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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Dixon (31), Mardenborough (53)

Kidsgrove Athletic

Thorpe (43), Woolley (71), Bott (84)

(1) 2

(1) 3



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Sam Griffiths



Widnes (A) 26.8.23

The Pitmen suffer back-to-back defeats this evening as league leaders Kidsgrove Athletic come from behind to take all three points at Keys Park and maintain their 100% start to the season

Saturday's shock F.A. Cup defeat at Darlaston had led to player/manager Danny Glover making three changes to his side for tonight's return to league action; out went Callam Mendez-Jones, Michael Williams and Reinaldo Forbes and in came Lewis Wright, Sam Paddock and Harry Bower in their places as the Pitmen looked for a response from their players after the weekend horror show in Walsall

Kidsgrove had come flying out of the blocks at the start of the season, winning all three of their games so far and scoring twelve goals in the process. Manager Scott Dundas made one change of his own from the side that had made progress in the F.A. Cup against Sutton Coldfield Town at the weekend as Declan O'Riordan came in for Ernest Ofosu in defence. Former Hednesford utility man Scott Lycett - who had a short spell at Keys Park in the 2009-2010 season - was amongst the Grove substitutes

In front of yet another mightily impressive Keys Park crowd of 651, the visitors showed why they had started the season so well as they bossed the opening ten minutes, keeping the ball well and probing the Hednesford defence several times. Joe Woolley was denied an early chance for Kidsgrove in the third minute as skipper Sam Griffiths was alert to the danger posed and intercepted a slide-rule pass from Olly Jepson that was destined for the striker's boot

Three minutes later, another half-chance inside the Hednesford penalty area fell to Nathan Morley after good work down the left from Callum Lovatt fed the forward, whose progress into the box was halted by good cover play from Wright

Rivel Mardenborough picked up the first yellow card of the evening in the tenth minute as he petulantly kicked the ball away after an offside call had gone against him and was booked by referee Mr Tewson

The Pitmen's first sight at goal fell on the right boot of Desean Martin in the thirteenth minute of the game as Jack Kelly's recycled corner kick was played out as far as the midfielder, who struck a first-time shot that flew high over the crossbar from twenty yards out

One of the standout features of the Pitmen's first two league games at step four has been the over-reliance teams have on set pieces, bombarding the opposition penalty area with corners, free-kicks or long throws to test the Hednesford defence at every opportunity. Successive corners from the men in blue on fifteen minutes looked to hit the head of Josh Thorpe on both occasions, with Paddock and Griffiths holding firm against an aggressive Kidsgrove attack

The hosts countered with a fine team move in the nineteenth minute that saw Kelly, Tom Thorley and Mardenborough all involved to play Bower in on goal, with the winger's low, driven shot saved by Kieran Harrison in the Kidsgrove goal

A quick counter from Kidsgrove a minute later saw Woolley make a move down the left before being brought down by Wright, handing the away side a free-kick in a promising position. Woolley took the resultant kick himself and aimed for the head of Thorpe at the far post, only for Martin to cover well and clear the danger

Mardenborough had the best chance of the game midway through the first half as he was played clean through on goal by Ryan Andrews' pass but elected to take a touch too many and allowed Harrison to make a smothering save down by his feet

Two minutes later, it was Kidsgrove's turn to have a great chance presented to them as sloppy defensive play from the Pitmen saw them struggle to clear their lines and allow Jimmy Garlick to find space inside the penalty area, to the right of goal. His low shot at goal was beaten away by Dan Crane, who did enough to narrow the angle and parry the shot behind for a corner kick

Bower was having a good game for the Pitmen so far, switching wings at will and forcing the full-backs onto the back foot with his pace. On twenty-eight minutes, the diminutive former Macclesfield man jinked his way into space down the left but chose to shoot from an angle rather than cross for Max Dixon and sliced his shot over the crossbar

No matter, as Bower got his selection spot-on two minutes later as he supplied the cross for Dixon to give the hosts the lead; after winning a corner on the right, Bower picked the clearance up and took the ball to the byline before standing up a superb cross to the far post, where Dixon was on hand to nod into the empty net from a couple of yards out. It was an almost carbon copy of the goal scored by Dixon at Newcastle Town last week, also supplied by a deep cross from Bower

The Pitmen continued to press, with Bower again going on a mazy run down the left flank on thirty-three minutes but scything his attempted cross towards Mardenborough narrowly over Harrison's crossbar and onto the roof of the net

Two minutes later, a long throw from Kidsgrove dropped to Woolley on the left-hand corner of the Hednesford penalty area, with the forward's low shot taking a nick off the heel of Wright and dropping behind for a Kidsgrove corner kick

Woolley was the first man in blue to pick up a booking on thirty-seven minutes as he was penalised by Mr Tewson for a poorly-judged challenge on Bower down the Hednesford right flank and rightly shown a yellow card for the tackle

Thorpe followed his team-mate into the book barely a minute later as the defender dragged Mardenborough back by pulling his shirt, preventing the striker from getting away from him as the youngster looked to break into the Kidsgrove penalty area

Kelly and Griffiths stood over the resultant free-kick, with the Hednesford captain assuming responsibility for the set-piece as he drove in a goalbound effort past the Kidsgrove wall, forcing Harrison into a smothering save down to his right-hand side

The hosts were to pay the price for not taking one of these chances as Kidsgrove levelled matters once more with two minutes of the first half remaining; Crane was guilty of handing the visitors a cheap corner kick after fumbling a simple pass over the byeline, with Woolley taking full advantage as his superb ball into the box was headed firmly home by Thorpe, who rose unchallenged to head past Crane from close-range. Sloppy all round from the hosts

It had been a disappointing end to a good half of football from the Pitmen, who had produced an excellent response to Saturday's non-performance to press the league leaders throughout and deservedly sit level at the break. Kidsgrove made a half-time change at centre-back as Lycett was handed his Keys Park return by Dundas as he came on in place of goalscorer Thorpe

Lycett made an immediate, if not ideal, impact on the game as he was shown a yellow card for his first involvement in the game on forty-eight minutes as he sent Mardenborough sprawling thirty yards from goal and was booked for what some inside the ground felt was a cynical attempt to stop the striker from breaking into the box

Kelly took the free-kick for Hednesford and looked to pick Griffiths out with a lofted ball into the six-yard box, only for the left-back to get a little too much on his cross and put the ball wide of goal

The Pitmen were rewarded for their enterprising start to the second half on fifty-three minutes as they regained the lead courtesy of Mardenborough's long-awaited first Hednesford goal. The hosts worked the ball quickly through midfield and out to Dixon on the right flank, who did brilliantly to steal a yard on Callum Lovatt and cross for Mardenborough, who made a late run to the near post, getting goal side of Lycett and sidefooting the ball past Harrison from a couple of yards out

The Pitmen's new-found confidence saw them continue to press for a third goal, with Dixon again finding space out on the right three minutes later and crossing once more towards Mardenborough, only this time Lycett could hack the ball clear of danger

Successive Kidsgrove corner kicks tested the Pitmen's fragile confidence at the back on fifty-seven minutes, with Paddock doing well to clear his lines with the first cross and Crane claiming the loose ball from the second Woolley cross

Two minutes later, Jake Lovatt's run towards the Hednestord penalty area was halted by Paddock, handing the away side a free-kick in a dangerous position. Woolley assumed responsibility for the free-kick but saw his powerfully struck effort ended up hitting the Hednesford wall and was cleared by Thorley

The Pitmen were forced into their first change of the evening midway through the second half as the impressive Dixon was forced off and was replaced by Forbes in a move that saw Bower switch wings to accommodate the former Newcastle Town winger

Without Dixon as a focal point to aim at, the Pitmen started to struggle with the out ball as Kidsgrove started to have more and more of the ball in search of an equaliser. On sixty-six minutes, Morley linked up well with Garlick to play Woolley into space, with Griffiths doing well to pick the pocket of the former 1874 Northwich striker and clear the ball

Jake Lovatt tested the reflexes of Crane a minute later as the veteran stopper made a fine save down to his left-hand side to parry the striker's shot behind for a corner after good approach play through midfield

The Pitmen struggled to clear their liens from the resultant corner kick, with Garlick trying his luck from twenty yards out as the rebound dropped to him, only for his shot to sail high over Crane's crossbar

You did, however, feel that the equaliser was coming as Kidgrove pressed, with Woolley finally getting his side back on level terms on seventy-one minutes. Picking the ball up deep and with no white shirts closing him down effectively, the striker unleashed an unstoppable shot from just inside the penalty area that was too hot for Crane and flew into the net

It was now all Kidsgrove as the flagging and out-of-shape Pitmen desperately tried to hang on to the point in the last twenty or so minutes. Garlick's cross from a corner on seventy-three minutes was claimed by a nervy-looking Crane at his near post, clutching the ball after initially looking as though he was going to spill the cross

The Pitmen's second change of the evening came up front on seventy-six minutes as Wembanvuanda Star Mayemba was given another chance to prove his worth as he replaced the hard-running Mardenborough. The visitors - now looking for a winning goal in the latter stages of the game - also made an attacking change at the same time as Aaron Bott came on in place of Jake Lovatt

Two minutes later, the Pitmen were forced into making a hurried third change as Thorley limped off holding his leg and was replaced in the centre of the park by Jacob Gwilt

More sloppy play from the Pitmen saw Forbes run the ball out of play under no real pressure down the left on seventy-nine minutes, allowing a long throw to be flicked on at the near post by Jepson before Griffiths turned the bouncing ball behind ahead of Bott inside the six-yard box

Kidsgrove made their final change of the evening with eight minutes remaining as they made another attacking substitution; young winger Kingsley Adu-Gyamfi came on to add pace to the attack as he replaced the tiring Morley

The pressure on the Pitmen's flaky defence finally told on eighty-four minutes, although the Hednesford back line failed to cover themselves in any glory as another piece of sloppy play allowed Grove to grab what was to be the winning goal; despite having several good opportunities to clear their lines, the Pitmen allowed Knapper to pick the ball out and get a shot away, which Crane did well to divert away from goal. However, a lack of tracking back from the Hedndesford defenders saw Bott seize upon the loose ball and turn the rebound into the empty net from close-range

In a bid to stop the Pitmen from getting themselves back into the game, Kanpper took 'one for the team' on eighty-five minutes, picking up a deserved yellow card from Mr Tewson as he dragged the previously anonymous Andrews back by his shirt to stop the young midfielder from starting an attack for the hosts

The hosts had simply run out of steam at this juncture, despite several hopeful lofted balls into the Kidsgrove penalty area that were dealt with by the excellent Jepson and Lycett. Harrison dealt with a cross from Wright on eighty-seven minutes, claiming the ball on his six-yard line ahead of Mayemba after Kelly's corner had found its way out to the right-back

In the second of eight minutes of added time, Gwilt found Forbes out on the left, with the substitute jinking his way past two challenges before looking to lay the ball off to Andrews on the edge of the penalty area. Again, more committed defending from Kidsgrove saw then crowd Andrews out and clear their lines

All in all, a better overall performance from the Pitmen but not the result they would have wanted on their return to Keys Park, which leaves them down in tenth place in the early league standings. Kidgsgrove had been relentless in their pursuit of the Pitmen in the second period, taking full advantage of the home side's tiring bodies to grind out the result. Darlaston manager Dean Gill made reference to the Pitmen's lack of match sharpness in his post-match interview and there is certainly some merit in his comments as many of the men in white simply haven't played enough minutes in pre-season to get themselves match sharp or form close relationships with their team-mates yet. Glover's men move on to Saturday, where they make a first-ever trip to fourteenth-placed Widnes looking to get themselves back to winning ways

Hednesford Town: Crane, Wright, Kelly, Martin, Paddock, Griffiths ©, Thorley (Gwilt 80), Andrews, Mardenborough (Mayemba 76), Dixon (Forbes 64), Bower     Sub Unused: Mendez-Jones, Richards

Kidsgrove Athletic: Harrison, O'Riordan, C. Lovatt, Bromfield, Jepson ©, Thorpe (Lycett 45 ), Knapper, Garlick, J. Lovatt (Bott 75), Woolley, Morley (Adu-Gyamfi 82)        Subs Unused: Cadeau, Merill

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