22.3.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Leek Town

Brannan (12), Danylyk (44) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

R. Dyer (81)

(2) 2

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

294

Ross Dyer

D L W L W W L W L L

Matlock Town (H) 24.3.08

Hednesford continued to stutter towards the end of the current campaign with another away day to forget, this time at lowly Staffordshire rivals Leek Town this afternoon

 

The Pitmen had received a boost ahead of the game with goalkeeper Paul Evans agreeing to continue between the posts after signing a short-term deal until the end of the season from Causeway United. The only change to the side beaten heavily by Guiseley came in midfield, with Rob Davies returning after his three-match ban and replacing Mario Pedro, whose wife had just given birth a couple of days previously

Leek returned to Harrison Park off the back of a rotten run of recent form, having failed to win in their last six league games to leave the Blues second bottom of the league and adrift of the pack above them; relegation back to step four was looking a distinct possibility with only nine games to rescue their season. The management team of Paul Ogden and Wayne Johnson kept faith in the side that had been beaten at Worksop Town last Saturday with ex-Hednesford players Rob Hawthorne and Steve Brannan remaining part of the starting XI 

A cold day up in the Moorlands started with the hosts on the attack from the first minute; Matt Johnson's cross-cum-shot was tipped away by Evans, thus denying youngster Louis Briscoe a chance to put the ball away as he arrived late at the far post for what would have been a tap-in

Briscoe himself was next to test Evans in the sixth minute, driving in a shot from eighteen yards that the Hednesford goalkeeper turned away for a Leek corner kick

 

Evans followed this up with a superb full-length stop to deny Briscoe two minutes later from a free-kick, turning the ball over the crossbar with a brilliant one-handed save 

The Pitmen had been solidly second-best in the opening exchanges, finally getting in a shot at goal in the eighth minute as Davies attempting to turn the ball home after good work from Rory May, but his clever flicked effort just missed the target

With the two ex-Hednesford players on show for Leek, you felt that there may be retribution somewhere down the line and it was former youth team midfielder Brannan who was to strike a blow on twelve minutes. A simple ball over the top of the Hednesford defence allowed Brannan to fire home from the edge of the area from the inside right position. Yet another goal created through a simple ball over the top and more dreadful defending from the Pitmen

Leek new boy James Walshaw - signed earlier in the month from Ossett United - was denied his second goal for the Blues three minutes later but was denied by the outstretched leg of Evans

Evans denied the same player again just a couple of minutes later as he smothered Walshaw's shot at his near post after the striker had got goal side of Tom Marshall to turn a cross from Anthony Danylyk towards goal

 

The hosts felt that they had a strong penalty claim on twenty-two minutes as Briscoe's goalbound shot appeared to strike Ben Brown on the arm and away from goal, only for referee Mr Johnson to wave away the Leek protests

The closest the Pitmen could come to a goal was a wayward header from Marshall three minutes later as he darted to the near post and glanced a Davies corner kick wide of the target

Danylyk could have added to Leek's advantage on the half-hour mark with a driven shot that was only just wide of goal and had Evans scrambling across his goal

It had been a very poor showing from the Pitmen, who looked as though they were already in damage limitation mode as they struggled to keep possession inside the Leek half and left May and Ross Dyer fighting for scraps. Indeed, it was Leek who looked the far more likely to add to their lead as Johnson crossed from the left and found Briscoe on thirty-six minutes, only for the former Port Vale man to fire well wide of goal

Four minutes before half-time, Rob Hopley showed Sheppard a clean pair of heels in midfield and played a delightful ball through to Danylyk, who in turn laid the ball off to Johnson. He neatly sidestepped Ben Brown's challenge and rifled in a shot at goal that flew just a whisker over the crossbar

 

 Leek's dominance of the game saw them extend their lead in the final minute of the first half as Walshaw's run past Liam McDonald was halted by Evans inside the area, with the keeper lucky not to be shown a red card for bringing the striker down. Skipper Danylyk stepped up to send Evans the wrong way from the spot with the resultant kick

Phil Starbuck's angry half-time team talk must have given the Pitmen a little too much of an impetuous, as Wayne Dyer almost got himself sent off with a poor challenge on Danylyk just eighty seconds after the restart; he was saved by the generosity of Mr Johnson, who only issued the midfielder a yellow card when most in the ground expected him to send Dyer off

The Pitmen at least started to offer more on an attacking threat, with Ross Dyer inevitably at the heart of everything positive. He did well to play Styche into a pocket of space on fifty-two minutes before taking the ball back off his fellow teenager but dragged his low shot wide of Steve Hodgson's goal

Styche was denied by former Hednesford target Hodgson three minutes later as he easily claimed the forward's deflected shot from long-range after he had beaten Hawthorne to the ball

The Pitmen made their first substitution of the afternoon on fifty-six minutes as former Leek man Alan Nagington came on in place of May, who had been starved of service all afternoon

 

A marauding run from Ross Dyer just after the hour mark saw him beat three Leek defenders before turning the ball towards goal, but Kyle Armstrong got back in the nick of time to clear the ball off the line

Styche thought that he had grabbed his first goal for the Pitmen since his return after injury on sixty-four minutes, as he headed home a Ross Dyer flick-on but was denied by a late offside flag on the main stand side

There was always the risk of Leek extending their lead, however, as they played on the counter-attack with purpose and they nearly grabbed a third goal on sixty-seven minutes. An inswinging corner from Danylyk was not dealt with, allowing Hopley to head against the crossbar and back out into play, where Ross Adams was on hand to clear the ball

Davies tested Hodgson three minutes later with a low drive that the Leek number one held at the second attempt, under pressure from the incoming Ross Dyer

 

Wayne Dyer came closest to reducing arrears two minutes later as he received the ball on the edge of the Leek penalty area before releasing a tremendous shot that crashed off the crossbar and back out into play

It was almost to be Dyer's final involvement in the game as he once again came to blows with Briscoe on seventy-four minutes, with Mr Johnson giving him a very stern final warning rather than a second yellow card

Anthony Maguire made his long-awaited return to action with eleven minutes of the game remaining as he came on in place of McDonald, who looked out of his depth once more playing as an emergency left-back

Still, the Pitmen believed, and they snatched a lifeline with nine minutes of the game remaining. A rare foray into the Leek third of the pitch by Marshall saw him float a great cross into the path of Ross Dyer at the back post, who could not miss from a matter of a couple of yards out with a simple header home

 

The game ebbed and flowed as it entered its final stages, with chances at both ends. Evans did well to deny Leek substitute Chris Smith with a smart save on eighty-two minutes and set Styche away down the right-wing with a long clearance. The youngster cut in from the flank and unleashed one of his trademark powerful shots that Hodgson got enough behind to turn it away from goal

The Pitmen so nearly got themselves back on level terms with a couple of minutes left; Ross Dyer created an opportunity for Wayne Dyer with a clever flick-on that the midfielder headed against the post from just a couple of yards out before Hawthorne cleared the ball

A late rally in and around the Leek penalty area in added time failed to conjure up a leveller for the Pitmen, whose back-to-back defeats have suddenly turned them from outsiders for the play-offs to starting to nervously look over their shoulders with only nine points between them and the drop zone. Bank Holiday Monday sees fellow mid-table dwellers Matlock Town making the trip to Keys Park as Starbuck's side look to once again turn their form around

 

Leek Town: Hodgson, Hawthorne, Tickle (Oakes 82), Ward, Hopley, Armstrong, Brannan, Danylyk, Briscoe (Smith 77), Walshaw, M. Johnson     Sub Unused: Keys

Hednesford Town: Evans, Adams, McDonald (Maguire 79), Sheppard, Marshall ©, B. Brown, Davies, W. Dyer , May (Nagington 56), R. Dyer, Styche     Subs Unused: D. Brown

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