Vanarama Conference North

Hednesford Town

Sullivan (88), Walker (90) (penalty)

Lowestoft Town

(0) 2

(0) 0



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Jack Thomas


Barrow (A) 13.1.15

The Pitmen's recent fine run continues in earnest this afternoon, although Rob Smith's team left it late to finally wear down the spirited efforts of league new boys Lowestoft Town at Keys Park

Last weekend's excellent showing at Harrogate Town had extended Hednesford's unbeaten run to four games over the Christmas and New Year period, moving Rob Smith's men to within four points of the play-offs ahead of a busy January schedule. Smith - lacking options despite having a fully fit squad - picked the same starting XI for the third successive game, although the Hednesford supremo admitted before the game to be actively looking for additions to his squad in the coming days

Lowestoft arrived a Keys Park to face the Pitmen for the very first time in the history of the two sides having lost to league leaders AFC Fylde last weekend, dropping Mick Chapman's team down into fourteenth place in the table. The legendary manager had been active in the transfer market during the week, bringing in 6ft 7" Ipswich Town centre back Omar Sowunmi ahead of the trip to Staffordshire

With a heavy, blustery wind blowing across Keys Park, conditions were challenging for both sides at kick-off with neither side able to create a good opening in a slow first ten minutes. The Pitmen thought they had opened the scoring on eleven minutes, however, as Paul McCone looked to have turned the ball home from close range following a Tom Thorley corner, only to be pulled back by the referee for an earlier shove on Lowestoft keeper Ashlee Jones

The Pitmen thought they had a legitimate claim for a penalty kick on seventeen minutes, as the ball bounced up and appeared to hit defender Curtis Haynes-Brown on the arm as he looked to clear the loose ball just inside his own penalty area. The referee remained unmoved however and allowed the visitors to clear their lines, despite protests from Jamey Osborne and Steve Diggin

Haynes-Brown was called upon to deny Osborne a clear shot on goal a minute later, blocking the midfielder's low drive after Osborne had drifted in behind the Lowestoft defence. From the resultant Thorley corner, Ben Bailey rose highest at the far post but headed over the crossbar

A disjointed spell in the game saw both sides once again cancel each other out, particularly in midfield where neither side could gain a significant advantage

On thirty-four minutes, neat build-up play from the home side saw Diggin get goal side of Fisk before firing high over the crossbar after getting too much under his effort from ten yards out

Jones was alert to make a regulation catch to deny Diggin three minutes before half time, plucking Diggin's shot out of the air with ease to deny the striker once more

Any yet, it was Lowestoft who had two great chances to take an unexpected lead just before half time; Dan Crane was forced into a flying save to turn Andrew Fisk's goalbound header over the crossbar, with the resultant corner kick punched away by Crane into the path of Jake Reed - his rising shot narrowly cleared the crossbar and ended up amongst the supporters in the Heath Hayes end of the ground

Lowestoft had been forced into two changes to their side in a matter of minutes either side of half time, with swift rearrangements needed to their side at the start of the second half. The Pitmen emerged with purpose and produced the first of a string of good opportunities on fifty-four minutes, with the excellent Glenn Walker turning quickly on the ball and somehow only managing to find the grateful hands of Jones, despite having the whole goal to aim at

A succession of Hednesford corners followed, but the presence of the giant Sowunmi saw Lowestoft defend well and clear their lines, despite being constantly hassled by McCone and Ben Bailey

Neat interplay down the Hednesford left involving Darren Campion and Walker saw the ball pulled back into the path of Thorley on sixty-five minutes, but the midfielder's weak sidefooted effort was saved by Jones down to his left

With the Pitmen losing out in many of the aerial battles, Smith decided to make a change to reflect this on sixty-seven minutes, taking off Richard Batchelor and bringing on the powerful presence of Marvin Robinson

Jones produced his best save of the afternoon to date on seventy-three minutes, making a superb one-handed stop to turn a dipping volley from Jack Thomas over the crossbar

McCone rose highest to get his head on Walker's resultant corner kick, glancing over the crossbar after beating Jones to the ball from six yards out

The Pitmen made another attacking substitution on eighty-three minutes bringing on Paul Sullivan in place of the hard-running Diggin, who once again had somehow failed to add a goal to his tally after another all-action performance

The Pitmen started to crank up the pressure on the Lowestoft goal as the game entered the final five minutes, winning a succession of corners and free-kicks and committing more and more men forwards. However, it was a piece of individual magic from Osborne who created the crucial opening goal for the hosts on eighty-eight minutes; making a run from deep, Osborne jinked his way past a clutch of challenges before being brought down just inside the penalty area. The Lowestoft defence reacted with fury to the decision, claiming Osborne had dived to win the penalty. Sowunmi aimed a cheeky boot at Osborne whilst he was on the floor, sparking a mass brawl involving most of the players on the pitch. Bailey appeared to take an arm to the face during the meleé as he tried to calm his team-mates down, which resulted in Fisk being shown a second yellow card and was promptly sent off

Sullivan waited patiently on the penalty spot whilst the referee sorted out the disciplinary issues, calmly sending Jones the wrong way with his first touch of the game to finally break Lowestoft's resistance

In an attempt to see out the five minutes of added time, Chris Westwood came on in place of Osborne to add extra insurance to the defensive line

The Pitmen wrapped up all three points with a breakaway goal in added time, as the impressive Thomas made a superb run through the heart of the Lowestoft defence, taking the ball past four players before pulling the ball back into the path of Walker, who had the simple task of firing past Jones from close range

Lowestoft will feel that they had done enough to take a point back to Suffolk with them, but that never-say-die spirit that has carried the Pitmen through the last four seasons was back in abundance this afternoon as they ground out another win to send them up to eighth place in the table. A tough week follows, however, as they travel to big-spending Barrow on Tuesday night, followed by the visit of Chorley to Keys Park next weekend. A continuation of their unbeaten run following that double-header, and the Pitmen can feel that a run at the play-offs is a real possibility once again

Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst, Campion ©, Bailey, McCone, Thorley, Osborne (Westwood 90), Walker, Diggin (Sullivan 83), Thomas, Batchelor (Robinson 67)      Sub Unused: Melbourne

Lowestoft Town: Jones, Ainsley, Smith (Okay 30), Fisk   (88), Sowunmi, Haynes-Brown, Marsden (Mason 51), Jarvis ©, Reed, Bammant, Eagle (Woods-Garness 90)      Subs Unused: Zielonka, Jessup

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