Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Grantham Town

McDaid (10), (12), Bull (89)


Hednesford Town

(2) 3

(0) 0




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Emeka Nwadike




Tamworth (H) 29.3.03

The Pitmen are now entrenched in a relegation battle for the second successive season, as Ian Painter clings to his job this evening following another tame reverse, this time at fellow strugglers Grantham Town

Last week's dreadful performance at Folkestone Invicta had seen Painter criticised by many supporters for his inability to motivate his under-performing squad, with the under-fire gaffer reacting to the criticism by making two changes to his side; Graham Lancashire came back into the team in place of goalscorer Mark Jones, who was ruled out due to injury, whilst Wayne Simpson replaced Shaun Wray in midfield. There was a substitute's appearance for Painter's wild-card signing in midweek Richard Eastell, with the young Birmingham University student striker joining the Pitmen as he looked to make the giant step up from amateur football

Grantham had led the standings early on in the season, with the game at Keys Park back in September a top of the table clash at that point, highlighting the fall from grace of both clubs in the second half of the campaign. Gingerbreads manager John Wilkinson had overseen a recent good run of form, winning two of their last five and drawing another to help Grantham into the relative safety of fifteenth place in the table. Stuart Wilson returned to the side after missing the 0-0 draw at Hinckley United in midweek, replacing Rick Ranshaw in the only change to the Gingerbreads side

The dye was cast from the off, as Grantham played all of the football inside the Hednesford half in the opening exchanges; Wilson and Gary Bull linked up well for the first time on four minutes, with Bull's shot lacking power and was easily fielded by Michael Bingham

Three minutes later, Joby Gowshall's fine pass sent Bull away again, with the former York and Barnet striker pulling the ball back into the path of Graham Bowater. The forward could have taken a touch inside the Hednesford penalty area, but elected to shoot first time and blazed over the crossbar and onto the athletics track that surrounds the South Kesteven Stadium pitch

Grantham's early pressure told in the tenth minute, destroying the Pitmen's fragile confidence with the opener through defender Brendon McDaid as a free-kick from John Hawley was powerfully headed past Bingham by the centre-back from eight yards out. A simple goal, but one that should have been avoided by the Pitmen's porous defence

Things went from bad to worse for the men in red, as Grantham struck again two minutes later to essentially end the game as a contest in the first fifteen minutes; McDaid was the man on target once again as another Hawley free-kick dropped to him inside the six-yard box. With no one in red willing or able to clear the bouncing ball, McDaid fired past Bingham from a couple of yards out to leave the Pitmen with a mountain to climb after just twelve minutes of the game

The away side were on the ropes at this stage and were on the canvas four minutes later as Bingham pulled up suddenly after taking a goal kick and gesturing to the bench. Don Drakeley's skills as physio failed to solve the issue, with Bingham forced off with what turned out to be a groin strain. Adam Jenkins was quickly summoned from the bench to replace the former Mansfield Town stopper in somewhat unfortunate circumstances

Jenkins was called into action almost immediately, as a cross from Dominic Hallows was punched away from goal by the substitute - a little unconvincing, it has to be said - as the prolific Bull lurked inside the Hednesford six-yard box

One man that was making a difference in Hednesford's midfield was on-loan Emeka Nwadike, who was having his best game for the Pitmen since joining from Ilkeston Town. His energy and enthusiasm for the game saw him break up a number of Grantham attacks and put the Pitmen back on the front foot

A quick break down the right flank from Grantham double up on Stuart Ryder in the twenty-sixth minute, with Hallows and Hawley played around the left-back with ease before Hallows sent over a fine cross that Bowater scuffed wide of goal from a good position

A corner kick from the hosts on thirty-two minutes saw them go close to adding to their tally as Adrian Speed was afforded too much time and space to meet a Hawley corner kick with his head, diverting his effort over the crossbar and bouncing onto the running track

The Pitmen had been truly devoid of ideas going forward, with their only real chance of an utterly dire first half coming eight minutes before the break; a good cross from David Berks, who had been well shackled by Hawley, dropped invitingly for Steve Piearce, who was a matter of inches away from turning the ball home at the far post

Half-time saw Painter make a risky roll of the dice, bringing on Eastell for Graham Lancashire up front, who had once again looked completely uninterested and lacking in confidence

There was a momentary improvement in the Pitmen's fortunes at the start of the second period, as they created a clutch of openings going forwards in the opening five minutes of the half. Derek Rae strode forward and fired narrowly wide of goal on forty-eight minutes, striking a crisp shot from thirty yards out that flew wide

Two minutes later, Ashley Williams made a strong run forward from his right-back role to meet a cross from Rae, only for Grantham goalkeeper Mario Ziccardi to make his first meaningful contribution to the game with a fine save to turn the youngster's header away from goal

Eastell was working hard in his bid to impress but struggled against the know-how of the Grantham defenders as he and Piearce continued to feed on scraps. The substitute's one and only sight at goal came on fifty-eight minutes as he nipped in to head a Berks cross goalwards, only for his weak effort to drop into the arms of Ziccardi

Grantham had been content to sit back and soak up the inevitable Hednesford pressure, catching them on the counter-attack at will through Bull and Wilson's hard work up front. On sixty-two minutes, Bull did well to nutmeg Darren Simkin and run into the Hednesford penalty area, only for Brindley's crunching tackle to end his progress

McDaid went close to claiming an unlikely hat-trick on sixty-seven minutes, heading horribly wide as the ball glanced off his forehead from a Hawley free-kick at the far post

Painter's final substitution came with fifteen minutes remaining, as Kevin Francis came on in place of Rae to add more attacking threat to his impotent team


Nwadike went closest to grabbing a consolation goal for the Pitmen with ten minutes remaining, heading over the crossbar from a Berks cross after he had made a late run into the six-yard box

A quick break from Grantham on eighty-four minutes saw substitute Ian Wilkins play the ball into Bull, whose clever reverse pass on the edge of the penalty area found Hallows. The midfielder took a touch that forced him wide of goal, allowing Jenkins to narrow the angle and see Hallows fire wide of the target

Another quick counter from the Gingerbreads finally put the Pitmen out of their misery with a minute left, as a long ball forwards from substitute Ranshaw found Bull in acres of space, yards away from any of the retreating Hednesford defenders. Bull took a couple of touches before confidently firing past Jenkins from close range to add to his sixteen goals for the season

Painter faced a number of calls for his head from disgruntled Hednesford supporters at the final whistle, with the Pitmen now only four points above the drop zone after yet another depressingly tame defeat on the road. Their form since the New Year has been utterly dire, and with no sign of a solution on the horizon, one wonders how much longer Painter will be afforded as Hednesford stare at another relegation fight. The tough games continue to come thick and fast, as the Pitmen play host to league leaders and local rivals Tamworth next weekend in what will be a crucial game for both sides - but for very different reasons

Grantham Town: Ziccardi ©, Hawley, George, McDaid, Speed, Gowshall (Wilkins 82), Marshall, Bull, Wilson (Ranshaw 87), Bowater (Last 71), Hallows      Subs Unused: Dye, Hemstock

Hednesford Town: Bingham (Jenkins 17), Williams, Ryder, Simpson, Brindley ©, Simkin, Rae (Francis 75), Nwadike, Lancashire (Eastell 45), Piearce, Berks     Subs Unused: Airdrie, Maguire