17.9.2005

Nationwide Conference North

Leigh RMI

Hednesford Town

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Tommy Whittle

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Moor Green (H) 24.9.05

The Pitmen extend their unbeaten away run to three games this afternoon as they earn themselves a point at fellow mid-table dwellers Leigh RMI in a lively ninety minutes of Conference North football

Having been handed a heavy beating by title favourites Northwich Victoria at Keys Park last weekend, manager Chris Brindley made two changes to his side for this afternoon's trip up the M6 as Rob Heath returned to the side after a knock, replacing Grant Beckett in midfield, joined in the starting XI for the first time this season by assistant manager Steve Anthrobus, who added his physical presence to the attack as he came in for teenager Craig Marshall

Leigh RMI - regular opponents for the Pitmen during the two sides' step one days - had made a similarly inconsistent start to the season and sat just above Brindley's men in the table ahead of play. Manager Andy Nelson made one change to his side from the one that had started their exciting 4-4 draw at Vauxhall Motors last weekend as Lee Atherton replaced Neil Smith

The two sides ran out onto a very uneven and dug-up Hilton Park pitch, which had hosted Leigh Centurions rugby league team the previous night and had been given no time to recover from the derby match against Salford Reds. Several early passes bobbled across the turf and out of play on both sides, with early chances limited as the two teams struggled to adapt to the conditions

The first real chance of the game fell to the Pitmen - clad in their all-green kit once more - in the ninth minute as Anthrobus glanced a Lee Barrow free-kick down into the path of Heath, whose first-time shot from twenty yards out sailed harmlessly over the crossbar and bouncing onto the crumbling Hilton Park terracing behind goalkeeper John Lamb's goal

Five minutes later, good wing play from Colin Hunter saw him leave Mark Drew in his wake as Jamie Barrett played the winger into space; he took a touch before crossing for Paul McMahon, who got underneath the ball and headed over the crossbar from ten yards out

Back came the hosts and skipper Andy Roscoe's free-kick on sixteen minutes had Tommy Whittle scrambling across his goal to watch the curling effort from the right-hand side of the penalty area dip just wide of the post

Good play from former Cardiff City man Gareth Stoker in the nineteenth minute saw the midfielder play at one-two with Lee Shillito and play Chris Simm into the Hednesford penalty area. The young forward wanted a little too long to decide what to do with the ball and got it caught between his legs, just long enough for Barrow to come in with a sliding challenge to take the ball away from the Leigh number ten

Midway through the first half, Stoker had the best chance of the game so far as Ryan McDowell chested down a Roscoe cross into the path of his team-mate, who drove his low effort from ten yards out just wide of Tommy Whittle's left-hand post

Whittle was alert to the danger posed by Simm on twenty-seven minutes as a bobbling pass from Steve Smith skipped past Richard Teesdale to find Simm in space. His shot, however, lacked power and he could only fire straight at Whittle from fifteen yards out

On thirty-two minutes, Teesdale made a late run into the Leigh six-yard box to meet a Lee Williams corner kick, but could only get the slightest of touches to the ball with his head and glanced it wide of the target

Eight minutes before the interval, a good run from Simm saw him take the ball past Barrett and into the Hednesford penalty area but saw his low shot beaten away by the hands of Whittle at his near post. The ball ran kindly to Roscoe, who horribly scuffed his rebounded shot wide from only six yards out as the ball appeared to bobble in front of him

With just a couple of minutes remaining in the first half, a neat through ball from McMahon spotted the run of Heath, who collected the pass but saw his effort saved by Lamb down to his right-hand side

It had been a largely uninspiring first period from both sides, who had really struggled at times with the terrible underfoot conditions. Both defences had been on top for large parts of the half and neither attack had looked capable of breaking through 

Fortunately, the second half was a lot livelier than the first, as the Pitmen started well through Hunter on forty-eight minutes; picking up a Mark Branch throw, Hunter teased his way past Stoker and crossed for Anthrobus, whose header was saved by Lamb. There had been a bout of pushing and shoving in the build-up and the veteran striker was penalised for this aggressive approach on Atherton as the pair challenged for the ball

Whittle was earning his man of the match nomination for the visitors as the game wore on, making another good save on fifty minutes as he pushed a rising shot from Roscoe over the crossbar after the Leigh skipper had beaten Branch

Two minutes later, Ross Adams made one of his first moves into the Leigh half as he picked up a pass from Williams and crossed from the right, finding McMahon at the far post but seeing his stabbed effort saved by Lamb

 

On fifty-six minutes, Branch's long throw from the left was partially cleared by Leigh, but only as far as Williams, who was standing just outside the penalty area. The veteran midfielder brought the ball down and attempted a curling shot that had a little too much on it as it drifted wide of the left-hand post

 

Lee Thompson replaced Steve Smith just before the hour mark and had a great chance to open the scoring within a minute of coming on; Steve Brockley's deep cross caught the Pitmen ball-watching, allowing Thompson to ghost in at the far post and graze the top of the crossbar as he headed narrowly over from eight yards out

Two minutes later, the Pitmen kept Whittle's opposite number Lamb busy through McMahon as the diminutive striker paced onto a fine angled through ball from Barrett, driving in a shot from an angle that Lamb did well to push away

With twenty minutes remaining, Teesdale went agonisingly close to putting Hednesford into the lead as he was once again allowed to make an unchallenged run into the near post to meet another fine Williams corner but glanced his header wide from close-range when he really should have tested Lamb

The Pitmen were very much in the ascendency at this point in the game and McMahon had another great chance to put his side ahead on seventy-three minutes as he latched onto Williams' pass but pulled his effort inches wide of Lamb's post

McMahon was denied a clear run on goal by a late offside flag against him three minutes later as his darting run from deep saw him get on the end of Heath's pass, but referee Mr Pollock spotted the flag early and pulled the play back

This was to prove to be McMahon's final involvement in the game as he was substituted with ten minutes remaining, with Craig Marshall replacing him for the remainder of the game as the Pitmen's first change of the afternoon

A rare break from the hosts on eighty-one minutes saw Roscoe make a marauding run down the left-wing and drive past Adams before picking out Simm in the penalty area, who scuffed his effort straight at Whittle standing in the penalty spot

Adams tried his luck from long-range on eighty-four minutes as he strode into space with the play opening up in front of him, but his well-struck effort was palmed away by Lamb for a Hednesford corner kick

Marshall's flick-on sent Hunter away down the flank two minutes later, with the former Guiseley man getting a lucky double bounce off the shins of Drew to allow him to get into the penalty area. The winger could have pulled the trigger but elected to pass to Anthrobus instead who toe-poked the ball well wide of goal

Hunter did have a good late chance for the Pitmen with two minutes remaining as he got on the end of a clever chipped pass from Heath, volleying a shot at goal from the corner of the penalty area that dipped over the crossbar

A frustrated Hunter was substituted in the final minute of the game, as the Pitmen chose to run the clock down by replacing the winger with youngster Steve Brannan

A goalless draw does little for either side's league position, with Hednesford remaining just behind their hosts in thirteenth place in the Conference North table. There is a welcome break from the bread and butter of league action next Saturday when the Pitmen enter the F.A. Cup at the second qualifying round as they play host to local rivals and fellow Conference North rivals Moor Green

Leigh RMI: Lamb, Drew, Brockley, Stoke, Coyne, Atherton (N. Smith 82), Shillito, S. Smith (Thompson 59), McDowell, Simm, Roscoe ©        Subs Unused: Dunn, Tench, Morton

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Adams, Branch, Barrow ©, Teesdale, Williams, Barrett, Heath, Anthrobus, McMahon (C. Marshall 80), Hunter (Brannan 89)    Subs Unused: T. Marshall, Beckett, Brindley