F.A. Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Hucknall Town

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Chris Brindley


Hucknall Town (A) 1.10.02

Shot-shy Hednesford now face a tricky replay at UniBond Premier League Hucknall Town on Tuesday night after a poor spectacle for the F.A. Cup at Keys Park this afternoon between two sides unable to break the deadlock


Hednesford boss Ian Painter made a bold decision ahead of the game to continue to play veteran centre-back Chris Brindley as an auxiliary centre-forward to add some aerial presence to the Hednesford forward line after Brindley's impressive second-half performance there against Tiverton last Saturday. Mark Jones was the man to miss out after a poor performance at Ladysmead, with Stuart Ryder coming into the side in place of the former Wolves man. Darren Simkin was passed fit to return to the side at full-back in place of Ashley Williams, whilst Stewart Airdrie was handed a start in place of Carl Adams in midfield. Painter was still without the services of the experienced Kevin Francis, but could at last call upon another vastly experienced frontman, with Graham Lancashire fit enough to make his first appearance of the season on the substitute's bench


Hucknall arrived at Keys Park off the back of mixed form in the UniBond Northern Premier League, lying tenth in the league after twelve games with only three wins to date. Player/manager Phil Starbuck - the former Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United striker - named an experienced line-up to match the Pitmen's own experienced side, with the likes of former Nuneaton Borough man Steve Prindiville and ex-Hinckley Town man Scott Huckerby amongst his side. Goalkeeper Ryan Young was a well-known face to many of the Keys Park regulars, with the former Chasetown and Nuneaton Borough stopper and his family living just a few hundred yards away from the ground in Heath Hayes


 An overcast afternoon at Keys Park saw the Pitmen make an assertive start, with newly appointed skipper Les Robinson going close with a downward header that bounced over the crossbar in the fourth minute after Paul Ware's inswinging free-kick had been flicked on at the near post by Brindley


Steve Piearce - who took his goal well at Tiverton last weekend to continue his goal return - fired straight at Young in the fifth minute after getting in behind Stuart Hicks to latch onto an incisive through-ball from Ware


The Pitmen continued to knock on the door to no reward, with a deep cross from Airdrie evading everyone in the tenth minute as a whole host of players challenged for the ball inside the Hucknall penalty area


Brindley's presence in the Hucknall penalty area created an opening for the hosts on fourteen minutes, beating Hicks to a bouncing ball and nodding the ball into the path of Piearce, whose first-time shot flew high into the Hednesford end


The excellent Ware created a great chance for Piearce on twenty minutes, playing a superb slide-rule pass through the middle of Prindiville and Hicks and into the path of Piearce, who again failed to hit the target with a wild effort that Young saw wide


Stuart Lake's low drive three minutes later was seen past the post by Young as the hosts continued to have the better of the openings, but a lack of conviction was to thwart Painter's troops as the game wore on


Huckerby's talent with the ball at his feet created a half-chance for Starbuck on twenty-seven minutes, but a combination of a tough challenge from Ryder, coupled with Starbuck scuffing his first-time effort, saw the ball run harmlessly into the arms of Mark Gayle


Gayle was called upon to deny Huckerby himself three minutes later, making a smart stop to his left to turn the forward's goalbound shot away for a Hucknall corner kick


Mark Nangle did well to slip past Robinson on thirty-five minutes and supply Starbuck once more, but the veteran was caught in two minds as to what to do with the ball inside the Hednesford penalty area and allowed Robinson to recover and hack the ball clear


A cross from Airdrie on thirty-nine minutes had Young scrambling for the ball at his far post, with the stopper just doing enough to push the ball behind for a corner kick to the Pitmen before Brindley could nod the ball goalwards


Emergency striker Brindley ended the half strongly, skying a shot on forty-four minutes from a good position before powering a Ware cross over the crossbar with a header in first-half injury time


 Painter had also given wingers Shaun Wray and Airdrie starts in the same team for the first time, but their lack of creativity may have ended Painter's experimentation for now, as neither seemed to be able to get the ball down and play during an uninspiring first-half


If the first-half had been insipid, then the second was to prove an even poorer spectacle, as Hucknall dug in and gave the Pitmen a harsh lesson in defending a draw. Brindley continued to be the main focus of the Pitmen's attacks, knocking a Wray cross into the path of Ware on forty-eight minutes but Simon Brown was alert to the danger and tackled the midfielder on the edge of the penalty area


Painter had seen enough with only six minutes of the half gone and hauled Lake off in favour of set-piece expert Adams to add more creativity to his mis-firing team


Young was in fine form, underlining his burgeoning reputation as one of the best up-and-coming goalkeepers in non-league football by making a regulation save on fifty-five minutes to pluck Ware's cross-cum-shot out of the air under pressure from Piearce


 The visitors were content to soak up the pressure and catch the home side on the counter-attack, with Robinson letting Huckerby in behind him on sixty-five minutes after making an uncharacteristic error in letting a long ball bounce over him. Fortunately for the veteran defender, Huckerby took his effort first-time and fired wide of Gayle's goal


Jones was brought on in favour of the out-of-luck Piearce in the seventy-third minute to play alongside Brindley, as the Pitmen started to get a little desperate in their attempts to avoid an unwanted replay


Huckerby could have finished the game as a contest with ten minutes remaining had he been more accurate with a shot from twenty years out, lashing his effort wide of goal from a good position after being set up by substitute Paul Mitchell


A minute later, Painter made his final roll of the dice by gambling on the fitness of Lancashire, bringing him on to play as a front three with Brindley and Jones after removing the ineffective Wray


The hosts forced three corners in the final two minutes, with Lancashire having half a chance as the ball landed in the six-yard box, but Young was once again in commanding form to claim the loose ball


In added time, Adams' quickly-taken free-kick found Airdrie on the corner of the six-yard box, but clever jockeying from Prindiville saw him push Airdrie away from goal and down a blind alley to keep the winger from Young's goal


 So the Pitmen must now travel to Watnall Road on Tuesday night in another attempt to claim the prize money and a shot at Southern League high-flyers Worcester City or Stamford in the next round. Painter will be frustrated at how wasteful his side was in front of goal and may have to make changes to his side again in an attempt to find a blend that works up front

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Simkin, Lucas, Robinson ©, Brindley, Ryder, Wray (Lancashire 83), Ware, Piearce (Jones 73), Lake (Adams 51), Airdrie      Subs Unused: Simpson, Jenkins


Hucknall Town: Young, McGowan, Brown, Lenagh, Hicks, Gaunt, Prindiville, Cooke (Griffiths 69), Starbuck, Nangle (Mitchell 75), Huckerby     Subs Unused: Tee, Gregory, Hollingworth