7.4.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Clements (45), Wellecomme (57)

Kendal Town

Leadbetter (55) (penalty), Williams (76), Wisdom (78)

(1) 2

(0) 3

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Nick Wellecomme

L D D W L W L L D L

Chasetown (A) 9.4.12

The Pitmen's slim play-off hopes hang by the merest of threads this evening, as a late double whammy from Kendal extended Hednesford's winless run at home to seven games

Having played out a limp goalless draw at home to Nantwich the previous week, manager Rob Smith juggled his side once again as he looked for a vital win to maintain their fading play-off challenge. In came Elliott Durrell, Ben Jevons and Michael Ordish, in place of Kyle Haynes, Liam Blakeman and Sam Craven. Gary Hay was ruled out due to injury, whilst Mark Beesley was missing as he served a one-match ban for his red card against FC United of Manchester

Kendal had their own problems to contend with this week, on and off the field. A run of five successive defeats was further added to by news this week of upcoming budget cuts for Lee Ashcroft's side as they looked to balance the books

Despite this, the visitors made the better start, with Kevin Leadbetter racing through the static Hednesford defence on four minutes, only to be denied by a late offside flag as he shaped to shoot

The Pitmen countered through Jermaine Johnson, who strode past a couple of challenges on six minutes and played a superb through ball towards Nick Wellecomme, who was just inches away from controlling the ball that would have set him clear of the Kendal defence

The in-form Leadbetter was a continual thorn in the side of Hednesford's defence and wasted an excellent opportunity to give Kendal the lead on twelve minutes by firing high over the crossbar after being played in by Danny Wisdom

The same player was denied again by a late offside flag three minutes later, as a through ball from Danny Williams caught the home defence square. Fortunately for the hosts, Leadbetter's progress was halted by a marginal decision from the assistant on the main stand side

A scruffy spell in the game saw a number of tackles start to fly in, as both sides looked to impose themselves in midfield. Twice in quick succession, the referee had words with players from both sides, although Kendal player/assistant manager Ian Kilford seemed to be attempting to hand out his own version of officiating with constant barracking of the referee and his assistants

Midway through the half, Chris Clements tried his luck with a regulation long-range free-kick, firing a swerving effort just past the post with Kendal keeper Craig Dootson scrambling across his goal

Two minutes later, Clements again hit a shot from range after the ball was squared to him by Durrell, but the midfielder got under the ball and lifted his shot well over the bar and cleared the Hednesford end

Young winger Ordish had struggled to get a foothold in the game up to this point, as all of the Pitmen's good work had gone through Durrell and Jamey Osbourne down the right-hand side. His one cross of note during the first period saw him jink his way down the line and send over a great cross that neither Wellecomme or Clements could get to in time

The ill-tempered undertones to the game came to the surface on the half-hour mark, as Dunkley and Adam Farrell clashed just outside the Hednesford penalty area. Farrell took exception to Dunkley's challenge and pushed the defender over as the two debated the tackle. In the melee that followed, a number of players waded in, with Kilford and Marc Joseph also pushing Dunkley over. The referee took a moment to survey the scene and sent Farrell off for his part in the ugly scenes. Dunkley and Joseph also received cautions

Clements attempted to take advantage of the confusion in the Kendal ranks a minute later, making a powerful run through the defence and lashing his low shot just wide of goal

Hednesford finished the half strongly, using the extra man to good effect. A Wellecomme shot was blocked by Joseph on forty minutes before Clements opened the scoring with virtually the last kick of the half. An Ordish corner was palmed away by Dootson, who only succeeded in finding Clements, who was lurking on the edge of the penalty area. His low drive flew through a crowd of players and found the bottom corner of the net to send the Pitmen into the break one goal to the good

Ten-man Kendal made a great start to the second half and forced the Pitmen backwards as they looked for a way back into the game. They didn't have to look very far, as Hednesford's old failings gifted them a way back in. On fifty-four minutes, Alex Taylor's run into the Hednesford penalty area was brought to an abrupt halt by Dunkley, whose clumsy challenge could have seen him sent off for a second bookable offence. As it was, the referee felt that a penalty was punishment enough; Leadbetter stepped up to fire low to Crane's left, finding the bottom corner despite Crane's best efforts to keep the ball out

A minute later, the Pitmen were also reduced to ten men as Durrell - booked in the first half - was shown a second yellow card for a strong tackle in midfield

A crazy three-minute spell ended with the Pitmen pushing on and going back into the lead, despite the Durrell dismissal. Jevons played a superbly weighted ball into the path of Wellecomme, who timed his run to perfection to lob the ball over the onrushing Dootson and score

Keen to protect their lead, Smith made two quickfire substitutions just after the hour mark. Liam Blakeman replaced the ineffective Ordish, whilst Darren Campion came on in place of Johnson. Johnson had been a doubt for the game before kick-off, so perhaps it was unsurprising to see the big centre back come off

Jevons very nearly put the game beyond Kendal on seventy-four minutes, racing onto a Blakeman ball before curling a delightful shot across the face of goal and inches past the far post

The miss was to prove costly, as Kendal equalised two minutes later - Wisdom played the ball into the path of Williams, who was given far too much time and space to fire past Crane from eighteen yards out

Hednesford thought they had taken the lead for a third time straight from the restart, as Clements rocketed a shot off the crossbar and Wellecomme nodded the rebound home. Unbelievably, the referee disallowed the goal despite there being no apparent reason why, and no flag from the assistant referee

this was also to prove costly for the Pitmen, as Kendal took the lead for the first time in the game one minute later. Ciaran Donnelly's corner kick caused havoc inside the penalty area, with the ball finally dropping to Wisdom. His scrambled shot beat Crane at the far post, leaving the Pitmen staring at yet another home game without a win

The Pitmen injected more pace into their attack for the final push, with Andre Landell coming on for the industrious Jevons

Two great chances came and went during a frenetic final few minutes, as Dootson made a superb save to deny Clements after a cross from Campion, followed by a header from Shaw that was only inches away from finding the bottom corner of the net

The deflated feeling at the end of the game was added to by news that play-off rivals FC United had surprisingly lost at home to Buxton, meaning the Pitmen had blown a superb opportunity to close the gap on the top. Smith's fading side are also looking nervously over their shoulders as Marine also close in on their sixth place in the table, with a tasty-looking local derby against Chasetown to come on Bank Holiday Monday

Hednesford Town: Crane, Osborne, Shaw, Dunkley , Johnson (Campion 68), Denny ©, Durrell (55),  Wellecomme, Jevons (Landell 79), Ordish (Blakeman 61)       Subs Unused: Craven, Haynes

Kendal Town: Dootson, Winters, Wisdom, Tucker, Joseph © , Dunn, Farrell (30), Kilford (Donnelly 45), Taylor, Leadbetter (McKevatt 59), Williams      Subs Unused: Jackson, Osman, Newton