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Skrill North


Johnson (46), S. Moore (61)

Hednesford Town

Blissett (24)

(0) 2

(1) 1



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Paul McCone


AFC Telford United (A) 1.1.14

A frustrating performance of contrasting halves sees the Pitmen crash to defeat at Leamington for the first time since 1978 this afternoon, with Rob Smith's side dropping to third place in Skrill North after wins for Midland rivals Solihull Moors and AFC Telford

Having witnessed the second coming of striker Marvin Robinson on Boxing Day against Telford, Hednesford supporters turned up at The New Windmill Ground to be greeted with the news of yet another striker signing, as Kidderminster Harriers forward Nathan Blissett linked up with his new club after agreeing a loan deal from Skrill Premier side Kidderminster Harriers. He went straight into the starting line-up in a new-look forward line, as Wayne Riley was named as his striker partner for the afternoon. Neil Harvey was unavailable due to injury, with Robinson dropped to the bench despite his goalscoring return to the club two days previously. Dave MacPherson was also restored to the starting XI, with Jamey Osborne likely to miss the next fortnight with injury after limping off against Telford. The recent spate of rotation at centre back continued, with Ben Bailey coming in for Francino Francis to partner former Leamington man Paul McCone

Paul Holleran's Brakes side had found life at step two more of a challenge than the Pitmen so far this season after promotion from the Evo-Stik Southern Premier League last term. However, long-time Hednesford nemesis Stefan Moore had scored four goals in his last five games, signalling a return to form for the former Villa striker after a quiet time in front of goal

Playing with the bright setting sun behind them, Hednesford made a confident start to the game as they looked to continue their fine recent record against Leamington. A corner kick from Elliott Durrell caused the hosts early problems, as his deep ball in was headed wide of goal by MacPherson as he arrived at the far post

Former Hednesford loanee Tony Breeden had to be alert to deny the livewire Riley on ten minutes, quickly coming off his line to clear the ball just before Riley could nick in behind the hesitant Leamington defence

After a nervy opening period for new boy Blissett, who had only met his new team-mates just before kick-off, the gangly front man started to develop an understanding with striker partner Riley and played the former Northwich man in on goal on fifteen minutes; neat build-up play by the pair saw Riley fire a swerving effort inches wide of Breeden's left-hand post

Three minutes later, Breeden almost gifted Durrell a twenty-third goal of the season as he weakly kicked his clearance straight to the feet of the midfielder. Fortunately for the former Tamworth stopper, Durrell rushed his shot and rocketed a left-footed shot agonisingly wide of the far post

Durrell was once again on the end of everything positive for the Pitmen going forward, supplying a superb ball to set Blissett up for the opening goal on twenty-four minutes. A delightful through ball by Durrell from the right sent Blissett away behind the Leamington defence, with the former Romulus man firing across Breeden and into the far corner of the net for a debut day goal. Breeden, on reflection, will probably be disappointed not to keep the shot out

The Pitmen continued to push and prompt a hesitant looking Leamington defence, playing down the channels at every opportunity and causing problems with Riley's pace. Indeed, Riley came within a whisker of adding to the Pitmen's advantage on twenty-eight minutes, as John Disney's low cross was prodded wide of goal by the onrushing striker

Leamington's first real chance of the game came on thirty-two minutes, as Ricky Johnson's shot was brilliantly turned over by Dan Crane for a Leamington corner kick

A late rally from Leamington at the end of the half saw the Pitmen hold firm, with Darren Campion hacking a Liam Daly header off the line, closely followed a minute later by a left-footed shot from Moore that narrowly cleared the crossbar

Having looked comfortable in the opening forty-five minutes, Hednesford simply capitulated after the break as they allowed Leamington to take control of the game straight from the restart

Unsurprisingly, it was Moore who was to take centre stage, as his run took him away from the attentions of Disney before a neat cut-back from the bye-line saw Moore find his strike partner Johnson, who finished with ease from close range - it was the 200th goal of 24-year-old Johnson's prolific career, having scored freely in local leagues for a number of sides over the past few seasons

Hednesford suddenly looked nervous, sloppy and all-too-similar to recent games, where they looked susceptible to set-pieces and balls into the box. Giant centre back Daly got his head on a long throw from the right on fifty-three minutes but headed straight at Crane from ten yards out

A barnstorming run from Moore on fifty-eight minutes gave Disney more problems, as he backed off the talented striker as he approached goal down the left. Fortunately for the visitors, Crane was equal to Moore's powerful cross-shot and saved well to his left

Moore was not to kept quiet, however, and soon put Leamington into the lead just after the hour mark with a superb strike. McCone did well to cut out a deep cross from the left but unwittingly headed the ball into the path of Moore, who was lurking just outside the penalty area. Without hesitation, Moore executed a brilliant first-time volley that swerved and dipped over the head of Crane and into the net - a brilliant opportunistic strike

Try as they might, the Pitmen simply couldn't get out of their own half, never mind build an attack of any real note. A succession of Leamington corners tested the Pitmen's fragile confidence, with Blissett dropping back to use his considerable height to help out his overworked defenders

The Pitmen made a double substitution with twenty minutes remaining in an attempt to stem the flow of Leamington pressure, with Nathan Woolfe and Robinson coming on for MacPherson and Blissett respectively

Rather than try and play the neat passing game that had gained them the half time advantage, Hednesford persisted with the long, raking ball up from the back, with Campion and Bailey both guilty of playing aimless balls forwards in search of Robinson, who was no match for the giant defensive pairing of Daly and Joe Magunda

With five minutes remaining, Greg Pearson was introduced for what is likely to be the final time as his loan period runs out this week - he replaced Riley to add more physical presence up front alongside Robinson

The final few minutes were a frenetic affair, as the Pitmen finally threw caution to the wind and pushed forwards in search of a barely-deserved equaliser. A weak header from Robinson at the far post was easily fielded by Breeden, who made a match-winning save a minute later to deny Campion as the Hednesford skipper unleashed a drive from the edge of the penalty area

In the first minute of added time, McCone went so close to grabbing a point against his former side, as his free header at the near post somehow flew inches wide of the upright when it seemed easier to score

A bout of handbags followed in the Hednesford penalty area a minute later, with Daly lucky not to be sent off after racing the full length of the pitch to land a punch on Durrell in the melee

A very disappointing afternoon for the large Hednesford travelling support to witness, as the Pitmen meekly handed over three points to Leamington without any real effort in the second half. Smith will be alarmed at the lack of harmony across the team at present, with a very difficult run of fixtures in January sure to test the resolve of a team that has massively over-achieved so far this term

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, McCone, Taylor , MacPherson (Woolfe 69), Durrell , Blissett (Robinson 69), Riley (Pearson 80), Thorley      Subs Unused: Francis, Melbourne

Leamington: Breeden, Higgins, McNamee , Magunda, Daly © , Mace, Dodd, Owen, S. Moore (Green 86), Johnson (Husband 78), L. Moore       Subs Unused: Bottomer, Feeney, Connolly

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