Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Evesham United

Hednesford Town

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Elliott Durrell


Leamington (H) 26.9.09

Bernard McNally's stint in the Hednesford hot-seat started with a fairly tepid goalless draw against strugglers Evesham United this evening at Worcester City's St. Georges Lane ground - but there was far more commitment and purpose to the Pitmen's play following their previous outing against Pegasus Juniors, and with a touch more luck, could have claimed all three points

Despite rumours of wholesale changes to the side following the departure of manager Dean Edwards last week, caretaker manager McNally stuck with the players brought in under the former manager with Adam Overton, signed from Castle Vale, the only new face in the matchday squad. The starting line-up was altered somewhat, with recalls for Ben Bailey and Aaron Gibson - Nick Amos and Ludovic Quistin were the unlucky pair to lose out. Sam Aiston was dropped into a more defensive position, allowing Gibson to utilise his pace down the left-wing rather than in his usual role at left-back

Evesham - ground-sharing for the season with Worcester whilst they wait for their new ground to be built - had made a poor start to the new season and sat down in sixteenth place in the table, only a couple of points above the drop zone going into tonight's game. Manager Paul West made three changes to the side that had won at Tividale in the F.A. Cup last week as Nathan Vaughan, Steve Lutz and Richard Ball replaced Dave Adey, Steve Hands and Robert Ager respectively. Veteran ex-Hednesford striker Duane Darby was amongst the Robins's substitutes for this evening's clash

In front of a poor crowd - with the Hednesford supporters making up a large percentage of the 171 souls - the visitors started with a flourish, with Tyrone Barnett starting with the look of a man on a mission. Within the first five minutes, he headed Gibson's cross weakly towards goal with an off-balance effort, followed closely by a low shot that Evesham keeper Vaughan got both hands on

Sean Platt, who nearly opened his Hednesford account with an effort against Pegasus ten days ago, went close to breaking that duck on nine minutes with another rising effort from twenty-three yards out but Vaughan was happy to watch the ball over the bar

Barnett was denied again by the athletic Vaughan on twelve minutes, picking up a pass from Elliott Durrell but not getting his shot away in time and allowing the Evesham number one to pluck the ball away from his toes at the vital moment

On sixteen minutes, Evesham finally managed to get in an effort on goal, with the bustling former Hednesford triallist Jermaine Clarke firing wide of goal after being given too much space on the edge of the area

Durrell was seeing plenty of the ball, playing more towards the right side of the pitch for the Pitmen than his usual 'playmaker' role in the centre of the park under Edwards. He gave Evesham's Jamie Hyde a real examination during the first period, using his pace and trickery to good effect. One storming run took him away from two defenders, but the angle only allowed him to fire straight at Vaughan on twenty-seven minutes

Durrell then proceeded to waste an excellent opportunity for Hednesford ten minutes later; once again, his pace saw him leave two Evesham defenders in his wake, but instead of taking a look up, he hit an early shot that sailed over the crossbar, when perhaps on reflection a pass towards the onrushing duo of Barnett and Ross Dyer may have been a better option

At the other end, Evesham striker Ball was also wasteful, firing over with a highly ambitious effort from twenty-five yards that was watched into the stand by Gavin Ward

Having shown plenty of character in the first half, the Pitmen could be pleased with their much-improved attitude towards the game, but the crucial goal continued to elude them in the early stages of the second half too. Durrell was once again involved, whipping in a free-kick that Vaughan did well to save and hold, with Dyer breathing down his neck

Ball was again guilty of a poor effort on fifty-nine minutes, getting his shot horribly wrong with an effort that bent away from goal and towards the corner flag

Just before the hour mark, both sides almost grabbed that all-important goal, with two great chances in sixty seconds. Firstly, Vaughan made a great save to deny Durrell after the little forward had unleashed a powerful shot that Vaughan turned away with a brilliant full-length save. Evesham recycled the ball well, working it down to the other end, where Ball managed to get in a looping header that drifted over the head of Ward and bounced towards the empty net. Fortunately for the veteran keeper, the hard surface helped the ball bounce just over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net

On came Justin Nisbett, replacing the hard-working Gibson three minutes later, as the Pitmen brought another attacking player into the fold

Aiston's attacking threat had been blunted due to his new position in defence, but the former Sunderland man almost snatched his first goal for the club following a surging run on sixty-five minutes. He drifted past two Evesham players before exchanging passes with Dyer on the corner of the penalty area, but the confident Vaughan stood firm and made a good save

 The Pitmen's frustration reached a new high on sixty-nine minutes when Durrell made a great run onto Barnett's clever ball but was caught out by a late offside flag as he lashed the ball past Vaughan from eight yards out

Evesham, who had not won in any of their previous 'home' games this term, were reliant on Vaughan's big, booming kicks to set up their chances, with Clarke the main target for Vaughan's kicks until he was replaced five minutes from time. However, unlike recent games, Hednesford's defence stood firm, with Richard Walker and Ben Bailey enjoying a solid evening

Indeed, Walker could have capped a good performance with a goal on seventy-five minutes, heading Durrell's corner kick inches wide from six yards out

Carl Palmer, who had had a quiet night in midfield amidst rumours of a transfer to UniBond Premier League side King's Lynn, tested Vaughan with ten minutes remaining, hitting a firm shot that was once again competently dealt with by former Halesowen and Willenhall stopper Vaughan

Despite Hednesford having the lion's share of the chances, arguably the best chance of the game fell to Evesham in the final minute. Ball made a darting run down the left wing for the home side before picking out substitute Justin Rowe, who was making his debut for the Robins after a move from Sutton Coldfield Town. However, Rowe made a hash of his shot, pulling it wide of goal with the net at his mercy

McNally and his troops will be content with a well-earned point away from home, and it is worth noting that it was the club's second league clean sheet in a row. However, as the goals have stopped going in at one end, so they have stopped going in at the other end. McNally will need to work on this ahead of Saturday's visit of Leamington, who themselves have a one-man goal machine in Mark Bellingham

Evesham United: Vaughan, Watson, Hyde, Hodnett, Luckett, Lutz, Woodley, Cornes (Darby 87), Ball, Clarke (Rowe 76), Cole      Subs Unused: Polan, Beagley, Marusiak 

Hednesford Town: Ward, Platt, Bailey, Walker ©, Aiston, Durrell , Palmer, Lycett, Gibson (Nisbett 63), Barnett, Dyer      Subs Unused: Flynn, Bandurak, Overton