Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Durrell (36) (penalty), Harvey (50), (66)

Frickley Athletic

Ghaichem (29), Johnston (79)

(1) 3

(1) 2



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Neil Harvey


Eastwood Town (A) 21.8.12

Hednesford's 2012-2013 campaign got off to a flying start this afternoon, as they defeated a stubborn Frickley side with an array of attacking football not seen at Keys Park for a number of years

Having overseen a number of changes to the squad during the summer months, manager Rob Smith has exercised caution when discussing the potential of his exciting team. Six players made their full debuts for the Pitmen at kick-off, with skipper Dave MacPherson making his second debut for the club after rejoining from Nantwich Town. On the bench, strikers Sean O'Connor and Michael Lennon offered extra attacking threat if needed after their summer moves to the club

A bright start for the home side saw them carve out early opportunities. Nathan Woolfe's ability on the left wing saw him link up with Neil Harvey, with Harvey turning and firing wide of goal from the edge of the penalty area

The pair linked up well again on fourteen minutes, with the roles reversed; Harvey laid the ball into the path of the highly-rated Woolfe, whose driven shot from eighteen yards missed by a couple of yards

Another of the summer signings when close five minutes later, as defender Francino Francis headed wide of goal after an excellent inswinging corner from Woolfe

Elliott Durrell has been reaping the benefits of his first full pre-season in three years this summer, looking slimmer, trimmer and much more the player that burst onto the scene in 2008. He should have opened the Pitmen's account on nineteen minutes as he darted away from Frickley's high defensive line and in on goal. Rather than slide the ball past Frickley keeper Tom Woodhead from close range, he attempted to dribble the ball around him and allowed Woodhead to smother the shot

Despite their dominance, the Pitmen were made to pay for not taking one of a number of excellent early opportunities; after Frickley's Danny South had fired a warning shot in that had skimmed the Hednesford crossbar, the Yorkshire club took the lead on twenty-nine minutes. Chris Wood made a marauding run down the Frickley left, before cutting in and firing a shot in at goal. Dan Crane made a good save low down, but could only parry the ball into the path of Jimmy Ghaichem, who tapped the ball into the empty net

The visitors failed to hang on to the lead for long, as the Pitmen struck back on thirty-six minutes. Harvey was again involved, controlling the ball and playing in MacPherson. The midfielder slipped the ball past Jake McCormick, with the Frickley man clipping MacPherson as he darted past. The referee gave a penalty without any element of doubt, allowing Durrell to step up and fire past Woodhead to level matters

The Pitmen pushed forward in waves, with Woolfe, Aaron Rey and Harvey all threatening going forward. Harvey, in particular, was a thorn in the Frickley side, making a number of inspired runs and giving the Blues defenders a hard time with his physical presence

On the stroke of half time, Harvey was presented with a glorious opportunity to put the Pitmen into the lead as he got on the end of MacPherson's pass and beat the flimsy Frickley offside trap. However, like Durrell earlier in the game, Harvey had too much time to think about his options and allowed Woodhead to make a brave save low down when he should really have scored

The second half was to belong to the Pitmen, as they continued to create good chances and dominate possession. Rey took advantage of Harvey's clever through ball on forty-eight minutes but found Woodhead in the way of his low shot

Two minutes later, the superb Woolfe almost grabbed the goal his efforts deserved, as he jinked his way past two challenges as he cut in from the left-wing. His rising shot cannoned back off the post into the arms of Woodhead, adding to the frustration on the pitch and on the terraces

Harvey finally found a way through for the Pitmen on fifty minutes, as Rey chipped the ball to the far post with a right-wing cross to his former Marine strike partner. Harvey rose highest to powerfully head home for the hosts to put them into the lead

Woodhead was keeping his side in the game with his brave goalkeeping, making another fine save on fifty-five minutes to deny Woolfe as his low shot looked to be creeping into the corner of the net

The impressive Rey was replaced by Lennon just before the hour mark after picking up what appeared to be a slight hamstring pull as he stretched to meet a Disney cross

A remarkable period of attacking football from the Pitmen saw them grab a third goal on sixty-six minutes. Woolfe's excellent delivery from a free-kick found the head of Harvey once again, with the big man heading past Woodhead to make it 3-1

With a good lead in the bag, Smith and assistant Chris Brindley made a defensive change by bringing Phil Clarke on in place of Woolfe, who left the pitch to a standing ovation. Four minutes later, O'Connor was introduced in place of Harvey, which again saw the Hednesford supporters on their feet to applaud another superb individual effort

Taking off their three most threatening players seemed to affect the Pitmen's flow, as they allowed Frickley back into the game with eleven minutes remaining. Francis conceded a cheap corner kick, which Ghaichem swung into the Hednesford box. The ball dropped to Tommy Johnston, who fired home from close range

Suddenly, it was Frickley with their tails up, as they went searching for an unlikely equaliser. Ghaichem went agonisingly close to a second goal with four minutes remaining, firing over with a rising shot

In the final minute, Lennon should have wrapped up all three points as Frickley committed too many men forward at a corner and were caught out by a swift counter from the Pitmen. Lennon raced clear from the halfway line and turned Woodhead with the goal gaping. Defender Luke Jeffs managed to get back in time and commit Lennon into turning in again, allowing Woodhead to make a save

All in all, a very impressive opening day from the Pitmen, who will go into Tuesday's game at crisis club Eastwood Town in confident form. If this group of players can produce this level of performance on a consistent basis, a title tilt can become a reality

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion, Barnes, Francis, MacPherson ©, Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (O'Connor 77), Rey (Lennon 59), Woolfe (Clarke 73)       Subs Unused: Bailey, Melbourne

Frickley Athletic: Woodhead, Yates, Jeffs, Barwick, Hellewell, Johnston, McCormick (Hinsley 59), Bloor ©, South, Wood, Ghaichem      Subs Unused: Freeman, Fennel, Stratford, Hallam

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