18.3.2006

Nationwide Conference North

Lancaster City

Eckersley (62)

Hednesford Town

(0) 1

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

259

Ross Dyer

W D D L L L D W D L

 

Worcester City (H) 25.3.06

 Hednesford's mini-revival was brought to a crashing halt this afternoon as defeat at the Giant Axe leaves Steve Anthrobus's side three points from safety following Mike Eckersley's solitary second-half strike

A last-ditch goal at local rivals Stafford Rangers in midweek had seen the Pitmen rescue a point from their Chase derby, denting Ranger's title aspirations in the process and making it two games unbeaten for Conference North's bottom side. Anthrobus made one enforced change to the side that had started at Marston Road as Tom Marshall was ruled after failing a fitness test and was replaced by Grant Beckett

Lancaster's early-season hopes of a play-off push had long since dissipated as the Dolly Blues had struggled for form throughout February and March, having only won one of their last six league games to leave them down in fourteenth place ahead of today's game. Manager Peter Ward made three changes to his side from the one that had lost 1-0 at Vauxhall Motors last weekend as David Dodd, Andy Bond and Matt Bailey replaced Ryan Elderton, Michael Stringfellow and Sean Paterson

The Pitmen were already facing an uphill battle before the game had even kicked off as severe delays on the M6 had seen the players and supporters arrive at the Giant Axe at 2.20 pm, with kick-off delayed to 3.15 pm to allow the Pitmen very little time to change and warm-up ahead of the game

 

The men in teal green shook off this issue with a bright start to the game as Leon McSweeney's early strike in the third minute bounced twice before ending up in the arms of Lancaster goalkeeper Tony McMillan

Young loanee Scott Dann denied Bailey a shot at goal two minutes later as he blocked the striker's goalbound shot after Neil Uberschar's pass had found him just inside the Hednesford penalty area

Sixty seconds later, a mistake from Lancaster's Steve Skinner saw his backwards header to McMillan fall short, allowing McSweeney to steal in and get on the end of the ball, only to be denied by the quick-thinking of McMillan who made a smothering save at his feet

McMillan was summoned to make another stop for the Dolly Blues in the ninth minute of a busy start to the game, diving to his right-hand side to make a save from on-loan Jai Stanley after the midfielder had seized upon a loose pass from Bond and taken the ball to the edge of the Lancaster penalty area

McSweeney was denied by Millan once more in the thirteenth minute as he was played through on goal by Stanley's incisive through ball, only to see his left-footed effort take a huge deflection off the boot of Joe McMahon and forced the Lancaster stopper into a fine full-length stop with his legs to turn the ball away for a Hednesford corner kick

Nathan Lamey's pace saw him escape the attentions of Skinner in the seventeenth minute, taking the ball down the left wing before laying it back into the path of Colin Hunter. The experienced winger picked McSweeney out on the edge of the penalty area, only for the Irishman to drag his first-time shot wide of goal

Sean Platt made progress down the right-wing on twenty-one minutes, tricking his way past both Andy Scott and McMahon before curling a shot wide of McMillan's far post from eighteen yards out

Lee Barrow assumed free-kick duties for the Pitmen in the absence of both Marshall and Lee Williams, sending over a teasing ball from the left on twenty-four minutes that was flicked on by the lanky Dann but a whisker away from Lamey at the far post to be able to turn the ball home

The hosts had struggled to get a foothold in the game so far, with skipper Bond failing to test Gary Hateley in the Hednesford goal on twenty-nine minutes as he struck a long-range shot high over the crossbar and into the Lancaster fans gathered at the Dolly Blue Tavern end of the ground

Stanley received a dressing-down from referee Mr Ackerman on thirty-two minutes as he sent Uberschar sprawling just inside the Hednesford half to stop him from breaking into space. He escaped a yellow card, however, with Bond's resultant free-kick being headed high over the crossbar by Skinner from ten yards out

With ten minutes of the first period remaining, a marauding run from Hunter saw him drift past Dodd's challenge and cross for Lamey, whose first time shot from just inside the penalty area was beaten away by McMillan

Platt went on another purposeful run on thirty-eight minutes as he beat Scott to get to the byline to cross for McSweeney who could not turn the ball home from close-range

Five minutes before the interval, Hunter swung in a corner kick that was met by the head of Barrow, only for the Hednesford skipper to head over the crossbar from six yards out as he got underneath the ball

Two minutes later, Lancaster's best chance of the half fell to Alex Taylor who found himself in space just outside the penalty area, picking up Bailey's pass and driving in a first-time shot that was turned onto the post by Hateley. The ball rebounded back to Taylor, whose follow-up shot was cleared off the line by Dann, who had seen sense in dropping back behind his goalkeeper for the rebound

It had been a half that the Pitmen had enjoyed the better of, but McMillan's fine form and yet more of that familiar lack of composure in front of goal had left Anthrobus and his players frustrated at the half-time break

Lancaster showed more character and purpose after the break and went close to opening the scoring two minutes after the restart as Bond made a late run into the Hednesford penalty area but struck his angled shot into the side netting as Hateley covered his right-hand post

Ross Adams made a timely challenge to deny Bailey on fifty-two minutes after the striker had been played in by Eckersley to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area, forcing the right-back into a covering tackle to turn the ball behind and push the ball away from the striker

Four minutes later, Stanley and Hunter combined well to send Beckett away down the left on the overlap, with the former Rushall Olympic man stealing a yard on Dodd before pulling the ball back towards Lamey, whose toe-poked effort failed to test McMillan as it squirmed wide of the target

On the hour mark, A delightful cross-field pass from Hunter found Adams in acres of space down the right flank, with the full-back taking the ball into the Lancaster penalty area unchallenged before driving his shot wide of McMillan's near post from fifteen yards out

A minute later, youngster Ross Dyer was brought on by the Pitmen, who were looking for an injection of pace to their team, coming on in place of the disappointing Lamey

Somewhat against the run of play, however, the Dolly Blues took the lead on sixty-two minutes as Uberschar's cross from the right-wing was headed goalwards by Bailey, whose looping effort best Hateley and was guided into the empty net by Eckersley, who made absolutely sure from close-range with a tap-in

Things could have got worse for the Pitmen on sixty-four minutes as Eckersley picked up a loose pass from Scott Hadland and was afforded time and space to advance on the Hednesford penalty area, but shot wide of the target from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

The Pitmen were showing more urgency than before Lancaster's goal, playing Dyer into space down the right on several occasions to run at the hesitant Scott. One such run on sixty-six minutes saw him beat the full-back for pace and cross for Stanley, whose first-time effort was turned away once more by the excellent McMillan for a Hednesford corner kick

On sixty-eight minutes, the visitors were handed a lifeline as they were awarded a penalty kick by Mr Ackerman; Dyer's pace was too much for Scott once more, who could only bring the teenager down as he stepped into the penalty area and looked to shoot. The referee took a moment to consult with his assistant as to whether the foul had taken place inside or outside the area before awarding away side a spot-kick, which was spotted up by McSweeney rather than usual taker Barrow as the skipper was suffering from a calf problem. The forward struck a powerful effort to McMillan's right, but the Lancaster man of the match guessed correctly and turned McSweeney's spot-kick away from goal

The returning Paul McMahon was brought on by the Pitmen on seventy-three minutes in favour of Hunter as the visitors moved to a 4-3-3 formation in a bid to force home a leveller with more bodies up front

Hadland's deep cross on seventy-five minutes was headed back across goal by McSweeney and towards Paul McMahon, who was crowded out by the Lancaster back line. The ball ran to Dyer, who tricked his way to the byeline and crossed for McSweeney, who had to stretch to reach the ball and could only nod the ball well wide of goal

Paul McMahon was denied by a last-ditch deflection from Skinner on seventy-eight minutes as his low shot from another fine Stanley pass was turned behind by the Lancaster defender's boot

With eleven minutes of the game remaining, midfielder Mark Briggs was brought on as the Pitmen's final substitution of the afternoon as he replaced Hadland at the base of the midfield

At the other end, Uberschar's deep free-kick on eighty-one minutes was headed inches over the crossbar by Bond as he beat Dann to the inswinging ball just six yards from goal

Dyer made another one of his dangerous runs from the right on eighty-four minutes, latching onto a Briggs pass and leaving both Scott and Eckersley in his wake before shooting inches wide of McMillan's left-hand post

McSweeney also pulled a shot wide of goal two minutes later after Platt had won a tussle with Joe McMahon in midfield before setting the Hednesford striker away down the centre of the pitch

In the final minute of normal time, Paul McMahon's one and only real sight at goal saw him get on the end of a cross from Dyer that came to him at an awkward height, relying on him to stoop and head the ball upwards, only for McMillan to once again deny him with a regulation save on his goal line

Lancaster stood firm to record a barely-deserved three points over a hard-working but limited Hednesford team that had looked a little desperate in the final ten minutes of the game as they tried to claw back the deficit. The Pitmen are now three points adrift of safety but hold a game in hand on Redditch United, who currently sit in the final position above the drop zone. Next Saturday sees mid-table Worcester City visit Keys Park, with the Pitmen looking to exact revenge on the Blues after their 6-2 hammering of the Pitmen at St. George's Lane back in November

Lancaster City: McMillan, Dodd, Scott, Brown, J. McMahon, Skinner, Bond © (Smith 87), Uberschar, Taylor (Paterson 83), Bailey, Eckersley       Subs Unused: Sullivan, Stringfellow, Elderton

Hednesford Town: Hateley, Adams, Beckett, Hadland (Briggs 79), Dann, Barrow ©, Platt, Lamey (Dyer 61), Stanley, McSweeney, Hunter (P. McMahon 73)     Subs Unused: Maguire, Molloy