10.3.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Starbuck (29), Alexander (37)

Grantham Town

(2) 2

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

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614

Phil Starbuck

W D L L W L D L L W

Burscough (H) 12.3.07

Hednesford finally got back to winning ways after four winless games this afternoon as they completed a league double over basement side Grantham Town at Keys Park courtesy of a double first-half strike

There were several standout names on the teamsheet for the supporters to digest just before kick-off, with the most surprising being that of manager Phil Starbuck, who had elected to end his retirement and name himself in the starting XI as one of three changes to the side that had been beaten at North Ferriby United last weekend as he replaced Justin Jenkins. Former Stafford Rangers left-back Alan Dodd had joined the club in midweek and came straight into the side in favour of the injured Jamie March, whilst Gary Sucharewycz was passed fit to return to the side in place of Danny Bacon, whose wife had gone into labour earlier in the day

Rock-bottom Grantham had been on a long-running run without a win, going back into 2006 and over the last eleven league games. Manager Adrian Speed made one change to the side that had lost 4-2 at fellow strugglers Leek Town in midweek as Nigel Wallace came in up front in place of Jason Turner

It was Starbuck who made the early running for the Pitmen as he burst into the Grantham penalty area in the fourth minute and attempted to play Darren Alexander in, only for former Hednesford man Rhys Powell to clear the danger

 

The Pitmen's new player/manager was involved again three minutes later as he picked up an Iain Screaton throw-in and played a one-two with Dodd, only for his twenty-yard shot to be saved by Grantham goalkeeper Danny Tomlinson

Despite their lowly league position, Grantham were proving a tough nut to crack for the hosts and almost took the lead against the run of play in the ninth minute as top scorer Jon Douglas got the better of Sucharewycz as he latched onto a pass from former Hednesford midfielder Ian Robinson, only for Screaton to make a timely tackle on the former Coventry City man as he shaped to shoot

 The Pitmen broke straight down the other end three minutes later as Ross Dyer using his pace to good effect to get past Russell Peel and cross towards Alexander, only for Powell to turn the ball away from goal

Sucharewycz headed into the fans gathered in the Heath Hayes terrace on fifteen minutes as he headed Marshall's flick-on wide of the far post from Phil Hadland's inswinging corner kick

 Alexander appeared to be thriving on playing up front again after a handful of games playing as an auxiliary defender and went close to opening the scoring on twenty minutes with a diving header from Screaton's cross that flew just wide of the far post

Sucharewycz's return from injury lasted only twenty-three minutes as he pulled up with what appeared to be a reoccurrence of the groin injury he had recently suffered. After trying to play on for a moment, the defender was replaced by another player who had only just returned from injury in the form of Ross Adams

Another long throw from Screaton on twenty-seven minutes found the boot of Starbuck, whose cross found Alexander fifteen yards from goal. Before the striker could get his shot away, however, he was shut down by Brett Lovell and was forced to turn away from goal before being dispossessed

Peel picked up the first and only yellow card of the game on twenty-nine minutes as he brought down Starbuck just outside the Grantham penalty area. Starbuck took the resultant free-kick and drove a low shot at goal that was fumbled into the net by Tomlinson

The Gingerbreads should have drawn level once more just four minutes later as Wallace fired high and wide of goal from only ten yards out after a good piece of play from Robinson and Douglas

Hadland and Adams linked up well down the right for the Pitmen on thirty-six minutes to play around Peel and get Hadland to the byeline; the winger's cross was flicked away by Lovell but fell to Dyer, whose scuffed first-time shot was easily fielded by Tomlinson

Alexander got his reward for a typically committed performance sixty seconds later, controlling a Hadland chipped pass before holding off Tom Manship's challenge and firing low past Tomlinson into the net from fifteen yards with an angled drive

The Pitmen were playing fluently for the first time in several games and nearly made it three-nil on forty-three minutes as Hadland was played in by Starbuck's incisive pass, only for Lovell to make a timely block with a deflection off his right leg

It had been an impressive first period from the hosts who had shown signs of their pre-2007 form, albeit against a Gingerbreads side struggling for form and confidence

With very little to lose, Grantham came out swinging at the start of the second period and Douglas went close to adding to his season's tally on fifty minutes as Douglas fired wide of Ryan Young's left-hand post

Dyer responded for the hosts on fifty-three minutes with a mazy run past three Grantham players as he cut in from the left. The youngster elected to shoot from eighteen yards out rather than pass to Hadland and lifted his effort over the crossbar

Adams touched a free-kick to Screaton on fifty-eight minutes whilst the Grantham wall was still getting itself set, with the midfielder drilling a low shot wide of goal from twenty-five yards out

Grantham was enjoying more possession in the second period but lacked the quality in the final third to make it count against a Hednesford defence that was being well organised by Tom Marshall and Adams

White's deflected shot on sixty-four minutes fell into the path of Alexander, whose sidefooted effort from twelve yards out was pushed away by Tomlinson for a Hednesford corner kick

Dyer was having a fine half, teasing and testing the Grantham defence with his quick, direct play. A fine pass from Starbuck three minutes later sent Dyer scampering away down the left, allowing the youngster to take a couple of touches and work the ball onto his right foot. He cut inside the challenge of Adam Oldham and tried his luck with an angled drive from just outside the box, only for Tomlinson to see the ball over his crossbar

Alexander did well to hold off the challenge of Robinson on seventy minutes and lay the ball off to on-loan youngster Warren Beattie, whose scuffed effort took two bounces before dropping into the arms of Tomlinson

On seventy-four minutes, Dyer forced Tomlinson into a save at his near post after once again dancing past a tired-looking challenge from Powell on the edge of the penalty area

This was to be Dyer's final involvement in the game as Jenkins was introduced a minute later in place of the hard-working youngster, no doubt to Grantham's relief

With ten minutes of the game remaining and the pace dropping, Starbuck picked up a loose ball and attempted an audacious chip over the young Tomlinson, only for the ball to drop just over the crossbar. Close from the player/manager, who had shown his experience and quality on the ball to fire his side to victory

With six minutes remaining, Starbuck's lack of game time had finally caught up with him having only played one reserve team game in preparation for his comeback, with Mario Pedro coming on in his place as Starbuck was afforded generous applause by the Keys Park crowd

Both sides appeared to have accepted the result in the final minutes as the game simply petered out into a form of training game in the final minutes as the Pitmen stroked the ball around in their own half and kept the ball away from the Grantham forwards

Other results in the UniBond Premier League went the Pitmen's way to the extent that they returned to second place in the table, albeit for forty-eight hours before they face the in-form Burscough at Keys Park in the second of their home double header this week

Hednesford Town: Young, Hadland, Dodd, White ©, Marshall, Sucharewycz (Adams 24), Beattie, Starbuck (Pedro 84), Alexander, Dyer (Jenkins 75), Screaton      Sub Unused: Whittaker

Grantham Town: Tomlinson, Oldham, Peel , Lovell, Powell, Manship, Robinson, Byrne (Dawson 73), Rodman (Turner 45), Wallace, Douglas    Subs Unused: Crossfield