25.4.2009

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Durrell (61)

Leigh Genesis

Dorney (8), (74)

(0) 1

(1) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

467

Ben Bailey

W D W W L W L L W L

So, the dream is over for yet another season, as the Pitmen finished their season with another apathetic performance in front of their own fans to allow relegated Leigh to claim all three points at Keys Park

 

Having salvaged some glory from a once-promising season in midweek with a Birmingham Senior Cup win over Stourbridge, manager Dean Edwards stuck with the same side that had beaten Stourbridge at the Pirelli Stadium with the only changes on the bench, where Sean Platt had recovered sufficiently from his shoulder injury to make up the numbers

Leigh's season had lurched from one crisis to another, both on and off the pitch, resulting in relegation to UniBond Division One South next season. A 7-0 defeat 

On a bright but breezy afternoon in Staffordshire, the Pitmen set out to complete what looked an unlikely route into the play-off places, with Bradford (Park Avenue) and FC United of Manchester coming to blows at Gigg Lane and Kendal Town entertaining Buxton. If the Pitmen had any hope of making the fifth spot, they required a draw in the Bradford - FC United game, and failure by Kendal to win, as well as doing their bit to beat Genesis

The prospect of turning over an already-relegated side was looked tricky from the offset and got worse eight minutes into the game as the Pitmen conceded the opening goal of the afternoon; the much-criticised Marshall, still playing stand-in to Ross Draper in midfield, dropped a clanger as he was caught napping on the edge of the area, allowing Tom Ince to pick his pocket and cross for Jack Dorney to head past Stuart Brock from close range

News started to filter through of goals for Bradford and Kendal in the other games, so at that point, it looked all over for the home side. Indeed, they struggled to get any real foothold in the game, with Tyrone Barnett and Ross Dyer starved of service

Leigh could have extended their lead seven minutes later; some neat approach play from the visitors allowed Steve Settle to cross dangerously into the area, but Brock made a brave catch with two Genesis players bearing down on him right on the line

Marshall almost made another costly error for the Pitmen on the half-hour mark, turning the big defender's misdirected header away from goal and out for a Genesis corner, which was also headed wide

The Pitmen's best bet of a goal seemed to be from set-pieces, but Sam Hall wasted two successive corners by failing to clear the first man, whilst Ludovic Quistin whipped in a free-kick that was headed over by Barnett a few moments later. Stand-in skipper Danny Harvey also headed way over the bar from a similar position three minutes later

Quistin was again the architect of a Hednesford chance on forty minutes, this time sending over a corner that youngster Ben Bailey headed narrowly over after five players went up to contest the ball

With news of a further goal for Kendal and no change to the scoreline at Gigg Lane, there was little change in the momentum of the game during the early stages of the second half, as the Pitmen remained subdued going forward. Dorney nearly doubled his tally for the game, and for the season, within three minutes of the restart. Andy Heald's cross was diverted to Dorney via a deflection off Bailey, but this time Dorney could only head wide of goal

The Pitmen finally managed to make something positive happen going forward, and a good move saw Elliott Durrell fire in a twenty-yard shot that was well held by Leigh goalkeeper Steve Drench

This seemed to fire the Pitmen, and they grabbed a vital lifeline on the hour mark through Durrell. Barnett's shot was blocked as he tried to force the ball home from ten yards out, but the rebound ran kindly to the incoming Durrell, who sidefooted home from three yards out

Suddenly, there was renewed optimism, especially as the whispers on the terraces suggested that FC United had equalised against Bradford and Buxton had claimed a goal back at Kendal. Was the unimaginable feat actually on after all?

Well, no it wasn't, as the hosts firmly pressed the self-destruct button once again with another comical error at the back to present Leigh with what was to be their winner sixteen minutes from time. Cedric Abraham's firm back pass to Brock saw the Hednesford stopper sweep the ball straight to Dorney, who had time and space to steady himself and fire past the hapless keeper from just inside the area

Edwards had already brought on his namesake Luke for defender Harvey in an attempt to add an attacking threat to the side, and made a further change ten minutes from time, with teenager Mark Bandurak given his home debut as the manager took the opportunity to withdraw the disappointing Marshall

The frustration at conceding such a soft goal quickly turned into anger as news came through of an equaliser at Kendal for Buxton, meaning a win for the Pitmen with a few minutes to go would indeed sneak them into the play-offs

However, the Pitmen were simply not looking like they were going to snatch a late brace to force their way into contention, with a high, wide and not very handsome Durrell shot the only real sight of goal in the final five minutes

As the final whistle sounded, some players dropped to their knees, some sat down and contemplated what could - or probably should - have been, whilst some sloped off the dressing room with many unlikely to pull a Hednesford shirt again after today. News reached Keys Park of a late winner for Kendal, thus meaning that today's result was of little consequence. It is likely to be a summer of much change both on and off the pitch, as the spectre of lateral movement back to the Southern Premier League hangs over the Pitmen which will have a major shift in Edwards' recruitment plans for the 2009-2010 season

Hednesford Town: Brock, Maguire, Quistin, Abraham, Harvey © (Edwards 58), Bailey, Hall, Durrell, Barnett, Dyer, Marshall (Bandurak 80)         Subs Unused: Platt, Woolley

Leigh Genesis: Drench, Botchey, Page, Smith, King, Ince, Heald (Flitcroft 56), Brown, Settle, Stepien (Whitham 76), Dorney      Subs Unused: Sephton, Ormesher, Porter

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