Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Lancaster City

Norris (51), Dawson (90)

Hednesford Town

Wells (27), Sweeney (35)


(0) 2

(2) 2



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Dan Sweeney




Matlock Town (H) 30.3.19

For the second successive week, the Pitmen blow a great chance to chalk up three points as they once again let a two-goal lead slip through their fingers and ultimately settle for a draw against in-form Lancaster at the Giant Axe


The Pitmen arrived in Lancashire off the back of another busy week of incomings and outgoings at the club with the deadline to bring players in for the season looming large. Alex Melbourne, Jud Ellis and Shane Benjamin had all departed the club for a variety of reasons, with manager Nicky Eaden moving quickly to fill the gaps in his squad with the re-signing of Matt Curley from Halesowen Town and midfield man Izak Reid from Chasetown. Both signings were named amongst the substitutes as Eaden made two changes to his starting line-up, with Charlie Gatter replacing Jon Moran in the centre of defence and Ben O'Hanlon coming in for Jack Hallahan on the left side of midfield


Lancaster has been in impressive form in recent weeks, following the Pitmen up the league table courtesy of a run of games that had seen the Dolly Blues lose only one of their previous eleven games. A 2-1 win at Hyde United last weekend had moved Lancaster above the Pitmen in the league table into thirteenth place. Manager Mark Fell had moved to strengthen his squad last week with the loan signing of young Burnley defender Dan Moss, who made his debut in the Hyde game ahead of his home debut this afternoon


The Pitmen had been quick out of the gates in recent games, making strong starts in the past few weeks. They were on the front foot again from the off, as Javan Vidal's powerful run and cross from the right was headed goalwards by Reece King in the fifth minute, only for Lancaster keeper Jack Sims to make a simple save


More assertive play from the Pitmen saw them force a corner kick through Danny Racchi in the seventh minute, with Alex-Ray Harvey's resultant kick headed onto the roof of the Lancaster net by the in-form Kieran Wells


A long, raking ball forward from Kieran Preston nine minutes later bounced kindly for Wells, who managed to get goal-side of Paul Dugdale and attempt an optimistic shot in the half-volley that flew over the crossbar


A deep, searching cross from O'Hanlon midway through the first half looked to pick out King at the far post, but the midfielder just failed to get a toe to the delightfully-flighted cross from the on-loan Darlington man. The corner kick eventually found it's way out to Dan Sweeney, whose low cross was almost turned home by Wells but for a last-ditch smothering stop by Sims at his near post


The Pitmen had dominated the opening quarter of the game, both in possession and in creating openings, and took a deserved lead on twenty-seven minutes through that man Wells; Ben Bailey's long throw to the near post was superbly flicked on by King, allowing Wells the simple task of guiding his header home from close range for goal number five as a Hednesford player in just nine starts


Back came the home side, with the Hednesford goal finally shocking them into action going forward. A deep free-kick from Rob Wilson found the on-loan Moss lurking at the far post as it bounced through a group of bodies, only for the teenager to scuff his shot wide of the far post


The Pitmen made the most of their dominance with a second goal on thirty-five minutes, as the dangerous Sweeney grabbed his third goal since returning to Keys Park on loan last week. Harvey's deep corner kick was headed down by the ever-willing King, with Sweeney acting quickest to pounce on the loose ball and slam the ball home from close range to grab goal number nine of the season


Another excellent run from the impressive Sweeney went close to creating another opening for the Pitmen on thirty-nine minutes, as his trickery down the flank saw him turn past Paul Jarvis and send over an arrowing cross that King was only inches away from heading home inside the six-yard box


Lancaster's one half-chance of the remainder of the first period fell to the experienced Matty Blinkhorn, who headed tamely over the crossbar from a Charlie Bailey cross just a couple of minutes before the break


It had been another positive half from the Pitmen, who had once again impressed with their spirit and togetherness, as well as showing their ability to be clinical in front of goal when it mattered. However, Lancaster were sent out early by Fell after what was no doubt an aggressive half-time team talk and were on the front foot straight from the restart as they looked for a way back into the game


It was the away side that was to have the second-half's first real opening, however - and what a chance it was for Wells to finish the game off as a contest with a glorious chance on forty-seven minutes; Sweeney was once more the creator, making a lung-busting run down the right as he beat two challenges before playing the ball square to Wells, who was presented with a virtual tap-in from six yards out. However, the ball appeared to bobble in the sandy penalty area and Wells scuffed his shot at goal, leading to King firing the rebound straight at Sims from close-range. A great chance to seal all three points and one that the Pitmen would regret not taking


Four minutes later, Nathan Fox made an uncharacteristic error in losing the ball cheaply in midfield, presenting Brad Carsley with the ball down the right wing. His deep cross was met by Blinkhorn, whose goalbound header was tipped over the crossbar by Preston. The resultant corner kick from Wilson was played in low to the near post where Bailey's mis-hit shot ran kindly for the incoming David Norris, who fired home from close range to reduce the deficit


Lancaster were now asking questions of the retreating Hednesford defence, as they looked to get themselves back on level terms once more. Preston was called upon to make a double save on fifty-four minutes, firstly saving well to deny Wilson before getting to his feet to claim the rebounded header from Norris


Another fine Preston save followed four minutes later, with the on-loan stopper saving well with his legs to deny Carsley after the striker had brushed off a poor challenge from Fox as the pair chased onto a long through ball behind the Hednesford defence


A long-range effort from Norris flew just wide of the goal on sixty-six minutes after O'Hanlon received the only yellow card of the game a minute earlier for a foul in midfield


Both sides continued to press as the game entered the final twenty minutes, but the Hednesford defence appeared to regain some of its composure from earlier and repelled the Lancaster threat with some degree of success in the final quarter of the game


The Pitmen made their one and only change of the afternoon with seven minutes remaining, as Sweeney was taken off following a heated exchange with Lancaster skipper Simon Wills which could have landed the striker in some trouble with the referee, replaced by Hallahan


As the game drifted into the final minute of normal time, Hallahan handed the ball - and the initiative - back to Lancaster through a lazily-taken throw-in down in the corner that was adjudged to be a foul throw. The hosts played their way up field after being handed possession back, winning a corner kick out on the right wing after Fox had denied Carsley a cross. Wilson's resultant kick was whipped into the far post, with Preston misjudging the flight of the ball and allowing substitute Paul Dawson to head home via a touch off the post to equalise for Lancaster late on in proceedings. A fair reflection on the game over the ninety minutes and no less than Lancaster had deserved for their efforts in the second half


A frustrating afternoon for the impressive numbers who had travelled north to support Hednesford, who had seen their club blow another well-deserved first-half lead and settle for a hard-earned point that inches them closer to safety. Matlock Town visit Keys Park next weekend as Hednesford look to finally confirm their step three status with a win over the mid-table Gladiators on Saturday


Lancaster City: Sims, Henry (White 88), Jarvis (Dawson 57), Wills, Moss, Dugdale, Wilson, Norris, Blinkhorn, Carsley, Bailey (Jordan 78)
Subs Unused: Muir, Russell


Hednesford Town: Preston, Vidal, Fox, Harvey, Gatter, Bailey ©, Racchi, King, Wells, Sweeney (Hallahan 83), O'Hanlon      Subs Unused: Veiga, Reid, Curley, Moran


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