2.10.2018

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Grantham Town

McGovern (58) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Fitzpatrick (25), Howard (90)

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(1) 2

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Lewis Archer

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Kettering Town (A) 6.10.18

The Pitmen get back to winning ways on their travels this evening with a fine performance and result against high-flying Grantham Town at the South Kesteven Stadium

 

Saturday's tame second-half showing at Marine appeared to be the final straw for manager Rob Smith, who brutally dispensed with the services of a number of players ahead of tonight's tough encounter. Out went Dan Cockerline, Reece King, Nathan Fox, Jed Davies and Matt Dodd, replaced by the returning quartet of Michael Howard, Jermain Hollis, Sam Griffiths and Sam Grimshaw. There was also a new face in the side after the Pitmen had clinched the loan signing of young Solihull Moors midfielder Callum Coyle earlier in the day, with the nineteen-year-old going straight into the much-changed side as the fifth addition

 

Ian Culverhouse's Grantham side had made a strong start to the new season after last season's near-miss in the play-offs, lying fifth in the table at the start of play following a 3-2 win over Whitby Town on Saturday. Culverhouse had himself been busy in the transfer market, bringing in defender Taylor Gray and midfielder Joe Smith into his small squad in the past few days to add to his numbers

 

On a cool early October evening, in front of a sparse crowd, it was the Pitmen who were to make the bright start with a forceful opening ten minutes; Captain Stefan Galinski - playing against his former club - headed weakly into the arms of Theo Richardson in the Grantham goal on three minutes, getting on the end of a Griffiths long throw to flick his effort straight at Richardson

 

Three minutes later, the Pitmen had a great chance to open the scoring, but lacked conviction in the final third to finish off a great move; Lewis Archer did brilliantly to hold off two challenges down the right wing and play the ball back into the path of Matt Curley, whose deep cross found Grimshaw. The winger elected to cross rather than shoot and crossed for Joe Fitzpatrick, whose tame shot at goal from twelve yards out was blocked

 

Josef Bursik almost handed Grantham a chance at goal with a nervy moment on eleven minutes, as he fumbled a long throw from Daniel Horton in his own six-yard box and had to rely on Griffiths to hack the ball away from goal with Ryan Oliver lurking

 

Two minutes later, more brilliant forward play from Archer saw him outmuscle Horton down the left-wing and play the ball back to Grimshaw, whose deep cross was volleyed across the face of goal by Curley and cleared from goal by Jack McGovern

 

New boy Coyle was showcasing his abilities in their full, offering enthusiasm and genuine skill to the midfield area, something lacking in the past few games. He was to create an opening for himself on sixteen minutes, skipping inside three Grantham challenges before striking the ball straight into the arms of Richardson from the edge of the penalty area

 

Two minutes later, a deep, probing cross from Griffiths out on the right found Galinski in the penalty area, with the centre-back heading inches wide of Richardson's right-hand post

 

The Pitmen gabbed a well-earned and richly-deserved lead in the twenty-fifth minute, with another contender for goal of the season from midfield man Fitzpatrick. Galinski was awarded a free-kick some twenty-five yards from goal following a foul, with Fitzpatrick stepping up to unleash a powerful dipping, swerving shot that flew high into the top far corner of the net. There was no way Richardson was to stop it - an absolute rocket of a shot and Fitzpatrick's first goal of the season

 

Archer was proving a real thorn in the Grantham side with his pace and power, beating three Grantham players on twenty-nine minutes before playing the ball into the path of Cotyle. The youngster elected to try and play in Howard rather than shoot, with the ball eventually finding the Preston loanee via a deflection. Howard's shot, however, lacked power and was easily fielded by Richardson

 

Bursik made his first real save in anger on thirty-four minutes, making a block at his near post to deny Ross Barrows the opportunity to pull his cross back into the six-yard box

 

Grantham pressed as the half came to a close, with Bursik saving from a Tom Siddons header and watching a snap-shot from McGovern sail high over the crossbar with the final effort of a watchable first-half

 

The hosts reappeared with far more purpose in the second half, determined to level matters after a disappointing display in front of their own fans. The visitors were handed a blow early on in the half with an injury to Grimshaw, who pulled up holding his hamstring on fifty-two minutes and eventually had to be replaced by Fox

 

Grantham's early pressure paid dividends on fifty-seven minutes, as the Gingerbreads were handed a golden opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. Cenk Acar's run down the left wing was stopped by Hollis, who was outdone by attacking midfielder as he checked back onto his right foot and only succeeded in bringing down Grantham's number eleven just inside the penalty area. McGovern stepped up and confidently dispatched his penalty high to Bursik's left-hand side to level the game once more. Bursik was also booked for arguing about the decision following the award of the penalty

 

Despite this setback, Hednesford continued to play the better brand of football, with the excellent Archer forcing a corner kick on the hour mark with his persistence. Fox's dangerous inswinging corner kick found the head of Griffiths, whose effort from close range drifted over the crossbar

 

Another excellent set-piece, this time from Fitzpatrick, found Archer once again on sixty-five minutes, with the midfielder's high, dipping free-kick dropping onto the head of the striker, whose effort was saved by Richardson

 

Grantham offered little going forward, relying on long balls over the top and set-pieces to create the few chances they had in the second period. Siddons forced Bursik into a fine save to his right on seventy minutes, with the young keeper parrying the striker's low shot as it looked to be creeping into the far corner of the net before Bursik's intervention. He followed this up with a fine smothering block to deny Oliver on the rebound, turning a certain goal away for a corner kick from close-range

 

Archer tested the reflexes of Richardson with seventeen minutes remaining, cutting inside from the left-wing and trying his luck with a cross-cum-shot that the Grantham keeper turned away from goal

 

Archer linked up with Howard to create another great opening on seventy-five minutes, playing a one-two with his fellow forward before heading Howard's cross weakly towards goal from twelve yards out. Coyle did well to recycle the ball and curl his subsequent shot well wide of goal from the edge of the penalty area

 

Two minutes later Richardson kept his side in the game with a fine save to somehow deny Archer a certain goal; a flowing move down the right involving Curley and Howard saw the ball slipped through to Hollis, whose inch-perfect cross found Archer. The striker's side-footed effort looked goalbound until Richardson's late intervention, saving with his legs to turn the ball behind for a Hednesford corner

 

With eleven minutes remaining, Coyle's excellent debut was brought to a premature end as he as replaced by Jed Davies in midfield

 

Davies's first involvement in the game came in the form of a powerfully-struck effort from twenty yards out on eighty-two minutes, forcing Richardson into another fine flying save to his right to deny the substitute his fourth goal of the season

 

The tricky Acar won another free-kick in a dangerous position for Grantham with six minutes remaining, with Max Watters' kick dribbling through a sea of legs and towards goal. Griffiths did enough to deny substitute Smith inside the six-yard box, turning the ball over the crossbar in a dangerous area and deny Grantham a certain goal

 

Both sides had chances in the final minutes, but a draw looked the likeliest outcome until the game entered added time. Fox and Davies linked up down the left, with Davies given time to send over a brilliant cross from the edge of the area and find Howard at the far post, with the youngster gambling to make a run in behind the Grantham defence and nod the ball past Richardson from close-range for the winning goal

 

Before the game could kick off again, King was brought on to add an extra insurance policy to the Hednesford backline, replacing the outstanding Archer for the three remaining minutes of added time   

 

It was an impressive reaction from Smith's side following their defeat at the weekend, with the win taking them above local rivals Stafford Rangers into eleventh place in the table. It is a timely win for the Pitmen ahead of the big F.A. Cup third qualifying round tie at Kettering Town on Saturday, with the little matter of £15,000 at stake against the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League Central leaders

 

Grantham Town: Richardson, Barrows, Luto, Thompson, Ward ©, Horton (Curtis 80), Watters, McGovern, Oliver, Siddons (Smith 80), Acar     Subs Unused: Gray, McCormick, Bastos

 

Hednesford Town: Bursik , Mendez-Jones, Griffiths, Fitzpatrick, Galinski ©, Hollis, Curley, Coyle (Davies 79 )Archer (King 90), Howard, Grimshaw (Fox 54)   Subs Unused:  Cockerline, Edge

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