8.12.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Durrell (67) (penalty)

FC United of Manchester

(0) 1

(0) 0

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Francino Francis

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Frickley Athletic (A) 15.12.12

Hednesford moved tantalisingly close to the Evo-Stik League summit this afternoon, courtesy of their first-ever win over bogey side FC United of Manchester. The Pitmen now lie just a point behind league leaders North Ferriby United after Ferriby could only draw with Rushall Olympic

For the first time in a long time, the Pitmen remained unchanged for successive games, as manager Rob Smith chose to stick with the winning formation that had beaten Ferriby the previous week. FC United had plenty of injury problems, with four players ruled out of contention, including the scorer of their goal in the reverse fixture in September, Carlos Roca

Roared on by their typically large and fervent support, FC United made a swift start to the game and could have opened the scoring with the first attack of the game; Mike Norton raced onto a ball from Matt Wolfenden, but dithered on the ball and allowed Dan Crane to complete a nervy clearance

Durrell's fine delivery from set-pieces was evident in the first quarter of the game, but good defending from FC United snuffed out any chances for the Hednesford strikers early on from corners and free-kicks

Indeed, it was FC United who probably should have gone ahead on seventeen minutes with a glorious opportunity for Norton. Durrell's ball back to Crane was seized upon by Norton, who took the ball around the dive of Crane and looked to finish from an angle. Francino Francis was alert to the danger and managed to get back in time to clear Norton's shot off the line. The ball dropped to Jerome Wright, who had the simple task of slotting home. Crane, however, recovered brilliantly to make a smothering save from Wright's shot

A minute later, Jake Cotterill tried his luck with a twenty-yard effort that was deflected narrowly over the crossbar

The Pitmen responded with a driven effort from Durrell midway through the half, seizing on a loose ball from Lee Neville and testing Spencer's reactions

Both sides continued to trade efforts towards half time, with Francis heading a Woolfe corner towards goal, only to be denied by a clearing header from Kyle Jacobs

The dangerous Wolfenden responded within a minute, lashing his shot just wide of goal after being given too much space to seize upon the ball

Rey, the most in-form of the Hednesford strikers at present, went close to converting a Darren Campion cross  on thirty-six minutes, swivelling on the penalty spot and firing just wide of goal

Strike partner Harvey went even closer to breaking the deadlock four minutes before the break, trying his luck with an overhead kick from Woolfe's cross that beat Spencer, but also beat the right-hand post

FC United did have the ball in the net with the final action of the half, as Norton fired past Crane from twelve yards out. However, the referee had pulled the action back already for an earlier offside flag

The second half took time to get warmed up, as both sides got bogged down in a midfield battle. Jamey Osborne's twenty-yard effort was the best of a bad bunch in the first ten minutes of the half, deflected out for a throw-in to the Pitmen. Osborne's resultant long throw found the head of Ben Bailey, whose flicked header was well wide of goal

A flowing move from FC United set Wright on his way on fifty-seven minutes, but his teasing cross from the left-wing skipped across the face of goal, inches away from the outstretched boot of Norton

With the game in the balance, Hednesford were first to make changes to their team on fifty-nine minutes, as the Pitmen changed their forward line; Rey and Harvey made way for Michael Lennon and Sean O'Connor, giving the side a focal point in O'Connor and a master poacher in Lennon

Norton was wasteful with arguably his best chance of the afternoon on the hour mark, as he somehow put his shot over the crossbar from eight yards out after good work from Wright

Five minutes later, Woolfe fashioned himself an opportunity as he jinked inside from the left-wing and fired wide with a low angled drive

The decisive moment of the game came two minutes later, as the Pitmen were awarded a penalty kick; O'Connor challenged for a high ball with FC United's Neville and Adam Jones, with the substitute left flattened by a push in the back from Neville. The referee was left with little option but to point to the spot, with O'Connor requiring a spell of treatment

Durrell, who has been successful from the spot in recent weeks, spotted the ball down and brushed off provocation from Spencer to fire home for his sixteenth goal of the season

The Pitmen had to endure the expected backlash from the visitors, as successive corner kicks put pressure on the Hednesford back line. Francis and Bailey stood firm in the face of the pressure, however, and dealt with the aerial threat admirably

It was substitute Greg Daniels who supplied Wolfenden with a glorious chance to equalise with ten minutes remaining, as his cross from Wright's thrown-in found Wolfenden unmarked, six yards out. Somehow, he managed to miscue his header and put the ball wide, when it looked easier to score

 The Pitmen added an extra layer of security with five minutes remaining as Dave MacPherson came on in place of Woolfe to shore up the midfield

This move seemed to have the desired effect, as the hosts saw out the final minutes with relative ease to record a maiden victory over United. With news of late goals from Rushall snatching a draw at Ferriby filtering through, a win over their bogey side took on even more significance

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, Melbourne , Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (O'Connor 59 ), Rey (Lennon 59), Woolfe (MacPherson 85)      Subs Unused: Barnes, Craven

FC United of Manchester: Spencer, Jacobs © (Fisher 85), Neville, Chalmers (Daniels 76), Jones, Stott, Wolfenden, Krou, Norton , Wright, Cottrell       Subs Unused: Cheetham, Carr, Giggs

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