16.9.2006

F.A. Cup 1st Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Franklin (88)

Gedling Town

L. Mellon (40)

(0) 1

(1) 1

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Darren Alexander

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Gedling Town (A) 19.9.06

Despite completely dominating the ninety minutes and having countess chances to move into the next round, the Pitmen have to rely on another late goal from Tom Franklin to earn them a replay against plucky Northern Counties East League visitors Gedling Town at an overcast Keys Park this afternoon

 Manager Phil Starbuck returned to the dugout after missing Monday night's 1-0 win over Prescot Cables due to prior commitments and made one change the side for today's cup tie as goalscorer Tom Franklin was restored to the XI in place of Marlon Walters in midfield

Step six Gedling had started their Northern Counties East campaign well and sat in third place in the table having scored sixteen goals already this term. They had earned their crack at the Pitmen courtesy of a 4-0 win over Holbeach United in the final preliminary round so had goals in their locker. Manager Gary Hayward had returned to the club in the summer and named one ex-Hednesford player in his starting XI for today's game as winger Matt Turner - a member of the 2004-2005 Southern Premier League play-off winning squad - started up front for the Yellows

 The Pitmen set their stall out immediately on a grey and overcast afternoon at Keys Park and should have taken the lead with their first chance of the game in the fifth minute. Mario Pedro started and finished the move, clipping a ball into the feet of Phil Hadland initially before the Portuguese winger got on the end of Darren Alexander's flick-on from Hadland's cross, only to turn the ball wide of goal at the far post from a tight angle

Ross Dyer wasted an excellent opportunity to set Hadland up two minutes later as he elected to play Pedro in on goal following a barnstorming run into the penalty area when a pass to the unmarked Hadland would have seen the former Reading winger have a simple tap-in at the far post

Dyer was very much the Pitmen's talisman during a frustrating afternoon for the men in white, with everything positive running through the youngster. He was a matter of inches away from getting on the end of a teasing cross from Hadland in the eleventh minute as the ball in just escaped his attentions

Dyer was denied the afternoon's opener in the fifteenth minute as he got the better of the flimsy Gedling offside trap and raced towards goal, taking the ball around goalkeeper Paul Wilson but seeing his goalbound shot cleared off the line by the covering Andy Vickerton

Gedling midfielder Dion Evans somehow managed to escape a booking from referee Mr Thornhill on twenty-one minutes after hacking down Pedro inside the Hednesford half and coming off worse in the tackle, requiring attention from the Gedling physio. Visiting manager Hayward was unhappy at Pedro's reaction and berated the match officials in an attempt to sway their decision making. This was not to be the only occasion where we would see the Gedling manager acting controversially in the tie

 Pedro was next to attempt a shot for the increasingly frustrated hosts five minutes later, but his run and subsequent effort came to nothing as he blazed well over the crossbar

The Pitmen felt that they should have been awarded a penalty kick on the half-hour mark as Dyer was felled in a challenge with Tim Hogg, only for the referee to remain unconvinced by the appeals and the game continued

Wilson made a fine save three minutes later to turn a rising shot from Hadland away for a corner kick to the hosts, who were spending most of the game inside the Gedling half

Chris White was denied by a brilliant save from Wilson from the corner kick as the ball was worked around the edge of the Gedling penalty area and laid into the path of the veteran midfielder from twenty yards out

A rare attack from Gedling on thirty-eight minutes saw Turner make a run towards the Hednesford penalty area before being halted by Adams. His pass out to the wing found Pedro, who in turn played Franklin in down the left flank. His deep cross was aimed at Dyer, who was a whisker away from connecting with a header at the far post

 

Despite having the best of proceedings so far, Hednesford were handed an almighty shock as their lower league opponents took an unexpected lead on forty minutes; a deep and hopeful free-kick from the right dropped into the Pitmen's six-yard box and was not cleared by a hesitant home defence, allowing former Sheffield striker Lee Mellon to scramble the ball past Ryan Young from six yards out

Alexander almost conjured up an immediate response for the shell-shocked hosts but he failing to hit the target with a wild effort from ten yards out following a Pedro corner kick that had fallen at his feet

Half-time was greeted with a chorus of frustrated boos and cat-calls from an angry Keys Park crowd, who could not quite believe that their side were somehow losing a game that they had absolutely dominated

Hednesford's dominance continued into the early stages of the second half as the chances continued to tot up for the hosts. It was actually Turner who was to have the first chance of the second period as he made a run into the Hednesford penalty area on fifty minutes but was denied by a smothering save at his feet by Young, who also denied Turner a minute later with his leg to divert the midfielder's shot away from goal at his near post

Wilson made a fine save to tip a Pedro snapshot over his crossbar on fifty-six minutes, with Pedro's resultant corner kick nearly turned home at the far post by Dyer only to be denied by Scott Mellon as he turned the shot behind for another corner kick

Franklin was pushed further forwards by Starbuck, who will have been acutely aware of previous Hednesford managers paying a heavy price for failing in the F.A. Cup to lower league opponents by losing their jobs

A long lump forwards from Adams on sixty-six minutes was flicked on by Alexander and into the path of Pedro, whose first-time half-volley was easily saved by Wilson on his line

Good play from White on seventy-one minutes saw him win the ball from Evans and supply Hadland with the ball down the right. The winger skipped past Hogg's challenge and clipped a cross to the far post, where Alexander stretched to meet the ball but headed wide as he beat Vickerton to the ball

Alexander was again off-target in the air four minutes later as he reached a Franklin cross and headed over the crossbar as he got underneath the ball inside the six-yard box

Walters was sent on by an increasingly desperate Starbuck with nine minutes to go, replacing White in midfield as the Pitmen looked for more pace and legs in his team

The chances continued to mount up for the home side as Dyer scuffed his shot wide on eighty-three minutes before Hadland drove his shot into the side-netting after cutting in from the right flank a minute later

You got the feeling that it was perhaps not going to be the Pitmen's day as a corner kick from Pedro with four minutes remaining culminated in a mass ruck inside the Gedling six-yard box and three Hednesford players having shots blocked, deflected or saved before Gedling somehow cleared their lines

Just as looked as though Gedling were indeed going to hang on to a famous win, the Pitmen finally grabbed a late equaliser with just two minutes remaining; Franklin - the Pitmen's goalscorer on Monday night with a late winner against Prescot - produced the good once more as he did well to turn past Carl Horder on the edge of the penalty area as he received the ball from Walters, taking the ball into the penalty area before slotting past Wilson and into the net from ten yards out

The relief was palpable around the ground, although there was still time for Gedling to produce a late chance to win it at the death. Substitute Jimmy Spears was given time and space to advance on the Hednesford penalty area and shoot from twenty-five yards, forcing Young into making a superb full-length save down to his left to push the ball away and prevent a certain goal for the visitors

The Pitmen can be relieved at still being in the competition after rescuing the game late on, but Starbuck will be deeply unhappy with his side's wastefulness in front of goal over the ninety minutes and will want them to be much more assertive when the two sides meet again at Gedling's Riverside Ground on Tuesday night in the replay

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Marshall, White (Walters 81), Jellicoe ©, Screaton, Pedro, Franklin, Dyer, Alexander, Hadland       Subs Unused: Groves, Meakin-Richards, Ridley, Brown

Gedling Town: Wilson, Pratt, S. Mellon, Hogg, Vickerton ©, Horder, Evans (Widdowson 80), L. Mellon, Jones (Spears 66), Turner, Jepson      Subs Unused: Green, Scaife

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