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UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Lewis (28), Dyer (75) (penalty)

FC United of Manchester

A. Carden (65), Garner (90)

(1) 2

(0) 2



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Ross Draper


Guiseley (A) 28.3.09

Hednesford's hopes of a play-off place took a further blow this afternoon, as visitors FC United of Manchester claimed a late, late point at Keys Park to leave the Pitmen a point, and a place, outside the top five


With Tyrone Barnett still suspended, manager Dean Edwards stuck with on-loan Matt Lewis up front, partnering Ross Dyer. There was still no place for Elliott Durrell, but there was a recall for defender Decio Gomes, who replaced Rapinder Gill. There was a new name on the team sheet, but a familiar face, as Ben Bailey's name was read out at number six. It later transpired that this was youngster Ben Harbutt, who had changed his surname by deed poll since last Saturday's win at Marine

FC United were still in with a chance of gatecrashing the play-offs after a season largely spent in mid-table after successive wins over Frickley Athletic and North Ferriby United had lifted them into seventh place in the table, just two points behind the Pitmen and three off fifth-placed Kendal Town. Manager Karl Marginson was looking for a strong finish from his players in the last six weeks of the season and made just the one change to his side for today's game as newly signed Phil Marsh came in for the injured Simon Carden

With three points an absolute must, the Pitmen started the game well, forcing United onto the back foot in the first five minutes. An early flurry of corners tested the visitors' defence, with Ross Dyer having a good chance, heading towards goal from a Ross Draper corner, but Adam Tong was on hand to head away from goal as it looped towards the net

Buoyed by their win over Marine last week, coupled with a semi-final win in the Birmingham Senior Cup in midweek, the hosts enjoyed plenty of early possession, with Mark Briggs seeing plenty of the ball. At the other end, the tricky Carlos Roca was being well marshalled by the three Hednesford centre backs as he looked to play in former Leigh Genesis striker Marsh on more than one occasion

Shortly before the half-hour mark the Pitmen snatched a valuable lead, with Lewis grabbing his second goal in a week. Draper, who was having a fine game in the centre of the park yet again, hit a shot that was deflected by a United defender into the path on the onrushing Maguire. Maguire's header found Lewis at the far post, who simply tapped home from close range

Back came FC United, with Roca an increasing influence on the game with his trickery and vision. Stuart Brock had to be alert to make a smart save from Marsh, but luck was very much with the Hednesford keeper a few moments later when he saved from Jamie Baguley, whose shot bounced up and hit Brock in the leg as he came out to narrow the angle; the ball sailed over the crossbar for a corner

Edwards' team talk must have been along the lines of 'same again please', as the Pitmen had enjoyed the best chances of the first half. Indeed, they started the second half well, with Dyer streaking away from the United defence within ten minutes of the restart, but hitting his firm shot straight at United keeper Sam Ashton

Whilst it stayed at one-nil, you always felt that United could get back into the game, especially as they were becoming more of a threat from set-pieces. Just after the hour mark, they snatched a lifeline, although it was presented to them more than their own work. A free-kick from the United right looked to have been cleared by the Hednesford defence, with the ball dropping to Anthony Maguire to clear. Rather than hack the ball away, the right-back headed the ball back into the danger area, allowing Adam Carden to force the ball past Brock from a couple of yards out

Despite having a number of attacking options on the bench, Edwards decided against an immediate change to the side, with Lewis sending a deep cross over that Dyer could not turn home

United sensed a winner after grabbing an equaliser, and Brock saved well down by his post to deny Marsh a goalscoring opportunity after Roca had turned the ball goalwards

On came Durrell, with Briggs withdrawn to allow the little forward a chance to turn the game in Hednesford's favour. Within two minutes, the Pitmen had their reward. Lewis turned in the area and appeared to be tripped by a United defender. On first viewing, Lewis seemed to go down very easily, and indeed the referee did not give the penalty initially. But after consulting with his assistant on the Wimblebury side, he gave the post kick. Dyer stepped up and confidently fired the ball into the roof of the net to put the home side back in front

Dyer almost added to his tally five minutes later, skipping away from the United defence after being played in by Decio Gomes' incisive ball, but again found Ashton equal to his shot

That elusive third goal was to prove the Pitmen's downfall, as United piled the pressure on in the final ten minutes. with the home side hanging on to their lead. With Gomes looking dominant at the back, the Pitmen looked to have seen the game through, until the away side grabbed a late, late goal. Draper was adjudged to have fouled Roca out on the left-hand edge of the Hednesford penalty area. Simon Garner placed the ball down before bending the ball past Brock and into the far corner of the net, via a slight deflection off the hapless Maguire to send the large FC United crowd wild

A real feeling of two points lost here today, with Hednesford offering enough to have earned their win as FC United's persistence matching their hosts all the way to the end. With a point doing neither for both sides' promotion push, a win in the next game at fellow play-off chasers Guiseley is now critical if the Pitmen are to avoid another season of what could have been

Hednesford Town: Brock, Maguire, Marshall, Gomes, Harvey, Bailey, Briggs (Durrell 73), Hall, Lewis, Dyer, Draper ©        Subs Unused: Gill, Edwards, Platt, Darby

FC United of Manchester: Ashton, Warrinder, Garner, Moses, Tong, Nugent © (Chadwick 67), A. Carden, J. Baguley (Lomax 78), Marsh, Wright, Roca       Subs Unused: Williams, Dieyte, Chappell

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