Vanarama National League North

FC United of Manchester

Wolfenden (28)

Hednesford Town 

Thomas (65)

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Adam Thomas


Harrogate Town (H) 9.1.16

Hednesford's first-ever visit to Broadhurst Park saw Frank Sinclair's men earn an excellent point against their fellow strugglers this Bank Holiday afternoon, although the Pitmen will be ruing not taking one of the numerous chances presented to them in the first half to put the game to bed before half time

It's amazing what a bit of positive thinking, and a win over your local rivals on Boxing Day can do for your confidence, as Hednesford headed north with renewed optimism following their win over AFC Telford two days previously. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sinclair stuck with the same XI that had started at Keys Park, with the only change coming amongst the substitutes with Tom Thorley passed fit again after a lay-off

FC United's inaugural season at step two has - so far, at least - not gone to plan, as Karl Marginson's men have spent the majority of the campaign in and around the bottom half of the table as they have struggled to make the step up from the Evo-Stik Premier League. The impressive Broadhurst Park facility they have moved into over the summer months will stand them in good stead in the future, but for the moment, it seems that consolidation is the name of the game for the Red Rebels as they look to establish themselves in this higher, tougher league

The confidence gained from the win over Rob Smith's Telford seemed to flow through the Pitmen from the off, as they went on the front foot immediately in front of a huge crowd of just under 3,500. Paul Ennis - looking a far better player than earlier in the season with successive games under his belt - tried his luck with an early long-range shot that was blocked by Adam Thurston

A rare foray forwards by makeshift left-back Matt Regan saw the young defender drive a long-range effort wide of the right-hand post after a Sean Williams free-kick had been partially cleared by the FC United defence

Ahmed Obeng - out of luck at the weekend - missed a glorious chance to open the scoring on ten minutes, as he slipped past Dean Stott and through on goal. However FC United keeper Dave Carnell was alert to turn Obeng's shot away with his feet for a Hednesford corner

The FC United defence was at full stretch to deny the Pitmen the opening goal on seventeen minutes, as Ennis's free-kick fell to Sean Williams, who found his effort from the edge of the area blocked. The ball rebounded to Kyle Perry, whose rebound was diverted away from goal by Thurston for a Hednesford corner

Three minutes later, Obeng created a chance out of nothing for the visitors as the winger robbed Carnell of the ball out on the right touchline. His cross to Phil Trainer was scuffed across goal by the midfielder, with Perry a matter of inches away from turning the ball into the empty net as he attempted to get on the end of Trainer's mis-hit shot

Dan Crane was called into action for the first time in the game midway through the half, making a smothering save at the feet of Matthew Wolfenden after the dangerous striker had got the better of Kennedy Digie

At the other end, Carnell made a fine save to deny Perry on twenty-six minutes before Obeng went closer than anyone so far in the game to scoring with the next attack; a brilliant break down the right from Obeng saw him get on the end of Sean Williams' pass and cut inside, before unleashing a low shot across goal that cannoned off the base of the far post and back into play

This was to prove a costly miss for the Pitmen as FC United took the lead a minute later, with Wolfenden punishing the away side as they switched off for the first time in the game. Sam Sheridan lofted a hopeful ball into the Hednesford penalty area, with Wolfenden quickest to react in getting goal side of a ponderous Tyrone Williams and diverting the ball past Crane from close range

The Pitmen very nearly fell two goals behind soon after, as a quick break opened up the Hednesford defence down the left. Tyrone Williams did brilliantly to recover the ground lost on Tom Greaves to turn the forwards shot behind for a corner kick

Perry - looking more committed and confident than at any time this season so far - was causing Thurston and his defensive partners problems with his power and nuisance value. An Ennis corner on thirty-seven minutes found the head of the big striker, but his effort drifted wide of goal

The Pitmen finished the half strongly, camping in FC United's half for much of the final five minutes after forcing several throws and corners. Ben Bailey tried his luck after Ennis's corner had been cleared to the edge of the penalty area, but the Hednesford skipper's bobbling effort was saved at the second attempt by Carnell

How the Pitmen had managed to end up a goal down at the half time break will have been a mystery to many in the ground, including some FC United supporters who will have been thankful the likes of Obeng and Perry had been so wasteful in front of goal

Attacking the goal where their own supporters were housed in the second period, Hednesford made a bright start with more set-pieces from Williams and Ennis causing issues. Again, the FC United defence did well to cope with the pressure, with Williams and Obeng both crowded out as they attempted shots at goal

The home side were still a threat going forwards, however, especially on the counter-attack. On sixty-three minutes, a swift break away from Sheridan saw him slip the ball through to George Thomson, who wasted a good chance to settle the game as a contest by firing wide of the far post with a shot across the face of goal

This time, it was the Pitmen who would make the opposition pay for missing a great chance, striking back through the in-form Adam Thomas on sixty-five minutes. Neat interplay down the left saw Perry and Obeng exchange passes, with Perry finding a pocket of space out on the left-wing. The burly striker sent over a superb cross to the far post and found Thomas, who headed past Carnell from four yards out to level matters once more

Thorley made his return to first-team action after a spell out injured with twenty minutes remaining, coming on in place of the hard-working Perry. This saw a change in tactics for the Pitmen, with Obeng moving central and Ennis playing behind him as the away side put two banks of four in front of the FC United attack

And yet, this move didn't disrupt the visitors' attacking spirit, as Thomas fired over the crossbar from a tight angle on seventy-two minutes after being played in by the excellent Sean Williams

The game started to swing from end to end as we entered the final fifteen minutes, with both sides getting a feeling that there was more than a point to be taken from the game; Tyrone Williams made a superb block to deny substitute Craig Lindfield, before Thorley's defence-splitting through ball found Thomas, whose driven shot was saved by Carnell

More theatre was added to a competitive encounter with ten minutes remaining, as the new floodlights at Broadhurst Park suddenly spluttered and a pylon went out completely in one corner of the ground. After a brief consultation with the players, the referee deemed that there was enough light given off by the other three pylons to continue the game

Carnell came to FC United's rescue once again two minutes later, making a fine save to his left to deny Obeng a potential winner at his near post

John Disney was to eventually make a brief appearance for the Pitmen on eighty-eight minutes, but not after confusion over the substitution had seen Crane had picked up a yellow card for time-wasting as he waited for the referee to allow the change to be made

More comedy followed two minutes later, as the second set of pylons at the Dane Bank end of the ground went out, forcing the players off for five minutes whilst FC United officials fixed the issue. Five minutes later, both redundant pylons crackled back into life, and the players re-emerged to finish off the four minutes of added time

The Pitmen saw off FC United's late pressure to chalk up a highly impressive point that keeps them away from the bottom three for another week. Sinclair and his troops have looked far more cohesive and organised in the last week or so, something that will no doubt be tested on Saturday when the Pitmen make the short hop down the M54 to face AFC Telford in another crunch match against Rob Smith's Bucks

FC United of Manchester: Carnell, Stott, Thurston, Kay, Smyth, Ashworth, Wolfenden (Daniels 84), Sheridan (Lindfield 68), Greaves, Thomson, Winter      Subs Unused: Brown, Brownhill, Walwyn

Hednesford Town: Crane , T. Williams, Regan, Bailey ©, Digie, Trainer, Obeng, S. Williams, Perry (Thorley 70), Ennis, Thomas (Disney 89)       Subs Unused: Ransome, Todd, James

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