30.8.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Frickley Athletic

Hednesford Town

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Sean Platt

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Buxton (H) 2.9.08

Hednesford's challenge at the top of the UniBond Premier League was kept on track after they recorded a hard-fought point at Frickley Athletic this afternoon

 

Manager Dean Edwards was once again confident in selecting the same XI for the fourth successive game after picking up three wins in a row. The only change came amongst the substitutes, where youngster Orlando Junior gave way for Scott Stamps

Frickley had started the season in inconsistent form, struggling to score goals after only recording three goals so far this term. A hotly-disputed 1-0 defeat at Ilkeston Town on Bank Holiday Monday had left the Blues down in fifteenth place in the table, with manager Billy Heath elected to make two changes to his side as Neil Towler replaced Steve Heath and Jonathan Groome coming in for Chris White

Frickley's Towler was to have one of those afternoons all strikers get once or twice a season as he was presented with a number of chances, but simply could not find a way through the Pitmen's stubborn defence, or past keeper Stuart Brock

The Pitmen's defence was finding Towler a constant threat in the first quarter, beating Sean Platt before playing a ball goalwards that was hacked away from goal by Danny Harvey

The away side started to get their act together going forward, with Louis Briscoe linking well with Platt to play in Mark Briggs, whose ball towards Ross Dyer was cut out as the striker shaped to shoot

Back came Frickley, and a deep free-kick from Chris Gowen was almost reached by a number of onrushing Frickley players at the back post on fifteen minutes, but to the Pitmen's relief the ball missed all three players

It was end to end stuff, as the Pitmen tested Frickley's number one Adam Nicklin. Firstly, Briscoe found him in the way of a low drive, followed by a smart save to deny Briggs after the midfielder had fired in a long-range shot

As we have already found out in two years in this division, referees like to be the centre of attention, with occasional decisions bordering on the quite farcical. Mr Atkin from Scunthorpe did nothing to dispel this theory, as he pulled up Briscoe just as he was about to score to pull play back for a head injury to skipper Ross Draper

Three minutes later, and Frickley came closest to scoring courtesy of Towler. He was allowed to advance on the away side's penalty area, before hitting the bar with a rising shot that had Brock beaten

The Pitmen were very much on the back foot, but Dyer almost gave them an unexpected lead on the half-hour, chasing Anthony Maguire's long ball, but was only just beaten to it by Nicklin; any error from the Frickley keeper would have seen Dyer roll the ball into an empty net

Towler was presented with a golden opportunity to give the home side a deserved lead just before half time, seizing upon Brock's poor kick, but missing the target with a shot that was only inches wide

Draper was presented with a great chance to score just a minute from the break; Briggs took a free-kick out on the left, finding Harvey at the back post. His header across to Draper was somehow skied over the bar from only a few yards out by the Pitmen skipper

Added time for Draper's head injury saw both sides have good chances; Scott Brough was only just off target for Frickley with a low shot. This was immediately followed by a firm shot from Briscoe, but his effort was similarly wide of goal

The Pitmen emerged refreshed after what was no doubt a firm half time team talk from Dean Edwards. Dyer was straight into the action, out-muscling his marker as he took the ball forward, crossing the ball narrowly out of the reach of Tyrone Barnett, who was having a quieter than usual game up front

Dyer was involved again just two minutes later, once again using his outstanding first touch and pace to draw Nicklin out of his goal. Dyer's attempted chip over the keeper had just too much on it, with the ball landing on the terracing behind the goal

The home side hit the woodwork for the second time in the game on fifty-six minutes, when Gowen's cross seemed to swerve towards goal, catching Brock out as it dipped and bounced back into play off the bar

Dyer and Briscoe were enjoying plenty of the ball for the Pitmen, with the striker duo linking up in the area, allowing Dyer to get on the end of a Briscoe cross, but miss the goal with a deft shot

It was as exciting a goalless game as you will see, with action at both ends. The referee's constant whistling for seemingly little reason did not disrupt the flow of the game, with former Hednesford target Rob Pell beating Marshall to the ball but firing over with a hurried effort

Nicklin, who had taken over from Frickley's number one last season Jon Hood between the sticks, made a great save to deny Dyer a certain goal on the hour, turning Dyer's far post header away for a corner after good work by Maguire down the left

After Briscoe made his customary departure two minutes later, being replaced by Chad Sheppard, the Pitmen moved to 4-4-2 as they looked to take the point that was on offer

Phil Lindley could have given the home side the lead on sixty-eight minutes, but his well-hit shot missed by a good couple of yards

Towler's bad luck just kept on totting up, with Brock making a great save to deny him with ten minutes to go. Decio Gomes made a very uncharacteristic error in allowing the ball to run to Towler, but Brock made himself big and saved well

As the game entered the final few minutes, Brock made himself a hero with the Hednesford fans, making a brilliant double save to deny Pell and Towler within seconds of each other as the home side looked for a late winner

After their mauling on the same ground last season, the Pitmen can look at this job well done and a continuation of their unbeaten start to the new season. Tuesday night sees the Pitmen return to Keys Park, where they entertain mid-table Buxton looking once again to move to the top of the league with a positive result

Frickley Athletic: Nicklin, Brough, Gowen, Walsh, Jackson, Lindley, Hilton, Groome, Morris, Pell, Towler (Lee 88)      Subs Unused: Robinson, Davies, White, Hood

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt, Maguire (Quistin 81), Gomes, Harvey, Marshall, Briggs (Durrell 73), Briscoe (Sheppard 61), Barnett, Dyer, Draper ©       Subs Unused: Morris, Stamps