31.12.2005

Nationwide Conference North

Droylsden

Rapley (48)

Hednesford Town

McMahon (85)

(0) 1

(0) 1

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Tom Marshall

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Nuneaton Borough (H) 2.1.06

The Pitmen halted their two-game run of defeats with a battling draw at play-off chasing Droylsden this afternoon in their final game of 2005 to leave Steve Anthrobus's side joint bottom of Conference North going into the New Year

Caretaker manager Anthrobus - still looking to earn the job permanently after five indifferent games in temporary charge - made three changes to the side that had lost 3-2 at Nuneaton Borough on Boxing Day as Tommy Whittle returned in goal ahead of Adam Jenkins, Steve Brannan replaced the injured Lee Williams and Ross Dyer took the place of Leon McSweeney, who was unavailable

Droylsden had moved into eighth place in the league table courtesy of a thrilling 4-3 win at home to title-chasers Northwich Victoria on Boxing Day, with manager Dave Pace sticking with the same XI that had beaten the Vics four days earlier

It had been a damp day in Greater Manchester, with the pitch slick and heavy at kick-off time and the match in some doubt until referee Mr Tierney passed the surface as playable at 2 pm

Grant Beckett had the ball in the net for the visitors in just the second minute of the game as Hunter's cross found the left-back making a run into the penalty area at the far post, with Beckett diving in to head past Paul Phillips from close-range. However, Mr Tierney ruled the goal out as Beckett was adjudged to have been in an offside position when Hunter picked the ball up from Andy Bell

The Pitmen remained on top in the early stages and Bell went close for the all-green Pitmen in the sixth minute as he ran onto a pass from Brannan to beat Carl Ruffer to the ball, but pulled his shot wide of goal from fifteen yards out

The returning Whittle made his first contribution of the afternoon in the ninth minute as he made a good save to push Lee Fitzpatrick's deflected shot from twenty yards out around the post for a corner kick to the Bloods

Hunter got more joy than Beckett in breaking the Droylsden offside trap in the fourteenth minute as he latched onto a fine pass from Briggs but saw his low driven shot palmed away by Phillips as the goalkeeper came out to narrow the angle

The hosts came back into the game and had their best spell of the game so far in the next ten minutes as they created several good opportunities; Steve Brodie made a jinking run into the Hednesford penalty area in the eighteenth minute but shot tamely straight into the hands of Whittle after leaving Ian Wright behind

Midway through the first period, Danny Warner's corner kick for the home side was met by the hardworking Terry Fearns, whose goalbound header lacked power and was claimed by Whittle on his line

More good play from Fearns on twenty-five minutes saw the striker hold the ball up well and allow Kevin Rapley to run into space down the left - his low cross was aimed at Dave Cameron, but a superb sliding challenge from Tom Marshall denied the striker a tap-in from four yards out

Simon Sturdy made a similarly impressive stop at the other end of Droylsden three minutes later, sliding in to deny Bell a shot at goal after the striker had burst into the Bloods penalty area following a Brannan reverse pass

Just after the half-hour mark, Sturdy again denied Bell a chance, this time, sticking a leg out and blocking the former York City man's angled effort from fifteen yards out to hand the Pitmen a corner kick

On thirty-four minutes, Kevin Lynch was off-target for the hosts as he met Warner's inswinging corner at the near post, but headed over the crossbar under pressure from Tom Marshall

The best chance either side in the first half fell to Ruffer on thirty-eight minutes as another fine corner-kick delivery from Warner on the left saw him pick out the defender, who somehow headed over the crossbar from five yards out with the goal gaping in front of him

With three minutes of a competitive half remaining, Brannan won the ball from Lee Fitzpatrick and sent Hunter scampering away down the left wing. He cut inside and drifted effortlessly past Jimmy Williams before firing over the crossbar from just inside the Droylsden penalty area

Both sides had been combative and given as good as they had got in what had been a surprisingly entertaining first period, with good chances coming and going at both ends of the pitch

The home side wasted no time in making their mark at the start of the season half, as Pace's half time words worked a treat as Droylsden took the lead on forty-eight minutes; Williams' run down the right saw him win a corner off Beckett, allowing Warner to swing in another corner kick that the Pitmen struggled to clear - the ball dropped to Rapley, standing on the penalty spot, who drilled the ball back through a crowd of players in front of him and beyond the reach of Whittle to find the bottom corner of the net

The Pitmen reacted positively to going a goal down and went close to an immediate equaliser on fifty-one minutes as Tom Marshall headed a Briggs free-kick just over the crossbar

Marshall went on a marauding run for the visitors four minutes later as he made a move all the way down the left wing and got to the byeline before pulling the ball back to fellow teenager Brannan, whose angled drive skimmed the top of Phillips's crossbar. Close from the young midfield man

The hosts broke quickly from a free-kick taken by Ruffer inside his own half on fifty-eight minutes, eventually working the ball out to the left-wing where Rapley picked the ball up; his jinking run left Ross Adams in his wake before the winger tried his luck with an ambitious effort that sailed harmlessly wide of goal. With the benefit of hindsight, a pass to Fearns or Lynch - both of whom were in good positions - would have been a better option

Briggs was wasteful for the Pitmen on the hour mark as he pulled an effort well wide of goal from a promising position just inside the Droylsden penalty area after the Bloods had failed to effectively clear Hunter's cross towards Dyer

Fearns and Wright battled it out to reach Brodie's long ball forwards on sixty-three minutes, with the Droylsden forward managing to steal half a yard on the veteran defender but dragged his shot just wide of Whittle's right-hand post

Midway through the second half, Brannan made a move down the right wing after Adams had played into space - the youngster clipping a cross into the path of Dyer at the far post, who headed just over the crossbar as he stretched to reach the ball six yards from goal

Phillips was well beaten by Briggs' superbly-struck effort sixty seconds later, with the midfielder's venomous shot swerving a matter of inches wide after Beckett had squared the ball to the former West Brom man

The Pitmen's first substitution of the afternoon came on seventy-two minutes as top scorer Paul McMahon came on in place of Hunter in a move that saw the visitors move to a 3-4-3 formation to add more presence up front

Just two minutes after coming on, McMahon was straight into the play as he headed just wide of the target after Brannan's cross was flicked on at the near post by Bell and into the path of the substitute

Rapley's final involvement in the game before he was taken off on seventy-five minutes was to send over a deep cross to the far post, where Fearns met the ball with a firm header that looped up and over the head of Whittle but landed on the roof of the stopper's net

The final ten minutes of the game saw the Pitmen exerting more and more pressure on the Droylsden defence as they searched for a leveller; Tom Marshall - having his best game for the club since making his debut in November - drove a shot straight into the arms of Phillips on eighty-one minutes after Beckett's corner kick was only partially cleared by the hosts

Two minutes later, McMahon linked up well with Bell on the edge of the Droylsden penalty area but Bell saw his shot skip off the drenched turf and bounce wide of goal

McMahon once again lived up to his 'super sub' tag, however, as he rescued the visitors once again with a late equaliser on eighty-five minutes; Beckett's long throw was flicked on at the near post by the hardworking Bell and into the path of expert poacher McMahon, who took full advantage of some dithering at the back from Droylsden to fire past Phillips from a couple of yards out

The Pitmen could sense a late winner as they pushed forward in waves, with Sturdy denying Bell a shot at goal for the third time in the game on eighty-seven minutes as he stepped across to block the striker's shot on the turn

The game moved quickly to the other end of the pitch as Droylsden quickly broke down the right, with Lynch crossing for substitute Ian Fitzpatrick, who arrived late at the far post to head towards goal but was denied by Whittle's save. From the resultant corner kick, Ruffer rose highest but headed into the side netting at the far post

In the first minute of added time, Brannan ran onto a pass from Sean Platt and fired just wide of the upright from twenty-five yards out after the ball had sat up kindly for him

It had been a thoroughly entertaining end to the year and a game that both sides had felt that they had done enough to earn all three points from at various times. The point does little to help the Pitmen's increasingly perilous position towards the foot of the table, with Anthobus's side remaining in the bottom two ahead of their return fixture against A5 rivals Nuneaton Borough, who visit Keys Park in forty-eight hours time looking to complete a quickfire double over the Pitmen and pile more misery on a side in desperate need of points to get their season back on track

Droylsden: Phillips, Williams, Warner, Sturdy, Ruffer, Brodie, L. Fitzpatrick, Lynch, Fearns, Cameron (Denham 61), Rapley (I. Fitzpatrick 75)      Subs Unused: Talbot, Halford, Tandy

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Adams, Hunter © (McMahon 72), Platt, T. Marshall, Wright (Harvey 82), Brannan, Briggs, Dyer, Bell, Beckett     Subs Unused: Branch, C. Marshall, Jenkins