25.4.2011

Zamaretto Southern Premier League Play-Off Semi-Final

Hednesford Town

Patterson (9), Francis (45), Clements (70)

Leamington

Batchelor (42)

(2) 3

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

1,504

Kyle Patterson

W W W D L W W W W W

Salisbury City (H) 2.5.11

The Pitmen marched on into Monday's play-off final after confidently beating Leamington at Keys Park this evening to set up a home clash with Salisbury City

Monday afternoon's 6-0 rout of relegated Halesowen Town had given the Pitmen a fourth win in a row ahead of tonight's big semi-final clash and made them the forme team of the four clubs in the semi-final mix. Manager Rob Smith made four changes to his side from the one that had started at the Grove, as Cheyenne Dunkley, skipper Liam Francis, Nick Wellecomme and Kyle Patterson all returned to the side ahead of Louis Keenan, Decio Gomes, hat-trick hero Marvin Robinson and Danny Quinn

Leamington had clinched fifth place in the table on the last day of the season courtesy of a 3-2 home win against Stourbridge, ​with manager Paul Holleran making five changes of his own for tonight's journey up to Staffordshire as Steph Morley, Guy Sanders, Alex Taylor, Jacob Blyth and James Rowe all came into the side ahead of James Husband, Jamie Sheldon, Nick Stanley, Chris Knight and ex-Hednesford loanee Luke Corbett

On a mild evening and in front of a superb crowd at Keys Park, the in-form hosts made a strong start to the game; a long kick forwards from skipper Liam Francis in the third minute was headed on by Nick Wellecomme into the path of Kyle Patterson, only for the striker to lash his shot high over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Three minutes later, Jay Denny won the ball in midfield as he caught Neil Barnfield in possession and set Alex Melbourne away down right-wing. The former Wolves youngster did well to reach the byeline and pull the ball back towards Wellecomme, only for the striker to scuff his shot well wide of goal as Sanders gave him no space to manoeuvre

Good play from one of the Pitmen's recent star men Chris Clements a minute later saw the midfielder drift past two challenges and clip the ball into the path of Patterson, who was adjudged to have been in an offside position when the ball was played and play was pulled back

The Pitmen's early pressure finally bore fruit in the ninth minute of the game as their direct approach to the game saw them take the lead; Ben Bailey's punt forwards from his own half sent Patterson away behind the Leamington defence, controlling the ball brilliantly ahead of former Hednesford man Scott Lycett and taking the ball around the despairing dive of goalkeeper Tony Breeden before slotting the ball into the empty net from ten yards out

This seemed to act as a prompter for the Brakes, who settled into the game after this early setback and looked the better of the sides for much of the remainder of the half. Sanders headed high over the crossbar in the twelfth minute as Richard Batchelor's free-kick was flicked on at the near post by James Rowe and into the path of the former Bedworth United man

Jay Denny picked up an early yellow card for the hosts in the sixteenth minute as his over-enthusiasm in getting to the ball saw him pull down Taylor in the centre circle and earn him a booking for his troubles

The Brakes were denied a certain goal in the nineteenth minute as a long throw from Lycett was headed downwards by Barnfield and into the path of Rowe, who was denied a tap-in from three yards out by a brave lunging challenge from Cheyenne Dunkley to turn the ball away from the striker after his chest-down had set him up for a shot at goal

The resultant corner kick from Taylor was floated into the far post, where the combative Batchelor rose highest to meet the ball but his effort sailed high wide of Dan Crane's far post

Crane was alert to a quick break from Leamington midway through the half, out of his goal to make a timely clearance with his right boot to deny Rowe a chance after Barnfield's through ball looked to find the former Histon man in behind the Hednesford defence

The Pitmen continued to look a threat on the counter-attack, however, with Francis's long ball forwards on twenty-five minutes flicked on by Wellecomme and into the path of Patterson, who beat Sanders for pace as he took the ball into the Leamington penalty area but was denied a second goal of the evening by a fine stop by Breeden, diving to his right to turn the low drive away from goal

Patterson turned provider for Wellecomme three minutes later as Clements played Patterson into space with a fine threaded pass in midfield, finding the striker running at Liam Daly down the centre of the pitch. He played the ball into the path of the overlapping Wellecomme down the right, only for Daly to get a toe to the ball and deflect it off the body of the striker and away from danger before Wellecomme could get his shot away

Crane was perfectly placed to make a save to deny Blyth on the half-hour mark as Lycett's throw found Taylor, who in turn took the ball to the byeline and crossed for Blyth to head firmly at goal, only to be denied by Crane who was superbly positioned in the centre of his goal to make the stop

Another long throw from Lycett four minutes later saw the utility man find Rowe lurking in the Hednesford penalty area, controlling the ball well with his back to goal and getting the better of Dunkley before laying the ball off to Batchelor, whose low driven shot from sixteen yards out was a foot or so wide of the upright

With five minutes of a highly competitive first period remaining, Wellecomme picked up a quickly-taken Melbourne throw on the right and played a neat one-two with Patterson before drilling in a shot at goal from an angle, forcing Breeden into a save with his legs at his near post

Leamington had probably felt a little aggrieved at being behind for much of the first period, but finally pulled themselves level on forty-three minutes as Lycett's deep free-kick from the halfway line found the head of the giant Daly, whose goalward header was parried away by Crane but only into the path of Batchelor, who followed the ball in and tapped home from six yards out despite Francis's best efforts to keep the ball out

The game was to swing back towards the Pitmen, however, with the final action of the first half as Clements swung in a free-kick from out on the left flank and found the head of Francis, whose looping backward header over the head of Breeden found the far corner of the net, despite Rowe trying to hook it away in vain on the line

Play-off semi-finals normally tend to be very cagey affairs early on with neither side wanting to hand the advantage to the other, but this game had been very much the opposite as both sides had played their part in a highly entertaining, end-to-end game that the Pitmen would probably admit that they were fortunate to be leading going into the break, having been penned into their own third of the pitch by Leamington for long periods of the first half

The Brakes started the second half well and Blyth forced Crane into a save just three minutes after the restart as a quick break from the away side saw the ball run to the striker, whose low shot was beaten away by the Hednesford goalkeeper

 

Substitute Sheldon - on just before half-time for the injured Barnfield - was next to test the reflexes of the stopper on fifty-one minutes as he picked up Francis's attempted clearance on the edge of the penalty area and drilled in a shot at goal that Crane parried away down to his left

Breeden matched Crane's heroics on fifty-five minutes with a sublime stop to deny Francis, somehow clawing the ball away from goal to his left with an instinctive stop after the defender had turned Dunkley's downward header towards goal from six yards out

Ross Davidson made a timely - and risky - diving challenge on Rowe to deny the striker a shot on goal three minutes later as he raced back to meet the striker who had broken free down the right, with Davidson able to take the ball away from him before he could shoot

Patterson was continuing to give the Brakes defence problems with his movement, picking the ball up on the right just after the hour mark and crossing towards Wellecomme, only for Daly to head clear as far as Clements; the midfielder picked up the loose ball and lashed a left-footed effort at goal from the edge of the penalty area that Breeden pushed away on his goal line. the ball ran back to Wellecomme, whose chip back into the danger zone was collected by Breeden at the second attempt

Another long Lycett throw gave the Hednesford defence problems on sixty-six minutes as he launched the ball from the right and found the head of Sanders, whose flick-on towards Batchelor saw the midfielder try and force the ball home at the far post but was to be denied by a combination of Bailey's presence and Crane's smothering save

A minute later, Darren Campion made a timely sliding challenge to deny Michael Tuohy a clear run at goal, sticking his right leg out and diverting the ball away from the roaming full-back as he ran onto a pass from Batchelor

The Pitmen finally put clear daylight between themselves and Leamington with a crucial third goal on seventy minutes as Denny played the ball through to Wellecomme, making a probing run down the left as he tricked his way past Tuohy and laid the ball off the Clements, who took a touch before unleashing an unstoppable right-footed shot from twenty yards out that totally flummoxed Breeden and settled in the far corner of the net. Another superb strike to add to his collection this term and at the most important moment possible

The visitors rallied with three successive corners to push the Pitmen back into their own third of the pitch, but excellent defending from Bailey, Dunkley and Francis saw the hosts deny Leamington any way back and a chance to build momentum going into the final ten minutes of the tie

With fourteen minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their first change of the evening as the hard-running Wellecomme was given a standing ovation by the Keys Park crowd as he was replaced by Saturday's hero Robinson

Rowe picked up a loose pass from Dunkley on seventy-eight minutes and played the ball out to Batchelor, whose chipped cross towards Blyth was tipped over the crossbar by the alert presence of Crane at his far post

With nine minutes to go, Lycett's long throw was headed up into the night sky by Daly, forcing Crane to come off his line and punch the ball behind for a corner kick as both Sanders and Sheldon put him under pressure inside his six-yard box

Gomes was brought on by Smith as the Pitmen's second substitute of the evening a minute later, adding an insurance policy to the defence for the remainder of the game as Melbourne went off in favour of the Portuguese centre-back

Gomes made a timely block with his first contribution three minutes later, sticking a leg out to divert Taylor's low shot away from goal after Batchelor's cross had dropped to the midfielder just outside the penalty area

Dunkley could have put the game beyond any doubt with four minutes remaining as a Clements corner was headed goalwards by the young defender, only for Breeden to tip the ball over the crossbar for another corner kick

Before the corner kick could be taken, man of the match Patterson was replaced for the dying minutes of the contest by Quinn up front, with the Keys Park crowd once again showing their appreciation to the striker after a superb display leading the line for the hosts

Another later flurry of set-pieces from the visitors led to Daly heading wide in added time with the Brakes' final chance of the game as the Pitmen deservedly held on to move into Monday afternoon's final, where they will host Salisbury City - winners in tonight's other play-off semi-final after defeating Cambridge City 1-0 at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. With the promise of Conference North/South football in 2011-2012 for the winners, it's sure to be another memorable day in the history of one of the two sides when they meet in four days time

Hednesford Town: Crane, Bailey, Campion, Dunkley, Francis ©, Denny , Melbourne (Gomes 82), Clements, Wellecomme (Robinson 76), Patterson (Quinn 86 ), Davidson       Sub Unused: Keenan

 

Leamington: Breeden, Tuohy, Morley, Lycett (Corbett 82), Daly, Sanders, Taylor, Barnfield (Sheldon 42), Blyth, Rowe, Batchelor ©       Subs Unused: Cross, Stanley, Husband