19.1.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Eastwood Town

L. Meikle (18), Wainman (31)

Hednesford Town

Sheppard (79), Pedro (89)

(1) 2

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

313

Sam Hall

L L W D D L W L D D

Witton Albion (H) 26.1.08

The Pitmen made it back to back UniBond Premier League games so far this year as they came from two goals down to claim a point at the league's surprise package Eastwood Town this afternoon

Having gone nearly three weeks between games following their home game against Guiseley being postponed last weekend, Phil Starbuck had been busy reshaping his underperforming squad ahead of their trip to Coronation Park. Goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin had been recalled by parent club Walsall and was replaced by Lincoln United goalkeeper Ben Scott in the first of five changes to the side from their draw against Marine on New Year's Day; 44-year-old David Eyres, a former Oldham Athletic and Bolton Wanderers winger, came out of retirement to make his first start for the Pitmen in place of Alan Nagington. Sam Hall had re-signed for the Pitmen for a second loan spell from Burton Albion and came straight into the side in place of the now-departed Chris Hanna, whilst Hinckley United defender Tom Birch had arrived on loan and replaced the suspended Paul Robinson at centre-back. The final change came up front, with Ross Dyer passed fit to return to the side in place of David Brown

Newly promoted Eastwood had built a strong core to their team this term and sat in the final play-off place ahead of today's clash. Paul Cox's side had lost 2-0 at Marine last time out, with the Eastwood manager making one change to his side for today's game as Leon Wainman came in for Bradley Wiggins-Thomas

Heavy rain in the Nottinghamshire area over the course of the morning led to referee Mr Morbin and his officials carrying out a detailed pitch inspection before declaring the game to be on

The Pitmen had the considerable disadvantage of kicking the Coronation Park slope in the first period, although Hall was straight into the action for the away side as he skipped past three Eastwood players in the third minute of the game, but was jockeyed away from goal by Chris Shaw's defending 

 

Veteran Eyres showed some of his early quality with two brilliant deep crosses into the Eastwood penalty area in quick succession that had the Badgers struggling to deal with

It was Hall that could have given the Pitmen a lead in the seventh minute as his rising shot hit the crossbar and came back out into play after good football involving Ross Dyer and Mario Pedro had set him up on the edge of the Eastwood penalty area

 

Three minutes later, some last-ditch defending from Gary Breach prevented Ross Dyer from heading the away side in front as he blocked the striker's goalward header from a Maguire cross

 

Despite their lax start to the game, Eastwood are not a top-five side and came back at the Pitmen once they had found their feet. In the thirteenth minute, ormer Pitman Iain Screaton - a recent signing for the Badgers from Lincoln United - supplied Wainman with the ball with a clever chipped pass that the forward attempted a spectacular overhead kick that only just skipped past Scott's right-hand post

Having now got their shooting boots on, the hosts took the lead with their next attack in the eighteenth minute;  the Hednesford defence failed to clear their lines following a Craig Swinscoe free-kick and only managed to clear the ball as far as fleet-footed winger Lindon Meikle, who controlled the ball well on the edge of the penalty area before firing past the Scott, who attempted to narrow the angle with his onrushing dive

It was nearly 2-0 almost immediately, as Eastwood skipper Swinscoe crossed from the left to find the head of Wainman, only for the striker to head well wide of goal from only eight yards out

Hall was again involved for the Pitmen in the Eastwood third of the pitch midway through the first period as he got on the end of a cross from Ross Adams but headed wide of Ian Deakin's goal

Pedro went even closer to levelling matters once more for the Pitmen four minutes later with a spectacular overhead kick similar in its execution to the one the scored on the same ground during last season's pre-season programme, only for the ball to miss the target by a couple of feet

The visitors would pay the price for not taking their chances once more as Eastwood doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark; debutant Scott was at fault for the goal as he dallied with the ball at his feet on the edge of the penalty area before being rushed into a clearance and sliced his kick straight to Wainman, who lifted the ball back over the goalkeeper's head and into the far corner of the net

Eastwood were completely dominant at this stage of the game, with Lindon Meikle showing White a clean pair of heels on thirty-six minutes with a run down the right-wing before cutting inside and laying the ball off to Screaton, whose low drive was cleared by former Lincoln team-mate Ben Brown

Three minutes later, Paul Mitchell won the ball from Chad Sheppard and exchanged passes with Meikle before spotting the run of Marc Smith, whose first-time effort was easily saved by Scott

Scott could count himself lucky to remain on the pitch with only three minutes of the first half remaining as the new boy had another rush of blood to the head when racing out to meet a ball just outside his area. Instead of chesting the ball out of play in front of Lindon Meikle, he handled it and left the sizeable Hednesford travelling contingent fearing the worst. Referee Mr Morbin gave Scott a massive let-off and only showed him a yellow card when many in the ground expected a red

 

In added time, Deakin's long kick bounced twice inside the Pitmen's territory and was seized upon by Smith, whose chip into the penalty area found Wainman. His shot on the run sailed high over the crossbar and out of play with Scott covering his near post

 

Anyone who has visited Eastwood's home ground will have a good idea how steep the gradient is there, with the team kicking 'down' the slope at a considerable advantage. The Pitmen started well with this in mind and Ben Brown headed over the bar with their first attack of the half after Maguire had swung in a corner kick to the far post

 

Pedro was guilty of a dreadful miss on fifty-one minutes as he headed tamely wide from close-range after Hall's superb cross found him unmarked at the back post

Deakin had to be alert to a wicked cross from Eyres three minutes later that dipped toward goal, only for the veteran stopper to push the inswinging ball over the crossbar for a Hednesford corner kick

Hall was having a fine game in his free role linking midfield and attack and tested Deakin once more on fifty-seven minutes with an angled drive that was palmed away but he keeper at his near post

Two minutes later, Deakin did well to smother a low shot from Ross Dyer after the Pitmen's top scorer had wriggled his way past Shaw and into the Eastwood penalty area

The Pitmen made their first substitution of a wet and windy afternoon just before the hour mark as Maguire was taken off in place of the more attacking Nangington with the away side looking to add more intent up front

You questioned whether it was going to be one of those days again, especially when Wainman forced Scott into a save after a rare foray into the Pitmen's penalty area on sixty-three minutes which could have brought Eastwood a third goal

Hall's lack of match fitness was catching up on him after a spell out injured from his original loan spell at Keys Park and he was taken off after a fine performance in favour of David Brown on sixty-seven minutes

Pedro's trickery saw him get past both Shaw and Mitchell on seventy minutes and cross for Dyer, who got to the ball despite Breach's attention but headed well wide of goal

Four minutes later, a quick break from Eastwood saw Screaton supply Meikle, who in turn found Smith. His turn took Sheppard out of play and gave him a yard of space to fire in a low shot that lacked power and was easily saved by Scott

 

With eleven minutes of the game remaining, the Pitmen finally gave themselves a lifeline after another bout of pressure in and around the Eastwood penalty area. Dyer and Pedro linked up well before Dyer laid the ball off to Sheppard on the edge of the Eastwood penalty area, who dispatched a superb strike from eighteen yards out to reduce the deficit

The away side started to turn the screw with the game now in the last ten minutes, streaming forwards and committing more men to the attack as they sensed a late equaliser; Ben Brown was sent forwards at every set-piece to add his height to proceedings and looped a header over Deakin and the crossbar on eighty-three minutes after Eyres had crossed from the left

Pedro again failed to make the most of great opportunity with five minutes to go, miscontrolling a clever free-kick from Sheppard with the goal in front of him and allowing Rob Austin to clear when he really should have scored from close-range

 

Fortunately, Pedro came up with the goods when he really needed to in the final minute of the game; Nagington's low strike from twelve yards out came back off the post and fell kindly for the incoming Pedro, who turned the rebound home after following the ball into the six-yard box

Before the game could restart, the Pitmen looked to protect the point that they had earned by replacing Pedro with the more defensively-minded Gordon Simms

A well-earned point for the visitors against a tough and experienced opponent that will fancy their chances of a play-off push in what remains of the season. For the Pitmen, a point does little for their own ambitions and now face one of their toughest tests of the season so far next Saturday when league leaders Witton Albion make the trip to Keys Park

Eastwood Town: Deakin, Austin, Shaw, Cooper, Breach , Screaton (Mathews 40), Mitchell, Swinscoe, Smith, Wainman (Wiggins-Thomas 76), L. Meikle     Sub Unused: Smedley

Hednesford Town: Scott , Adams, Eyres, White ©, B. Brown, Birch, Maguire (Nagington 59), Sheppard, Dyer, Pedro (Simms 89), Hall (D. Brown 67)      Subs Unused: None