25.10.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Ilkeston Town

Hednesford Town

Barnett (87)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

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541

Stuart Brock

L D W W L W W W W W

CammeIl Laird (H) 28.10.08

The Pitmen completed a classic smash-and-grab victory at a drizzly Ilkeston Town this afternoon, putting them seven points clear of their opponents and five clear of new challengers Marine in second place

 

Manager Dean Edwards was shorn of two of his most influential performers, with Danny Harvey missing due to a dead leg and skipper Ross Draper serving a one-match ban for five yellow cards accrued this term. New signing Curtis Ujah replaced Harvey, with Chad Sheppard promoted from the bench to fill in for Draper. Belgian midfielder Dominic Musafiri was amongst the substitutes after his midweek switch whilst the experienced Mark Briggs was given the captaincy in Draper's absence

Second-placed Ilkeston - sitting four points between the table-topping Pitmen at the start of play - were playing their second game in a row at the New Manor Ground after a midweek scoreless draw against fifth-placed Bradford (Park Avenue). Manager David Holdsworth made one change to his side for this first versus second clash as Sam Duncum returned to the side out on the wing in place of Anthony Howell

Despite the light rain that was falling around Derbyshire, both sides made light of the conditions and played some neat football in the first half, as befits their positions at the top of the UniBond Premier League. Ilson's Steven Istead was first to register a shot on target in the first five minutes, but Tom Marshall got across to block his goalbound shot

Ilkeston were having the better of the chances, despite the Pitmen enjoying plenty of possession. Tom Cahill should have done better with a shot that only found the side netting after his run in from the left. In any case, Stuart Brock had the near post covered

Tyrone Barnett was putting his usual shift in for the visitors, probing and testing the Ilkeston defence with his aerial ability and neat link-up play with Ross Dyer. He failed to test former West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Chris Adamson with a scuffed shot that the Ilson number one handled easily

Brock made the first save of what was to become a busy afternoon for him on twenty minutes, getting a firm hand to a shot from Amari Morgan-Smith

Ilkeston continued to have the better opportunities, with Pringle firing wide after Ujah had misjudged a cross from Morgan-Smith

There were few opportunities falling the way of the Pitmen, with Brock continuing to deny Ilkeston. Duncum was denied by Brock on the half-hour, with the former Villa keeper getting well behind his long-range effort

The Pitmen had to wait until close to the end of the first half to get a meaningful shot on target. Sam Hall took the ball down the right, before playing the ball square to Elliott Durrell, whose trademark long-range effort whistled inches past the post

Having weathered the first-half pressure from Ilkeston, there was much positivity amongst Hednesford supporters that with the strong wind at their backs in the second half, they could push on for all three points. However, it was soon apparent that Ilkeston were looking to push their home advantage to grab a crucial win for themselves

The second half started well for the Pitmen, with an early flurry of activity in and around the Ilkeston area. Hall picked up a ball just a few yards inside the Ilkeston half, before trying his luck with an outrageous effort  that Adamson had to turn over the bar for a Hednesford corner

Cue the Stuart Brock show. The Hednesford number one, in many people's eyes an under-rated performer who has silently gone about his business this term, produced a one-man show throughout the second half to deny the hosts time and time again

His first action of the second half was to deny Morgan-Smith with a fine save to turn his goal-bound shot around the post for a corner on fifty-six minutes

Cahill was next to test Brock just after the hour mark, as he managed to get on the end of a great ball by Pringle, but fired straight at the diving Brock, who turned the ball away with his legs

Brock could do nothing about Ilkeston's next chance just a minute later; a Hednesford corner from Briggs was headed away, allowing Ilkeston to break quickly. Anthony Howell was allowed to run with the ball before he hit a shot that was only just wide of the far post

Cahill again could have scored with a shot that was only just wide of goal, before Brock again came to the Pitmen's rescue by smothering the ball to deny Howell another chance to shoot

On came new boy Musafiri for the tiring Durrell with eighteen minutes left, with the new boy showing one or two nice touches in the centre of the park in the short time he was on the pitch

Despite the pressure that was on the Pitmen's defence, you always felt that the quality of the hard-working pair up front may just be the difference if the Pitmen could provide some quality balls up to them

With the game becoming stretched in the final ten minutes as Ilkeston looked to grab a winner, it was the away side that got their noses in front with three minutes remaining. Briggs received the ball down the right-wing, before glancing up and spotting the incoming Barnett. His cross was inch-perfect, right onto the head of the striker, who hung in the air and planted a firm header down past Adamson and into the far corner of the net. The sizeable travelling support went wild, Ilkeston could only bemoan a host of missed chances

Added time saw a nervy last two minutes for the Pitmen, as Ilkeston launched a number of desperate balls into the area in an attempt to grab an equaliser. However, with Brock in such good form, added to by an excellent performance from Tom Marshall, the home side failed to find the breakthrough, with the Pitmen celebrating a fantastic three points at the final whistle

A fifth straight win in all competitions puts Edwards' side in a strong position at the top of the UniBond Premier League as they return home on Tuesday night with a great chance to extend their winning run with a game against struggling Cammell Laird

Ilkeston Town: Adamson, Thompson, Hurst, Church, Murphy, Gordon, Istead (Shaw 79), Pringle, Amari-Smith, Cahill, Duncum (Howell 60)     Subs Unused: Shaw, Haystead, Scott

Hednesford Town: Brock, Hall, Maguire, Gomes, Ujah, Marshall, Briggs ©, Durrell (Musafiri 72), Barnett, Dyer, Sheppard      Subs Unused: Styche, Stamps, Burley, O'Reilly

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