24.2.2009

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Ilkeston Town

Cahill (51)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

351

Ross Draper

W W W W L L W L L L

Bradford (Park Avenue) (A) 28.2.09

The wheels are starting to come off Hednesford's UniBond Premier League campaign with alarming speed as they succumbed to yet another defeat at the previously impenetrable Keys Park, this time against play-off chasing Ilkeston Town this evening

 

Manager Dean Edwards was given a massive shot in the arm ahead of the game with the news that three key players from earlier on in the season were declared fit and able to play. Goalkeeper Stuart Brock returned from injury, as did top scorer Tyrone Barnett, replacing Danny Woodhall and the suspended Florent Raimy. At the back, the shock news of Decio Gomes's return saw the Portuguese sweeper return for the first time since December in place of Rapinder Gill

Play-off chasing Ilson arrived at Keys Park following an entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Worksop Town at the weekend, leaving the Reds clinging on to fourth place in the table. David Holdsworth's team were looking behind them however, as the teams below them were starting to bunch up after Saturday's round of games, with only five points covering fourth place down to tenth place

A good start from the home side saw them move straight up the field as they searched for that elusive opener. Two minutes in, they almost found it, with skipper Ross Draper running onto Elliott Durrell's corner kick, but found the crossbar in the way of his powerful rising header

The Pitmen clearly meant business, as they looked to respond to the defeat on Saturday to Ilkeston's deadly local rivals Eastwood Town. Sam Hall was seeing plenty of the ball, allowing Draper to make his runs forward to join the three strikers Durrell, Dyer and Barnett

However, they failed to turn the possession and territorial advantage into clear scoring positions, with Ilson's back line well-drilled in keeping the three front men quiet. Indeed, it appeared they had done their homework on the Pitmen, as Durrell was given very little time and space to play

The visitors grew in confidence as the half progressed, and youngster Ben Pringle got their first shot of the game in on twenty-three minutes, picking up a ball from Marc Newsham and firing straight at Brock, who made a comfortable save low down. Pringle also got in another shot, again supplied by Newsham, but his weak effort was cleared off the line  

The Pitmen responded immediately, with the old partnership of Barnett and Dyer linking up well, with Dyer sprinting towards goal and testing on-loan Sheffield Wednesday keeper Aaron Jameson with a shot. From there, a quick break out from Ilkeston saw the ball played into the Hednesford area, where Gomes' ball back to Brock took a massive bobble off the bumpy Keys Park pitch and drifted wide after jumping over Brock's  foot as he attempted to control the back pass

The game had run a similar course as Saturday's game up to that point, but no-one in the crowd could have guessed it would become an almost carbon copy of the Eastwood clash. And yet, six minutes before the break, the Hednesford fans were left with a depressing sense of déja vû, as they were reduced to ten men for the second time in four days, almost at the same time in the game. Just as Saturday, it was a new arrival that was shown a straight red card, with left-back Alex Cowley rightly dismissed for a horrendous tackle on Steven Istead that saw the Ilkeston man stretchered off

The Pitmen again seemed to go into their shell and put up the shutters as they looked to get through to half time without conceding. Tom Cahill's late challenge on Durrell left the Pitmen fuming a minute before the break, but rather than even up the numbers, the referee gave Cahill a yellow card

Any hopes the Pitmen had of keeping the game tight went out of the window six minutes into the second half. Gomes made a real hash of an attempted back pass to Brock, dithering before playing the ball off Cahill, who charged the ball down before taking the ball around the advancing Brock and scoring

It all seemed far too familiar a story for the Pitmen, as their game plan had been blown away by a well-organised a patient Ilkeston side. Many teams have attempted to play this against Hednesford in the second half of the season, with most taking advantage of the fact that the Pitmen appear to not have a plan B, which may prove their downfall

Pringle was enjoying a tremendous game for the away side, as he had when the two sides met at the New Manor Ground in October. His creativity almost put Cahill in for a second goal on the hour, but Danny Harvey's timely interception prevented more misery for the few that had turned up to watch

Newsham was another to enjoy a good game for the visitors, and he almost added his name to the scoresheet on sixty-five minutes, but his run into the box saw him over-run the ball and Brock pounced on the loose ball before Newsham could shoot

And for the Pitmen? Very little in the way of a threat, with a handful of half-chances falling to the men in white in the final quarter. Draper turned the ball goalwards on seventy-five minutes but failed to test Jameson in the Ilson goal. The transfer-listed Tom Marshall made a barnstorming run down the left, but his powerful cross-shot flew wide of the far post

The Pitmen made all three substitutions available, with the cultured Mark Briggs on for Hall, and strike duo Duane Darby and Matt Lewis on for the disappointing Barnett and Durrell. Darby was to go closest for the Pitmen in the closing stages, firing over the bar from close range from a Briggs ball

All in all, another poor showing, and the excuses are starting to run a little dry from the players and management. Since the New Year has rolled around the Pitmen have been in shocking form, with sides down at the foot of the table with better recent records. In many cases, the season seems to be echoing the 2006-2007 season, and we can all remember how much of a disappointment that turned out to be. With his 'first XI' now back together, Edwards and Matt Elliott now have to rediscover what made this side virtually unbeatable before Christmas and return it to the side, otherwise face another underachieving year. A trip to another play-off chasing team in the form of seventh-placed Bradford (Park Avenue) is next up for the Pitmen, who are in desperate need of a pick-me-up

Hednesford Town: Brock, Platt, Cowley ▆ (39), Gomes, Harvey, Marshall, Hall (Briggs 57), Durrell (Darby 81), Barnett (Lewis 72), Dyer, Draper ©        Subs Unused: Gill, Maguire

Ilkeston Town: TBC