Pre-Season Friendly

Hednesford Town

Kettering Town

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Andy Wycherley



Sutton Coldfield Town (H) 25.8.20

The Pitmen welcome supporters back into the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park this afternoon and earn themselves a battling draw against National League North side Kettering Town in the process

After two pre-season friendlies behind closed doors, the Football Association had finally bowed to mounting pressure from the football fraternity to allow a limited number of supporters in to grounds. 300 tickets were promptly sold in the intervening two days and a crowd of 300 socially-distanced supporters were allowed to watch today's game. New Hednesford manager Andy Morrell had been busy during the week since a 1-1 draw over Stafford Rangers last weekend, agreeing a deal with triallist Wes Atkinson after the former Notts County and West Brom right-back had impressed in the first two pre-season games. Jed Davies had also sufficiently impressed Morrell for him to earn himself a new deal with the club after finishing last season in and around the squad. Teenager Josh Kilford was another to have impressed Morrell sufficiently to be unveiled under his own name and not as 'triallist' for today's encounter

Kettering arrived at Keys Park for the first time in fifteen years off the back of a 0-0 draw at Hednesford's near-neighbours Rushall Olympic last week, which had been manager Paul Cox's fourth view of his side already since football had restarted. Cox and assistant manager John Ramshaw - a former assistant manager at Hednesford under Phil Starbuck - named former Hednesford midfielder Michael McGrath at left-back in a strong-looking Poppies line-up with a scattering of triallists looking to earn themselves a deal

An early corner from Louis Dodds was turned goalwards by skipper Ben Bailey in the third minute of a bright start from the hosts, only for Josh Oyinson to deflect the ball away from danger. From the resultant Dodds corner on the opposite side, the ball ran to Danny Glover at the back post but was well saved down by his post by the experienced Adam Collin in the Kettering goal

Good play across the pitch from the Pitmen in the seventh minute saw Atkinson feed Glover, whose deep cross was glanced well wide of goal by George Cater at the far post, under pressure from triallist A

Kettering's first sight at goal came after a quick break through the centre of the Hednesford defence in the eleventh minute as the lanky Lorne Bickley picked the ball up from deep but drove his effort just wide of Andy Wycherley's goal from just outside the penalty area

There was the briefest call for a penalty kick from the Poppies two minutes later after a long throw from Connor Kennedy was cleared by Bailey and into the path of Jamie Chisholm, whose first-time effort flew high over the crossbar as the Poppies protested against Bailey using his arm to clear the ball

A timely block from Bailey rescued a sticky situation for Carter Lycett on eighteen minutes as he made a timely block to deny Oyinson after the young left-back's clearance had inadvertedly fallen into the striker's path. Bailey's clearance eventually fell to Gary Stohrer, who drove the ball just wide of the post from fifteen yards out

Some lovely build-up play involving Bailey and Dan Turner saw the ball slipped into the path of Cater midway through the first half, only for a timely block from triallist A to deny Cater a goal at the near post and concede a corner in the process

Wycherley was called upon to make the first of a series of excellent saves on twenty-seven minutes, smothering a low shot from Ryan Fryatt after a long throw was not cleared by the Pitmen's dithering defenders

A minute later - following a bout of hoofball from both sides - Oyinson did well to hold off the attentions of Dan Preston and get a shot away from just inside the penalty area, only to be denied by another fine Wycherley save

A ludicrously late challenge from Preston on Oyinson in the thirty-third minute somehow failed to draw a card of any colour from the regular pre-season referee Mr D'Aguilar; in a league game, Preston would most likely have walked for a challenge that left the pacy striker flat out on the left-wing and requiring attention

A long, rangy free-kick from Wycherley four minutes later dropped onto the boot of Glover inside the penalty area, who poked the ball through to Turner, whose prodded shot towards goal was somehow cleared off the line by the recovering Fryatt as the former Port Vale man looked to turn the ball home

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Atkinson was dealt a cruel blow as an innocuous-looking challenge down the right saw the new signing collapse in a heap with what turned out to be an achilles injury that required him to be taken off on a stretcher before going off to hospital soon after. With Sam Griffiths currently sidelined due to injury, Callam Mendez-Jones came on in the place of his former West Brom coleague to deputise at full-back

In added time at the end of the first half, Rhys Thompson picked up his second booking in two games after a coming together with Oyinson by the two benches saw both players involved in an altercation and were shown a yellow card apiece by Mr D'Anguilar

Half-time saw the Pitmen make one change as teenager Kilford came on at right-back in place of Preston, allowing Mendez-Jones to slot into his more comfortable position alongside Bailey in central defence

Kettering made a good start to the second period and went close to opening the scoring on fifty-three minutes after a bout of end-to-end football from both sides; a cross from McGrath was nodded down by Oyinson and into the path of Bickley, whose low shot was inches away from creeping into the corner of the net with Wycherley beaten

A long throw from Thompson three minutes later was flicked on by Bailey and into the Kettering six-yard box before being headed narrowly over his own crossbar by triallist A

The Pitmen made a double change on sixty-five minutes with triallist A coming on for the out-of-luck Cater and Davies replacing Dodds in midfield as both sides elected to take a look at their options

A cross from triallist D flashed across the face of the Hednesford penalty area and away from danger on sixty-six minutes before a quick Kettering break two minutes later saw Wycherley make another fantastic one-handed save to push away a low shot from triallist C. Kilford's sloppy clearance was played back into the danger area however and culminated in triallist D firing straight into the hands of Wycherley once more from the edge of the penalty area

Good play from Hallahan, Glover and Turner saw Kettering force the ball behind for a corner kick on seventy minutes before the hosts made another change a minute later as Hallahan was replaced by triallist B in the centre of midfield

A late offside flag on the Wimblebury side denied triallist E a great chance to score for Kettering on seventy-four minutes after a long ball forwards played him clean through on goal

The Pitmen enjoyed their best spell of the half at this point in the game, forcing three successive corners, taken by Davies, as they cranked the pressure up on their step two opponents from set-pieces as they looked to force home a goal in front of their supporters gathered in the Heath Hayes terrace

With eleven minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their final three changes of the game as Wycherley was replaced by triallist C, Turner came off for triallist D and youngster Lycett made way for triallist E

Kettering had the ball in the net with nine minutes remaining as the Pitmen failed to clear their lines effectively and allowed Kennedy to shoot from range. The young triallist keeper kept out the original shot but could not stop Dan Holman tucking away the rebound. However, substitute Holman was standing in an offside position when the shot came in and was ruled offside before he could celebrate

Two further saves from the young triallist followed, both in slightly unorthodox manner, as he got something behind late efforts from Kennedy and triallist F as the two sides could not find a late breakthrough to send the 300 crowd home without a goal to witness

It had been a good run-out for both sides, although neither could claim that they had deserved the win as both sides had been guilty of poor finishing at key moments in the game. Morrell's side looked fit and motivated and a couple of the triallists looked worth another look after bright cameos. It's a quick turnaround of games for the Pitmen as they play host to Neil Tooth's Sutton Coldfield Town side on Tuesday night and look crank up their fitness further and go in search of goals against their step four visitors

Hednesford Town: Wycherley (Triallist C 79), Atkinson (Mendez-Jones 40), Lycett (Triallist E 79), Bailey ©, Preston (Kilford 45), Thompson , Cater (Triallist A 65), Hallahan (Triallist B 71), Glover, Dodds (Davies 65), Turner (Triallist D 79)    Subs Unused: None

Kettering Town: Collin, Triallist A, McGrath, Richens (Triallist D 72), Chisholm (Holland 78), Fryatt, Stohrer (Triallist C 59), Kennedy, Oyinsan  (Triallist E 65), Bickley (Holman 65), Triallist B (Triallist F 76)       Subs Unused: None

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