19.3.2005

Southern Premier League

Dunstable Town

Hednesford Town

Maguire (22), Barrow (36), (86) (penalty)

(0) 0

(2) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

259

Lee Barrow

L W L L W W D W L W

 

Solihull Borough (A) 25.3.05

Hednesford move to within a point of the play-off places this afternoon after a confident and well-deserved win over struggling Dunstable Town on their first-ever visit to Creasey Park

Ther Pitmen arrived in Bedfordshire looking to shake off last weekend's frustrating 2-0 defeat at home to fellow play-off challengers Aylesbury United, which had left Chris Brindley's men some four points behind the rest of the chasing pack and the games starting to run out. Brindley made just the one change for today's away game as he dropped himself from the XI in favour of Anthony Maguire, who gave the side more balance as he returned down the right flank

Dunstable's horribly inconsistent season had seen them spend the majority of the season fighting against the other sides in the bottom five of the table, sitting third from bottom at the start of play today. The club had been handed a piece of good news during the week with the threat of a potential fifteen point deduction for fielding an ineligible player earlier in the season being quashed by the FA in midweek. On the pitch, joint managers Paul Reeves and Kerry Dixon stuck with the same XI that had started the 1-1 draw at Cirencester Town last weekend

With the clocks having moved forward this week, the supporters could enjoy the early spring sunshine throughout the game, although the temperature remained on the cool side. The Pitmen seemed to take inspiration from the sunnier weather as they emerged in a striking new yellow third shirt, which was required for today's game as Dunstable lined up in blue and white striped shirts and subsequently clashed with both kit options the Pitmen currently had at their disposal

The visitors made a charging start to proceedings and went close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute of the game; Ross Adams fed Leon McSweeney down the right-hand side of the Dunstable penalty area, with the striker taking a couple of touches before crossing into the path of Marlon Walters, whose lay-off to Maguire was struck over the bar from just three yards out by the youngster. A poor miss when he really should have netted from close-range

Three minutes later, Lee Barrow was similarly wasteful after Maguire had won a free-kick thirty yards from goal after being brought down by Stuart Strange. Lee Williams swung the ball in and found Barrow at the far post, only for the centre-back to head high over the crossbar

Yellow shirts streamed forwards on the counter-attack in the twelfth minute as Walters won the ball from Craig Stallard and played the ball forwards to McSweeney. His change of direction tricked Paul Covington, who was left in his wake. McSweeney played a clever through ball in behind Strange to strike partner Andy Bell, who scuffed his low shot wide of goal with only goalkeeper Paul Taylor to beat

The hosts finally came into contention in the seventeenth minute as Strange picked up a loose ball just inside the Hednesford half and was allowed to run nearly forty yards unchallenged before firing just wide from sixteen yards out

The Pitmen responded immediately through Barrow once more, whose deep free-kick was partially cleared by the Blues defence but only as far as Maguire, whose rebounded effort was well held by Taylor on his goal line as McSweeney looked to pounce on any spill from the stopper

Two minutes later, Grant Beckett and Mark Branch doubled up on Bernard Christie down the left flank, with Branch overlapping well to cross into the near post; Taylor managed to get a portion of his body in the way of the ball to divert it away from goal and behind for a Hednesford corner kick as Bell lurked with intent

The Pitmen's growing pressure on the Dunstable goal finally bore fruit midway through the first half as they took the lead through Maguire. Barrow - already having a superb game for the away side - was the architect once more from a free-kick, quickly spotting Maguire's run as Dunstable's defence looked to get into position and playing the winger through on goal down the left. Maguire took a touch before confidently firing past Taylor from the edge of the penalty area to give the Pitmen the lead

Adams did well to hold off the attentions of Strange on twenty-five minutes after getting forwards down the right, crossing deep to the far post where McSweeney's volley back across goal was pushed away by Taylor's instinctive save

The hosts had been largely poor so far and were limited to long-range efforts or feeding on scraps from set pieces. On twenty-nine minutes, a corner kick from Stallard was headed on at the near post by Covington but was hacked clear by Barrow before Tom Hayes could react to the bouncing ball six yards from goal

Lee Williams' delightful crossfield pass on thirty-three minutes found Maguire in acres of space to tease Strange once more, getting a lucky deflection off the defender's shin as he made his way past the left-back. His lay-off to Walters bobbled slightly in front of the former Wolves man, who struck his subsequent effort high over the crossbar

Walters was involved once more two minutes later as he managed to intercept a wayward pass from Dean Walker and set Beckett on his way. The left midfielder took his time to pick out a pass, holding the ball up well against Marc Kefford before playing the ball into the path of Lee Williams, who took the ball into the penalty area but saw his weak low shot dribble straight through to Taylor

With nine minutes of the first half remaining, the Pitmen made their dominance pay once more as they double their lead through Barrow; Beckett's run into the Dunstable half waw him attempt a cross by the corner flag that was handled by Kefford, handing the Pitmen a dangerous free-kick. Maguire took the kick and picked out Barrow with an inch-perfect cross into the six-yard box, where the defender was on hand to powerfully head past Taylor

 

Dunstable were in damage limitation mode for the remainder of the first half as they closed ranks and limited space for Bell and McSweeney to play in after a comfortable first forty minutes for the play-off chasers. They went close to adding a third goal three minutes before the break but Bell's run into a McSweeney first-time pass was deemed offside by referee Mr Kirkup, despite the youngster looking at least level with play when the ball was played

 

It had been an impressive first forty-five minutes from the Pitmen, who had looked every inch the top-five team against a Dunstable side short on confidence and staring a tough final two months of the season as they look to preserve their step three status

 

The Blues made a bold attacking tweak to their formation as Martin Williams was pushed further forwards to join Hayes and James Hatch up front in a     4-3-3 formation. The hosts did create a clutch of early openings with an extra man up front as Hatch pulled a forty-eighth-minute effort well wide of Ryan Young's goal after good play from Stallard

 

Two minutes later, Young made his first real contribution to the game after a nondescript first period for the stopper as he raced out of his goal to beat Hatch to a through ball from Walker as the striker got goal side of Richard Teesdale momentarily

Back came the Pitmen and Branch's fifty-third-minute throw-in found McSweeney with his back to goal, twenty yards out. The Irish striker cleverly turned past Covington and unselfishly played the ball to Bell, whose snap-shot from the penalty spot position ended up in the arms of Taylor

Another good piece of play from teenager Branch on fifty-seven minutes saw the left-back whip in a cross level with the edge of the Dunstable penalty area that found Bell; he controlled the ball well inside the Blues penalty area but saw his low shot saved by Taylor once more

A minute later, Barrow and Lee Williams linked up well on the approach to the Dunstable penalty area, with Williams clipping in a cross from the left-hand side of the box that was glanced goalwards by McSweeney, who was narrowly off-target with a header that drifted just over the crossbar

Bell was to be denied by the overworked Taylor once more as the former Hitchin Town stopper was equal to the striker's sidefooted effort on sixty-two minutes after another good forward pass from Branch

A rare attack from the hosts on sixty-five minutes saw Hayes hold off Teesdale's attentions as he picked up Christie's long throw on the edge of the penalty area. His clever lob over the heads of the Hednesford defence had Young concerned momentarily before the stopper watched the shot onto the top of his netting

Lee Williams curled a free-kick over the Dunstable wall from fully thirty yards out on seventy minutes but found Taylor comfortably behind his dipping shot at goal

Barrow was alert to a slip from Teesdale that almost gifted the ball to Hatch three minutes later as the young centre-back allowed the ball to roll under his foot and through to the striker, whose shot was well blocked by Barrow's quick thinking

Barrow was involved at the other end of the pitch on seventy-six minutes as Maguire took a short corner to Branch before receiving the ball back from the left-back, swinging in a cross that was headed over the crossbar by the centre-back at the far post

An enterprising run from Beckett on eighty minutes saw the former Rushall player get to the byeline, pulling the ball back to Bell, who in turn worked the ball out to Maguire. The winger made a run into the penalty area. but dragged his shot well wide of the target

Hayes did well to get past the attentions of Barrow from a corner kick on eighty-two minutes, but got underneath a Martin Williams cross and headed high over the crossbar without testing Young from close-range

 

Teesdale was forced off a minute later as he suffered what was to prove to be a trapped nerve in his leg and was replaced by player/manager Brindley for the remainder of the game at centre-back

Four minutes from time, the scoring was complete as the Pitmen added a well-deserved goal to their tally to see off any late challenge from their hosts; a lovely through ball from Beckett put Bell clear of a tiring Dunstable defence, with the striker taking the ball around the challenge from Taylor before being clipped by the goalkeeper and sent sprawling. Mr Kirkup had no hesitation in awarding the Pitmen a penalty kick, which Barrow took responsibility for and sent Taylor the wrong way from twelve yards out to make it 3-0 to the visitors

With two minutes remaining, the Pitmen made a late double change as first-choice front line Bell and McSweeney were both given a short rest by the Pitmen, being replaced by youngster Craig Marshall and Paul McMahon replaced the pair respectively

It had been a thoroughly professional display from the Pitmen, who move to within a point of the final play-off places as results elsewhere in the Southern Premier League were kind to them. They will look to take this result forwards on Friday night when they make a first-ever trip to the new home of Solihull Borough, Damson Park, looking to add to second-bottom Boro's recent woes and complete a quickfire league double over their near-neighbours in the process

Dunstable Town: Taylor, Christie (Finley 59), Strange, Covington, Kefford, Walker, Stallard, M. Williams, Hayes, Hatch, Pomfroy (Porter 73)       Subs Unused: Stamp, Massie

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale (Brindley 83), L. Williams ©, Maguire, Walters, Bell (C. Marshall 88), McSweeney (McMahon 88), Beckett      Subs Unused: Brannan, Evans