9.9.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Hinckley United

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540

Mark Gayle

D W W W L W D D

Havant & Waterlooville (H) 14.9.02

The Pitmen played out their second goalless draw in three days amidst awful conditions this evening against struggling Hinckley United at Keys Park, with the quality of football somewhat mirroring the poor weather

Manager Ian Painter was looking for a response from his side following an uninspiring performance at Weymouth on Saturday, sticking with the same side that had claimed a point in Dorset for this evening's game. Painter was still without the services of Kevin Francis, who was still struggling with a knee injury, but could otherwise pick from a fully-fit squad

Hinckley's start to the new season had been a poor one, with Dean Thomas's side sitting down in eighteenth place at the start of play. The Knitters were still looking for their first win of the season at the eighth attempt, having been beaten 3-1 at home to Welling United in their most recent game on Saturday. Thomas could call upon a number of experienced attacking players despite their struggles, with non-league stalwarts such as Dave Sadler, Zeke Rowe and Richard Mitchell amongst the Hinckley ranks

Torrential rain had fallen all day in Hednesford, but to the amazement of some, the club announced that the game would definitely be on with no plans to call it off at any time, despite the continuing downpour into the early evening in South Staffordshire

Hinckley's Gavin O'Toole was to set a Keys Park record in the first five seconds of the game, as he immediately elbowed Paul Ware with the first challenge of the game, leaving the experienced midfielder in a heap in the centre circle and earning an immediate yellow card from referee Mr. Townsend

With the rain coming down incessantly, chances were at a premium in the opening quarter of the game. The Pitmen were limited to set-piece chances through the cultured boot of Carl Adams, with Ware getting on the end of a deep Adams corner of eleven minutes but volleyed his effort well wide of goal

Hinckley responded through Sadler three minutes later, driving a low effort off the saturated turf from fully twenty-five yards out that failed to test the reflexes of Mark Gayle

 

Another Adams corner kick caused confusion in the Hinckley ranks on fourteen minutes, with the midfielder's swirling ball in dropping in the Hinckley six yard box but somehow failed to be turned home by anyone in white as both sets of players were caught ball-watching before Stuart Storer hacked the ball away

Ware had been feeling the after-effects of the early challenge on his from O'Toole, and was eventually forced off on twenty minutes where he was replaced by Wayne Simpson

 It was Shaun Wray who had the best chance of the first half at the midway point, firing just wide after being played in behind the Hinckley defence by Mark Jones down the left wing

Back came the visitors, with Andy Penny's header from a Leon Doughty free-kick skimming the top of Gayle's crossbar on the half-hour mark with Hinckley's closest effort so far in an uninspiring encounter

 Skipper Richard Lucas scuffed a shot wide after some promising build-up play from the Pitmen on thirty-four minutes that had seen Shaun Wray create an opening with his skill to play Lucas in behind the Hinckley defence

Striker Jones was denied by Azerbaijan U21 International keeper Farhad Afandiyev five minutes before half time, with the Hinckley stopper making a fine smothering save to deny the Hednesford striker a clear shot at goal from ten yards out

 The second period saw the visitors take a hold on the game, and they will feel they should have won it when they consider the chances they had in the second half. Sadler played a clever one-two with strike partner Mitchell on fifty-one minutes but pulled his shot on the slippery pitch wide of Gayle's right-hand post

Gayle was equal to a toe-poked effort from Mitchell three minutes later, making a simple save at his near post to deny the former Stafford Rangers striker after Storer's square ball had found the 29-year-old lurking inside the Hednesford penalty area

With Hinckley continuing to bang on the door, Painter decided to make a tactical change to his side in an attempt to gain a foothold in the game on fifty-six minutes with the introduction of winger Stewart Airdrie for holding midfielder Derek Rae

Gayle made a brilliant save to deny the prolific Sadler on the hour mark to keep his side in contention, leaping at full stretch to turn the striker's sidefooted effort wide of the far post. A superb save from the former Crewe stopper

 Another fine save from Gayle denied Leon Doughty on sixty-five minutes to underline his credentials for the man of the match award, making another flying save down low to his right to turn Doughty's header wide of goal

The Pitmen had mustered little in the way of a clear-cut chance during the second half, with Chris Brindley's towering header from an Adams corner on seventy minutes drifting into the Heath Hayes terrace

Teenager Damien Charie was handed his first action of the season on seventy-one minutes, replacing the disappointing Piearce up front alongside Jones

The pitch was also starting to cut up as the half wore on, with both sides reliant on long - and at times, aimless, balls forward, The Pitmen were missing their focal point Francis at this point, as Jones and Charie lacked the physical presence of veteran Francis to challenge experienced centre-backs Penny and Dave Crowley

Carl Adams wasted a good opportunity on seventy-seven minutes, seeing his snap-shot well saved by Afandiyev as he tried his luck with an opportunistic shot from the edge of the Hinckley penalty area

Lucas was thankful for a timely slip from Sadler on eighty-two minutes, as the striker broke clear of the Hednesford skipper, who allowed the striker to turn him easily on the edge of the penalty area and bear down on goal. However, Sadler lost his footing at the crucial moment and allowed Gayle to hack the loose ball clear of danger

Both sides forced corner kicks in the final ten minutes as they looked to take the points late on, with Hinckley having the best chance to win it in the very last minute; substitute Leon Blake sent over a cross to find Sadler unmarked, but somehow the normally-prolific striker managed to turn his shot wide of the far post with the goal gaping. A late let-off for the home side

The conditions had played a big part in a turgid encounter, with neither side doing enough to earn themselves all three points on a poor playing surface. The Pitmen return to Keys Park on Saturday when they face another team in form, Liam Daish's Havant & Waterlooville 

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Simkin, Lucas ©, Robinson, Brindley, Adams, Wray, Ware (Simpson 20), Piearce (Charie 71), Jones, Rae (Airdrie 56)      Subs Unused: Ryder, Jenkins

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