17.1.2009

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Barnett (84)

Frickley Athletic

(0) 1

(0) 0

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MoTM

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481

Danny Harvey

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Marine (H) 24.1.09

Hednesford consolidated their position at the top of the table this afternoon, having had to earn their three points against a physical and well-drilled Frickley Athletic side

There were two changes to Dean Edwards' side that had beaten Welling United in the midweek F.A. Trophy tie, with Rapinder Gill coming back into defence in place of Curtis Ujah after being ineligible and Adam Burley swapping places with Anthony Maguire. New signings Luke Edwards and Craig Frost made up the bench after their midweek switches

Mid-table Frickley had been without a game since New Years Day, having lost at home to struggling Worksop Town to leave them in thirteenth place in the table. Manager Billy Heath made two changes to his team, which also saw a tactical tweak to his side as Chris Gowen and Rob Pell came in for Bailey Camfield and Steve Heath 

With such a tremendous home record at Keys Park this term, many observers are turning up expecting a goal glut from the hosts, but this looked highly unlikely from the outset, as Frickley's formation gave hints as to a difficult afternoon for the Pitmen if they were to break down their stubborn mid-table opponents

Seven minutes in, Tyrone Barnett looked to add to his goal tally for the season, getting on the end of a Ross Dyer ball after his fellow forward had pulled the ball back to him. However, Frickley goalkeeper Adam Nicklin was equal to his effort and turned it away for a corner

Three minutes later, the in-form Elliott Durrell tried his luck with one of his trademark long-range piledrivers, but Nicklin was equal to that effort also, turning it over the bar

Gill, on his home debut for the Pitmen after making his debut away at Worksop on Boxing Day, almost gifted the visitors an early goal when he allowed Danny Clarke to rob him of the ball in a dangerous area. Clarke played in former Hednesford target Rob Pell, but he pulled his shot horribly wide with only Stuart Brock to beat

The visitors enjoyed a good spell of possession, trying to catch the Pitmen on the counter-attack by playing balls into the spaces behind the defence. Chris Davies tested Brock with a firm shot, closely followed by an angled shot from the same player that was well-fielded by the experienced stopper

For the Pitmen, they were finding life difficult going forward, with Barnett and Durrell well shackled by the Frickley defence. Barnett fired well over the bar after being played in by Durrell on the half-hour, but with such tight marking, chances were at a premium

On thirty-eight minutes, the visitors could have snatched the lead - Pell headed a Chris White cross towards goal, but Danny Harvey's intervention took the ball away from goal

Barnett was having problems finding his range, as he blazed over once again just before the break after Mark Briggs had played a delightfully weighted ball to him. Seconds later, Frickley tested Brock yet again, with Clarke firing low towards goal, but once again Brock was equal to the effort and saved

Frickley were quickly out of the traps in the second half, with Chris Davies sending a warning to the Hednesford defence with a volley that was only just the wrong side of the post

As the Pitmen started to get hold of the ball more, the away side started to become more aggressive in their approach to the game. Jonathon Groome and Davies were both spoken to by the referee after over-the-top challenges on Durrell, who required treatment after a particularly heavy tackle on the hour

Durrell, sporting a new bleach blonde haircut, recovered sufficiently to send over a cross towards Barnett, who headed straight at Nicklin from eight yards out

Then came the turning point; Frickley left-back Gowen was booked for a tackle on Briggs on sixty-two minutes, one of a number of Frickley names to go into the book in a short spell of time. Seven minutes later, he raised his boot too high in a challenge on Sean Platt as was promptly dismissed for a second bookable offence

The visitors immediately reshuffled their team, taking off Pell and putting defender Shaun Pierrepont on. The Pitmen responded by taking off Burley and giving midfielder Edwards his debut

The pressure from this point on all came from the Pitmen, as they looked for the three points to keep them clear of Eastwood Town, who were winning handsomely at Leigh Genesis. A clever routine at a corner saw the ball played to skipper Chad Sheppard, whose rising shot was tipped over by Nicklin for another corner

Whilst it remained scoreless, there was still a chance that the ten men of Frickley could sneak a winner. Their clearest opening came when the physical presence of Groome made his way forward, heading a White corner narrowly over the bar with ten minutes remaining

There was a gasp of frustration as the game entered the final minutes as Ross Dyer almost gave the Pitmen their goal, racing towards goal at an angle before hitting the ball past Nicklin at his near post, but crashing the ball off the woodwork in the process. The ball rolled along the goal-line before it was cleared by a defender

Durrell also had a chance to win it, racing clear of the defence firing past Nicklin, but his shot did not have enough on it, allowing defender Dean Jones to get back and clear

The pressure had to tell eventually, and with six minutes remaining it did. Sam Hall, on as a replacement for Gill, floated over the only quality corner of the game for the home side, finding Barnett rushing in at the near post to head firmly home from close range. Cue relieved celebrations from players, supporters and management alike

The final minutes saw the Pitmen play out time with Dyer and Durrell given the task of seeing out the four minutes of added time by taking the ball into the corners

 

If ever a game summed up patience being a virtue this was it, as the Pitmen had to bide their time well during an occasionally attritional game against a Frickley side clearly having the intention of playing for a point. This moves the Pitmen five points clear of closest challengers Eastwood Town, although the Badgers have three games in hand on Edwards' side. A somewhat tougher opposition come to Keys Park next weekend as play-off chasing Marine make the journey down from Merseyside

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt, Burley (Edwards 73), Gill (Hall 77), Harvey, Marshall, Sheppard ©, Durrell, Barnett, Dyer, Briggs       Subs Unused: Maguire, Harbutt, Frost

Frickley Athletic: Nicklin, Gowen   (62), Price, Walsh, Hilton, Jones, Clarke, Groome, Pell (Pierrepont 71), Davies, White        Subs Unused: Towler, Camfield, Pugh, Wilburn 

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