Southern Premier League

Grantham Town

Clarke (39), (44)

Hednesford Town

(2) 2

(0) 0



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Leon McSweeney



Tiverton Town (H) 20.11.04

 Two costly errors from the normally-dependable Ryan Young were to cost the Pitmen dearly at the South Kesteven Stadium tonight as Grantham are handed two goals in the first half to beat their fellow mid-table dwellers 


Unsurprisingly, Hednesford manager Chris Brindley stuck with the same side that had hammered King's Lynn 5-1 at the weekend, with four goal hero Andy Bell passed fit to play his second game in four days after being an initial doubt for Saturday's game due to a knee injury

Grantham - also sitting down in mid-table after an inconsistent campaign so far - had been beaten by play-off chasing Aylesbury United at the South Kesteven Stadium at the weekend, ending a mini run of good form for the Gingerbreads that had seen them go four games unbeaten. Player/manager Lee Glover was forced into one very important change to his side for tonight's game, having seen regular goalkeeper Mario Ziccardi taken off against Aylesbury due to injury, ruling him out of tonight's game. He was replaced by young Lincoln City loanee Ayden Duffy, who came straight into make his Grantham debut

On a pitch that the Pitmen have historically struggled on over the years, the all-sky-blue visitors made a fine start to the game as Matt Turner made a great run down the right flank and floated in a cross to the far post that was a touch too high for Leon McSweeney to reach as he tried to beat Dominic Hallows to the ball

McSweeney was involved again for the Pitmen in the fifth minute as Grant Beckett won a free-kick for Hednesford to the left of the penalty area, allowing McSweeney to curl his subsequent shot over the Grantham wall but straight at young loanee Duffy

Player/assistant manager Adrian Speed went close to opening the scoring for the hosts in the eight minute as a quick passage of play saw him pick up an incisive pass from striker Jason Turner but got his laces underneath the ball and lifted his shot from eighteen yards out over the head of Young and high over the crossbar

McSweeney was looking sharp and alert for the Pitmen, playing a quick-one two with Andy Bell in the twelfth minute as they left Adam Sturgess in their wake. However, a late offside flag against the Irishman denied him a clear shot at goal as he bore down on Duffy

Former Rushden & Diamonds man Tim Wooding took a quick thrown in for the Gingerbreads in the fifteenth minute and found Fabien Smith in space down the right flank. The former Rugby Town man turned past youngster Mark Branch and sent in a low cross that was dummied by Turner into the path of the incoming Jim Neil, whose shot took a nick off the heel of Brindley and went wide of the right-hand post

Good hold-up play from Bell four minutes later saw the former Blackburn Rovers youngster hold off the attentions of Shaun Reddington and bring skipper Carl Palmer into the play. The midfield man rode a sliding challenge from Speed and feinted to short, taking Reddington out of there game also. However, his right-footed shot lacked power and eventually bobbled straight through to Duffy

Midway through the first half, Lee Barrow did well to clear the danger under pressure from Clarke as Speed's ball into the Hednesford six-yard box was a matter of inches way from being turned home by the toe of the striker

In the twenty-seventh minute, McSweeney held up an Anthony Maguire pass and turned Hallows well before shooting narrowly wide of the mark with Duffy beaten as he attempted an ambitious effort from a tight angle

Just after the half hour mark, Reddington was allowed to run deep into the Hednesford half before trying his luck from twenty-five yards out with a rising shot that Young watched sail over the crossbar and bounce onto the athletics track that surrounds the South Kesteven Stadium pitch


The dangerous McSweeney went closest of anyone to grabbing the night's opening goal on thirty-three minutes as he tricked his way past Sturgess and made his way into the penalty area. With Bell calling for the ball at the far post, McSweeney instead attempted a left-footed shot on the run that beat Duffy at his near post but came back off the base of the post before being cleared


Two minutes later, the hosts themselves hit the woodwork as a well-crafted move involving Reddington and Willis Francis saw the latter crossing for the incoming Speed, whose downward header came back off the far post with Young beaten

With six minutes of the first half remaining, Young made his first error of judgement to gift the game's opening goal to the hosts; Barrow's simple backpass to the stopper saw Young take his eye off the ball momentarily and slice the ball horribly into the path of Clarke, who eventually turned the ball into the net with an untidy bobbling shot that just had enough to carry it over the line

Back came the Pitmen as they looked for an immediate response and Brindley powerfully headed an inswinging Matt Turner corner kick inches over Duffy's crossbar two minutes later


 However, Young's misfortune was to strike once more with a minute of the first half remaining as Neil's underhit cross was fumbled by the stopper at his near post, allowing Clarke to once again benefit as he turned the loose ball home from close-range, despite Barrow's best efforts to keep the ball out

Despite giving as good as they got in the first period, it was a bitter pill to swallow for the Pitmen at the break being two goals down, as they looked a threat going forwards through Bell and McSweeney to little reward. The Pitmen elected to make a change at the half-time break as Lee Williams came on in midfield in place of the out-of-sorts Matt Turner

They started the second half strongly as they searched for a quick response, with Beckett exchanging passes with Branch and crossing for Bell in the forty-ninth minute, only for the young striker's volley to fly wide of there upright from ten yards out

Three minutes later, Richard Teesdale was given a ticking-off by the referee for hacking down Neil down the Grantham left wing to deny the winger space to cross


McSweeney thought that he had reduced the deficit for the Pitmen on fifty-seven minutes as he got in ahead of Reddington to turn Maguire's low driven cross home past Duffy from six yards out. However, a late, late offside flag on the main stand side denied McSweeney his well-deserved goal as the referee ruled it out

Jason Turner's final action before he was substituted a few moments later was to clip Speed's pass into the path of Clarke once more, only for his strike partner to lash his shot high over the crossbar as he was pressurised into a hurried shot by Teesdale

Maguire's fine delivery from set-pieces had been unusually hit and miss for the Pitmen this evening, with one overheat corner kick on sixty-three minutes being recycled by Beckett down the left wing; the utility man sent over a cross back across the face of goal, but the ball was toes-poked wide of the post by an over-stretching Palmer

The Pitmen's first substitution of the evening came a minute later as assistant manager Steve Anthrobus came on to add his weight to proceedings, with the veteran striker replacing Maguire. This saw Beckett moved to the left flank to cover for Maguire's replacement as the Pitmen went to a 4-3-3 formation

However it was the Gingerbreads who almost made it three nil on sixty-nine minutes as Speed's well-taken corner drifted over everyone in sky blue and was met by Reddington at the far post, who could not steer his effort home from close-range and instead headed wide of the target

Palmer won a free-kick for the Pitmen with nineteen minutes remaining after being brought down by Smith and left the ball to Williams to spot. The veteran midfield man elected to drill in a shot from twenty yards out rather than curl a shot over the wall and saw his effort tipped away by Duffy for a corner kick

From Williams' resultant corner, Barrow's deft flick-on at the near post bounced around the Grantham six-yard box before Hallows finally cleared away form the lurking McSweeney

Grantham substitute Richard Weale made an immediate impact after replacing Neil with fifteen minutes remaining, skipping past both Palmer and Teesdale before sending over a cross that Young claimed at the far post ahead of Clarke, although he was clearly still looking a little nervous as he claimed the ball at the second attempt

With eleven minutes remaining, a slalom-like run from Speed saw him beat Palmer, Williams and Barrow before he played substitute Kamar Smithen into the penalty area with a fine pass. However, the striker wanted too much time to make his mind up and Brindley came across to clear the danger

Having had a mixed bag of set-pieces all evening long, Barrow took responsibility for the next Hednesford free-kick on eighty-two minutes as Beckett was found to the left-hand side of the Grantham penalty area. the defender unleashed a full-blooded effort that took a nick off the Grantham wall but sailed a foot or so over Duffy's crossbar


With six minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their final change of the game as midfielder Marlon Walters came on to add his aggression to the game as he replaced the tiring Beckett


Walters was involved two minutes later as a strong run from the former Wolves man saw him tee up midfield partner Palmer on the edge of the Grantham penalty area, only for the flame-haired former Rushall man to slice his shot well wide of Duffy's left-hand post


With two minutes remaining, a quick break from Grantham caught the Pitmen square as Speed and Smith's quick interplay played Clrke through on goal, only for a late, and most likely incorrect, offside flag to halt the striker's progress and deny him a hat-trick. On closer inspection, Clarke was at least a yard behind play when he received the ball so this was to prove a poor decision by the officials


In the first of three minutes of added time, Walters rose highest to meet a Williams free-kick out on the right wing, heading towards goal but being denied a late goal by Hallows' goal line clearance


It had been a keenly-contested ninety minutes between two fairly evenly-matched sides, separated only by two moments of madness from Young in the first period to hand Grantham the points. The Pitmen return to Keys Park once more at the weekend when they face Tiverton Town, a side currently struggling towards the foot of the Southern Premier League table

Grantham Town: Duffy, Wooding (Spafford 80), Hallows, Sturgess, Reddington, Speed, Smith, Francis, Clarke, J. Turner (Smithen 61), Neil (Weale 75)       Subs Unused: Huckerby, Sutton

Hednesford Town: Young; Teesdale, Branch, Barrow, Brindley, Beckett (Walters 84), Maguire (Anthrobus 64), Palmer ©, Bell, McSweeney, M. Turner (Williams 45)     Subs Unused: Rogers, Evans