25.9.2006

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Whittaker (45)

Leek Town

(1) 1

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

501

Phil Hadland

W L D W D W D L W W

Ossett Town (H) 30.9.06

Hednesford Town supporters can enjoy, for twenty-four hours at least, the satisfaction of sitting atop of the UniBond Premier League tonight as the Pitmen continued their improvement at Keys Park with a narrow win over Staffordshire rivals Leek Town

Following Saturday's fine win at Frickley Athletic, Hednesford manager Phil Starbuck resisted the temptation to change a winning side and stuck with the same XI, although Tom Franklin was passed fit to take his place amongst the substitutes after recovering from injury

 

Leek had drawn 2-2 with North Ferriby United at the weekend to leave the Blues still with only a solitary win so far this season and sitting third from bottom of the league. Under pressure manager Mark Cartwright made one changes to his side for tonight's Staffs derby as Jordan Johnson replaced the injured Mark Devlin in midfield. There was a familiar face amongst the Leek ranks as former Hednesford hero Lee Barrow was named in their starting XI

 The Pitmen started the evening with real purpose, playing some great one-touch football in the early stages of the game with a real sense of urgency. Phil Hadland produced a mazy dribble down the left flank in the third minute of the game and crossed into the Leek penalty area but neither Darren Alexander nor Dave Whittaker could get on the end of the ball in

Hadland went on another marauding run down the flank three minutes later as he turned Dan Smith inside out on the corner of the penalty area and crossed to the far post, where Alexander stretched but could not get his head to the inswinging ball

Leek responded through the diminutive Alan Nagington three minutes later, nipping in ahead of Iain Screaton and Tom Marshall to reach a cross from Antony Danylyk but turned the ball well wide from twelve yards out

Ross Dyer won a free-kick for the Pitmen to the right-hand side of the Leek box on fifteen minutes, allowing Chad Sheppard to curl a cross into the danger zone where Whittaker was denied a simple tap-in by Dave Tickle

Former Leek striker Whittaker almost broke the deadlock five minutes later, beating Leek goalkeeper Martin Kearney to the bouncing ball following a cross from Dyer, but his angled snapshot only found the side netting

 Alexander was next to threaten for the Pitmen on twenty-three minutes as he picked the ball up inside the Leek penalty area following a run from Hadland, but his subsequent shot was blocked en route to goal by Leek skipper Dave MacPherson

Barrow went closest to grabbing the opener for Leek a couple of minutes before the half-hour mark as he made a late run into the Hednesford six-yard box to nod Johnson's free-kick over the crossbar at the far post

Good play from Terry Henshaw down the left-wing saw him play a quick one-two with Dyer on the overlap on thirty-three minutes, stepping inside a challenge from Booth and laying the ball off to Screaton, whose shot lacked power or direction and sailed harmlessly wide of the post

Chris White win the battle of the skippers five minutes later as he battled well with MacPherson to win the ball and supply Dyer with a neat pass down the left. Dyer got a lucky bounce off the legs of Tickle before crossing for Alexander, only for the former Telford man to rifle his shot wide of goal from close-range rather than test Kearney

Barrow was alert to deny Hadland on forty minutes, sticking his boot out to block the winger's curling attempt at goal after Ashley Wooliscroft had given the ball away in a dangerous area to the winger

 

Whittaker finally managed to break the deadlock in a tight game with the final action of a keenly contested first half; Sheppard's inswinging corner kick dropped right onto the head of the big striker, who powerfully headed past Kearney from close-range. It transpired that the striker had taken a whack on the head in the pushing and shoving in the build-up to the goal and left the pitch immediately after scoring, returning after half-time with a bandage on his head

The expected Leek fight-back at the start of the second half was initially muted, as Danylyk's long-range effort on fifty minutes was easily fielded by the under-worked Young

 Whittaker's participation in the game was to end only a few minutes of the restart as he was forced off with a reoccurrence of the head injury suffered in the build-up to his goal and was replaced by Tom Franklin on fifty-two minutes

Good wing play from Johnson saw him drift past Ross Adams two minutes later and pick out the ineffective Simon Eldershaw, only for the striker to completely fluff his effort and send the ball into the arms of Young

On the hour mark, a long free-kick by Young into the Leek penalty area was flicked on by Alexander and into the path of Sheppard, who took two touches but could not apply the finish as he was closed down by Barrow

Alexander will be kicking himself for missing a glorious opportunity for the hosts three minutes later, latching on to a pass from the outstanding Hadland in the six-yard box but somehow blasting over when it looked easier to score

Dyer, who had moved up front in the reshuffle when Whittaker was substituted, was next to try his luck but was denied by the right hand of Kearney, who turned the striker's shot behind for a corner kick

 

Dyer was involved again three minutes later as he neatly tuned past Booth and laying the ball off to Screaton, who struck an unconvincing shot well wide of Kearney's goal

Leek had offered little in the way of an attacking threat thus far in the second half, with Dave MacPherson striking a low bobbling shot straight into the rams of Young on sixty-nine minutes from nearly thirty yards out

White's rasping drive from Dyer's lay-off cleared Kearney's crossbar two minutes later after Adams had found the youngster with a delightful cross-field pass

With fifteen minutes remaining, Hadland went on another one of his mazy runs down the left flank and left Smith dazed and confused with his quick feet, skipping past the full-back and standing up a cross to the far post where Alexander headed tamely into the arms of Kearney

Two minutes later, the Pitmen made their second substitution of the evening as Marlon walters was introduced in place of Sheppard to add some bite to the home side's midfield as they looked to protect their slender lead

 

Nagington saw his turn and shot saved by Young with nine minutes remaining as he did well to hold off the challenge of Henshaw and take Danylyk's pass into his feet from fifteen yards out

Danylyk curled a shot just wide of the post from a free-kick just to the left of the Hednesford penalty area three minutes later after Adams had brought Johnson down in full flight

Three minutes later, Barrow's downward header dropped into the Hednesford six-yard box before being hacked clear by Screaton, under pressure from MacPherson and Nagington

In the first minute of added time, Leek forced successive corners on the left-hand side through Johnson, only for Danylyk to produce two weak efforts that were both cleared at the near post by Marshall

A hard-fought win for the Pitmen, and one that temporarily lifts them to the top of the table with the remainder of the top six playing tomorrow night. There is another home game to look forward to for the larger-than-normal home crowd on Saturday when struggling Ossett Town make their first-ever trip to Keys Park

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Henshaw, White ©, Screaton, Marshall, Dyer, Sheppard (Walters 77), Alexander, Whittaker (Franklin 52), Hadland        Sub Unused: Jellicoe

Leek Town: Kearney, Smith, Tickle, Wooliscroft, Booth (Hawthorne 70), Barrow, Danylyk, MacPherson ©, Nagington, Eldershaw, Johnson (Wood 88)      Sub Unused: Howson