Trott, Griffin, Gunn