11.4.2015

Vanarama Conference North

Lowestoft Town

Woods-Garness (66), Reed (90)

Hednesford Town

Osborne (25), Kerry (59)

(0) 2

(1) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

615

Andy Todd

W W L W L L L L D D

Stalybridge Celtic (H) 18.4.15

The Pitmen came away from their first-ever trip to Crown Meadow with a point - but it perhaps should have been three after the visitors had held a two-goal lead midway through the section half, helped by another wonder goal from Jamey Osborne

There were more injury and unavailability woes for manager Rob Smith to compensate for ahead of their four-hour trip to Suffolk as Darren Campion (suspended), Ben Bailey (unavailable), Tom Thorley, Paul Sullivan and Marvin Robinson (all injured) were all ruled out, meaning that the Pitmen could only muster twelve fit players for today's game, with Robinson named as a substitute despite not being fit. With all this in mind, Smith made three changes to the side that had drawn at Solihull Moors on Bank Holiday Monday as Chris Westwood replaced Bailey, Nick Rushton came back into the side up front in Robinson's place and Andy Todd took Sullivan's spot in the side

 

Fifteenth-placed Lowestoft still required a point from their remaining games to make them absolutely safe, with the Trawlerboys also struggling with several injury issues ahead of today's game. Joint managers Mick Chapman and Ady Gallagher made two changes to their side from the one that had won at Leamington on Monday afternoon as Curtis Haynes-Brown replaced Adam Smith, Chris Henderson came in for Lee Smith and Rob Eagle preferred to Shaun Bammant

It was a beautifully sunny day at the most easterly football ground in England, although there was a strong and gusty wind blowing across the pitch from the North Sea, situated only half a mile away. Lowestoft started the brighter of the two sides and Eagle's clever play in the sixth minute saw him get the better of skipper James Hurst but drill his shot well, well wide of goal from the corner of the penalty area on a hard and bobbly surface

Glenn Walker's trickery down the left three minutes later saw the former Brackley man leave Jack Ainsley in his wake as he sent over a cross towards Rushton, who could not get in front of Erkan Okay to turn the cross home and the ball ran harmlessly out of play for a goal kick

Adam Thomas tested the reflexes of Lowestoft goalkeeper Jake Jessup in the eleventh minute as his cross from the left caught the gusty wind and caused the goalkeeper to backtrack and push the ball over the crossbar before Thomas's inadvertent shot dipped into the net

Lowestoft's first sight at goal came from a corner kick in the fifteenth minute as Ainsley's corner kick found the head of Sam Gaughran at the far post, only for the defender's downward header to be parried away by Dan Crane down by his post

Henderson went even closer to opening the scoring for the hosts four minutes later as his flick header from another Ainsley corner kick was cleared off the line by Lloyd Kerry

Rushton had looked the Pitmen's best bet of a goal so far, making a good run to latch onto Todd's fine pass in the twenty-first minute but drove his shot over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Eagle responded for the home side with a bobbling shot straight into the arms of Crane midway through the first period after Okay's long free-kick forwards was flicked on into the path of Eagle by Woods-Garness

It was to be the Pitmen that were to take the lead, however, and what a goal it was to put them in front as Osborne added to his portfolio of spectacular goals with another barely-believable strike. The midfielder won a free-kick on the halfway line, right in front of the two benches, and spotted Jessup barking instructions at his defenders standing twelve yards out of his goal. Despite the wind being against him, Osborne executed an inch-perfect lob from fifty yards out that sailed over the head of the desperately back-peddling Jessup and settled in the far corner of the net. A truly incredible goal and arguably an even better strike than the long-range effort against Brackley Town back in February

The away side almost doubled their advantage within two minutes of taking the lead as the excellent Todd got down the left-wing and sent over a low cross into the path of Rushton, whose first-time shot from ten yards out skipped wide of the post

More good play from Osborne on the half-hour mark saw the midfield man win yet another free-kick before taking the set-piece himself and sending Thomas away down the flank; the Stoke City loanee jinked his way past Omar Sowunmi and brought the ball inside, but on his weaker right foot dragged his shot well wide of goal as Okay closed down the space in front of him

Lowestoft were struggling to put anything cohesive together at this stage, with a loose pass from Sowunmi picked up by Todd on thirty-four minutes and taken back into the penalty area by the veteran former Rotherham United man before he lifted his shot from sixteen yards out high over the crossbar. A pass to Rushton may have been a better option as the on-loan Wrexham man had made a run in behind the Trawlerboys' defence

With seven minutes of the first half remaining, another one of the Pitmen's loan army, Jordan Tunnicliffe, headed over the crossbar as he met Harrogate loanee Kerry's corner kick unchallenged seven yards from goal

Good play from Eagle on forty-one minutes saw him hold the ball up well up against Westwood before laying the ball off to Henderson, whose shot was deflected behind for a corner by Tunnicliffe

Having had very little to do so far in the game, the Pitmen were indebted to Crane to preserve their lead two minutes later as he made a superb series of saves to deny the hosts; skipper Rossi Jarvis picked up Jake Reed's pass and unleashed a powerful drive from twenty yards out that Crane brilliantly turned away to his left. The ball dropped nicely to Jarvis once again, with his follow-up shot turned around the post from point-blank range by the experienced stopper for a corner

From the resultant Ainsley corner kick, Sowunmi looped a header towards goal but saw his effort backed off the line by Kerry before Crane completed the clearance by punching the ball away from goal

For all of the possession, Lowestoft had enjoyed with the wind at their backs, they had struggled to create many chances of note against the patched-up Pitmen, who had shown good spirit and organisation to stay in front after Osborne's wonder goal

The hosts made a purposeful start to the second period, with Eagle and Woods-Garness linking up well on fifty-nine minutes to play Jarvis through on goal, only for an offside flag raised against the Lowestoft skipper to deny him a strike at Crane's goal

A sickening clash of heads between Thomas and Haynes-Brown on fifty-four minutes left both players strewn on the turf and requiring a lengthy bout of attention. Thomas had come off the worst in the clash and was taken off suffering from a bout of concussion and was replaced by Steve Diggin

This didn't appear to affect the Pitmen's confidence, however, as they doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Ainsley's free-kick from the left was cleared by the Pitmen, who broke quickly through Rushton down the right before the striker played Kerry through on goal; the midfielder's first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area was too much for Jessup as it beat him to his left and nestled in the corner of the net

It could have been 3-0 to the Pitmen on sixty-two minutes as Todd's free-kick was flicked on by Diggin and into the path of Rushton, who snatched at his shot as the ball came to him too quickly and fired well wide of goal

The hosts made a double attacking change two minutes later as Bammant in midfield came on for Henderson and Joe Marsden replaced the tiring Eagle up front

This bold move had the desired effect for the Blues as they pulled a goal back within two minutes of making the change, as Okay won the ball from Osborne and played Marsden into space to the right-hand side of the penalty area. He sold Glenn Walker a dummy before slipping the ball into the path of Woods-Garness, who steered his sidefooted effort beyond the reach of Crane and into the far corner of the net from fifteen yards out

This gave Lowestoft the lift they needed, with the hosts pressing the Hednesford defence more and more as the half progressed. Marsden's introduction was to prove key for the Blues as he gave the Pitmen more to think about down the right flank, crossing from near the corner flag on seventy-one minutes towards Jarvis, who was caught on his heels and could not quite connect with the ball as it skipped across goal

Richard Batchelor's foul on Woods-Garness with fifteen minutes remaining handed Lowestoft a free-kick just outside the Hednesford penalty area, allowing Jarvis to strike a firm shot at goal that Crane parried away from goal to his right

The home side made their final change of the game a minute later, as Adam Smith came on in place of Gaughran which saw the bandaged-up Haynes-Brown moved to central defence as part of a re-shuffle to the Blues' pack

Reed was close to latching onto a long pass forwards from Smith with eleven minutes remaining, only managing to toe-poke the ball straight into the hands of Crane on the stretch from ten yards out

Smith was booked by referee Mr Fitch with eight minutes remaining as he was shown a yellow card by the match official for a mistimed challenge on Kerry

The hosts continued to press as the game entered the final five minutes, with Sowunmi heading high over the crossbar under pressure from Westwood as Ainsley's free-kick picked the centre-back out six yards from goal

Great play from Marsden two minutes later saw him beat Kerry and Batchelor after picking up Ainsley's throw-in but drove his angled shot from just inside the Pitmen's penalty area over the crossbar

Three corners in succession ramped up the pressure further on the Hednesford defence that was now struggling to clear its lines, with Todd managing to block Jarvis's low shot and deflect the ball away for yet another corner in the final minute of the game

Just as it looked as though the Pitmen were going to hang on to their win, Lowestoft struck a late, late equaliser as Bammant showed great strength and desire to hold off Hurst as the pair chased a ball down the left, crossing into the danger zone where Westwood partially cleared the ball but only as far as Reed, whose scuffed shot did enough to wrong-foot Crane and send the ball into the net from ten yards out

With the hosts still celebrating their leveller, the Pitmen went agonisingly lose to grabbing an even later goal deep into added time as Osborne won a free-kick thirty yards from goal and allowed Batchelor to deliver the ball into the box, where Tunnicliffe was inches away from connecting with the ball from close-range as the ball agonisingly skipped past his outstretched boot

The Pitmen will feel aggrieved at not being able to hang on to their two-goal lead in the latter stages of the game against a plucky and determined Lowestoft side that had clinched the point required to maintain their step two status for next season. Tiredness had been a major factor in this late relinquishing of the lead, with Smith unable to bring any fresh legs on in the second half due to having no players available and could only watch on as his side's lead was taken apart by the hosts. Any vague hopes of the play-offs have now long since been extinguished for the visitors, who play their final home game of the season next Saturday when they play host to relegation-threatened Stalybridge Celtic

Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Ainsley, Haynes-Brown, Okay, Sowunmi, Gaughran (A. Smith 76 ), Henderson (Bammant 64), Jarvis ©, Reed, Woods-Garness, Eagle (Marsden 64)       Subs Unused: Mason, Jones

Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst ©, Walker, Westwood, Tunnicliffe, Kerry, Osborne, Todd, Rushton, Thomas (Diggin 56), Batchelor      Sub Unused: Robinson