21.1.2006

Nationwide Conference North

Hinckley United

Brown (15)

Hednesford Town

Hunter (13), Barrow (70)

(1) 1

(1) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

719

Mark Briggs

D L W L L D D L L W

 

Lancaster City (H) 23.1.06

The Pitmen finally recorded their first win of 2006 at the fourth time of asking as they beat A5 neighbours Hinckley United in their first visit to to the brand new Marstons Stadium

Back-to-back defeats to Barrow and Alfreton Town had left the Pitmen rock bottom of Conference North ahead of today's trip across the A5, with newly-appointed permanent manager Steve Anthrobus finally losing patience with certain members of his squad as he made several changes to his side for today's game. Out had gone Mark Branch, who had been released in midweek, whilst former Hinckley man Tommy Whittle and Ross Adams had been placed on the transfer list after their individual displays at the Impact Arena last week. In more positive news, utility man Sean Platt had seen his loan deal extended from Walsall until the end of the season, whilst goalkeeper Gary Hateley had returned to the club after a spell at Southern League East side Stamford. Platt and Hateley were named in the starting XI as two of five changes as Ian Wright, Steve Brannan and Andy Bell all returned to the side as Branch, Adams, Whittle, Ross Dyer and Lee Williams all made way

Ninth-placed Hinckley were still looking to gatecrash the end of season play-offs, sitting only three points adrift of fifth-placed Hucknall Town ahead of today's game. Manager Dean Thomas had seen his side draw 2-2 at Lancaster City two weeks ago and was forced into a change between the sticks with regular stopper Dan Haystead injured, bringing in on-loan Bury stopper Craig Dootson as cover for today's game. Dootson was one of three changes to Thomas's side for this afternoon's game as he was joined by fellow Bury loanee Russell Hitchen and skipper Richard Lavery in the XI as Haystead, Jame Lenton and Brad Piercewright all missed out

In front of an impressive late January crowd, the Pitmen were quickest out of the blocks and Brannan's early effort in the third minute flew over Dootson's crossbar from twenty yards out after Colin Hunter had squared the ball to the teenager

Four minutes later, a free-kick from Lee Barrow was chipped into the Hinckley penalty area, where Dootson came out of his goal to claim but could only punch the ball into the path of Hunter, whose first-time lofted effort ended up sailing harmlessly over the crossbar from the corner of the penalty area

The hosts went close to opening the scoring just a minute later as the experienced Carl Heeley headed just over the crossbar from a Leon Jackson corner kick after the Pitmen had allowed the former Worcester man too much time inside the six-yard box

The opening goal of the afternoon came in the thirteenth minute as the Pitmen stole into the lead through Hunter; a run from Mark Briggs saw the midfielder carry the ball deep into the Hinckley half and play a delightful ball through the channel and into the path of Hunter, who made an inch-perfect run before turning the ball home from eight yards out as he beat Lavery to the ball

However, the visitor's lead was to last a mere two minutes as Hinckley grabbed an immediate equaliser in the fifteenth minute. Andy Bell clashed with Neil Cartwright out on the Hednesford right, with Bell appearing to be hauled down by the full-back as the pair challenged for a Platt pass. Despite the Pitmen's claims that Bell had been fouled, referee Mr Cook waved play on and allowed Cartwright to continue his run forwards and play Andy Brown in on goal. With the Hednesford defence still appealing for a foul on Bell, Brown was given time and space to slot the ball past the advancing Hateley from just inside the Hednesford penalty area

The Pitmen rolled their sleeves up once more and showed admirable spirit in continuing to press the experienced Hinckley back line. Former Hednesford favourite Lee Colkin was beaten by Bell down the right on nineteen minutes as the striker cleverly manoeuvred his way past the defender before crossing for Leon McSweeney, who could not keep his header down as he glanced his effort over Dootson's crossbar

Midway through the first period, Brannan should have restored his side's lead as he shot wide from close-range following a Tom Marshall cross from the left that was cleared by the Hinckley defence but only as far as the youngster, whose first-time effort from eight yards out skipped wide of the post


At the other end of the pitch, Colkin did well to get to the byeline down the left on twenty-five minutes and pulled the ball back into the path of former Burton Albion midfielder Sam Shilton, whose low shot was easily gathered by Hateley

Excellent play from Hunter three minutes later saw the winger dance past three Hinckley players as he cut in from the left and picked out McSweeney's run into the penalty area. The striker took the ball a little too wide and narrowed his angle in the process, culminating in a wild shot into the Hednesford fans gathered behind the goal

On thirty-one minutes, Briggs won the ball off Shilton and sent the ever-willing Brannan on his way down the right-wing, outpacing Colkin before pulling the ball back to Platt - his cleanly-struck shot from just outside the Hinckley penalty area was well held by the alert Dootson at his near post

Hinckley had struggled to get the normally-prolific Marc McGregor into the game so far, with the former Forest Green and Nuneaton Borough man dragging his one and only effort of the first half wide of Hateley's goal on thirty-four minutes after good build-up play from Stuart Storer

Storer incurred the wrath of referee Mr Cook two minutes later as he sent Bell tumbling ten yards inside the Hinckley half to stop the young striker from breaking quickly; the experienced campaigner was spared a yellow card but was given a ticking-off by the match official for the blatant foul

The Pitmen had shaded the game so far and went close to taking the lead going into the break on forty-one minutes as McSweeney's near-post header from a Brannan corner kick hit Dootson and drifted just wide of the post - the on-loan stopper knew very little about the move and was fortunate that the ball had ended up the right side of the post from a Knitters' perspective

It had been a good half showing from the Pitmen, who had enjoyed plenty of possession and had also had the better of the chances against a one-paced Hinckley side that you still felt was a threat in the final third with quality players such as McGregor and Brown lurking

Hednesford appeared to lift the tempo at the start of the second half and pushed Hinckley back into their third of the pitch for the opening ten minutes after the restart. Bell made another one of his instinctive runs forward on forty-eight minutes to reach Platt's pass but drove his angled shot straight at Dootson from fifteen yards out

Three minutes later, Richard Teesdale's flick-on at the near post from a Briggs free-kick was kicked straight up in the air by Lavery, forcing Dootson to punch the ball away from underneath his own crossbar and into the path of Hunter, whose rebounded shot whistled just past the post

Brown went close to putting Hinckley into the lead on fifty-five minutes as he lashed his effort over the crossbar from just six yards out after Shilton had teed up the former Scunthorpe United striker inside the Hednesford penalty area

The Pitmen responded with a rare chance for veteran defender Ian Wright on fifty-eight minutes, who headed inches over the crossbar as he got on the end of a Briggs corner kick to beat fellow warhorse Heeley to the ball

Owen Story came on for the Knitters in place of the disappointing McGregor just after the hour mark and almost marked his arrival with an immediate goal as he sidefooted an effort just wide of Hateley's right-hand post after good play from Storer had picked out Shilton on the left, who then supplied a low cross into the feet of the substitute

Bell and McSweeney linked up well just outside the Hinckley penalty area on sixty-five minutes with a quick one-two to play the ball around Heeley before McSweeney struck a shot straight into the gloves of Dootson

A minute later, Tom Marshall headed just over the crossbar as another fine delivery from man of the match Briggs had found the head of the youngster at the far post

With their next attack, the Pitmen took the lead for the second time in the afternoon on seventy minutes as a period of pressure from the visitors saw Hinckley struggle to clear their lines, culminating in Lee Barrow seizing on the ball on the edge of the Hinckley penalty area and striking a shot through a first of legs and finding the bottom corner of the net via a big deflection off Lavery's outstretched boot

Jackson's final involvement in the game came on seventy-two minutes as he sprayed a ball out to Shilton on the left - his run into the penalty area was checked by Platt, who toe-poked the ball away from danger but into the path of Story, whose rising shot was turned over the crossbar by Hateley

The Pitmen should have made the game safe two minutes later as Hunter once again created an opening with his wing wizardry, sending over a cross from wide on the left-hand touchline that was met by the unmarked Bell, who somehow headed wide of the post when he really should have scored from close-range

Brannan did well to win the ball from Storer on eighty-two minutes and made a thrusting run down the right, cutting inside of Colkin before attempting a shot from a tight angle that ran through to Dootson. If Brannan had looked up, he would have seen McSweeney, Bell and Hunter all unmarked in a better position

With four minutes of the contest remaining, McSweeney added another chance to the wasteful ones that had come and gone for the visitors as he snatched at a Briggs through ball and lashed his left-footed effort wide of goal from twenty yards out

Back came the hosts with the minutes running out and Lavery's header from a Storer free-kick on eighty-eight minutes required Hateeley to palm the ball away from danger before Platt completed the clearance

In the final minute of normal time, Cartwright's lofted cross was headed back across goal by Story and into the path of fellow substitute Laurent Cluzel, only for the Frenchman's weak effort to drop at the feet of Wright to clear from inside his six-yard box

In added time, three successive Hinckley corners ramped up the pressure on the Hednesford defence, but some excellent leadership from Barrow and Wright saw their side over the line in a game they may well have folded in just a few games earlier

It's a crucial three points for the Pitmen that keeps them in touch with the teams above them in the table, although they remain at the foot of the table courtesy of Alfreton's 2-1 win against Worksop Town. Monday night sees play-off chasing Lancaster City make the long journey down to Keys Park as the Pitmen go in search of back-to-back wins for the first time this season

Hinckley United: Dootson, Cartwright, Colkin, Lavery ©, Heeley, Hitchen (Cluzel 74), Storer, Jackson (Manchit 74), McGregor (Story 61), Brown, Shilton     Subs Unused: Piercewright, Wade

Hednesford Town: Hateley, Teesdale, T. Marshall, Platt, Wright, Barrow ©, Teesdale, Brannan, Briggs, McSweeney, Bell, Hunter     Subs Unused: McMahon, Beckett, Adams, Dyer, Whittle