Nationwide Conference North

Hednesford Town

Hyde United

Hanley (5), Tolson (58)

(0) 0

(1) 2



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Gary Hateley



Redditch United (H) 15.4.06


The Pitmen's third home in a row once again draws a blank for the hosts as they are beaten by Hyde United to leave them five points adrift of safety and seemingly doomed to relegation with only five games left to save their season

With the transfer window now closed for the season, player/manager Steve Anthrobus was unable to bring any new faces into his ever-changing squad, with the Hednesford supremo forced into one change to the side that had been beaten by Leigh RMI on Monday as Ross Dyer had been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a broken collarbone; this bad news was offset by the positive news of Leon McSweeney's return to the side in Dyer's place after he had served a two-match suspension

Hyde - 4-2 winners at Ewen Fields back in December in a game that was to prove to be the end of Chris Brindley's spell as Hednesford manager - arrived at Keys Park off the back of their own bout of rotten form, having not won any of their previous eight games. Manager Steve Waywell was down the bare bones with his squad and was forced into three changes to his side from the one that had been beaten 1-0 against Hinckley United last weekend as Paul Jones, Neil Tolson and Gerry Harrison replaced injured trio Nathan Wharton, Lee Unsworth and Steve Brackenbridge 

It was a bitterly cold afternoon in Staffordshire, with a gale-force wind blowing across the pitch and making conditions tough for both players. The Pitmen made the more fluent start to proceedings as Ian Wright's first-minute header towards goal from a Sean Platt cross was headed off the line by the alert presence of Jones

Two minutes later, McSweeney's deft touch over the top of the Hyde defence played Colin Hunter into the left-hand side of the penalty area, only for the winger to strike a rising shot over young Burnley loanee Mark Crossley's crossbar

Hyde's first attack of the game in the fifth minute brought them the opening goal of the afternoon, as a defensive error from the Pitmen contributed to the visitors taking the lead. Nicky Clee's long throw caught the hosts ball-watching, allowing Cayne Hanley to nip in ahead of Scott Hadland and head home from six yards out

It have got worse for the home side just three minutes later, as Neil Tolson stole in ahead of Lee Barrow to reach a left-wing cross from Caldecott but headed over the crossbar from eight yards out

In the fourteenth minute, the Pitmen failed to learn their lesson from the goal as they allowed Hanley to ghost in at the far post to reach Harrison's deep cross, only for goalkeeper Gary Hateley to make a save on this occasion as he parried the winger's header away from goal

Crossley's long goal kick in the seventeenth minute was caught up in the swirling gale and dropped back into the Hyde half of the pitch, where Anthrobus flicked the ball on to Platt down the right flank. The on-loan Walsall man swung the ball into the penalty area but the conditions played their part once more as the ball drifted over the head of McSweeney and just wide of Crossley's far post

Young forward Nicky Clee went close to doubling Hyde's advantage on twenty minutes as he beat Wright to Harrison's lofted pass and volleyed towards goal, only to see his shot dip just wide of Hateley's right-hand post from sixteen yards out

Hateley made a superb stop to deny the same player three minutes later as he dived full-length to his left to turn Clee's low driven shot around the post for a Hyde corner after Clee had left Wright in his wake with a quick turn

Back came the Pitmen and Les Hines delivered a fine corner kick into the Hyde six-yard box on twenty-six minutes that was headed up in the air by Barrow before being tipped over the crossbar by Crossley, who denied Anthrobus a tap-in on the goal line with a timely parry

Hyde's Dale Johnson skewed a good effort wide of goal for the visitors just before the half-hour mark as he was played through by Hanley's square ball, only to scuff a shot with the outside of his boot just wide of the target from twenty yards out

Another long throw from Clee on thirty-three minutes caused more problems for the home side as they struggled to clear their lines, culminating in a snapshot from the edge of the penalty area from Harrison that cleared Hateley's crossbar

Martin O'Connor - struggling with the pace of the game so far - picked up a loose pass out of defence from old stager Mike Flynn on thirty-five minutes and supplied Hunter with a ball to feet down the left flank. The wing man twisted and turned past David German and chipped the ball to the far post, where McSweeney stretched to reach the ball but could only direct it over the crossbar with a header from eight yards out

Good play from Ross Adams three minutes later saw the right-back link up well with Platt before delivering a low cross into the near post, where Anthrobus controlled the ball well before laying it off to Hadland, whose low driven shot took a deflection off a Hyde defender's leg before drifting behind for a corner kick

With three minutes of the first half remaining, another Clee long throw from the right was flicked on by Harrison and into the path of Johnson, who never fully had the ball under his control and could only stab it wide of the target from ten yards out 

Hateley kept his side in it a minute before half-time as he produced a sensational save to deny Clee, somehow tipping the forward's right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area away from goal with a wonderful one-handed save down to his left

The Pitmen had looked lax and, in truth, out of ideas against an average Hyde side that had taken full advantage of the home side's defensive shortcomings by using the conditions to their advantage. Half time saw the conditions worsen and the spells of drizzly rain turned into a hailstorm just after the start of the second period

The hosts started the better of the two sides and Hadland should have done better with his effort on fifty minutes as McSweeney's pass sent the midfield man away into space, but the former Bromsgrove man lashed his wild angled effort wide of Crossley's left-hand post

Three minutes later, Crossley's goal kick got caught in the wind and dropped straight into the path of McSweeney, who took the ball back into the Hyde penalty area before striking a firm shot at goal that Crossley fumbled behind for as Hednesford corner kick

Hail turned into snow at this point and the next ten minutes of the game saw visibility get progressively worse as the flakes fell from the leaden skies. Wright headed over the crossbar for the Pitmen on fifty-five minutes as he met Hunter's free-kick with a powerful header that lacked direction from ten yards out

Hyde doubled their lead on fifty-eight minutes as another lapse in concentration at the back from the Pitmen gifted the visitors another goal from a set-piece; Clee's inswinging corner from the right somehow found its way through to Tolson, who headed home unchallenged from a couple of yards out. Walsall-born Tolson had been part of the York City side beaten by the Pitmen on the same ground back in 1997 as part of Hednesford's epic run to the fourth round of the F.A. Cup that season

The Pitmen responded by making their first substitution of the afternoon on the hour mark, as O'Connor was taken off after struggling to keep up with play and was replaced by the aptly-named Graham Hyde in the centre of midfield

This move added more impetus to the Hednesford attack, with Hyde playing the ball out to Hines with his first touch on sixty-two minutes, allowing the left-back to get in behind Hanley and cross for Anthrobus, whose weak downward header was easily saved by Crossley

Hadland and Hunter played a quick one-two down the left on sixty-six minutes, allowing Hunter to drift inside from his wide position before attempting a curling shot beyond the reach of Crossley but just bending his shot beyond the far post

Three minutes later, Crossley made a good save to deny McSweeney as the Irishman shimmied his way into the visitors' penalty area as Hyde played him into space, striking a firm shot at goal that was held by the young stopper

On seventy-one minutes, the Pitmen made a bold double attacking change as Nathan Lamey came on for Hunter and defender Tom Marshall was deployed as an auxiliary target man up front as he replaced Anthrobus

A long-range effort from Hadland had Crossley scampering across his goal to cover the post two minutes later after the midfield man was given time and space to take the ball deep into the Hyde half of the pitch

Marshall did well to get his head on a Hines free-kick with fifteen minutes of the game remaining, flicking the ball into the six-yard box with a backwards header that Crossley smothered at the feet of Lamey before the other substitute could get a toe on the loose ball

With twelve minutes remaining, the excellent Flynn made an outstanding covering tackle to deny McSweeney a shot at goal after the striker had broken the Hyde offside trap to make a run in on goal after Platt had played him in

John O'Kane replaced Harrison for the visitors in the eightieth minute, with the small band of Hyde supporters giving the substitute a warm welcome after O'Kane had overcome a long-standing injury that had kept him out of action since September 

With the snow starting to become lighter, the Pitmen pressed for a crucial goal to get themselves back into contention and set up a grandstand finish. On eighty-two minutes, Barrow's free-kick took a slight nick off the Hyde wall and looped up towards goal, prompting Crossley into making a save at the foot of his post

Adams was playing as a winger at this point for the hosts, abandoning his defensive duties as the Pitmen pushed all available players forwards. His low cross on eighty-four minutes found Lamey in space eight yards from goal, but his shot was well saved by Hyde's man of the match Crossley

Three minutes later, Marshall squandered the Pitmen's best chance of the whole game as he turned a cross from Hines inches wide of goal from four yards out, highlighting the lack of striker's instinct in playing a defender up front as a stand-in striker

Three minutes of added time saw Hyde stand firm in the face of more Hednesford pressure, although the hosts failed to muster a shot on target in time added on to back up their long spells of possession. A third defeat on the bounce leaves them five points adrift of safety with the games swiftly running out. One of the sides directly above them in the table - Redditch United - are next to visit Keys Park as Anthrobus's side end a run of four home games in succession next weekend as they host the relegation-threatened Reds. A fourth defeat on the bounce would surely be curtains for the Pitmen ahead of a tough run-in that includes games against Droylsden, Stalybridge Celtic and Harrogate Town - all sides sitting in the top six of the table currently and pushing for a play-off place

Hednesford Town: Hateley, Adams, Hines, Platt, Wright, Barrow ©, Hadland, O’Connor (Hyde 60), McSweeney, Anthrobus (T. Marshall 71), Hunter (Lamey 71)      Subs Unused: Beckett, Molloy

Hyde United:  Crossley, German, Caldecott, Jones, Flynn, Adams, Tolson, Harrison (O'Kane 80), Clee, Johnson, Hanley      Subs Unused: Brackenridge, O’Kane, Armstrong, Ellis, Ndjebayi