8.2.2014

Skrill North

Harrogate Town

Hall (10), (43), Heath (25)

Hednesford Town

Disney (35) (penalty)

(3) 3

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

477

Tom Thorley

D L L L W W W W D L

Solihull Moors (H) 15.2.14

It's been a difficult week for the Pitmen, as Rob Smith's side end a turbulent seven days with defeat at Harrogate Town's CNG Stadium this afternoon

The club and its supporters had been rocked by the news earlier in the week of midfielder Kris Taylor's diagnosis of testicular cancer, with the 30-year-old having surgery on Thursday after receiving the devastating news the previous week. Taylor's loss - added to departures of Elliott Durrell and Nathan Blissett in the last ten days - left a huge hole in the Pitmen's promotion-chasing squad, with manager Rob Smith having to plug gaps all over the pitch as they arrived in Yorkshire to face play-off chasing Harrogate. Paul Sullivan was rewarded for a perky cameo in last week's draw at home to Altrincham with a full debut, partnering Neil Harvey up front. Further back, Jamey Osborne was deemed fit enough to return to action after a stop-start 2014 to date, slotting into Taylor's role in midfield. With a lack of options in midfield, Smith selected an unusual 3-5-2 formation, playing all three centre-halves in the side

Harrogate - who completed a 3-1 win at Keys Park in December to condemn the Pitmen to one of only two home league defeats so far this term - came into the game off the back of five unbeaten games, with Simon Weaver's eighth-placed side eyeing up a run at the top five in what remains of the season

Making the stronger start, Hednesford were denied by last-ditch Harrogate defending twice in the first seven minutes as strikers Sullivan and Harvey nearly broke through. Sullivan was denied by Dwayne Samuels' clearance, whilst Harvey's shot was blocked by Matt Heath

A late offside flag denied Harrogate a response on eight minutes, as Chris Hall's flick set Ashley Worsfold away, only for the assistant on the far side to raise his flag to give the Pitmen the benefit in a tight decision

However, Hall did make Harrogate's first shot on goal count two minutes later, as the big striker took advantage of slack Hednesford defending to open the scoring. Dan Clayton was allowed too much time and space by John Disney, sending over a deep cross to the far post where Worsfold was lurking. He in turn was allowed plenty of time to fire back across the face of goal, gifting Hall a simple tap-in at the far post past a ridiculously exposed Dan Crane

Crane had to come to the Pitmen's rescue almost from the restart, as Harrogate seized upon the ball through Worsfold, whose dangerous cross was well claimed by Crane under pressure from Hall

Without the creativity of the stricken Taylor and the departed Durrell, Tom Thorley assumed responsibility for the Pitmen's set-pieces, but the midfielder simply could not replicate the same whip and curl of his fellow midfielders and played two free-kicks straight onto the heads of Harrogate defenders

A delightful diagonal ball from Harrogate's Steve Mallory caused more defensive headaches for the Pitmen's three centre-backs on eighteen minutes, floating a ball over the top of the hesitant centre-halves and into the path of the excellent Hall. However, his shot lacked composure and he only succeeded in firing horribly over the crossbar

The Pitmen were undone once again on twenty-five minutes, as another simple ball into the box opened up the away side's flaky defence; another great ball from Mallory did the damage, sending over a teasing free-kick that somehow found it's way through to Heath, who had the simple task of slotting past Crane from just a couple of yards out. Too easy

Osborne was trying his best to open up the Harrogate defence with his creativity, using the neat and tidy Thorley well as his link man as he drove forwards with the Pitmen looking to make a direct breach through the centre of the Harrogate side. One such run from Osborne won the Pitmen a free-kick just outside the penalty area on twenty-eight minutes, with Thorley's inswinging ball headed narrowly wide by Harvey at the far post

Another slalom-like run from Osborne on thirty-five minutes presented the Pitmen with a chance to get back into the game, as his mazy run into the penalty area was stopped by the flailing leg of Shane Killock. Right-back Disney - yet to score in a Hednesford shirt - stepped up to take the resultant penalty kick, sending Craig MacGillivray the wrong way to reduce the deficit for the Pitmen

The visitors sensed an unlikely comeback before the half time break, with Dave MacPherson  heading wide of goal with a diving header on forty minutes, followed by a long-range effort a minute later from Osborne that had MacGillivray scrambling across his goal line

A deep Thorley corner almost produced the goods for the Pitmen on forty-two minutes, finding the head of Paul McCone at the far post. The big centre back's header lacked direction and control however and drifted wide of the woodwork

This was to prove costly for Hednesford, as Harrogate restored their two-goal lead just before half time. Ben Bailey attempted to see a ball out over the touchline, but misjudged the run of the ball and allowed Worsfold to nip in and square the loose ball to Hall, who coolly grabbed his second goal of the game from close range

A readjustment was badly needed at half time for the Pitmen, with Francino Francis taken off due to injury and replaced by winger Nathan Woolfe as the away side reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation

Half time also brought the unwelcome stormy weather that had battered much of the country during the week, with a gusty wind blowing heavy rain across the considerable slope at the CNG Stadium

The weather essentially killed off the Pitmen's second-half response, as the game as a spectacle fizzled out. Good goalkeeping from Crane denied Hall a hat-trick early in the second half, punching the ball away from a corner kick as the striker threatened to head home

Osborne's game was brought to an end on forty-nine minutes as Wayne Riley came on in place of the midfielder, who was still struggling for form and fitness after a long lay-off

Old warhorse MacPherson could have done better with a weak, bobbling shot on fifty-four minutes, not striking the ball cleanly enough to test the reflexes of MacGillivray

Sullivan was impressing again as he looked to establish himself in the side following his step up two levels last week. His neat turn and shot on fifty-six minutes forced MacGillivray into a regulation save, firing low at goal from fifteen yards out

Harvey - clearly struggling in similar terms to Osborne - was replaced on sixty-five minutes as he admitted defeat in his battle with fitness, with Marvin Robinson coming on up front in his place

With seventeen minutes remaining, Harrogate went close to wrapping up the game as substitute Anton Brown played in the impressive Worsfold, whose curling shot was saved by Crane at full stretch

Hall was still looking for his hat-trick goal and nearly got his wish on seventy-seven minutes as neat build-up play saw Hall get on the end of Jahmal Smith's through ball. His shot was brilliantly turned over by Crane, who produced another great stop to keep Hednesford in contention

The Pitmen will have been relieved to hear the final whistle, ending a difficult afternoon for Rob Smith's troops on the occasion of his 200th game in charge of the side. News started to filter through of defeat for the wobbling league leaders North Ferriby at the hands of Barrow, leaving the Pitmen smarting at yet another missed opportunity to overhaul their long time league rivals in the battle for top spot in Skrill North

Harrogate Town: MacGillivray, Samuels, Merris, Nelthorpe, Heath, Killock © , Mallory (Brown 62), Nowakowski , Hall , Worsfold (Smith 72), Clayton       Subs Not Used: Sellars, Hardy, Crook

Hednesford Town: Crane , Disney, Campion ©, McCone, Francis (Woolfe 45), MacPherson, Osborne (Riley 50), Bailey, Harvey (Robinson 66), Sullivan, Thorley      Subs Unused: Anagho-Ntamark, Thompson-Brown

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