Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Lancashire (22), Francis (79), Lake (88)

Ilkeston Town

Holmes (41), Hemmings (60)

(1) 3

(1) 2



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Robbie Meacham



Salisbury City (H) 8.9.01

The Pitmen finally got their Southern Premier League campaign started this evening, chalking up their first win at home in a league game for almost a year to beat Ilkeston Town and hand under-pressure manager Paul Raynor his first points as the Pitmen's boss

Saturday had seen the Pitmen slump to a fourth successive defeat at the hands of Folkestone Invicta, which came as the final straw for player/manager Paul Raynor, who was starting to come under pressure from the supporters to find a response to his misfiring team. Former Ilkeston player Raynor made two changes to the side that had started at Folkestone, bringing in youth team players Chris Wood and Robbie Meacham for their full debuts in place of the more experienced duo Mark Gayle and Dean Craven, who were both ruled out after failing fitness tests

Ilkeston's ranks were full of familiar faces to the Hednesford supporters as Stuart Ford, Tony Hemmings, David Holmes and Ian Robinson all started for the Robins as they looked to pick up where they left off at the weekend with a fine 3-2 win at home to Welling United. Ilkeston manager John McGovern made one change to the side that had started the Welling game with John Knapper coming back into the side at the expense of Chris Bettney up front to partner ex-Hednesford loanee Holmes

Under the Keys Park floodlights, the men in white made a good start to the evening's game with an assertive, pacy start to proceedings. Graham Lancashire's neat lay-off found Paul Bagshaw in space, with the former Barnsley winger's deep cross headed over the crossbar by Kevin Francis at the far post under pressure from Glenn Kirkwood

In the eighth minute, an inswinging corner kick from Craig Hopkins was headed back across goal by skipper Mark Haran, only for Lancashire to weakly turn the ball wide form eight yards out as he got a toe to the ball

Ilkeston were content to play on the counter-attack and use the pace of Hemmings to good effect. The veteran winger skipped past the challenge of Richard Lucas in the thirteenth minute and got to the byeline before crossing for Holmes, whose downwards header was straight into the arms of 22-year-old debutant keeper Wood

A well-worked free-kick involving Raynor and Lucas three minutes later saw the Pitmen's player/manager swing in a cross from the left that was once again aimed at the giant Francis, only for the veteran striker to flick his header well wide of goal from ten yards out

After an initially quiet start to the game, 17-year-old Meacham was beginning to find his feet in midfield for the hosts, robbing Robinson of the ball in the nineteenth minute and playing an intelligent through ball into the path of Bagshaw. After taking a couple of touches, Bagshaw turned past Emeka Nwadike and drop a low shot into the danger zone where Lancashire was a matter of inches away from turning the ball home

The visitors had their best chance of the opening quarter on twenty minutes as Knapper got the better of Lenny Curtis and turned a Hemmings square ball just wide of Wood's right-hand post

It was to prove a costly miss from the Robins, as the Pitmen took the lead two minutes later through Lancashire; Meacham's cross was cleared by James Whitehead but only as far as Raynor, whose recycled cross into the Ilkeston box was headed home by Lancashire at the near post

Wood justified his inclusion in the side with the first of a series of good saves on twenty-six minutes as Ilson came back into the game, tipping Holmes' effort away from his right-hand post after the striker had nipped in to turn a Robinson ball goalwards

The keeper made another fine stop on thirty-four minutes to ensure that Matt McKenzie's dipping shot ended up behind for an Ilkeston corner kick as he back-tracked to deal with the midfielder's effort

Francis was crowded out by the Ilkeston defence on thirty-seven minutes as Stuart Lake played the ball into the striker, only for Francis to take too long in deciding what to do with it and allowed the away side to clear their lines

Lake was involved again three minutes later as he gifted possession to the visitors cheaply just outside his own penalty area to Robinson, whose clipped ball into the Hednesford penalty area was fumbled behind by Wood as he saw off the danger from the incoming Holmes and Nwadike

Ilkeston got themselves back on level terms four minutes before the break as two of the former Hednesford brigade combined to equalise for the visitors. McKenzie's ball to the far post was headed goalwards by Hemmings, only for the post to intervene as his effort came back off the woodwork. Holmes reacted quickest to volley the rebound into the empty net with Wood still recovering from the initial effort from Hemmings

The visitors finished the half on top with Kirkwood heading narrowly wide of goal from a Hemmings free-kick a minute before half-time and Wood claiming a deep corner kick in added time to deny Holmes a free header into the net

It had been a challenging half for the Pitmen, who had been much the better side in the opening half-hour but had finished the half very much second best as they allowed Ilkeston to take the initiative in the latter stages of the half

Raynor and Gavan Walker's half-time chat seemed fairly ineffective from the Pitmen's point of view as the hosts struggled to get the ball down and play at the start of the second half and allow Ilkeston to dictate the tempo of the game. Raynor was spoken to by the referee for a crude challenge on Robinson on fifty minutes with irked the Ilkeston bench as it happened right in front of them

Francis headed high, wide and not very handsomely three minutes later as he tamely diverted a wicked inswinging cross from Bagshaw into the newly-roofed Heath Hayes end from just seven yards out

Meacham won a free-kick for the home side on fifty-six minutes in a dangerous position following a mazy run past two Ilkeston players and was halted by Kirkwood just outside the penalty area. Lucas swung in a dangerous-looking free-kick that was headed into the side-netting by Lancashire at the far post as he tried to steer the ball back across the six-yard box

Ilkeston's direct approach to the game saw them take the lead on the hour mark as a long, searching ball forwards from Nwadike found Hemmings in behind the Hednesford defence after he broke the offside trap. A flag was not forthcoming for the Pitmen, allowing Hemmings to curl a shot beyond the reach of Wood and into the far corner of the net

The Pitmen reacted to falling behind with another youngster entering the fray on sixty-two minutes as Craig Shakespeare came on in place of Curtis in central defence. It had been a suspect display from the Irishman, who had looked ill at ease against the threat of Holmes and Knapper

A great run from Hopkins on sixty-six minutes saw the right-back get past left-back Chris Timons and cross for Francis, who's goalward header was diverted away from danger by the leg of Kirkwood

The Pitmen made their second change of the evening on sixty-one minutes as Stewart Airdrie was brought on in place of the tiring Meacham to add width and pace to the flagging Hednesford attack

This move proved most effective for the hosts, as they started to create chances again against a flagging Ilkeston side who were content to protect their slim advantage. Airdrie's out-swinging corner kick on seventy-three minutes was volleyed back into the box by Lucas to Raynor, whose first-time volley from an angle drifted just over the angle of post and crossbar

Two minutes later, Haran lifted a high ball into the Ilkeston penalty area that was turned goalwards by the head of Francis, only for Ford to grab hold of the ball ahead of the poaching presence of Lancashire

Wood did well to turn a deflected Holmes effort away from goal on seventy-eight minutes before the Pitmen set up a grandstand finish a minute later with an equaliser of their own. Airdrie's deep cross to the far post was headed back into the six-yard box by Bagshaw where Francis was on hand to nod the ball home from close-range

The Pitmen were well on top of the game and sensed a winner in the final ten minutes of the game as they threw more and more bodies at the Ilkeston defence. Shakespeare was unlucky not to head home on eighty-one minutes as he missed Airdrie's cross by a whisker at the far post before Lake was wasteful a minute later as he fired well wide from just twelve yards out with a low shot

To add to the options up front, the Pitmen brought Jon Pickess on for the tiring Lancashire with six minutes remaining in a like-for-like swap alongside Francis

The Pitmen continued to press and were rewarded with a third goal on eighty-eight minutes; a spell of pressure in and around the Ilkeston box saw Bagshaw drill a cross into the six-yard box which Ilkeston failed to deal with effectively, allowing Lake to volley home the loose ball from close range for his first goal of the season

The impetuous turned back Ilkeston's way as they looked for a way back into the game late on with a series of corner kicks from Hemmings and McKenzie. Kirkwood's looping header in the final minute of normal time was turned over by Wood, although the ball looked to be looping over the crossbar anyway

In the final minute of added time, Hemmings danced his way to the byeline and pulled the ball back into the six-yard box, only for substitute Bettney to be denied by a smothering tackle from Lucas as the left-back cleared his lines

It had been a challenging evening for the home side, but they were finally on the board for the new season at the sixth time of asking after earning their first three points of the season the hard way. It's another home game for them to look forward to on Saturday, as draw specialists Salisbury City visit Keys Park for the first time ever looking to improve on their own stuttering start to the new campaign

Hednesford Town: Wood, Hopkins, Lucas, Curtis (Shakespeare 62), Haran ©, Lake, Meacham (Airdrie 69), Raynor, Lancashire (Pickess 84), Francis , Bagshaw      Subs Unused: None

Ilkeston Town: Ford, Whitehead, Timons, Robinson, Kirkwood, Williams, Nwadike, McKenzie, Knapper (Manners 78), Holmes (Bettney 84), Hemmings    Sub Unused: Rowe