3.5.2003

 

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Brindley (43), Jones (82), Moss (88)

Folkestone Invicta

Morris (80)

(1) 3

.

(0) 1

 

Attendance

MotM

Current Form

525

Anthony Maguire

 

L L W D L L W W D W

 

The Pitmen wound up their eventful Southern Premier League season with a convincing win over rock-bottom Folkestone Invicta at Keys Park to finish the season in a relatively comfortable eleventh place in the league table

 

Hednesford had confirmed their participation in next season's Southern League courtesy of last weekend's 2-2 draw at Chelmsford City, leaving the Pitmen with a dead rubber in their final home game as they looked for as high a finish as possible to end their turbulent season on a high. Manager ChrisBrindley kept faith in the side that had earned the crucial point in Essex, naming an unchanged side for the third game in a row for their final flourish

 

Folkestone were coming to the end of a dreadful season on the pitch, which had seen the Kent side finish rock bottom of the Southern League and relegation to Southern League East for 2003-3004. Manager Neil Cugley looked to fire up his troops one last time, despite a run of form that had seen Invicta win only one of their last seven games. A heavy 6-2 hammering at Havant & Waterlooville in midweek had left Folkestone marooned one a paltry twenty-eight points or the season. Cugley made two changes to the side that had been beaten at West Leigh Park, bringing Lee Blackman and Alan Tait in at the expense of Andy Morris and Ryan Peters as they went in search of a rare double over one of this season's league opponents

 

With the pressure off, perhaps there was an expectation that both sides would throw caution to the wind and produce an entertaining end-to-end encounter. This was to prove untrue, however, as it was to be a dreary first-half from both sides, with clear-cut chances at a premium

 

Brindley - playing and managing for his future at the club - went closest to opening the scoring for the hosts in the eighth minute as he glanced a David Berks cross wide of the far post

 

A run from Ashley Williams on twelve minutes saw him drift past a half-hearted challenge from Dan Larkin and stand up a cross to the far post, only for Luke Corbett to turn it well wide of goal with an acrobatic overhead attempt

 

Steve Piearce was keen to add to his tally for the season on the final day but found Maurice Murden in the Folkestone goal denying him on sixteen minutes as his shot was turned away by the keeper

 

Good play from Darren Simkin on twenty minutes saw the defender stride forwards from his deep position to run unopposed into the Folkestone half before he slipped the ball into Piearce. The striker side-stepped a challenge from Larkin and rolled the ball goalwards, but was slightly off-target with his effort that drifted just wide of the far post

 

 Emeka Nwadike did well to win the ball back for the Pitmen on twenty-four minutes before setting Corbett on his way down the left. Anthony Maguire offered himself on the overlap and sent over an out-swinging cross that was a few inches too high for Piearce to head home inside the six-yard box

 

 Folkestone's solitary effort of the first half came on the half-hour mark as a mistake by Bryan Small allowed John Ayling in down the wing; his low cross found Tait, who was denied a clear shot on goal by Simkin as he covered well, forcing the striker into a toe-poke straight into the arms of Adam Jenkins

 

David Moss and Simkin linked up well to set on-loan Corbett away on the half-hour mark, but he fired the ball high and wide as he attempted a shot on the run with only Munden to beat

 

The game had settled into a bit of a training game as the half had worn on, with both sides content to sit in front of the other and allow them plenty of the ball before snuffing out any real chances

 

One genuine moment of quality finally opened the scoring for the Pitmen just two minutes before the break; it was perhaps fitting it was Brindley who was to notch, as a superb inswinging corner from Maguire was headed onto the crossbar by the veteran defender. The rebound dropped kindly to Brindley, who turned the ball home at the second attempt

 

In an unusual change at half-time, Hednesford took off both full-backs Williams and Small and replaced them with Ashley Dodd and Damien Charie - it was Dodd's debut for the club after joining them last month from Stafford Rangers

 

Charie was quickly involved in the action for the hosts early in the second half, making a run into the heart of the Folkestone penalty area before a combination of him tripping up and a challenge from Larkin stopped his progress

 

Nwadike and Moss played a neat one-two in midfield for the Pitmen on fifty-five minutes before setting Berks on his way down the right-wing. Dodd offered himself as an overlap to take Larkin out of play, allowing Berks to send over a great cross that Piearce stabbed wide of goal

 

Charie thought he had headed the Pitmen further into the lead on the hour mark, but he was adjudged to have been offside by the assistant referee as he gambled at the far post to nod Corbett's cross past Munden

 

Pinball in the Folkestone penalty area from a Maguire corner kick on sixty-four minutes saw three Hednesford players attempt to force the ball home, all to no avail as Invicta eventually cleared their lines

 

A free-kick from Moss stung the palms of Munden on seventy minutes after Piearce's strong run had forced Scott Daniels into a foul just outside the Folkestone penalty area to give the veteran a chance from twenty yards out

 

Mark Jones was handed a final appearance of the season for the hosts at this point, coming on in place of Corbett up front as the Pitmen looked to finish the season with a glut of goals

 

Berks did well to pick Simkin out on the edge of the Folkestone penalty area on seventy-four minutes, with the veteran defender volleying high and wide of goal and into the celebratory Hednesford fans in the Heath Hayes end

 

 Despite running the show for the majority of the game so far the Pitmen were still only one goal to the good, and invariably they were made to pay for not taking their chances as Folkestone equalised with ten minutes remaining; a corner kick from Ayling landed in the Hednesford six-yard box, allowing defender Andy Morris to scramble the ball home in all of the confusion

 

There was to be some late joy for the Hednesford supporters, however, as they did indeed finish with a late flourish to earn themselves the three points. On eighty-two minutes, a Berks free-kick was flicked on by Brindley and into the path of substitute Jones, who could not miss from just a few yards out as he stabbed the ball home for a rare goal

 

The hosts were enjoying their final few minutes of the season as the sun came out late on, and grabbed a third and final goal of the afternoon with two minutes remaining. Nwadike played Jones in down the right flank after he had made a run out wide, sending over a fine cross that Moss headed powerfully past an exposed Munden to seal the points

 

A frantic and entertaining final ten minutes put a little gloss on the performance and a positive spin on the season at its end, although there is much work needed at Hednesford Town Football Club in the coming weeks and months to establish the club as a major player at step two once again. A number of players will wonder as to their futures at the club, which will be dependent on whether chairman Steve Price chooses to retain the services of Brindley and assistant Barry Powell for the next season. It's likely to be another close season of changes, appointments and new faces as the Pitmen look for a better season next time around

 

Hednesford Town: Jenkins, Williams (Dodd 45), Small (Charie 45), Simkin, Brindley, Nwadike, Moss, Maguire, Corbett (Jones 70), Piearce ©, Berks      Subs Unused: Francis, Lancashire

 

Folkestone InvictaMunden, Blackman (Morris 87), Larkin, Daniels, Henry, Lindsey (Guest 72), Chandler, Twose, Dryden, Tait (Peters 68), Ayling 
Subs Unused:  Azzopardi, Gardiner

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