19.4.2019

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Gainsborough Trinity

 

Hednesford Town

 

 

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Ben O'Hanlon

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Witton Albion (A) 27.4.19

Despite having very little to play for in what remains of the season, Hednesford produce a fine display at playoff-chasing Gainsborough Trinity to earn themselves a point and hand their hosts a blow as they look to secure the final play-off place in the Evo-Stik Premier League

 

Another week, another managerial change in the revolving door of Keys Park managers, as Nicky Eaden is unceremoniously booted out of the club after securing the Pitmen step three football for next season. Eaden's assistant Gary Hayward was handed the reins for the two remaining games of the season as he looked to throw his hat into the ring for the job on a permanent basis. Hayward made one change to the side that had sealed the Pitmen status at step three last week against Stalybridge Celtic with Dan Sweeney ruled out due to a hand injury. He was replaced by Izak Reid, who was handed his first start for the Pitmen since his arrival last month from Chasetown. England schoolboy International Carter Lycett was a late call-up to the substitute's bench after Charlie Gatter failed to pass a late fitness test

 

Gainsborough - many peoples' tip for the league title back in August - had been a consistent name inside the top six for much of the campaign, despite parting company with manager Lee Sinnott in February after a poor run of form and appointing Liam King and Ross Hannah as their new interim management team. Under the experienced duo, Trinity's form had seen them claim the final play-off place ahead of the likes of Scarborough Athletic and Buxton going into this Good Friday clash

 

Unusually for Easter weekend, the weather was simply glorious as the UK basked in beautiful warm sunshine on what was the hottest day of the year so far. The hosts were on the front foot early on as they looked to grab the early goal they needed in their fight for the final play-off place. A cross from the experienced Neil Austin in the fifth minute was headed onto the post by Ashley Worsfold with a glancing header, only for an offside flag to deny Gainsborough a chance to pounce on the rebound

 

Five minutes later, a cross from Alex Byrne down the left was deflected into the path of Simon Russell, who was lurking on the edge of the penalty area. His half-volley hit Worsfold en route to goal and was easily fielded by Jake Weaver in the Hednesford goal

 

 The Pitmen's best chance of the game fell to Kieran Wells a minute later - a what a chance it was for the striker, as he traded touches with Reece King before King slipped Wells in behind the Gainsborough defence. Wells tried his luck with a first-time effort that he lifted high over the crossbar as he tried power over placement against Joe Green in the Trinity goal

 

Ben Bailey's long throw has been a fruitful source of goals for the Pitmen in recent games and nearly created another opening for the visitors in the thirteenth minute; a deep throw from the left was flicked on by King and turned goalwards by Kieran Wells before Green pounced on the ball

 

A long, raking clearance from Bailey turned defence into attack for the away side on twenty minutes, with Green racing out of his penalty area to deny Kieran Wells a simple shot on goal with an unorthodox header away from danger on the edge of the penalty area

 

Another long throw from Bailey, this time from the right wing, was again a source of struggle for the Gainsborough defence four minutes later, eventually falling to debutant Reid. His scuffed shot from ten yards out looped up off his shin and into the grateful arms of Green

 

Weaver was forced into a flying save for the Pitmen on thirty-three minutes, making a fine stop to tip over a free-kick from Byrne after Worsfold had bundled over just outside the Hednesford penalty area

 

 More pressure down the left from Gainsborough saw Ant Wilson lay the ball off into the path of Byrne on thirty-nine minutes, whose long-range effort sailed over the crossbar from fully twenty-five yards out

 

 It had been a satisfying half of football for the Pitmen, who had out their troubles behind them to show great character in the first half to go in at the break level with their play-off chasing hosts

 

 Gainsborough started the second period assertively, winning three successive corner kicks in a bid to force that all-important goal to give them a buffer in fifth place. Javan Vidal did well to deny Trinity a chance on fifty-two minutes, heading a long throw away from the boot of Byrne at the far post to deny the midfielder a tap-in from close-range. Vidal's aggression and commitment was once again to be his undoing for the third time since he joined the club in January, as he came off worst in a flying challenge on Byrne after the Gainsborough man had recovered the ball down the left wing following another challenge from Vidal and subsequent block tackle

 

A quick break from the Pitmen on fifty-five minutes saw Reid do well to hold the ball up and feed the impressive Ben O'Hanlon down the left wing, with the on-loan wing-back's cross eventually headed wide by King at the far post 

 

With Vidal still struggling to shake his previous injury, the Pitmen were forced into their first change of the game on sixty-two minutes as the right-back was replaced by newly-crowned player of the year Nathan Fox

 

A deep corner kick from Gainsborough on sixty-two minutes was headed goalwards by Gainsborough skipper Nathan Stainfield, looping a header towards goal and forcing Bailey into a goal-line clearance with a towering header

 

The Hednesford players and supporters felt that they had a legitimate claim for a penalty on sixty-five minutes, as a Bailey long throw toward the near post saw Kieran Wells pushed to the ground by Green in the Gainsborough goal as the pair challenged for the ball. The referee had a good view of the situation and waved away the protests. A good chance that if the roles were reversed, there would have been a free-kick handed to the keeper as match officials lack consistency in their decision-making process

 

O'Hanlon made an aggressive challenge on second-half substitute Hannah on seventy minutes in the penalty area, prompting the home supporters to scream in vain for a penalty kick, such was their desperation to steal into the lead late on

 

 A meandering game exploded back into life on seventy-two minutes, as a simmering feud between Danny Racchi and Wilson finally tipped over the edge. Hannah was the main protagonist as he pulled at Racchi's ponytail, prompting an angry reaction by the combative midfielder. Many of the players on the pitch got involved in a bout of handbags, with former North Ferriby man Wilson showing particular aggression towards Racchi after the pair had clashed in the first half. After consulting with his assistants, the referee showed Racchi a red card for retaliating to Hannah and Wilson for his part in the subsequent brawl. Wilson and Racchi continued to have words as they were escorted off the pitch, relying on both sets of players having to keep the pair apart as they traded insults

 

The red cards fired up both sides, with Gainsborough looking dangerous on the counter-attack as they started to look a little desperate in their attempts to grab a goal. A low free-kick into the penalty area from Byrne on seventy-nine minutes was turned over the bar by Hannah, who lifted his swivel shot horribly over the woodwork from close-range

 

With six minutes remaining, Reid's impressive first start for the club was brought to a premature end as the forward was replaced by Matt Curley for the remainder of the game as the visitors looked to hang on to their point

 

 A fantastic flying tackle from O'Hanlon denied Gainsborough a chance at goal with a minute remaining, making a timely challenge to deny Alex Simmons a chance after Hannah's low cross had fallen kindly for the forward

 

A satisfying afternoon's work for Hayward and his troops, as well as an enjoyable ninety minutes spectating for the travelling Hednesford supporters. Gainsborough, meanwhile, will be smarting at two crucial points dropped that may well let Buxton back into the play-off race against relegated Workington tomorrow. The Pitmen are on the road for one last time next Saturday, as they make their way up the M6 for a trip to fellow mid-table dwellers Witton Albion

 

Gainsborough Trinity: Green, Austin, Davie, Russell, Maguire, Stainfield ©, Byrne (L. Hughes 90), Middleton, Worsfold (Hannah 61), Wilson  (72), B. Hughes       Subs Unused: Simmons, Clarke, Evans

 

Hednesford Town: Weaver, Vidal (Fox 62), O'Hanlon , Harvey, Lupano, Bailey ©, Racchi  (72), King, K. Wells, Reid (Curley 84), B. Wells        Subs Unused: Wright, Hallahan, Lycett

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