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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

FC United of Manchester

Wolfenden (52), Norton (81)

Hednesford Town

(0) 2

(0) 0



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Dan Crane


Marine (H) 18.2.12

It's two defeats in a week for the Pitmen, who crash to their second loss on the road as FC United of Manchester impressively pick up three points in their pursuit of  a play-off place today

After putting in a tired-looking performance in the defeat at Marine in midweek, manager Rob Smith made a number of changes to his side in an attempt to freshen up his squad. Andre Landell was restored to the starting XI in place of the suspended Jamey Osborne, whilst the newly-signed defensive duo of Michael Ricketts and Jermaine Johnson came straight into the side at the expense of Darren Campion (suspended) and Ben Bailey (dropped to the bench) respectively

Keen to put the Marine result behind them in their fourth away game in succession, the Pitmen made an attacking start to the game; Mark Beesley - still looking for his first goal for the club - got on the end of a through ball from Denny and fired in a low shot that FC United keeper James Spencer turned away from goal

Landell's pace was an early feature of Hednesford's game, as he took his opportunity to break at every opportunity down the right-hand side. One such run saw him race into the penalty area, where his progress was checked by an FC United defender. A number of half-hearted penalty appeals were waved away by the referee as Landell picked himself up off the ground

Ben Jevons thought he had opened the scoring for the Pitmen midway through the half, as he got on the end of a through ball from Ricketts and finished well, only to be denied by a late offside flag

Twenty four minutes into the clash, Beesley wasted a great opportunity to put the Pitmen into the lead, as he shaped to shoot inside the area. However, he wanted too much time on the ball to size up the shot and allowed FC United's covering defenders to block and clear

The dangerous Carlos Roca was making inroads into a hesitant Hednesford defence with his trickery down the wing, with one such run seeing him cut inside on twenty-seven minutes and fire in a low shot that Crane fielded

Debutant Ricketts tried his luck for the away side on the half-hour mark, driving forward before unleashing a low shot that was easily held by Spencer

FC United striker Mike Norton was left red-faced as half time approached, as he failed to score with the best chance of the game so far. Stephen Johnson's run saw him drift past a couple of Hednesford players, before firing in a goalbound shot. Crane made an excellent parry but only succeeded in gifting the ball to Norton. The striker took the ball around Crane and fired towards goal, only to somehow put the ball wide of goal when it looked easier to score

Both sides finished the half strongly, with Ben Jevons missing the target with a low drive, followed by a similar effort from Johnson for the hosts with just a minute left in the first period

The Pitmen will have been relatively happy with their first-half contribution, but all of the positive vibes disappeared just a few minutes into the second half as FC United took the lead. More tricky wing play from Johnson saw him cross from wide and find the head of onrushing Matthew Wolfenden, who headed firmly past Crane

Wolfenden almost doubled his and FC United's advantage two minutes later, as Crane only succeeded in pushing Norton's shot into his path. Fortunately for the Pitmen, the striker put his rebound wide of goal

Hednesford abandoned their cautious approach to the game that had served them well up to the goal and pushed upfield in search of an equaliser. This was highlighted in three quickfire substitutions, as Elliott Durrell replaced the disappointing Landell, Liam Blakeman replacing Jevons and Marvin Robinson coming on for Gary Hay

However, this attacking set-up simply played into FC United's hands, as their talented attackers used the extra time and space to play balls in behind the Hednesford defence that was now playing a much higher line. Norton was denied by a superb reaction save by Crane on sixty-five minutes, forcing the ball away from goal but only succeeding in finding Wolfenden with his parry. Wolfenden stepped past Crane and fired towards goal, but was denied by a brilliant piece of last-ditch defending by Ricketts, who cleared the ball off the line

It was one-way traffic from this point on, as the Pitmen were simply in damage limitation mode in defence. Johnson managed to get enough on the ball to block a goalbound shot from Kyle Jacobs on seventy minutes, followed by a Carlos Roca cross that no one managed to turn into the net from just a couple of yards out

The Pitmen's one and only chance to snatch an unlikely point came three minutes later, as a Chris Clements through ball found Robinson, but the burly striker's powerful  shot was turned away by Spencer

Back came United, with substitute Astley Mulholland playing a ball through the Hednesford defence to Norton on seventy-six minutes. Again, the United forward wasted a great chance by dragging the ball wide of Crane's near post when the Hednesford keeper should have expected to be tested from close range

The killer second goal for the home side finally arrived nine minutes from the end; Johnson, who had had a wonderful game down the right wing for FC United, capped a superb display with yet another assist, crossing to the far post to allow Norton to head past Crane

With the game sewn up, the grandstand finish never really materialised, as both sides seemed content to settle for the result. Mulholland had a great chance to add further misery for the Pitmen in the final minute, as he raced through a tiring Hednesford defence and rounded Crane. however, his angled shot came back off the post and was cleared by a weary Hednesford defender

The Pitmen can have very little argument that the best side won today, as Smith's side struggled with a lively attacking unit that should have finished the game a lot earlier than they did. The Hednesford squad looks as though it could do with a break at present (and a home game or two), as they look to take a breather from a long and busy month of football that has taken a lot out of them

FC United of Manchester: Spencer, Jacobs, Battersby, Cottrell, Jones, Stones, Roca (Mulholland 70), Wolfenden (Platt 82), Norton, Stott, Johnson (Boland 87)       Subs Unused: Grimshaw, Tierney

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Ricketts, Dunkley, Johnson, Denny ©, Landell (Durrell 58), Clements, Beesley, Hay (Robinson 63), Jevons (Blakeman 64)       Subs Unused: Bailey, Suckling

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