2.3.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Lake (7), Davis (58), Airdrie (68)

Folkestone Invicta

Dent (65)

(1) 3

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

530

Stuart Lake

W L L D D D W L W W

 

Stafford Rangers (H) 4.3.02

It's two wins in a week for the Pitmen as they take another giant stride towards safety with a fine win over mid-table Folkestone Invicta this afternoon in the Kent side's first-ever visit to Keys Park

Monday night had seen Hednesford produce an unlikely and welcome win over a faltering Worcester City side at St. George's Lane to lift them away from the drop zone in the process. Manager Kenny Hibbitt was without the services of Monday night's goalscorer Dean Craven, who had limped off at the end of the midweek game and failed a late fitness test for today's game. Hibbitt was able to recall Stuart Lake to the side in Craven's absence however after the influential long-serving midfield man had recovered from injury. Hibbitt also included new signing Wayne Thomas amongst the substitutes after the former Walsall midfielder had recently signed for the club 

Folkestone made the long trip up from the Kent coast to South Staffordshire off the back of a six-game unbeaten run in the league, having beaten the Pitmen's local rivals Stafford Rangers at Cheriton Road last weekend to leave them in tenth place in the table. Invicta manager Neil Cugley made one change to the side that had started against Stafford as Scott Daniels came back into the side in place of Lee McRobert at centre-back

On a cool afternoon at Keys Park with spring just around the corner, the visitors looked to continue their fine recent form with a swift start to proceedings and had the ball in the net in the fourth minute; a long-range effort from Martin Chandler came back off Mark Gayle's crossbar and was turned home on the rebound by the head of Nicky Dent, only for an earlier offside flag against Dent to rule out the striker's early effort

 

It was a real let-off for the Pitmen so early in the game and acted as a wake-up call for the hosts who started to take charge of proceedings. Neil Davis lifted an early chance over the crossbar in the fifth minute of the game after Lake's fine through ball put Davis goal side of Daniels

In the seventh minute of the game, Lake marked his return to the side with the opening goal of the afternoon as Derek Rae's inswinging corner kick was confidently headed home by Lake at the near post as he made an unchallenged run to the near post to nod past Dave Wietecha in the Folkestone goal

Invicta's top scorer James Dryden tried his luck four minutes later with a cheeky lob from twenty yards out that had Gayle scrambling back to make a save and tip the ball over his crossbar

The game was a keenly contested one in midfield, with Lake and Rae relishing their roles as ball winners in the centre of the park against Chandler and Matt Bower. Rae's clever through ball was flicked on by Kevin Francis into the path of Stewart Airdrie in the fifteenth minute, only for the winger to lash his shot high over the crossbar and into the car park behind the Hednesford end stand

Two minutes later, Davis picked up a Lake pass and let fly from just outside the Folkestone penalty area after taking a touch but lifted his effort over Wietecha's crossbar

Rae continued to impress his new side with an all-action display, shooting narrowly wide of goal on twenty-three minutes after Lake's long throw was flicked on at the near post by the giant Francis into the path of the midfielder, whose first-time shot whistled just past Wietecha's right-hand post

Bower was booked for the visitors on twenty-eight minutes for an accumulation of fouls on the likes of Rae and Lake in midfield and was followed into the book a few minutes later by Daniels after he had sent Davis sprawling just inside the Folkestone half

Lee Barrow went close for the Pitmen on thirty-three minutes as he nipped in ahead of Andy Morris to nod an Airdrie cross just wide of the near post from eight yards out

 

Barrow's defensive partner Mark Haran also had a chance from a set-piece two minutes later as Rae's corner kick as flicked on by Francis at the near post and into the path of Haran, who seemed a little surprised at the ball falling to him and tamely flicked a shot wide of the far post

With five minutes of the first half remaining, the home side created two great chances in quick succession as a Richard Lucas cross was initially turned goalwards by Davis, only to be denied by the hand of Wietecha. The ball bounced around in the Folkestone penalty area before Rae struck a firm shot at goal that was deflected away from harm by Dan Larkin

It had been a decent first-half showing from the home side, who deserved their half-time lead after an assertive display in front of their home fans against the form side in the league currently. Invicta made a half-time positional change as McRobert came on in place of Chandler to add another body to the Folkestone back line

Lake went on a surging run through the heart of the Invicta defence on forty-nine minutes, beating three players before playing Davis in on goal. The Pitmen's top scorer took a touch before firing at goal, only for Wietecha to make a smothering save

Folkestone captain Danny Chapman responded for the away side three minutes later with a first-time shot from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area that flew just wide of Gayle's post

A mix-up in the Folkestone defence presented Davis with the opportunity to double the Pitmen's advantage on fifty-eight minutes as Daniels and Wietecha both left a Rae through ball to each other, allowing Davis to nip in between them and steer the ball home from an angle. A fine opportunistic strike from Davis, the sort of goal we have become accustomed to from the former Aston Villa man in recent seasons

It could have been 3-0 to the Pitmen two minutes later, but Haran's header from a Lucas free-kick was well, well wide of goal as the centre-back got his angles all wrong at the far post

Folkestone got themselves back into the game on sixty-five minutes in spectacular style through Dent, who lashed a first-time effort beyond the reach of Gayle from twenty-five yards out after a corner kick had been partially punched away by Gayle but only as far as the striker. Dent had scored a memorable forty-yard goal against Stafford last weekend to add to his showreel of spectacular recent goals

The Pitmen restores their two-goal advantage three minutes later however to kill off Invicta's hopes of a comeback from a set-piece of their own; Barrow's lofted free-kick from deep was flicked on by Rae into the path of Airdrie, who coolly lobbed Wietecha from fifteen yards out to find the far corner of the net with a well-executed strike

This seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Invicta attack, as they struggled to make any further inroads into the Hednesford defence which was being well marshalled by skipper Lucas and former skipper Haran

Indeed, it was the hosts who looked more likely to add to their goal tally for the afternoon in the final fifteen minutes as Francis wasted a good chance to get himself back on the scoresheet as he scuffed Rae's cross wide of the near post on seventy-three minutes

Four minutes later, good interplay by Lake and Airdrie sent Davis clear of the Folkestone defence down the left, only for the striker to drag his angled drive into the side-netting from ten yards out with only Wietecha to beat

With ten minutes remaining, Rae robbed Bower of the ball and set Ashley Williams away down the right flank. The teenager took a couple of touches before picking out Francis in the six-yard box, only for the referee Mr. Edwards to penalise the big man for a foul on Larkin before he could head home from close range

With the game won, Hednesford could afford to hand Thomas a late run out for his debut on eighty-six minutes as he replaced a visibly tiring Lake, who received a warm reception from the appreciative Keys Park crowd as he came off

It had been a satisfying afternoon for the home side, who moved a full four points away from safety after back-to-back wins left them with some well-earned breathing space between themselves and the bottom three for the first time in a number of weeks. Their latest mini-revival will be put the the test on Monday night, however, as they face Cannock Chase rivals Stafford Rangers in a re-arranged league game from earlier in the season which will be Rangers' first-ever trip to the Pitmen's new home ground after moving in 1995 and having never played their oldest rivals on their new patch. It should be a belter with the home side in decent recent form and looking to avenge the 3-0 defeat inflicted on them by Phil Robinson's side back in August at Marston Road

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Lake (Thomas 86)Lucas ©, Haran, WilliamsBarrow, Simpson, Rae, Davis, Francis, Airdrie     Subs Unused: Ajet, Brownrigg

Folkestone Invicta: Wietecha, Morris, Virgo, Larkin (Reina 64), Daniels , Bower , Chandler (McRobert 45), Chapman ©, Dryden, Dent, Henry       Sub Unused: Hogg

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