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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Martin (47)

Hanley Town

Paddock (43) (OG), Kelly (90) (OG)

(0) 1

(1) 2



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Michael Williams



Mossley (A) 30.9.23

The Pitmen's nightmare campaign continues to unfold in front of their eyes this afternoon as a bizarre ninety minutes of action sees the hosts somehow hand Hanley Town all three points through a late, late own goal from Jack Kelly - the second own goal of the afternoon conceded by the hosts

Tuesday night's defeat at Witton Albion had chalked up a third defeat in succession for Danny Glover's struggling squad, dropping Hednesford down into the bottom five of the Northern Premier League West table in the process. Glover had added to his numbers with the signing of Newcastle Town midfielder Joe Thompson ahead of kick-off, with the 23-year-old named amongst the substitutes. On the pitch, Glover made one change to his starting XI as Callam Mendez-Jones came back into the side ahead of Max Dixon. Joe Morley was also available as a substitute option, having spent a portion of the previous week on trial at Lincoln City

Hanley had chalked up their first win of the season in midweek courtesy of a late Jacob Twyford winner at Widnes, moving the Stoke-On-Trent outfit off the foot of the table and into eighteenth place. Player/manager Ryan Shotton was without Tuesday night's goalscorer as he made wholesale changes to his side for today's trip south of the county - debutant goalkeeper Tommy Jackson, Josh Green, Ethan Stanton and Joel Stair all came into the side ahead of Josh Bishop, Keebah Bah, Matty Bell and manager Shotton himself. On the bench, there were two men with Hednesford connections in the form of Tim Sanders - a former youth team graduate at Keys Park back in 2007-2008 - and veteran midfielder Louis Dodds, who had a brief spell at the club back in the 2020-2021 season

On an overcast afternoon, the hosts made a positive start to proceedings and had the game's first opening in the third minute; good approach play down the right saw the ball pulled back to Luke Walsh, whose low shot beat Jack Richards but was cleared off the line by the covering Sam Paddock

The Pitmen's first foray into the Hanley penalty area came in the sixth minute as Jez Abbey linked up well with Glover, jinking his way through a couple of challenges before being brought down towards the right-hand corner of the box by Charlie Walford. Jack Kelly and Abbey stood over the free-kick, with Abbey taking the resultant set-piece but saw his clipped ball into the box cleared by the visitors before skipper Sam Griffiths could get his head to the ball at the far post

The first big talking point of the afternoon came a minute later as Hanley were awarded a penalty by referee Mr Eaton; the tricky, wild-haired Walsh was involved again as he drifted into the penalty area from the left, taking the ball past Mendez-Jones who could only stick out a leg and trip the winger up as he entered the box. The match official had no doubt about the decision and pointed to the spot. Manager Ryan's cousin Saul - a former West Bromwich Albion trainee - took responsibility for the kick but found Richards in inspired form, parrying his sidefooted effort away from goal low down to his left-hand side

The away side's positive start continued with another chance for Shotton in the tenth minute; again, the approach play came from the left through Walford and Walsh saw the left-sided duo play Shotton in, with the youngster striking a low shot at goal that was comfortably saved by Richards at his near post

The hosts were struggling to get themselves into the game, relying heavily on Glover's physical presence to flick long balls on and give the Hanley defence something to think about. Abbey picked up one of these knock-downs from his manager in the thirteenth minute and looked to dribble his way straight through the centre of the Hanley defence, only to be halted before he could shoot by Stanton

Kelly took responsibility for the Pitmen's next free-kick in a promising position on seventeen minutes as Abbey won another set-piece in a dangerous position. The left-back whipped the ball into the far post, aiming for the head of Mendez-Jones, but a timely header away from goal from James Askey denied the former West Brom youngster a sight at goal

A minute later, Kelly spotted the run of Mardenborough and played an angled ball over the top of the Hanley defence and into the path of the striker, who was ruled offside by the assistant on the Wimblebury side of the ground as he seized upon the pass

Stanton was the first player to have his name taken by Mr Eaton on nineteen minutes as he was rightly booked for a foul on Glover out on the right-hand side of the Hanley penalty area

Abbey and Kelly lined up the resultant free-kick, with Abbey striking the initial shot into the wall; the rebound ran to Kelly, whose low shot was saved by Jackson down to his left-hand side

Hanley continued to hand out roughhouse tactics on their former player Glover, with the striker flattened once more by a challenge from Stair midway through the first half, although the Hanley skipper avoided a caution from Mr Eaton for the aggressive challenge

Kieran Brown was narrowly off target for the visitors on twenty-four minutes, lifting his shot just over the crossbar from eighteen yards out after good approach play from Kyle Blake

Some unorthodox defending from the Pitmen saw Griffiths come to the recuse on twenty-six minutes as Paddock's loose pass towards Mendez-Jones was very nearly intercepted by Walsh, requiring the centre-back to come across and hack the ball clear. This was to be the pre-cursor to an afternoon of several defensive mishaps that were to befall the hapless Hednesford defence as they struggled to keep it together

A corner kick from Josh Green on twenty-eight minutes dropped inside the Hednesford six-yard box, with Richards failing to deal with the ball effectively and was relieved to see a foul awarded against him in the build-up

On thirty-two minutes, Abbey and Glover showed a growing understanding to link up well in midfield, with Abbey playing a delightful ball out to the right to where Mendez-Jones had made a run. The right-back held off the challenge of Walford as he took the ball to the byeline, but his cut-back towards Mardenborough lacked height and was cleared by the Hanley defence

Back came the visitors, with Walsh again causing havoc down the left as he got past Mendez-Jones and crossed towards Shotton; Richards did enough to push the ball away from danger, although the clearance lacked any real conviction but was enough to divert the ball away from the incoming Hanley number ten

Desean Martin - red-carded in his last two games for the club and now facing a four-match ban from the FA - picked up yet another yellow card to add to his unwanted collection on thirty-eight minutes as he brought Walsh down thirty yards from goal and was booked by Mr Eaton, despite the midfielder's protestations

The Pitmen's best form of attack continued to be set-pieces, with Kelly coming across to whip an inswinging corner kick from the right on forty-one minutes. Jackson flapped at the ball in but watched as it tamely drifted away from goal at the far post and out of play as both Michael Williams and Griffiths failed to get anything on the ball

With half-time looming, the Pitmen added yet another depressing example of their poor defending to their 2023-2024 showreel as they gifted Hanley the lead on forty-three minutes. A long, searching ball down the right from Green, aimed at the run of Brown, had Paddock back-tracking towards goal. The young defender looked to head the ball back to Richards, who also raced out of his goal to claim the bouncing ball, and could only watch in horror as his backwards header looped over the head of the teenage stopper and dropped into the empty net. A terrible error from the two youngsters and a harsh lesson in a lack of communication between the pair

With a minute of the first half remaining, Jacob Gwilt picked up the Pitmen's second booking of the game as he was shown a yellow card by Mr Eaton for a foul on Stair

Hanley's gift of a goal had added drama to an otherwise low-quality encounter between two sides that looked low in confidence and ability on the ball. The hosts had struggled to create any real openings of note, relying on Glover far too much and failing to get the likes of Abbey and Mardenborough involved more. Half-time saw Glover elect to make a double change to his shot-shy side with Thompson making his Hednesford debut in place of the hapless Paddock and Morley coming on in midfield ahead of the lightweight Gwilt, who had really struggled with the pace of the game in the first period

The shift in strategy paid immediate dividends for the Pitmen as they levelled matters ninety seconds after the restart; the hosts worked the ball down the right quickly, with Hanley doing well to ward off the initial danger until Martin ran onto the ball just inside the penalty area and rifled home a first time shot beyond the reach of Jackson for his first-ever Hednesford goal, prompting wild celebrations within the Heath Hayes terrace

You felt that this could be the boost the flagging Pitmen needed after an awful first half, and they did indeed dominate large periods of the second period without really showing any real conviction in their game in the final third of the pitch. Glover beat Askey in the air for the umpteenth time in the afternoon on fifty-one minutes as he headed a Williams ball towards Mardenborough, who tried to take the circuitous route through the Hanley defence and was dispossessed

Two minutes later, Hanley elected to make a like-for-like switch to stem the tide of Hednesford attacks as left-back Walford was replaced by fellow full-back Alex Morris

Mardenborough did have a better sight at goal on fifty-six minutes as Kelly's corner was cleared as far as the striker, whose shot skipped just wide of Jackson's right-hand post as he tried his luck from an angle fifteen yards from goal

Askey was suddenly having to deal with the dual threat of Glover and the newly-awakened Mardenborough and was booked shortly before the hour mark by Mr Eaton for a mistimed challenge on the former Darlaston Town striker

Morley took the resultant free kick to the left of the Hnaley penalty area and lifted the ball into the six-yard box, where Stanton was on hand to head the ball behind for a corner kick as Glover and Williams threatened

Jackson had to come off his line to deal with an inswinging Kelly corner kick on sixty-two minutes, flapping a little at the cross but just doing enough to divert the ball away from Mendez-Jones and hand the Pitmen another corner kick which the former Stoke City stopper claimed at the second attempt after Morley's cross had dropped inside his six-yard box

A minute later, Hanley made their second change of the afternoon as Sanders made his Keys Park return in midfield for Hanley as he came on in place of Blake, who had suffered a cut to the head in a clash inside his own penalty area and was taken off with blood pouring out of the wound

A quick break from the home side down the right midway through the second half saw Williams supply Mendez-Jones, who streaked away from Walford with some impressive pace before looking to pull the ball back to the incoming Mardenborough - his ball lacked direction, however, and was hacked clear by Askey with Mardenborough caught on his heels

Abbey made a strong run from midfield with the ball at his feet on sixty-eight minutes, carrying it fifteen yards before looking to pick out Thompson with a superb angled ball into the inside-left position. The substitute showed good feet to get to the byeline but his deft chip to the near post was cleared by Stair

Walsh's impressive first half had not been replicated in the second period so far as the away side lacked any real cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. One good run from the winger on seventy minutes saw him run into space left by an out-of-position Mendez-Jones, taking the ball into the area and crossing towards Shotton, only for Richards to make the save

Thompson was already showing his worth to his new side as a big, upright and mobile box-to-box midfielder, making another good run deep into the Hanley penalty area three minutes later and cutting inside before forcing Askey into forcing the ball behind for a corner kick at his near post

With fifteen minutes remaining, Thompson and Abbey linked up to break quickly through the centre of the park and play Mardenborough into space down the left - the youngster took a couple of touches before driving a daisy cutter in at goal from eighteen yards out that was blocked by the covering Stanton

Two minutes later, Hnaley made their final change of the afternoon as youngster Lucas Baker - who joined the club on loan from league rivals Leek Town last week - came on in place of Reece Jones

Richard's hugely mixed afternoon between the sticks continued on seventy-nine minutes as he made a meal of a long-range shot from Brown, parrying it straight into the path of the incoming Walsh on the left-hand side of the box. However, the winger chose to shoot first time and shanked his effort high over the crossbar with the young goalkeeper still recovering from the initial shot

The Pitmen's final change of the afternoon came with ten minutes remaining as Glover took himself out of the firing line and was replaced by diminutive winger Reinaldo Forbes

Despite time running out at the game still level, there seemed to be little urgency or conviction from either side to go and win the game in the last ten minutes as the pace slowed and chances largely dried up. Mardenborough - as had been the case in many games this season - had nothing left to give and was struggling to chase the ball down, whilst the opposition seemed content to sit deep and soak up any late pressure from the hosts

With five minutes remaining, Shotton picked up a late yellow card from Mr Eaton as he was booked for fouling Forbes, halting the winger's run as he took the ball down the left touchline

A handball from Askey just to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area handed the Pitmen a free-kick in a promising position on eighty-six minutes. Morley and Abbey stood over the ball, with Morley taking the kick with his right foot but striking his effort straight into the Hanley wall

Richards again flattered to deceive from a set-piece on eighty-nine minutes as a corner kick floated into his six-yard box saw the youngster flap at the ball and unconvincingly push the ball away with the palm of his hand. However, he was rescued by a flag on the far side as the assistant had spotted a push on him in the build-up

With the board showing five minutes of added time, the Pitmen pushed forwards late on and won another free-kick just outside the penalty area in the second minute of added time after Abbey was fouled by Stair. Abbey took the free-kick himself and clipped his right-footed effort inches wide of Jackson's right-hand post

However, with the very final action of the game, the hosts inexplicably handed the points to Hanley as a late break down the left saw Walsh get to the byeline as he beat an out-on-his-feet Mendez-Jones and crossed towards Baker. Kelly came across to help his centre-backs but could only watch in horror as he sliced his attempted clearance past a wrong-footed Richards and into the far corner of the net

An utterly stunning final few seconds of football which in many ways, kind of sums up the Pitmen's current predicament. The home supporters were left in disbelief at what they had just witnessed, having seen Hanley create very little for ninety minutes and somehow take all three points home with them courtesy of the Pitmen's poor defending. Perhaps mercifully, Hednesford now have a two-week break to take stock of their current perilous position and perhaps allows Glover time to wheel and deal in the transfer market; his current squad options are proving to be dreadfully short of quality, experience and confidence and the club will most likely be fighting with the other sides in the bottom four for much of the remainder of the season if he chooses to keep faith in the personnel currently at his disposal

Hednesford Town: Richards, Williams, Kelly, Paddock (Thompson 45), Mendez-Jones, Griffiths ©, Gwilt (Morley 45), Martin, Glover (Forbes 80), Mardenborough, Abbey      Subs Unused: Mayemba, Crane

Hanley Town: Jackson, Green, Walford (Morris 57), Stanton, Askey , Stair ©, Walsh, Blake (Sanders 63), Brown, S. Shotton , Jones (Baker 77)       Subs Unused: Grimley, Dodds


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