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Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Rae (72)

Hastings United

(0) 1

(0) 0




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Bryan Small



Moor Green (H) 26.12.02

It's been a good week for Ian Painter and his side, as they win back-to-back games for the first time since August after edging out Hastings United at Keys Park to give their fans some pre-Christmas cheer and continue their unbeaten run at home this term


It wasn't all good news, however for the Hednesford manager, as he had spent the week making a number of decisions regarding his under-achieving squad. Carl Adams had joined Hucknall Town following a seven-day approach from the Pitmen's F.A. Cup victors, following Stewart Airdrie (loan to Guiseley) and Mark Jones (loan to Stafford Rangers) out of the door as Painter trimmed down his squad. This meant a chance for youngster Anthony Maguire to come back into the squad after impressing in the recent F.A.Trophy defeat to Ilkeston. Paul Kiely was playing the final game of his loan from Ilkeston, with no plans to extend it further, whilst Painter was still unable to call upon the experienced pair of Stuart Lake (injured) and Paul Ware (suspended)


Hastings made their first-ever visit to Keys Park off the back of a heavy home defeat to high-flying Tiverton, leaving the Clarets in twelfth place in the table going into today's game. United were looking to complete a league double over their opponents following a 2-0 win at the Pilot Field back in August, which was Hednesford's first defeat of the season. Manager George Wakeling was able to welcome back both centre-back Adam Flanagan and Paul Ruddy after the pair had served their suspensions, pairing Ellis Remy up with youngster Joel Bevis in a surprise move that left the more experienced Danny Simmonds on the bench


It had been an overcast day in South Staffordshire, with the game kicking off in foggy and chilly conditions, much as you would expect just four days before Christmas. The sub-500 attendance seemed to suggest that many fans were out doing last-minute Christmas shopping rather than supporting their team


In amongst the mist, there was a game being played, with Kiely keen to sign off from his loan period with a good performance. On six minutes, his clever play allowed him to turn past Tommy Osbourne and shoot on the penalty spot but fired well wide of Hastings keeper Dave King's goal


The Pitmen enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the opening quarter, with Darren Simkin excelling in his new position in central midfield. One of his passes found Kiely lurking on the edge of the penalty area on eleven minutes, but the striker's intended through-ball to Steve Piearce was blocked by Adam Flanagan and cleared


Damien Charie - making a rare start up front for the Pitmen - made a mazy run through the Hastings defence in the seventeenth minute, but his shot lacked a killer instinct and flew well wide of goal after he had done the hard work of creating the space for himself just outside the penalty area


Chris Brindley and Simpson got in each other's way from a corner kick on twenty-three minutes, as the pair crashed into each other at the far post challenging for Bryan Small's deep, deep cross from a right-hand corner kick


Steve Piearce - looking for another goal to add to his late strike last week at Halesowen - dragged his one and only sight at goal of the first half well wide of King's upright on the half-hour mark after being played in on goal by a smart ball from Kiely


 The Pitmen continued to chip away at a dogged Hastings defence, well marshalled by the returning Flanagan, but found it hard to break them down, much as they had done down in the East Sussex sunshine back in August. Small was again impressive, playing wide on the left side, as he had been at Halesowen the previous week to showcase his Football League experience with Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers. He exchanged passes with Charie on thirty-six minutes and made a strong run down the left wing, cutting inside on the bye-line and laying the ball off the Piearce, only for the striker to completely mis-hit his shot and allow the ball to bobble away, much to the frustration of the Hednesford fans behind the goal in the Hednesford end of the ground


Skipper Les Robinson, playing in a more defensive midfield role as part of the player shake-up this week, came off worst in a challenge with Ruddy on thirty-nine minutes, receiving a kick in the leg for his troubles. After attempting to soldier on for a few moments, the veteran admitted defeat just before half-time and was replaced by Derek Rae, who was another returning to full fitness after a lay-off


 With the fog getting thicker as the floodlights flickered into action at the break, the Pitmen looked to step it up a gear in the second half in front of their own supporters. They started assertively, with Simkin's bludgeoned effort from a free-kick warming the hands of King on forty-nine minutes


A minute later, Hastings felt aggrieved at a late offside call against Nick Hegley after the full-back had got in behind the Hednesford defence to fire past Michael Bingham, only for the assistant on the Wimblebury side to judge him to have been ahead of play when he received the ball


Kiely and Piearce were working hard up front, but there was something missing from their partnership that had meant it had not been a prolific one over the month. They were not on each other's wavelength on fifty-four minutes, as Kiely's pull-back was behind Piearce after Kiely had robbed Steve Yates on the edge of the penalty area and clipped the ball into the six-yard box


Bingham had enjoyed the quietest game of his short Hednesford career so far, with Hegley's disallowed effort the only real chance the keeper had to deal with in the whole ninety minutes as Hastings dropped deeper and deeper into their own third to defend the point they required


With the Pitmen looking for something different, Kiely was withdrawn on seventy minutes for a final bow before returning to Ilkeston and replaced by the tall, imposing figure of the big man himself, Kevin Francis


And so it proved to be an inspired change, as Francis had a hand in the winning goal two minutes later with his first touch of the ball; Small's cross was brought down and controlled well by Francis, who turned and neatly laid the ball into the path of fellow sub Rae, who was given the time and space to pick his spot and fire past King from the edge of the area for his first goal since the opening day of the season at Crawley Town


Hastings had little in the way of a response, despite bringing Simmonds on for Bevis two minutes later. A clutch of hopeful corner kicks from the visitors on seventy-nine minutes were half-heartedly swung into the penalty area before being dealt with by Brindley and Simpson


The Pitmen had further chances to put the game beyond their visitors in the final ten minutes; Maguire - on for Charie - scuffed a shot wide on his home debut, followed two minutes later by another powerful drive from Simkin that clipped the top of the crossbar before flying into the stand behind the goal

In the final minute, Small did well to break down the right and play an early ball into the feet of Piearce, but the ball got caught between the striker's legs as he looked to sort his feet out and allowed Osborne enough time to recover and make the tackle

 No worries, though for the Pitmen - another 1-0 win, another three points and another game unbeaten at 'fortress' Keys Park, where they have the chance to go into 2003 unbeaten as they face lowly Moor Green in a Boxing Day derby 


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Ryder, Robinson © (Rae 43), Brindley, Simpson, Charie (Maguire 83), Simkin, Piearce, Kiely (Francis 70), Small     Subs Unused: Lancashire, Jenkins


Hastings United: King, Yates, Hegley, Osbourne, Burt, Flanagan, Sims (Webb 83), Ruddy (Body 60), Remy, Bevis (Simmonds 74), Honey      Subs Unused: Myall, Graham

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