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Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Ilkeston Town

Heggs (17), (79), Freestone (63)


Hednesford Town

Piearce (50)

(1) 3

(0) 1




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Michael Bingham




Welling United (H) 25.1.03

The Pitmen slump to another miserable away defeat this afternoon at the New Manor Ground, as bottom-of-the-table Ilkeston record their first league win in four months as Ian Painter's side turned in their worst performance of the season to date


Two defeats on the road for the Hednesford had left them with a large amount of work to do to gatecrash the title race from their lowly ninth position in the table going into this week's round of games. The Pitmen and their supporters had been left frustrated at two home games in a row called off due to the recent spell of poor weather, with games against Chippenham Town and Chelmsford City called off in the past two weeks. Painter had used the time away to good effect, bringing the creative David Berks in from Stafford Rangers and restoring Mark Jones to the squad after the striker had returned to Keys Park following a loan spell at Marston Road. Stuart Lake was finally fit enough to return to the starting line-up for the first time since September, replacing Stuart Ryder in one of two changes that also saw Berks come straight into the side in place of Kevin Francis


Ilkeston's rotten season had continued since the two sides met back in November, with John McGinlay's side still rooted to the bottom of the league table with only nine points on the board to date. Ex-Hednesford loanee Paul Kiely had returned to the club last month after an unsuccessful spell at Keys Park and went straight back into the side for this today's game with a point to prove. Other players with Hednesford connections in the Ilkeston ranks included Ian Robinson and Tony Hemmings, who both started for the hosts


It was a chilly day in Derbyshire, but that was not enough to put off a healthy 523 crowd, with the Pitmen well backed despite their awful form on the road so far this season. Top scorer Steve Piearce almost gave them something to celebrate in the fourth minute as Paul Ware's pass sent the striker away from Barry Woolley, only for the forward to lift his shot over the crossbar from fifteen yards out


Hemmings responded for the hosts three minutes later, whipping in a dangerous free-kick from the corner of the Hednesford penalty area that Michael Bingham did well to hold, despite a deflection off the Hednesford wall


Heggs was next to test Bingham on ten minutes, poking a Hemmings cross goalwards and forcing Bingham into a fingertip save down to his right to concede a corner kick


The hosts continued to press, with veteran pair Hemmings and Heggs pulling the Pitmen apart once more on twelve minutes with a quick one-two that saw Heggs fire straight at the overworked Bingham once again 


 Back came the Pitmen, who had offered very little as an attacking entity in the opening quarter of the game, with Bryan Small heading wide from a superb Ashley Williams cross three minutes later when he really should have forced Matt Nurse in the Ilkeston goal


 In the seventeenth minute, ex-Pitmen duo Robinson and Hemmings combined to set up Heggs for the opening goal of the evening as Robinson robbed former team-mate Lake and fed Hemmings, whose cross was headed past Bingham from close-range by Heggs


Bingham was keeping his side in touch with a man of the match display, making a fine smothering save on twenty-six minutes at the feet of Leon Kelly after the speedy forward had raced into another defence-splitting pass from Anton Foster


A bout of head tennis in the Ilkeston penalty area failed to muster a response from the Pitmen on twenty-nine minutes, with Chris Brindley, Wayne Simpson and Lake all getting their heads on a Ware corner, but failing to turn the ball past Nurse as Ilkeston eventually cleared their lines


Berks had been a peripheral figure so far on his debut, as the Pitmen had lacked creativity throughout their team with the likes of Lancashire well shackled by a previously-porous Ilkeston defence. Berks managed to escape the attention of Robinson on thirty-three minutes and deliver a fine cross into the penalty area, only for the ball to drift out of play on the far side with no-one in blue attacking the cross


With half-time approaching, a Hemmings corner kick for Ilson found the head of Woolley, who was unmarked inside the Hednesford six-yard box. Fortunately for the Pitmen, who had been caught ball-watching, Woolley got his angles all wrong and headed well over the crossbar


Painter's aggressive half-time team talk seemed to have the desired effect on his troops, as the Pitmen's second-half showing was far more positive than their sluggish first-half display. They were level once more on fifty minutes, as strike partners Piearce and Lancashire played a quick and incisive one-two just inside the Ilkeston penalty area to wrongfoot the home defence, culminating in Piearce firing past Nurse from close-range to equalise


For a brief period in the game, the Pitmen had their tails up, making inroads into the Ilkeston defence that was suddenly showing familiar signs of indecision and flaky confidence. On fifty-six minutes, Berks exchanged passes with Piearce before clipping the ball into the path of Lancashire, who was inches away from tapping the ball home at the far post after he had got goal side of the Ilkeston defence


Two minutes later, Brindley climbed above Woolley inside the Ilkeston six-yard box to meet a Ware corner kick, but the ball was just too high for the Hednesford skipper to head goalwards and sailed into the stand behind the goal


The Pitmen's brief dominance of the game came to an end in the sixty-third minute, as Ilkeston restored their advantage due to another poor piece of defensive work from the Pitmen; Chris Freestone was afforded far too much time and space to advance on the Hednesford defence, firing past Bingham from twenty-five yards with a firmly-struck shot after he had been given too much time to size up the shot by a retreating, hesitant Pitmen back line


Lake lifted a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar from the edge of the Ilkeston penalty area on sixty-six minutes, followed a minute later by a powerfully-struck effort from Ware that Nurse did well to get behind


Painter had seen enough and brought on the physical threat of Francis on sixty-nine minutes in favour of Lancashire, who had had very little change out of the Ilkeston defence all evening. This saw the away side resort to a more 'route one' style of play as they looked for another way back into the game


Francis's first sight of goal came on seventy-two minutes, as his towering header from a Berks cross was diverted away from goal by an inadvertent deflection from Joe Atkinson at the far post


From the resultant Ware corner kick, Brindley's header was also deflected behind by an Ilkeston defender as the skipper shrugged off a bout of shirt-pulling inside the Ilkeston six-yard box


With the Pitmen committing more and more players forward as they searched for a second leveller, Ilkeston hit them on the break with a killer third goal eleven minutes from time; Hemmings was once again the architect, breaking quickly down the left wing and skinning poor Williams before delivering a fine cross onto the head of Heggs once more, who confidently headed past Bingham at the far post to seal a much-needed win for the hosts


There was no way back for the away side from this point on, as they trudged off to a chorus of negativity from their supporters, who had once again witnessed a poor away performance, this time against a side without a league win since September. Their fading title ambitions are now looking unlikely, although Painter will point to a strong home record that could still be the springboards for a renewed challenge on the top five in the coming weeks. They return to Keys Park for the first time this year with a home game against mid-table dwellers Welling United, in real need of three points to get their season back on track


Ilkeston Town: Nurse, Robinson, Atkinson, Atkinson, Woolley, Coleman, Foster (Mitchell 57), Kelly, Kiely (Freestone 50), Heggs, Hemmings (Lodge 83)     Subs Unused: Nwadike, Evans


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Small (Jones 80), Simkin, Brindley ©, Simpson, Lake, Ware, Piearce, Lancashire (Francis 69), Berks    Subs Unused: Ryder, Rae, Jenkins

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