3.4.2006

Nationwide Conference North

Hednesford Town

Anthrobus (10)

Leigh RMI

Willis (31), Smith (39), Roscoe (80)

(1) 1

(2) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

429

Mark Briggs

D L L L D W D L L L

 

Hyde United (H) 8.4.06

 

The Pitmen are now in deep trouble adrift at the foot of the Conference North table as fellow relegation strugglers Leigh RMI earn themselves a crucial three points in their bid to avoid the drop and leave the hosts looking for a miracle in the six remaining games

Ten days had passed since the Pitmen's last game, having seen Saturday's trip to Harrogate Town postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Wetherby Road. Manager Steve Anthrobus had been busy making more signings to his side at the end of the March transfer deadline. Popular left-back Les Hines had returned to the club from Worcester City, followed into the club by former Premier League midfielder Graham Hyde, who also made the switch from St. George's Lane. A bid for a striker late on transfer deadline day did not come off, forcing Anthrobus into naming himself in the team for today's game following Leon McSweeney's suspension and the departure of top scorer Paul McMahon to title challengers Stafford Rangers. The player/manager was one of four changes to the side that had started the 4-0 defeat against Worcester City as he replaced Nathan Lamey, whilst Ross Adams returned at right-back in place of Anthony Maguire. Mark Briggs replaced the injured Scott Dann, with the final change coming at centre-back as fit-again Ian Wright replaced Tom Marshall

Leigh were also nervously looking over their shoulders, sitting just above the Pitmen in the table on thirty-two points after a 3-1 defeat at play-off chasing Nuneaton Borough on Saturday. Manager Andy Nelson made one change to his side for their second trip to the Midlands in three days as Chris McGrath came in for Liam Coyne in defence

Looking for a response to Saturday's dreadful capitulation, the Pitmen started brightly on a cool evening, with Martin O'Connor's pass in the third minute headed down by Anthrobus to Ross Dyer, who took a touch before dragging a low shot well wide of the Leigh goal from twenty yards out

Hines went close to making an immediate impact on his return to Keys Park as he picked up a pass from Scott Hadland out on the left-wing in the seventh minute and attempted a curling ball into the box that almost caught James Coates in the Leigh goal out as the ball drifted over the former Moor Green stopper's head. Coates managed to backtrack in time however and claim the ball on his goal-line to deny the left-back a goal on his return

The Pitmen were rewarded for their brisk start to the game with the evening's opening goal in the tenth minute; Hines swung in a free-kick from the left and found the head of skipper Lee Barrow, whose flick-on was headed home by the diving Anthrobus, who did enough to head beyond the reach of Coates from close-range

1-0 very nearly became 2-0 just three minutes later as Colin Hunter broke quickly down the left as he held off a challenge from Michael Harris before whipping in a cross that was headed agonisingly wide of the right-hand post by the incoming Hadland, standing ten yards out

It was very much one-way traffic in the opening quarter of the game as the Pitmen continued to dominate possession and chances. In the seventeenth minute, Dyer and Hunter worked the ball across the pitch and into the path of Adams, whose low cross was sliced just past his own post by McGrath as he got in front of Anthrobus at the near post

The hosts were handed a blow in the twentieth minute as they were forced into making their first substitution of the evening due to an injury suffered by Dyer. The youngster looked to chase down a long ball from O'Connor and clashed with Coates as the pair challenged for the bouncing ball. Dyer came off worst in the coming-together and was left in a heap just inside the penalty area as Coates gathered the ball. Some Hednesford fans appealed for a penalty kick, which referee Mr Wigglesworth waved away before Dyer received treatment from Don Drakeley. The youngster gingerly got to his feet holding his arm and was carried off with what was later confirmed as a broken collarbone, ruling Dyer out for the rest of the campaign in the process. He was replaced by Nathan Lamey up front

Lamey was eager to make an immediate impact and was involved with his first touch on twenty-five minutes, breaking through the flimsy Leigh offside trap to get on the end of a pass from Hunter before squaring the ball to Hadland after drawing Coates out of his goal. However, somewhat inexplicably, Hadland managed to scuff his shot wide of goal from six yards out with the net gaping in front of him. This was to prove a very costly miss for the hosts

Leigh seemed to use this miss as inspiration and started to come back into the game, with Chris Simm exchanging passes with ex-Telford man Scott Willis on twenty-eight minutes before striking a firm rising shot straight into the arms of Gary Hateley in the Hednesford goal

The visitors got themselves back on level terms just after the half-hour mark as Gary Williams was afforded too much time and space to make progress into the Pitmen's third of the pitch before finding Willis with a fine cross. The striker's bobbling shot appeared to deceive Hateley, who allowed the shot to squirm through his hands and fumbled it over the line to gift Leigh a cheap equaliser

Briggs looked to conjure up a response for the hosts on thirty-four minutes as he spotted a free-kick down just to the left of the Leigh penalty area after Hunter had been fouled by George Melling, curling his right-footed shot over the wall but narrowly wide of Coates' right-hand post

Leigh turned the game on its head as they took the lead for the first time in the evening on thirty-nine minutes; Ian Taylor did well to make a run all the way to the left-hand byeline and pulled the ball back into the path of Neil Smith, whose initial shot was blocked by the leg of Barrow. The ball ran kindly to Smith once more, however, allowing him to slot the ball home at the second attempt as he sidefooted past Hateley from six yards out. It was only Smith's second goal of a barren season in front of goal but a timely one for his side

The visitors could have added a killer third goal with three minutes of the half remaining as Simm was given too much time just outside the Hednesford penalty area to line up a shot, striking a fierce shot beyond the reach of Hateley but seeing his shot come back off the underside of the crossbar and back into play, where Wright managed to clear the danger

It had very much been a half of two halves, as the Pitmen had dominated the opening exchanges but had paid a heavy price for not taking their chances as Leigh struck back with two goals in the last fifteen minutes of the half to take the half-time lead. The hosts had lost their rhythm and shape in the closing stages of the half and looked every inch the struggling side they had become as the season has gone on

A bright start to the second half saw the Pitmen enjoy plenty of possession without really testing Coates or his defence. Hunter's run and cross on fifty minutes saw McGrath head the ball straight up in the air as he tried to clear his lines, allowing Anthrobus to win the ball before scooping his shot high over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Two minutes later, goods play from the hosts saw Hunter play Briggs into space with a clever pass, allowing Briggs to shoot from twenty-five yards out with an effort that skipped off the turf and was spilt by Coates in front of goal. However, Lamey and Anthrobus were caught on their heels and unable to react quickly enough as the stopper claimed the ball at the second attempt

Coates made another stop to deny the Pitmen two minutes later as Hines' left-footed cross was turned goalwards by Hadland, only for the Leigh goalkeeper to claw the ball away at full stretch down to his left

The home side sensed an equaliser was in the offing, with O'Connor and Hunter linking up to play Lamey in on goal on fifty-eight minutes, only for an offside flag to deny the former Halesowen Town striker a shot at goal

Just after the hour mark, Hines sent over another delightful cross from the left that Hadland headed down into the path of Lamey, who was denied a goalscoring opportunity by Coates, who made a smothering save at the feet of the striker

Good play from Leigh on sixty-five minutes saw Melling play Smith in behind Hines down the right, with the striker looking to catch Hateley out at his near post with an early shot that the Hednesford stopper managed to parry away in an unorthodox manner via his leg and arm

The visitors continued to look a threat on the counter-attack, winning a corner kick on sixty-nine minutes after a quick counter-attack down the left. Andy Roscoe's flag-kick was met by Melling at the far post, but his free header was saved by Hateley on his goal line

The Pitmen made their second change of the evening on seventy-four minutes with first substitute Lamey taken off after only fifty-four minutes of game time, replaced by new signing Hyde

This was followed two minutes later by the home side's final change of the game as Marshall came on for the remaining fourteen minutes as he replaced Hadland; this saw the Pitmen move to a 5-4-1 formation, with Anthrobus playing up front on his own

Briggs sent over a corner kick on seventy-nine minutes that was flicked on by Marshall at the near post and into the path of Anthrobus, whose chested attempt at goal was hacked out of danger by the alert presence of Carrington

However, any ambitions the Pitmen harboured about setting up a grandstand finish were killed off with ten minutes remaining as Leigh sealed a vital three points with their third goal of the evening. Wright brought Roscoe down out just to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area, with the Leigh winger executing a superbly struck free-kick around the Hednesford wall and beyond the reach of Hateley into the far corner of the net

The hosts desperately tried to get themselves back into the game and laid siege on the Leigh goal in the remaining minutes looking for inspiration. Anthrobus brought down Marshall's long punt forwards down on eighty-three minutes and laid the ball off to Hunter, whose dipping shot from twenty yards out narrowly cleared the crossbar

Marshall headed over the crossbar three minutes later after three successive Briggs corners had tested the Leigh defence, with the final ball into the far post headed into the Heath Hayes terrace by the young defender, under pressure from McGrath

In the final minute of the game, Marshall picked up a partially cleared Hunter free-kick on the edge of the penalty area and tried to dribble his way back through the crowd of players in front of him before curling a shot over the crossbar

It was another bitterly disappointing result for the Pitmen, who are now cut adrift at the foot of the table whilst Leigh have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up with three key points this evening. The tough games just keep coming for the Pitmen, as they face mid-table Hyde United at Keys Park Saturday looking for inspiration against a side that sealed Chris Brindley's fate back in December with a 4-2 win at Ewen Fields

Hednesford Town: Hateley, Adams, Hines, Briggs, Wright, Barrow ©, Hadland (T. Marshall 76), O'Connor, Dyer (Lamey 20 (Hyde 74)), Anthrobus, Hunter    Subs Unused: Beckett, Molloy

Leigh RMI: Coates, Harris (Dunn 82), Roscoe ©, Carrington, McGrath, Melling, Wiliams, Willis, Smith, Simm, Taylor (Wilkinson 70)       Subs Unused: Drew, Hay, Kay