UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Pedro (23), W. Dyer (26), R. Dyer (71)


Phillips (65), Cave (86) (penalty)

(2) 3

(0) 2



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Paul Evans


Guiseley (H) 17.3.08

Hednesford returned to winning ways with a well-deserved win over high-flying Gateshead in a thoroughly enjoyable game at Keys Park this afternoon as they edged out the play-off chasing Heed by the odd goal in five


Two familiar faces were returning to the starting XI for the Pitmen today as manager Phil Starbuck once again shuffled the pack. Reece Styche making his long-awaited return from injury up front in place of Sam Hall and goalkeeper Paul Evans returned to the club on a dual registration deal with Causeway United to cover for Ben Scott's suspension

Second-placed Gateshead had blown their chance to chase down runaway league leaders Witton Albion in midweek after losing 2-0 to the champions-elect at Wincham Park, leaving them to consolidate their place in the play-off places in the remaining games. Manager Ian Bogie made two changes to his side for this afternoon's game as Jamie Harwood and Wayne Phillips replaced Paul Brayson and Craig Baxter respectively

The home side started well, having had a fortnight's break following defeat at Whitby Town, looking fresh and motivated from the off. Giant striker Rory May could have given the Pitmen the lead in the second minute, but his header failed to test former Port Vale keeper Paul Musselwhite in the Gateshead goal as he nodded a cross from Mario Pedro wide of the far post

Gateshead gave the Keys Park crowd a glimpse of why they are flying high in the league as a fine piece of play through the centre of the park saw Graeme Armstrong fire in a low shot at goal that Evans did well to turn away for a corner

Evans again came to the Pitmen's rescue five minutes later as he fielded a bobbling shot from the dangerous Dave Southern, who had given the hosts the runaround in the reverse fixture at the International Stadium in September

Good play from Harwood on eleven minutes saw the other prolific Gateshead forward step inside a challenge from Ross Adams and lift his shot from the corner of the Hednesford penalty area just over Evans's crossbar

Hednesford skipper Tom Marshall responded with a great chance to open the scoring four minutes later but headed tamely over the crossbar from close-range as he rose to meet a corner kick from Chad Sheppard

The first quarter of the game was being played almost like a cup tie with both sides playing good football in search of a goal. Phil Turnbull nearly scored for the Heed with a rising shot on twenty minutes that cleared the crossbar, with the Pitmen breaking quickly from the goal-kick and Pedro sending a cross into the Gateshead penalty area that caused chaos in the ranks, culminating in Musselwhite claiming the ball ahead of the onrushing Styche

The Pitmen finally made the crucial breakthrough midway through the first half as they took the lead through the tricky Pedro; a Kris Gate ball back to Musselwhite was way too short for the veteran stopper, allowing Pedro to nip in and chip the ball past the keeper from eight yards out with an opportunistic strike

The home side had their tails up and went further in front three minutes later. Some of the best interplay we have witnessed all season lead to the goal with Ross Dyer and Styche combining well to set up Wayne Dyer, who fired a magnificent, and frankly, unstoppable shot past a bemused Musselwhite to double the Pitmen's lead in double-quick time

Gateshead were rattled at the Pitmen's sudden glut of goals and nearly gifted the hosts another goal on thirty-one minutes as another lazy pass across the back line from Phil Cave was seized upon by Ross Dyer, only for Musselwhite to take advantage of a heavy touch from the youngster to smother the ball at his feet

The away side were looking a little out of ideas going forwards and were limited to long-range efforts and chances from set pieces. An inswinging corner kick from Cave on thirty-six minutes was met by the towering James Curtis, who headed just wide of the near post as he was put under pressure by Marshall

Midfield man Sheppard tested Musselwhite on forty minutes from a free-kick, curling a shot over the wall and towards the corner of the net. Musselwhite made a meal of the shot and fumbled it in front of Styche but did enough to scoop the ball away from the youngster's boot

It had been a pleasing first period's work from the Pitmen, who had looked a much more put-together outfit in the first forty-five minutes than had for arguably any game so far this term

However, you could not discount Bogie's side and they started the second half with purpose; Southern out-muscled Ben Brown on forty-seven minutes and played strike partner Harwood in on goal, only for Marshall to just get a toe on the striker's shot and divert it just wide of goal

Evans was called upon to keep the Pitmen two goals to the good four minutes later as Southern lifted his shot over the head of the goalkeeper but was denied by Evans tipping his shot over for a corner kick

Good play from Phillips on fifty-seven minutes saw him skip past a sliding challenge from Liam McDonald and take a touch before picking out Harwood with a fine cross. The striker was pulled up however before he could turn the ball past Evans from close-range as he was penalised for pulling Marshall back in the build-up

Styche's comeback was brought to a half just before the hour mark, as the visibly shattered teenager was replaced by Alan Nagington up front after relentlessly chasing down through ball after through ball

Gateshead had been the king of comebacks this season with several points gained after being behind in games. Evans was again called upon on sixty-two minutes to keep them from getting back into the contest as he made a five saving to turn away a well-struck Cave free-kick

Pedro's scoring record has been excellent this season, something that seems to have gone unnoticed by the masses at Keys Park who always seem to want more. Het could have added another to his collection with a dipping shot on sixty-five minutes that Musslewhite saw over the bar

Gateshead did get themselves back onto the game a minute later as another good passing move from the men in claret saw Armstrong carve open the Hednesford defence with a ball to Phillips, who fired past Evans and into the far corner of the net from twelve yards out

Phillips almost snatched an equaliser for the visitors five minutes later, but the excellent Evans was on hand to deny the Gateshead man as he palmed Phillips's low shot away for a Gateshead corner kick

From the resultant Cave corner kick, both Curtis and Southern challenged but got in each other's way and allowed Ben Brown to head the ball clear from underneath his own crossbar

The Pitmen restored their two-goal advantage with nineteen minutes of the game remaining courtesy of the club's top scorer Ross Dyer. The ever-dependable Adams, playing in his natural position at right-back for a rare occasion, crossed for Dyer to bring the ball down, swivel and fire past Musselwhite in the same action from fifteen yards out - a truly memorable goal from the youngster who further underlined his burgeoning reputation in front of goal

This seemed to act as a big blow for the away side, who were rattled by the Pitmen's third goal and struggled to muster up a response with the hosts keeping things tight in midfield. Armstrong's bobbling shot all along the floor was easily field by Evans on seventy-six minutes with what was their best attempt at goal

Evans had everyone on their feet ten minutes from time as he made a world-class save to deny substitute Steve Bowey by pushing his point-blank range header away for a corner kick. A superb stop from the former youth team player

Gateshead, to their credit, continued to plug away and carried on searching for another goal to get them back into the game at this late stage. Baxter - on as a substitute - flicked on a free-kick from Phillips into the path of Turnbull on eighty-five minutes, only for the former Hartlepool man to lash his shot wide of goal from the penalty spot


The Heed did get a goal back with their next attack however a minute later; McDonald, looking uneasy in an unfamiliar left-back role, clashed with Armstrong as the striker danced past him and into the penalty area, culminating in the former Halesowen man bringing him down. The assistant referee had appeared to have flagged Armstrong offside before the coming together, but referee Mr Radford overruled it and pointed to the spot. Cave spotted the ball and confidently sent Evans the wrong way from the resultant kick to reduce the deficit to 3-2

There was still time for one more save from Evans's repertoire as Gateshead pressed late on for an equaliser, making another outstanding save to deny Southern in the first minute of added time as he tipped the ball over the bar with a brilliant one-handed stop

It had been a hard-fought, but pleasing display from the Pitmen which once again leaves the Hednesford supporters pondering what could have been from this season with a little more good luck, having also seen them go toe-to-toe with champions-elect Witton in January as well as today's win. It is another one of the top five that come calling on Monday night, as play-off chasers Guiseley travel down from West Yorkshire for a re-arranged midweek league game

Hednesford Town: Evans, Adams, McDonald, Sheppard, Marshall ©, B. Brown, R. Dyer, W. Dyer, Styche (Nagington 59), Pedro     Subs Unused: Maguire, Fussell

Gateshead: Musselwhite, Gate (Baxter 72), Cave, Salvin, Curtis, Jones (Thompson 86), Southern, Turnbull, Armstrong, Harwood (Bowey 55), Phillips        Sub Unused: Brayson

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