Zamaretto Southern Premier League


King (2), McDonald (90)

Hednesford Town

Francis (54)

(1) 2

(0) 1



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Liam Francis


Cambridge City (A) 24.4.10

Hednesford's charge to the play-offs is checked this evening at league champions Farnborough as the hosts grab a late winner to deny the Pitmen a crucial point in their quest to finish in the top five

Tuesday night's demolition job of relegated Rugby Town had left manager Bernard McNally with much to ponder in terms of rotation ahead of Saturday's play-off six-pointer at Cambridge City. He was without one of Tuesday's goalscorers Adam McGurk due to a knock and replaced the Northern Irishman with Ross Dyer, whilst Josh Craddock was brought back into the team in place of Dorryll Proffitt 

Farnborough had clinched the title last week, despite a 3-2 reverse at Stourbridge on Tuesday night and were due to be handed the Southern League winner's shield at the end of the game as it was their final home game of the season. Manager Steve King made one change to the side that had lost at the Amblecote forty-eight hours earlier as the injured Bradley Bubb was replaced by Kezie Ibe up front

In front of a 1,000 plus crowd, the yellows made a bright start to the game and took the lead with their very first shot in anger in the second minute; a corner kick from Nic Ciardini bobbled around the Hednesford six-yard box with the Pitmen failing to clear their lines, allowing Jack King to seize upon the loose ball and turn it home from close-range with a scuffed finish

Buoyed by their early opener, the hosts pushed the Pitmen back into their third of the pitch in the opening exchanges and nearly doubled their advantage in the eighth minute as Ibe and Dean McDonald combined to play Anthony Thomas in down the right, only for the forward to scuff his shot straight into the arms of Stuart Brock


Three minutes later, a quickly-taken free-kick from skipper Steve Robinson found McDonald darting in behind the hesitant Hednesford defence, only for the striker to pull his shot well wide of Brock's goal from fifteen yards out

Back came the Pitmen, who finally started to get hold of the ball in midfield through the combative Craddock and fellow youngster Chris Clements. A delightful through ball from Crewe loanee Clements on thirteen minutes played Tyrone Barnett though on goal, only for a late offside flag on the main stand side to deny the in-form striker a clear shot at goal 


 Clever play from Thomas five minutes later saw him turn past Sean Platt and make inroads into the Hednesford penalty area, only for Liam Francis to stick out one of his long legs and divert Thomas's shot away from danger for a Farnborough corner kick

McDonald's fine hold-up play midway through the half got the better of Ben Bailey on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area, only for his shot to fly just over Brock's crossbar after he had stolen half a yard on the young centre-back

Bailey was involved at the other end of the pitch on twenty-six minutes as he nipped in to meet an inswinging corner kick from Clements, glancing a header narrowly wide of Farnborough keeper Stuart Robinson's near post

Three minutes later, a mix-up in the Hednesford defence gifted a bouncing ball to Ibe as both Bailey and Cheyenne Dunkley left the ball to each other, only for Ibe's first-time shot to lack power and was well-saved by Brock

The Pitmen were dealt a blow on thirty-two minutes as Dyer was forced off holding his leg, looking to many to be a hamstring pull which would rule him out of the remainder of the fixtures this season. He was replaced by the powerful Proffitt up front

Brock was called upon again two minutes later as he parried a snapshot from McDonald back out into the Hednesford penalty area after the striker had easily got the better of Aaron Gibson down the right flank and cut inside

The game was, at times, resembling a training game as both sides stroked the ball around at half pace. Chances were at a premium for the remainder of the half, with Francis's mistimed header drifting wide of goal on forty minutes from an Elliott Durrell free-kick the best of the chances before half-time

McNally rallied his troops at the break, reminding them no doubt that they still had a job to to to confirm their participation in the play-offs next week. A crunching tackle from Craddock on Simon Wormull in the first minute of the second period brought howls of derision from the home crowd and a ticking off for the former Walsall youngster from the referee as the Pitmen looked for more bite from their performance

The excellent Francis was involved at both ends of the pitch within two minutes, as he denied McDonald a clear shot at goal on forty-eight minutes with another timely block, followed by an off-balance header at goal as he rose highest to meet Clements' outswinging corner at the far post

Durrell's long-range effort on fifty-two minutes forced Stuart Robinson into his first save of the evening before the Pitmen finally made their second-half pressure tell with an equaliser on fifty-four minutes; a Clements corner kick was only cleared as far as Craddock, whose rebounded effort was blocked by a timely challenge from Adam Doyle. The ball lopped up and into the path of Francis, who executed a fine half-volley just inside the Farnborough penalty area to send the ball flying past Robinson and into the far corner of the net to level matters once more


 The Pitmen were the ones with a spring in their step with something to play for at long last and went close to taking the lead three minutes later; Platt and Durrell crafted a clever free-kick routine to play the ball into the path of Dunkley, whose first-time shot drifted just wide of the left-hand post of Robinson's goal

Farnborough responded with back-to-back corner kicks, with the second of these headed narrowly wide of goal on the hour mark by Steve Robinson as he climbed above Dunkley to reach the cross

Platt's run and cross three minutes later was turned away from the lurking Barnett by Ciardini, who hacked the ball away at the near post to deny the Hednesford striker a sight at goal

Thomas got the better of Bailey's attentions on sixty-eight minutes and jinked his way into the penalty area, only for Francis to once again make a timely interception to turn the ball behind for a Farnborough corner kick

The dangerous Ibe was denied a clear-cut chance for the hosts on seventy-one minutes as Ciardini's through ball put him clear of the Hednesford defence, only for a late offside flag to deny the forward as he took the ball around the dive of Brock and shaped to slot the ball into the empty net

A delightful piece of skill from Durrell four minutes after saw the little playmaker sell two Farnborough players a dummy in midfield and leave them trailing behind him as he advanced on goal. However, Durrell's low shot lacked direction and ended up clattering the advertising hoardings behind Stuart Robinson's goal

Youngster Clements has added creativity and quality to the Hednesford midfield since his arrival from Crewe in January and produced another incisive piece of play with fourteen minutes remaining as he clipped the ball over the head of Wormull and brought the ball back under his control with a lovely touch. From there he found Gibson with a fine angled pass, only for Gibson's low cross to be cut out at the near post by Doyle

King's free-kick on eighty minutes was headed back across goal by Steve Robinson, only for McDonald to head tamely in to the grateful arms of Brock on his goal line

McNally resisted the temptation to make late changes to his side with very few game-changing players amongst his substitutes and elected to sit on their potential point in the hope that Farnborough would also be content with a draw as they had already clinched the title

This seemed to be a sound policy, as the game started to peter out in the final minutes as chance became scarce at both ends of the pitch; Barnett's header from a Durrell free-kick on eighty-eight minutes ended up amongst the Hednesford fans behind the goal with what looked like it was to be the final goalmouth action of the game

However, in the final minute of the game, Farnborough won a corner out on the right with Ciardini swinging in a dangerous-looking ball that was partially dealt with by Francis; the ball was recycled by King, who clipped the ball back into the danger zone where McDonald was on hand to turn the ball past Brock from four yards out as he created quickest to the cross

A cruel late blow for the Pitmen, who had battled well throughout and had deserved a crucial point in their battle for one of the play-off posts. With news of a win for Saturday's opponents Cambridge City against Hemel Hempstead Town, it really is winner takes all in two days time as the Pitmen make it three away games in five days as they visit Milton Road for an exciting season finale


Farnborough: Stuart Robinson, Braham-Barrett, Ciardini, Doyle, Steve Robinson ©, Smith, King, Wormull, Ibe, McDonald, Thomas        Subs Unused: Price, Smith, Opinel, King, Jordan


Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt ©, Gibson, Bailey, Francis, Dunkley, Durrell, Clements, Barnett, Dyer (Proffitt 32), Craddock       Subs Unused: Martin, Chapman, Wood, Flynn