Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Hemel Hempstead Town

Carney (35), Beevor (90)

(0) 0

(1) 2



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Lee Williams



Bedford Town (A) 9.4.05

Hednesford's play-off hopes are hit this afternoon at Keys Park as relegation-threatened Hemel Hempstead Town exact revenge for the 6-0 hammering handed out to them by the Pitmen earlier in the season with an absolutely crucial three points for the Tudors in their fight for survival

Form and confidence were sky-high for the hosts heading into the second game of the week at home, having dispatched of fellow strugglers Rugby United on Bank Holiday Monday to move up to third in the Southern Premier League table. With the hosts in such a rich vein of form, player/manager Chris Brindley once again named an unchanged team for today's clash, although he did include recent signing Nicky Campbell - signed from Tipton Town this week - amongst the substitutes after adding the diminutive winger to the ranks to replace the long-departed Matt Turner

Hemel made their first-ever visit to Keys Park desperately looking for inspiration after a season of struggle at Vauxhall Road. The Tudors sat in nineteenth place in the table at the start of play, just four points clear of local rivals Dunstable Town who sat in the final relegation spot, although they had won their last two games against both Dunstable and another local rival, Hitchin Town, on Bank Holiday Monday. Manager Nick Ironton, perhaps, unsurprisingly, kept faith in the same side that had recorded these wins as he went in search of a third successive victory to further increase their gap to the bottom three

On an overcast afternoon at Keys Park, the Pitmen demonstrated their current confidence with a strong start to the game as they looked for an early breakthrough. In just the third minute of the game, the combative Marlon Walters won the ball from Fabio Valenti and played an inch-perfect pass through to Leon McSweeney down the right flank. The former Hucknall Town striker crossed well, looking to pick out strike partner Andy Bell, who was denied a simple header home from close-range by a timely header away by Richard Harris

Good play from Lee Williams in the ninth minute saw the veteran midfielder take the ball a full thirty yards from his own half into Hemel territory, playing a neat pass into the path of Bell. He turned towards goal and looked to pick out McSweeney with a neat chipped pass, with the striker volleying his effort from fifteen yards out well wide of goal

A good challenge from Richard Teesdale four minutes later saw the centre back slide in and make a timely challenge to deny Lee Charles a clear run in at goal after the former Hayes striker had been played into space down the right by Paul Kelly

Kelly's corner kick on sixteen minutes caused bother for the Hednesford defence as it bounced around the Pitmen's six-yard box before being cleared away by Mark Branch

Four minutes later, a corner for the Pitmen was taken by Williams, who found Barrow lurking at the far post; the centre-back's rising header was a little too high, however, and cleared the crossbar by a matter of inches

The Hednesford players and supporters felt that they should have been awarded a penalty kick on twenty-four minutes as McSweeney was sent tumbling in the box by a challenge from Steve Dell, only for referee Mr Watts to wave away the home side's protests


Branch's long throw from the left on twenty-eight minutes was flicked on by Walters and fell to Grant Beckett via a deflection off Harris. The left-sided player looked to pick out Bell in the six-yard box but saw his low driven cross was diverted away from the striker by the boot of Dell for a Hednesford corner kick


On thirty-three minutes, Valenti and Kelly exchanged passes in the centre circle before spraying the ball out to veteran striker Charles, who had made a scampering run out to the right-wing. He held off Branch's challenge and turned into the penalty area, but wasted his shot as he pulled it across Ryan Young's goal and wide of the far post

Ten minutes before the interval, a long ball forwards from Dell was deflected into the path of Grant Carney by the head of Branch, who drove his low shot beyond the reach of Young and into the far corner of the net. Despite the protests of the Hednesford players that Carney was in an offside position when he received the ball, Mr Watts correctly pointed out that the ball had come off the head of Branch, thus playing the striker onside in the process

The Pitmen responded with a strong finish to the half as they pushed for an immediate leveller; a great chance fell onto the head of Barrow in the thirty-ninth minute as a wonderfully-delivered corner kick from Williams was met by the head of Barrow, who saw his goalbound header cleared off the line by Charles. Hemel struggled to clear their lines and Teesdale picked up the rebound, striking a shot at goal that appeared to strike the hand of Matt Corbould. Despite more vociferous penalty claims from the Pitmen for the handball, Mr Watts felt that it was a case of ball to hand rather than hand to ball and the game continued

With three minutes of the first half remaining, Beckett's enterprising run down the left saw him beat Dell for pace before taking it towards the corner flag, clipping the ball into the penalty areas and into the path of Bell. He controlled the ball with his back to goal, holding Richard Mansell off well before laying it off to Walters, whose first-time shot sailed over the crossbar

It had been an extremely frustrating first period for the hosts, who had controlled much of the game but found themselves behind against an in-form Hemel side that were well-organised and had taken the one real chance that had been presented to them

The game continued in much the same vein at the start of the second half as Hednesford made all of the running but found clear-cut chances hard to come by. In the fifty-first minute, Walters won a free-kick that was taken by Williams thirty yards from goal, whipping the ball into the far post where McSweeney headed high over the crossbar, stretching to reach the ball

A quick counter by Hemel three minutes later saw Fontenelle break quickly down the left as he got the better of Ross Adams. The full-back managed to get back into position and jockey him out wide but could not cut out the cross to Charles, whose scuffed effort was easily held by Young

On fifty-seven minutes, Bell and McSweeney linked up well just outside the Hemel penalty area as Anthony Maguire made progress down the right flank to play the ball to Bell, who in turn played the ball through the legs of Cotbould to his strike partner. The former Leicester City man took a touch to get him away from the attentions of Mansell but drilled his angled shot into the side-netting

On the hour mark, Maguire's quick thinking saw him take a free-kick and spot Adams on the overlap down the right, in acres of space. The full-back's cross was glanced goalwards by McSweeney, only for his effort to be deflected behind by Mansell's block inside the six-yard box

The Pitmen sensed a goal was coming and made an attacking change on sixty-five minutes as assistant manager Steve Anthrobus made a rare appearance from the bench to add his aerial threat to the forward line as he replaced Adams. This saw the hosts revert to a 3-4-3 formation as Anthrobus made his way up front to line up alongside Bell and McSweeney

Williams played a delightful pass out to Maguire with the outside of his boot on sixty-eight minutes, giving the former Torquay United man room down the right flank to take on Mansell. The youngster checked his run and instead laid the ball off the Walters on the edge of the box, whose first-time clipped cross to the far post was headed high river the crossbar by McSweeney

Anthrobus's first involvement saw him make a late run into the Hemel six-yard box on seventy minutes as Maguire delivered an inswinging free-kick from the left that was flicked on by Barrow at the near post to the veteran striker, who looked to turn the ball home from close-range but was adjudged to have fouled Millard in his eagerness to get to the ball

The Pitmen made two further attacking changes a minute later as striker Paul McMahon came on in place of Walters and debutant Campbell replaced Beckett on the left-wing. Maguire dropped into midfield to support Williams as the Pitmen went to four up top with a highly unorthodox 3-3-4 formation

A long punt forwards from Millard almost caught the three-man Hednesford defence out as Barrow allowed the ball to bounce and Carney to pick the loose ball up. He played Liam Parrington into space down the right with Maguire haring back to cover, but could not prevent the midfielder from playing Charles into the Hednesford penalty area. Barrow did well to block the initial shot from the striker, with Charles shooting wide on the rebound as he collected the ball once more from eight yards out

Campbell got his first chance to impress with fifteen minutes remaining as Branch made yardage down the left with two successive throw-ins before playing Campbell into space. He tricked his way past Dell with some quick feet and crossed for Bell, whose weak header from ten yards out failed to test Millard

There was an over-reliance on set-pieces from the hosts from this point forwards as they desperately looked for a way back into the game; Williams won a free-kick thirty-five yards from goal on seventy-eight minutes and curled the resultant kick into the box, where Barrow and Anthrobus got in each other's way as they went to meet the ball, resulting in Barrow heading over the crossbar

Dell's forward pass towards Charles was missed by Teesdale two minutes later, allowing the former Aldershot man a clear run at goal. Charles seemed a little surprised that Teeadale had missed the ball and was caught on his heels somewhat, allowing Branch enough time to get across and make a goal-saving tackle before the striker could get his shot away

Three successive corners from the Pitmen on eighty-three minutes turned the screw on the Hemel defence and you felt it was only a matter of time before the hosts would grab the goal their efforts deserved. Maguire's fine delivery from the third corner in this sequence was met by Teesdale at the near post, but his effort lacked power and was cleared by Dell, who was standing on the near post for the Tudors

Two minutes later, Anthrobus held up Barrow's long punt forwards, chesting the ball down as he kept Corbould at arms' length. His lay-off to Bell saw the young striker make a darting. run in behind the Hemel defence, but he was once again wasteful as his effort was dragged wide of the target from ten yards out

McSweeney was left similarly frustrated a minute later as Beckett's cross was headed down by Anthrobus into the path of McSweeney, whose first-time half-volley rippled the side-netting as it missed the target by a matter of inches

With two minutes remaining, Maguire won a free kick just outside the Hemel penalty area, which Barrow assumed responsibility for on this occasion. His well-struck, powerful effort from twenty-five yards out took a nick off the side of the Hemel wall and just missed Millard's right-hand post as the Pitmen pressed

Despite all of the territorial dominance of the hosts in the second period, there was always a possibility that with only three defenders on the pitch that they would leave the back door open for Hemel, and this was to prove so in the final minute of the game as the Tudors caught the Pitmen out on the counter-attack; a long punt forwards from the visitors as they cleared away yet another Hednesford corner kick saw substitute Stuart Beevor pick up a forward pass from Valenti, running in behind a retreating Hednesford defence to place his shot beyond the exposed Young and into the far corner of the net to seal the win

The hosts had no time to react and crashed to their first defeat in four league games as a consequence, leaving them down in fourth place in the table as Bedford Town's 3-3 draw at Histon moved the Eagles above them in the table. With only four games remaining, the race of the play-offs is certainly hotting up as only five points cover Bedford in third place down to Bath City in eleventh. It is Bedford that provide the opposition for the Pitmen next weekend at the New Eyrie in what likely to be a crucial ninety minutes for both club's seasons

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams (Anthrobus 65), Branch, Barrow, Teesdale, Williams ©, Maguire, Walters (McMahon 71), Bell, McSweeney, Beckett (Campbell 71)      Subs Unused: Brindley, Evans


Hemel Hempstead Town: Millard, Dell, Mansell, Harris (Hammatt 64), Corbould, Valenti, Kelly, Parrington, Carney (Fowler 86), Charles, Fontenelle (Beevor 80)       Subs Unused: Peat, Xavier