Vanarama National League North

Gloucester City

Parker (15), Sterling-James (26)

Hednesford Town

Digie (18), (65)

(2) 2

(1) 2



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Kennedy Digie


Alfreton Town (H) 12.3.16

The Pitmen end what had been another rollercoaster week with a battling point at Whaddon Road this afternoon, coming from behind on two occasions to draw against mid-table Gloucester City

Defeats against Brackley Town and Stockport County during the last seven days had looked to have put paid to Frank Sinclair's tenure at Keys Park, as the former Leicester City defender tendered his resignation at the end of Tuesday night's dreadful 3-0 defeat at Edgeley Park. A change of heart from chairman Steve Price, however, saw Sinclair incredibly re-instated as manager just two days later, handing him a slight increase to his playing budget that allowed him to bring Blackburn Rovers youngster Modou Cham in on loan until the end of the season. Cham was one of three changes to the side that had started in at Edgeley Park for today's game as he made his debut ahead of Danny Glover; Tom Peers replaced the out-of-sorts Kyle Perry up front and Adam Thomas returned to the side after recovering from illness to replace George Cleet. Marvin Robinson shook off his long-standing injury issues to earn himself a place amongst the substitutes

Gloucester - still playing at rivals Cheltenham's ground whilst they continue to plot a return to their home town - had also played in midweek, earning themselves a 1-1 draw against Chorley at Whaddon Road. Long-serving Tigers manager Tim Harris made four changes to his side from the one that had started against Chorley as Matt Williams, Ed Williams, Joe Parker and Spencer Hamilton came into the side ahead of Sam Avery, Omari Sterling-James, the injured Robbie Cundy and Bobbie Dale

On a slightly threadbare surface, the Pitmen started the better of the two sides as they looked to play an expansive game from the off; New boy Cham made an early break down the right flank for the visitors as he picked up Jack Fitzwater's pass, drifting past Billy Jones and moving into the penalty areas before over-running the ball and allowing Matt Williams to clear the danger

On the opposite wing, Shelton Payne was also involved for the visitors in the sixth minute of the game as he danced past Michael Green and took the ball to the byeline, pulling the ball back to Peers who scuffed his shot well wide of goal from eight yards out

On ten minutes, the home side created their first opening of the afternoon as neat approach play from Joe Hanks and Tom Webb saw the midfield pair send Parker away to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area. The young striker got caught in two minds about whether to shoot or lay the ball off to Ed Williams and allowed Ben Bailey to make a smothering block

The Pitmen's oh-so-familiar defensive frailties were exposed once more, however, as Gloucester took the lead in the fifteenth minute of the game. A long, hopeful ball forwards from Lewis Hall seemed to be an easy one to deal with for the Pitmen, only for Kennedy Digie and Dan Crane to make a complete hash of it as they left the bouncing ball to each other, allowing Parker to nip in between them and slip the ball into the empty net from fifteen yards out

The men in red and yellow got themselves back in contention almost immediately, however, as Digie atoned for his error in the build-up to Parker's goal by levelling matters once more. A Sean Williams corner kick drifted over the heads of everyone at the near post and found the head of Digie at the far post, with the young Kidderminster Harriers loanee powerfully heading past Gloucester goalkeeper Jas Singh from close range

Midway through a competitive first half, Payne and Jack Truelove doubled up on Green to work the ball down the left flank, with Payne's eventual cross flicked on by Peers but into the arms of Singh before Cham could react quickly enough

Two minutes later, Bailey's long throw from the right was headed up in the air by Digie and looping up towards goal, forcing Singh to punch the ball over the crossbar for a corner to the visitors

Goalscorer Parker's game was brought to a halt on twenty-four minutes as the centre-forward was forced off due to injury and was replaced by fellow youngster Sterling-James

The Gloucester substitute - recently signed from local football - announced himself in spectacular circumstances as he restored the home side's lead just two minutes after coming on. A long, rangy cross-field pass from Hall drifted over the head of the ball-watching Truelove, allowing Sterling-James to nip in behind the on-loan full-back and rifled a low shot beyond the reach of Crane from eighteen yards out

Gloucester could have added a quickfire third on the half-hour mark as Ed Williams was given far too much time and space to take the ball unchallenged into the Hednesford half, allowing the forward to fire in a long-range effort that Crane watched inches over his crossbar

The hosts continued to press the young and error-riddled Hednesford defence, with Hanks shooting narrowly wide of the target on thirty-three minutes after a loose pass from Fitzwater was picked up by the former Cheltenham Town man, who worked the ball onto his right boot before drilling a low shot a foot or so wide of the target

Tom Thorley's quickly-taken free-kick on thirty-seven minutes found Thomas in space to the right-hand side of the Gloucester penalty area. The young winger moved past Chris Knowles and attempted a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area that lacked enough curve on it as Singh made an easy save

The visitors were seriously lacking in the physicality stakes, allowing Gloucester to boss possession as the likes of Cham, Fitzwater and Truelove were all guilty of giving the ball away under pressure or just being out-muscled as they challenged for the ball. On forty minutes, Fitzwater was eased away from the ball by Hall, who got the better of the full-back as the pair challenged for a pass from Hanks down the left. Hall's low cross was cleared by Bailey but only as far as Sterling-James, whose follow-up shot was shanked over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

A minute before the break, more defensive woes from Truelove saw Sterling-James ease his way past a half-hearted challenge from the defender the substitute cut in from the right. Crane spotted the danger early on and came out his goal to narrow the angle, forcing Sterling-James to attempt a lob over his head that landed on the roof of the net

It had been very much 'as you were' for the Pitmen in the first half as they had shown no improvement from their recent spell of terrible form, once again highlighting their dreadfully poor and naive defending at the back and lacking any bite or creativity up front. Many Hednesford fans perhaps expected a half-time change involving Kyle Perry coming on to add some physicality to the forward line, but this was not the be forthcoming just yet

Good play from Thomas just three minutes into the second half saw the wiry winger beat two challenges and slip the ball through to Peers, whose right-footed shot all along the ground was held by Singh at his near post

On fifty-one minutes, Cham showed nice footwork to outsmart Webb as he cut inside across the pitch from the right, playing a neat reverse pass into the path of Payne, who was pulled up for a tight offside call against him as he made a move a little too early into the penalty area

Peers pressed the Gloucester defence with his tireless work rate and forced Spencer Hamilton into a rushed clearance straight to Thorley on fifty-five minutes. The midfielder took the ball ten yards forwards and attempted to play Cham in on goal rather than shoot, culminating in the ball being stolen off the boot of the youngster by Knowles

Another long throw from Bailey on fifty-eight minutes was headed away by Hamilton but only as far as Sean Williams, whose attempted lob back into the six-yard box was hurriedly cleared by Matt Williams before Thomas could reach the ball

At the other end, Crane snuffed out a potential chance for Ed Williams on sixty-one minutes as he came out of his goal to smother the ball at the feet of the forward after a slide-rule pass from Webb found the ex-Cheltenham trainee, who was denied a clear run onto the ball by Digie's presence

The Pitmen's second equaliser of the afternoon came four minutes later as Digie produced a carbon copy of his first-half goal to level matters once more, making a late dart into the Gloucester penalty area to get in ahead of Green to powerfully head past Singh from close-range as he met another fine Sean Williams corner kick

With the game potentially swinging back the Pitmen's way, Sinclair went bold in his selection choices as he made a double change within two minutes of each other, bringing Perry on for Cham on sixty-six minutes before replacing the error-prone Truelove with the experienced Phil Trainer soon after

Having gone seven games without a goal, Perry looked to grab a long-overdue strike on seventy-one minutes as he leapt highest to meet Thorley's inswinging free-kick from the left, flicking the ball towards goal but was penalised by the referee for a shirt pull on Hamilton in the build-up

Thorley was involved once more for the Pitmen on seventy-four minutes as he got on the end of a flowing move through the centre of the pitch involving Thomas, Bailey and Payne to send Peers away behind the Gloucester defence. The striker took a touch but appeared to rush his shot as he lifted his effort over the crossbar from eighteen yards out

Thorley got himself into another good shooting position twenty yards from goal with eleven minutes remaining, drilling in a low shot from a Thomas pass but seeing Singh make a straightforward stop

The visitors were on top of the game entering the final stages and continued to launch balls into the Gloucester penalty area now that they had Perry to aim at. On eighty-three minutes, a downwards header from the big striker found Thomas, whose attempted shot was blocked by Hamilton before Trainer skied his follow-up into the Hednesford fans behind Singh's goal

Robinson was given a late run out by Sinclair on eighty-five minutes as he looked for one of the big man's now-famous late winners, with the veteran striker replacing Payne to join Peers and Perry up front

Fitzwater crossed from the right-hand touchline two minutes later and found the head of Perry once more, only for the substitute to direct his effort wide of the far post as Singh did enough to put him off standing on the six-yard line

In the first minute of added time, a bout of head tennis inside the Gloucester penalty area saw both Robinson and Digie try and force the ball home from close range only for more resolute late defending from the Tigers to deny their visitors a late winner

It had been a largely frustrating ninety minutes from the Pitmen, who had grown into the game and had finished much the stronger side; on another day and with a little more quality, they probably would have claimed all three points. As it was, a point earned was a fair reflection on the game as a whole but not much use to Sinclair's side as they continue to battle with AFC Telford United, Brackley Town and Corby Town for a place in the bottom three of the table. They return to Keys Park next Saturday when they play host to Alfreton Town, another side sitting in mid-table but already victorious against the Pitmen twice this season in both the Vanarama National League North and the F.A. Cup

Gloucester City: Singh, Green, Jones, M. Williams, Hamilton, Knowles, Webb, Hanks (Richards 75), E. Williams, Parker (Sterling-James 24), Hall (Hicks 75)      Subs Unused: Nkunda, Hannah

Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Truelove (Trainer 68), Bailey ©, Digie, Thorley, Thomas, S. Williams, Peers, Cham (Perry 66), Payne (Robinson 85)      Subs Unused: Ennis, Glover