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Vanarama Conference North

Hednesford Town

Glover (80)


L. Moore (20), S. Moore (85)

(0) 1

(1) 2



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Paul McCone


Harrogate Town (H) 16.8.14

The Pitmen's spluttering start to the new campaign continues in earnest this evening, as the Hednesford supporters were treated to a feeling of deja vu from Saturday's defeat to Gainsborough - a slow, laboured first-half display, followed by a bright, confident second half after scrapping three centre backs and putting pressure on the opposition

With Saturday's defeat in Lincolnshire still fresh in the memory, Hednesford manager Rob Smith persisted with the three centre-back formation, allowing Jamie Ashmore and Darren Campion to push up as wing-backs, with Tom Thorley making his first start of the season in place of Alex Melbourne. Striker Joey Butlin - signed from Walsall Wood earlier in the day - replaced Brad Smith amongst the substitutes, whilst there was a surprise call-up for veteran Dave MacPherson, who had agreed to delay his retirement to make himself available for the Pitmen as a substitute

Leamington had also tasted a narrow defeat on the opening day of the season, losing to a single goal at home to many people's title favourites Guiseley. The re-signing of the prolific Stefan Moore in the summer had been the highlight of Paul Holleran's transfer activity, although the signing of highly-rated former Wolves and Walsall centre back Jamie Tank was a noteworthy acquisition as the Brakes looked to build on their first season at step two

Looking to end their long Keys Park hoodoo, Leamington made a swift start to proceedings and almost took the lead in the second minute. A long ball over the top just evaded the head of Francino Francis, allowing Stefan Moore to sneak in and fire just wide of Dan Crane's near post

Thorley's first start of the season was ended almost as soon as it had started, with the midfielder forced into coming off on just nine minutes after suffering a nasty gash just above his eye. Melbourne came on in his place to slot into the defensive midfield role

Kris Taylor's first sight of goal came on fourteen minutes, with the midfielder hitting a firm free-kick against the Leamington wall and narrowly wide for a corner kick

Danny Glover - once again working hard playing a lone role up front - got away from Stuart Pierpoint's attentions on seventeen minutes, making a run down the right but firing weakly into the arms of Leamington keeper Neil Collett

It was the other Moore up front for the Brakes who was to open the scoring on twenty minutes, with Stefan's striker partner and namesake Lee who put Leamington a goal up. Danny Newton's left-wing cross deceived Dan Crane, who managed to get enough on the looping ball to palm it onto the crossbar. The ball dropped kindly into the path of the onrushing Moore, who had the simple task of knocking the ball into the empty net

The mean Leamington defence, marshalled by Pierpoint and Joe Magunda, denied Taylor another clear sight at goal on twenty-eight minutes, deflecting his free-kick away from goal for another Hednesford corner

Taylor incurred the wrath of the referee shortly before half time, as his clear and fair sliding tackle on Jordan Goddard was deemed dangerous and warranted a ridiculous yellow card

In the final minute of the half, a great run from Ashmore saw him get goal side of the Brakes defence for the first time in the game. His progress was halted by the quick thinking of Collett, who raced out of goal to smother the ball before the teenager could get his shot away

Half time saw Smith once again scrap his three centre-back experiment early in the game, with Glover crying out for a strike partner up front to give him a fair fight against a well-drilled Leamington defence. Ben Bailey was the unlucky one to make way, with Paul Sullivan coming on in his place to play up top with Glover

Crane was called upon to keep his side in the game eight minutes after the restart, as Stephen Morley's swirling free-kick was headed back towards his own goal by Taylor; Crane made a fine save to his right to turn the ball away from goal and concede a corner

Sullivan's evening lasted not much longer than that of team-mate Thorley, as the substitute was forced off after only twelve minutes of action with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. He was replaced by big Marvin Robinson, further adding to the Pitmen's already problematic injury list

The Pitmen grew into the second half, pressing higher up the pitch and looking far more comfortable with a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation. Defender Francino Francis was the first of three Hednesford players to hit the woodwork on sixty-two minutes, as his diving header came back off the inside of the post with Collett beaten all ends up

A minute later, Taylor's inswinging corner was headed just wide of the far post by former Leamington man Paul McCone, who was having an excellent evening shackling the dangerous Stefan Moore

With twenty minutes remaining, substitute Robinson also suffered the agony of his header hitting the woodwork, as he headed McCone's flick-on against the crossbar from close range

On one of the rare occasions Moore managed to get the better of McCone, Crane was on hand to deny the former Aston Villa man on seventy-eight minutes; after battling his way past the big centre back, Moore dispatched a low shot that Crane did well to turn away from goal

A marauding run from an unusually quiet Jamey Osborne was the catalyst for the Pitmen's equaliser with ten minutes remaining, as the midfielder was brought down just outside the Leamington penalty area. Taylor's inch-perfect free-kick found the head of Glover, who headed past Collett to level matters and grab a deserved first goal of the season

With the impetus swinging the Pitmen's way, they had a great chance to take the lead two minutes later through Melbourne, who arrived late to meet Glenn Walker's cross. His first-time effort crashed off the post and back out, much to the relief of Collett and his overworked defenders

And yet, despite the chances falling to the Hednesford players late on, it was a moment of brilliance from Stefan Moore that ultimately settled the game with five minutes left. Outpacing Ashmore down the right to seize upon a long ball, Moore fired a simply brilliant shot over the head of Crane and into the net from fully thirty yards

This seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Pitmen's attack, with only two corner kicks threatening to rescue a point for the hosts late on in the game. Once again, they paid the price for a slow first period that allowed the opposition to seize upon a lead and allow the Pitmen to chase the game. The three-man defence continues to frustrate, with Smith surely giving serious thought to abandoning the unpopular formation ahead of another tough home game on Saturday, when Harrogate Town visit Keys Park looking to improve on their own poor start to the campaign

Hednesford Town: Crane, Ashmore, Campion ©, Bailey (Sullivan 45 (Robinson 57)), Francis, McCone, Osborne, Taylor , Glover, Walker, Thorley (Melbourne 9)      Subs Unused: Butlin, Macpherson

Leamington: Collett, Mace, Morley ©, Magunda, Pierpoint, Tank, L. Moore (Connelly 90), Goddard, S.Moore, Newton, Batchelor (Edwards 71)       Subs Unused: Hubbins, Naylor, Maher

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