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Vanarama National League North

Hednesford Town

Ngamvoulou (75), Payne (90)

Harrogate Town 

Clayton (4),(46), Emmett (9)

(0) 2

(2) 3



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Sean Williams


Boston United (A) 23.1.16

Hednesford's recent progress was checked at Keys Park this afternoon as high-flying Harrogate showed their play-off credentials with a confident win over the struggling Pitmen

The recent spell of bad weather had seen the much-anticipated local derby between Hednesford and Telford called off last weekend, meaning Frank Sinclair had spent a week re-structuring his squad ahead of a difficult month. Sinclair had used his contacts well to bring in new faces in the form of West Bromwich Albion defender Jack Fitzwater on loan, as well as Whitehawk's creative midfielder Stephane Ngamvoulou, also on loan from the Vanarama National league South club. Flying winger Shelton Payne made up the trio of new faces, joining from Evo-Stik Premier League side Ramsbottom United in midweek

Simon Weaver had somehow managed to cling on to his job at Harrogate after another decidedly average season in 2014-2015, once again spending good money in the summer in an attempt to push his side back into contention for promotion. At the start of play, Harrogate were occupying the final play-off spot, holding off the likes of Tamworth and Stockport County in the process

Harrogate looked to take advantage of the Pitmen's fragile confidence from the off, and were soon ahead in the game in the fourth minute. Once again, the hesitancy in defence was to be the Pitmen's undoing, as a quick break down the Harrogate left opened up the young Hednesford defence and played Paul Clayton in. Dan Crane did well to block the striker's initial shot, but only succeeded in palming the ball back into Clayton's path to allow him to turn the ball home at the second attempt

The game was effectively over as a contest in the ninth minute, as Harrogate took a two goal lead with another flowing move down the left; taking advantage of the inexperience of Fitzwater and makeshift centre back Kennedy Digie. Louie Swain swung in a cross that Clayton headed goalwards, only to be denied by a flying save from Crane. The ball dropped kindly to Jack Emmett, who turned the loose ball home at the far post

It could have got a whole lot worse for the home side on seventeen minutes, as Brendon Daniels made a run from deep and slipped Jerry Yates through on goal, only for the Harrogate man to pull his shot narrowly wide of goal

The Pitmen struggled to get a foothold in the game during the first twenty minutes, with only a half-hearted penalty call to show for their efforts after a cross from Paul Ennis appeared to strike the arm of former Guiseley man Danny Ellis

 Former Hednesford loanee Lloyd Kerry was the first player to get his name taken by the referee on twenty two minutes, yellow-carded after a challenge on Sean Williams in midfield

Ben Bailey had to be alert to halt the Harrogate charge three minutes later, clearing the ball away from goal to deny Clayton a certain goal from Emmett's left wing cross

The home side had looked desperately short of quality and ideas in the opening half hour, and had to wait until thirty five minutes to register a shot on target as Williams fired in a low shot that Peter Crook held well in the Harrogate goal after Kyle Perry's lay-off

Harrogate immediately hit the Pitmen on the counter attack, with Lewis Turner making inroads on the retreating Hednesford defence but being denied by a last-ditch stop by Kennedy Digie

Half time could not come soon enough for Sinclair and his Pitmen side, who had looked woefully inexperienced and had been picked off at will by a much stronger, more canny outfit in the first period

Sinclair made the bold decision to make a tactical change at the break, bringing on Payne for his debut to play wide on the left to replace the hapless Matt Regan as he looked to get a foothold back into the game

Alas, the Pitmen found themselves further behind within a minute of the restart to add to their woes, as Clayton doubled his tally for the game to put the points beyond the Pitmen; Emmett was allowed time and space down the left to send over a superb cross to Clayton, who executed a superb overhead kick to beat Crane at his far post for goal number three

 The stormy weather that had blighted South Staffordshire overnight descended on Keys Park once more as the half progressed, matching the mood of many inside the ground as the Pitmen huffed and puffed through another turgid performance

Kerry went close to adding to the Pitmen's issues on fifty two minutes, firing straight at Crane after being played through the static home defence by Brendon Daniels 

Harrogate's top scorer Daniels went even closer two minutes later, as he curled a free kick in from the left that was nervously dealt with by the Pitmen inside their own six yard box

Paul Ennis had again flattered to deceive in a Hednesford shirt after his recent run of first team football, coming off on fifty six minutes to be replaced by Tom Peers

New man Ngamvoulou finally gave the Hednesford faithful something to cheer on seventy five minutes, as he made a mazy run from midfield and played a neat one-two with Perry before firing low past Crook to reduce arrears


The Pitmen suddenly started to have more belief in their game, and almost got another goal back sixty seconds later. A looping cross from Adam Thomas caught Crook out, with the keeper clawing the ball as far as substitute Peers. Before the Chester loanee could turn the ball home, however, Ellis was on hand to clear the ball away and deny the youngster a simple tap in from a couple of yards out

The Pitmen gave the scoreline an air of respectability in the fourth minute of added time, as Payne joined Ngamvoulou in notching on his debut as he fired home from the edge of the penalty area via a slight deflection off a Harrogate defender

The result will look hard on the Pitmen when viewed on paper, but make no mistake - the home side were extremely poor, with only late momentum from two new boys masking what was a dire performance. A tough run of games this month against a number of the league's top sides will be the measure of where this misfiring Hednesford side end up in May

Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater, Regan (Payne 45), Bailey ©, Digie, Ngamvoulou, Obeng, Williams, Perry, Ennis (Peers 56), Thomas      Subs Unused: Ransome, James, Thorley


Harrogate Town: Crook, Turner, Swain, Cadman (Gascoigne 66), Ellis (Bloomer 70), McGurk, Emmett, Kerry , Clayton, Yates, Daniels      Subs Unused: Thewlis, Colbeck, Lassana

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