Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Halesowen Town

Hednesford Town

Piearce (87)

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Bryan Small



Hastings United (H) 21.12.02

The Pitmen got themselves back to winning ways this afternoon courtesy of a late strike from top scorer Steve Piearce to beat struggling Halesowen at a bitterly cold Grove


After a run of four games without a win, manager Ian Painter continued to make widespread to his team for every game, making four changes to the side that had lost to Ilkeston Town in the F.A. Trophy two weeks ago. Stuart Ryder returned to the team after injury, coming back into the team alongside Paul Kiely, Shaun Wray and Darren Simkin as Painter removed Wayne Simpson, Damien Charie, Stewart Airdrie and Graham Lancashire from the starting XI. Anthony Maguire - scorer of the Pitmen's goal at Ilkeston on his debut - returned to the reserves after his cameo at the New Manor Ground, whilst Paul Ware was still unavailable as he served the final game of his suspension following his red card against Stafford Rangers


Halesowen - promoted back to step two in the summer after winning the Dr. Martens Western Division last term - had struggled to make an impact so far this term, lying in a precarious eighteenth place ahead of this pre-Christmas local derby with only four wins since August. Last week had seen them hammered 4-0 against another one of their local rivals, Moor Green, with former Yeltz favourite Rob Elmes striking a brace against his former club. Manager Brendan Phillips named a team with a number of Hednesford connections, with ex-Keys Park trio Richard Leadbeater, Phil Trainer and Dominic Reece all in Phillips' squad for the game. He was also able to hand former Kidderminster Harriers striker Leroy May - a thorn in previous Hednesford sides - a home debut after recently signing the striker


Kiely's spell at Hednesford had got off to a spluttering start, with the striker unimpressive on his debut against Stafford, before being ineligible against parent club Ilkeston two weeks ago. The striker seemed well up for this one though and orchestrated proceedings for the Pitmen early on, making himself available to team-mates at all times and making clever runs off defenders. His clever play on eight minutes saw him hold the ball up well under pressure from Les Hines and play Adams in down the right wing, with the midfielder's cross drifting wide of the far post as ex-Halesowen man Steve Piearce struggled to get himself into position


A powerful fun from Kiely saw him make inroads into a hesitant Halesowen defence on fifteen minutes, driving into space in front of him before skewing a low shot wide of Chris Adamson's goal


 Kiely's new strike partner Piearce did have the ball in the net for the Pitmen on twenty-two minutes, firing past Adamson from eight yards out after being fed by Wray, only his effort had long been ruled offside by the assistant referee


Halesowen were offering very little in return so far, with Michael Bingham and his defence rarely troubled by May, who had so far looked a shadow of the player who terrorised Conference defences a few seasons ago. It was left-back Hines who was to go closest for the home side in the first half hour, drilling a free-kick just wide of Bingham's post after Simkin had fouled May just outside the Hednesford penalty area


 The Pitmen had the ball in the net again on twenty-seven minutes, with Kiely getting on the end of a ball from Les Robinson and drawing Adamson out of his goal before lobbing the ball over the head of the veteran stopper and into the net, only for the assistant on the far side to again rule offside


 There minutes later, the Pitmen had their best chance of the game so far, falling to the emerging talent of Ashley Williams. A neat build-up involving Adams and Wray saw the ball slipped into the path of the advancing Piearce, who saw his shot cleared off the line; the ball fell to Williams, who had gambled from his right-back role to make a move forwards, but fired over from close-range when it seemed easier to score


Kiely did well to draw a foul from Hednesford-based Gavin Stone on thirty-six minutes, backing into the centre-back and forcing him into bringing the striker down. Adams sized up the subsequent free-kick and curled his effort narrowly over Adamson's crossbar from just outside the Halesowen penalty area


The Pitmen had been on top in the first period without anything to show for it and emerged for the second half with the chilly breeze blowing in their faces as they went in search of the goal their efforts had deserved


Three minutes into the second half, Ryder's long ball down the left found the excellent Bryan Small, whose persistence saw him bundle his way past Richard Colwell and poke the ball across the Halesowen penalty area to Kiely; his first-time effort was well-saved by Adamson, who did well to recover the ball and pounce on it at the second attempt before Piearce could react to the rebound


The head of Chris Brindley was next to force Adamson into a save, as the pair challenged for a Wray cross culminating in Adamson tipping Brindley's flick header over the crossbar


Full-back Hines appeared to be Halesowen's best chance of a goal down the left, making a number of marauding runs down the wing to add an attacking threat down the flank. He tested Bingham's reflexes on fifty-eight minutes with a wicked dipping shot that Bingham did well to turn away from goal for a corner kick. From the resultant kick, taken by Jason Ashby, May was first to the ball but headed well over as he was put under pressure by Brindley


Neither side seemed to have the keys to unlock the opposition as the half wore on, as both defences stood firm. The Pitmen were limited to long-range efforts and set-pieces, whilst Halesowen created very little in the way of chances as they seemed content to see out the game for a point


On seventy-four minutes, the ineffective former Halesowen man Wray was taken off after having no joy against Hines down the wing and was replaced by Damien Charie


With ten minutes remaining, Kiely was afforded generous applause by the frozen Hednesford supporters shivering on the open terrace behind Adamson's goal, as he was replaced by Francis up front


Painter made his second and final change with four minutes remaining, bringing on Simpson for Small for what appeared to be a more defensively-minded change to protect the point


And yet there was time for the away side to snatch the win, as a rare moment of quality in the game from Adams conjured up a winner for Piearce. Francis flicked a long ball into the path of the midfielder, who played a wonderfully-weighted ball into the penalty area and onto the boot of Piearce, with the striker making no mistake with a firmly-struck effort that beat Adamson


The late goal for Hednesford seemed to knock the stuffing out of Phillips' side, who could not muster a response in the remaining minutes as the Pitmen chalked up three points for the first time in five league games to move them back into the top ten in the league table. Hastings United make the long trip up from the south coast next weekend before the Pitmen look forward to a busy festive period of games


Halesowen Town: Adamsom, Colwell, Hines, Newall, L. Collins, Stone, Skidmore (Brennan 75), Ashby, May (Leadbeater 81), Shanahan, Trainer (Reece 62)    Subs Unused: Smith, Garvey


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Ryder, Robinson ©, Brindley, Simkin, Wray (Charie 74), Adams, Piearce, Kiely (Francis 80), Small (Simpson 86)    Subs Unused: Lancashire, Jenkins