9.8.2014

Vanarama Conference North

Gainsborough Trinity

Toner (45)

Hednesford Town

(1) 1

(0) 0

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457

Glenn Walker

L

Leamington (H) 12.8.14

Well, that wasn't the start we were all looking for... The Pitmen fluff their lines on the opening day of the new Vanarama Conference North season as they lose to Gainsborough Trinity on a beautifully sunny afternoon in Lincolnshire after a lacklustre first-half display

After a buoyant pre-season programme, Rob Smith's Hednesford side arrived at Gainsborough in confident form, having defeated a number of high profile teams in the last month and performing well against higher league opponents. The side had a settled look to it from the previous Skrill North campaign, with only two players making their league debuts for the club ahead of kick-off. Jamie Ashmore and Glenn Walker were the only new faces in the side that was missing Steve Diggin (injured), James Hurst (injured), Charlie Anagho-Ntamark (loaned out), Lewis Taylor-Boyce and Sam Griffiths. Youth team graduate Brad Smith and pre-season keeper Ryan Price were named amongst the substitutes for the visitors to pad out the bench

Gainsborough had flirted with the Conference North drop zone for much of the previous season, with manager Steve Housham again putting together a competitive squad on a tight budget. He, like Smith, had kept hold of a number of key players and added strength in certain problem areas - one such signing was of giant Danish goalkeeper Jan Budtz, formerly with Wolves and Doncaster Rovers

The reinvigorated figure of Kris Taylor tried his luck for the Pitmen in the first minute of the game, as he seized upon a loose ball from a corner kick but drove his low shot well wide of the left-hand post

Taylor took a more direct route on nine minutes, sending over a glorious corner kick that was headed just wide of goal by centre back Paul McCone

Another Taylor corner kick on fifteen minutes was played short to Darren Campion, whose deep cross from the left wing was headed firmly over the crossbar by Ben Bailey, into the Hednesford supporters behind the goal

Francino Francis was the first Hednesford player to pick up a yellow card in the new season, as he was booked on twenty minutes for a body check on Conor Higginson

From the resultant free-kick, Grant Roberts drove the ball well over of Dan Crane's crossbar with a wild effort from long range

Gainsborough had looked neat and tidy in the first quarter of the game, whereas the Pitmen had looked dangerous on the counter-attack down each flank. Debutant Walker was looking particularly impressive with his pace and trickery down the left-hand side, drifting inside and linking well with the Pitmen's main playmaker Jamey Osborne

Trinity player/coach Darryn Stamp wasted a good opportunity to open the scoring on twenty-five minutes, allowing Crane to scoop the ball up in a dangerous position after a long throw had dropped to him in the penalty area

Three minutes later, Stamp had another chance to pounce on more defensive uncertainty from Hednesford but headed over the crossbar from a corner kick

The Pitmen responded to Gainsborough's short spell of pressure through Jamie Ashmore, whose run and ball found Osborne. The midfielder chested the ball down and fired narrowly wide of Budtz' left-hand post

Crane had to be alert to deal with a dangerous Gainsborough free kick on thirty-six minutes, punching Ciaran Toner's ball away from the head of Stamp as Trinity pushed men into the Hednesford penalty area

Osborne was still looking to find his range in the game, as he missed his second good opportunity of the game on forty minutes; Trinity captain Dom Roma missed the ball, allowing Osborne to pick up the loose ball and fire just wide of the post with a swerving shot

With the board going up to indicate one extra minute at the end of the half, Gainsborough struck with their first effort on target in the game. Roma's deep cross from the right caught the three-man Hednesford defence out, allowing Toner to rise above Ashmore and glance the ball back across goal and past Crane

Rob Smith's half time team talk will have been hastily rewritten after the shock of conceding such a late goal, as Hednesford started the second half chasing the game and looking for a source of inspiration they had lacked in a fairly uninspiring first-half performance

It was midfielder Taylor who looked to get the visitors going again early into the second half, picking up Ashmore's ball and driving a low shot a good couple of yards wide of goal

The pressure slowly started to crank up on the Trinity defence in the next ten minutes, although stout defending from the Trinity centre backs saw chances at a premium for the Pitmen after a succession of corner kick and free kicks failed to create a clear opening

On fifty-seven minutes, a deep Taylor corner kick found the head of McCone, whose downward header fell just wide of the far post

Neat link-up play involving Osborne and Melbourne a minute later saw Melbourne slip the ball into the path of the onrushing Walker, but his bobbled effort was easily fielded by Budtz

 Frustrated with his team's lack of penetration and unbalanced look, Smith made the bold move to switch to a more orthodox 4-4-2 on sixty-three minutes, taking off defender Bailey and replacing him with midfielder Tom Thorley. Utility man Melbourne was also sacrificed to allow Paul Sullivan to come on and play up front with Danny Glover, who had had little or no support for the majority of the game

Sullivan was straight into the action two minutes later, as Taylor's low shot is beaten away by Budtz and into the path of the young striker. Sullivan's rebound shot was also well saved by Budtz, who managed to get enough on the close-range effort to deny Sullivan an equaliser

With fifteen minutes remaining, Marvin Robinson was introduced in place of Glover to add power and presence to the forward line

A Taylor corner kick on seventy-six minutes was nearly headed home by Robinson with what would have been his first touch, but the ball drifted out to McCone at the far post. He seemed surprised that the ball had been missed by everyone else, and nodded the ball wide of goal

A rare foray into the Hednesford half by Trinity on seventy-eight minutes saw Stamp get away from a static Pitmen defence, but with the goal at his mercy he fired horribly over the crossbar with only Crane to beat

Clever play from Sullivan saw him wriggle his way through the Gainsborough defence with nine minutes remaining. At a tight angle, he managed to get his shot away, but only succeeded in firing into the side netting

Another desperate attempt from the Pitmen summed up their luckless afternoon with six minutes remaining, as Budtz made another good save low down to his left to turn Walker's shot away from goal for a corner kick. From the resultant kick, Robinson's bullet header was somehow scrambled off the line by a combination of defender and goalkeeper

With a minute remaining, Sullivan was presented with another great chance to salvage a point for the Pitmen, but his weak header at the far post cleared the crossbar rather than tested the reflexes of Budtz

A disappointing start to the new campaign for anyone of a Hednesford persuasion, with much to work on in terms of general fitness, formation and being clinical in front of goal. Leamington visit Keys Park on Tuesday night to offer the Pitmen another opportunity to kick start their season, with a home double-header the ideal follow-up to an opening day defeat

Gainsborough Trinity: Budtz, Roma ©, Lacey, Roberts, Quinn, Picton, Russell , Toner, Beesley, Stamp, Higginson (Davies 73)       Subs Unused: Binns, Salt, Lobjoit, Emery

Hednesford Town: Crane, Ashmore, Campion ©, McCone, Francis , Bailey (Sullivan 63), Osborne (Thorley 63), Melbourne, Glover (Robinson 73), Taylor, Walker      Subs Unused: Smith, Price

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