Nationwide Conference North

Kettering Town

Barrow (54) (OG), Theobald (56), (78), Midgley (68) 

Hednesford Town

(0) 4

(0) 0



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Sean Platt



Moor Green (H) 20.2.06

Hednesford are handed a heavy drubbing by play-off hopefuls Kettering this afternoon to leave them further away from safety as the Poppies bring the Pitmen's four-game unbeaten run to a grinding halt

Last Saturday's 0-0 draw against Workington had left the Pitmen and their supporters frustrated at not being able to turn their possession and chances into much-needed points in their bid to move away from the drop zone. Manager Steve Anthrobus remained loyal to the XI that had started last weekend, naming 16-year-old youth team goalkeeper Lloyd Ransome amongst the substitutes for the first time after Alex Molloy was ruled out

New manager Morrell Maison - still picking up the pieces after the Poppies' bizarre managerial merry-go-round earlier in the season - had seen his mid-table side beat Leigh RMI 2-0 last Saturday and elected to make two changes to his side for today's return to Rockingham Road as Jemaine Palmer replaced James Gould and Jamie Paterson came for Ryan Zico-Black. Former Hednesford goalkeeper Ryan Young was amongst the Kettering substitutes after he had joined the Poppies from Redditch United recently

It was a bright and sunny afternoon in Northamptonshire, with a healthy 1,200 plus crowd in attendance and most hoping that the home side could further close the six-point gap to the play-off chasers above them. Kettering's Hugh McAuley had the game's first sight at goal in the sixth minute of the game as he struck a shot from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area that went wide of Gary Hateley's far post

Neil Midgley went even closer for the hosts in the eleventh minute as he broke clear of the flimsy Hednesford offside trap and ran in on goal, but appeared to get caught in two minds and produced a half-hearted chip over Hateley and inches wide of the post

The home side continued to have the better of the play in the opening fifteen minutes as Paterson's fine run down the left saw him drift past Leon Drysdale and cross for McAuley, whose shot was skewed just over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

In the sixteenth minute, Andy Hall cut inside from the right flank and into the Hednesford penalty area and attempted an angled shot from range that was turned away by Hateley, who had enjoyed a spell at Rockingham Road last season

The Pitmen had looked short of ideas so far and had struggled to lay a finger on a quick and dominant Kettering side. Good play from the experienced Palmer midway through the first half saw the former Stoke City man saw him pick up a loose pass out of defence from Drysdale and took the ball back into the danger zone, but shanked his effort over the crossbar and into the Kettering fans gathered on the large open terrace behind Hateley's goal

The first sight at goal for Hednesford came through Leon McSweeney on twenty-four minutes as the striker expertly brought down Tom Marshall's pass and turned on a sixpence before striking his rising shot over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area

Marshall headed over the crossbar himself three minutes later as he made a late run into the Poppies penalty area to meet a Mark Briggs corner kick and glance his effort into the Hednesford supporters behind the goal

Kettering goalkeeper Mark Osborn was alert to the danger posed by Colin Hunter's surging run into the penalty area on the half-hour mark as he raced out of his goal to smother the ball at the feet of the winger after Hunter had expertly turned past Wayne Duik

Midgley went closest of anyone to opening the scoring on thirty-three minutes as a free-kick from McAuley out on the right was met by the striker, whose header came back off Hateley's left-hand post before Barrow cleared the danger. Palmer picked up the loose ball on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and fired in a shot at goal, but Hateley was equal to the shot and made a good save low down to his left

Three minutes later, Steve Brannan did well to dispossess Liam Nicell out on the right and sent over a deep cross that appeared to catch Osborn out as it drifted over his head and towards goal, prompting Dave Theobald to head the looping ball off the line and away from the clutches of the incoming Ross Dyer

Having played second fiddle for much of the first period, Hednesford finished the half strongly and Osborn made a good parry to deny McSweeney on forty minutes after another fine pass from Brannan had found the Irishman in space just inside the Kettering penalty area

With the final chance of the first half on forty-three minutes, Sean Platt's lofted ball into the box was flicked on by McSweeney and into the path of Dyer, whose off-target shot sailed wide of goal from a tight angle

The Pitmen had certainly improved in the latter stages of the half and may have even felt a little disappointed at not taking the lead just before the break. However, Kettering had looked menacing on the break through the likes of McAuley and Midgley and you felt that they may have more gears to move into in the second half

The Poppies were indeed more forceful at the start of the second half, with Paterson's run into the Pitmen's penalty area halted by Tom Marshall on forty-eight minutes just before the winger could get his shot away from twelve yards out

On fifty-one minutes, Hall's incisive through ball sent Midgley away down the left, cutting in on his stronger left boot and striking a firm shot at goal that narrowly cleared the crossbar

A minute later, Kettering thought that they had broken the deadlock as Nicell's angled drive from the left-hand corner of the penalty area was turned home by Palmer, who sidefooted the ball home from six yards out. The home side's celebrations were cut short however by referee Mr Newbold ruling the goal out for an offside flag against Palmer in the build-up

The hosts finally got their noses in front on fifty-four minutes as another spell of pressure finally told on the overworked Hednesford defence; McAuley's free-kick from the right was headed downwards by Palmer and into the path of Hednesford skipper Barrow, who horribly sliced his attempted clearance beyond the reach of Hateley and into his own net to hand the hosts the advantage

The Pitmen were at sixes and sevens and allowed Kettering to grab a quickfire second goal with their next attack on fifty-six minutes as Hall's inswinging corner was confidently headed home by centre-back Theobald, who arrived unmarked at the near post to head into the empty net

Looking to get themselves back into the game, Hednesford had a great chance to strike straight back on the hour mark as McSweeney's quick throw-in found Brannan, who jinked his way into the Kettering penalty area before drawing a fine save out of Osborn low down to his left-hand side, turning the ball around the post for a Hednesford corner kick

With his side looking to strike back quickly, Anthrobus immediately threw on top scorer Paul McMahon a minute later as the poacher replaced the combative Brannan; this saw Dyer move out to the right and McMahon joined McSweeney up front

Hunter's persistence saw him win the ball from Duik in a dangerous position on sixty-five minutes, laying the ball into the path of Briggs on the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder's shot was partially blocked by skipper Craig McIlwain and looped up and into the safe hands of Osborn

The Pitmen's second substitution of the afternoon came a minute later as veteran defender Ian Wright returned to the team as he came on in place of Dyer, meaning another tactical shift for the Pitmen as they went to a 5-3-2 formation

The disruption to the ranks seemed to affect their confidence at the back, as Kettering took full advantage of the confusion by restoring their two-goal lead on sixty-eight minutes. McAuley was the creator once more as his free-kick from the right caught the Pitmen ball-watching, allowing Midgley to ghost in and sidefoot the ball home at the near post from four yards out

Osborn's long kick forwards on seventy-one minutes was misdirected by Barrow's header and dropped to Paterson, whose long-range effort dipped just over Hateley's crossbar as the Hednesford stopper scampered back towards his own goal

McMahon's brief sight at goal came and went with fifteen minutes remaining as a Briggs corner kick was cleared by Theobald but only as far as the substitute, who controlled the ball well but pulled his shot from twelve yards out wide of the post

The scoring was complete with twelve minutes remaining as Kettering grabbed a fourth goal to make it a slightly flattering scoreline for the hosts. Another delivery from Hall did the damage as his corner kick from the left once again caught the Pitmen out, finding the unmarked Theobald once more at the near post and the centre-back did the honours with his second goal of the afternoon as he headed home from close-range

With ten minutes remaining, the between visitors made their final change of the afternoon as Hunter was given a well-earned rest by Anthrobus as he was replaced down the left flank by Grant Beckett

The game descended into a training game for much of the final minutes as both sides accepted the result in good faith. Kettering could have added a fifth goal on eighty-three minutes as McAuley played substitute Zico-Black in on goal, but the former Morecambe man was pulled back by an offside flag before he could slot the ball past Hateley

McSweeney and Briggs linked up for the Pitmen two minutes later to play Beckett into space; his deep cross was cleared as far as Platt, whose scuffed effort was pushed away by Osborn for a Hednesford corner kick

In the final minute of the game, Nicell's cross was deflected into the path of Ollie Burgess by Richard Teesdale, only for the Kettering number ten to turn his shot into the side-netting from a tight angle

The Pitmen trudged off to a chorus of muted boos from the away support, having been well-beaten over the ninety minutes against a quick-running and clinical Kettering side that will still be confident at gatecrashing the play-offs with more results like this one in the coming weeks. Anthrobus's side only have forty-eight hours to pick themselves up from this latest setback as they face local rivals Moor Green for the fifth time this season at Keys Park on Monday night

Kettering Town: Osborn, Duik, Nicell, Theobald, McIlwain ©, Palmer, Hall, Midgley (Difante 85), McAuley, Burgess, Paterson (Zico-Black 76)        Subs Unused: Solkhon, McKenzie, Young

Hednesford Town: Hateley, Drysdale, T. Marshall, Platt, Teesdale, Barrow ©, Brannan (McMahon 61), Briggs, Dyer (Wright 66), McSweeney, Hunter (Beckett 80)      Subs Unused: Bragoli, Ransome