UniBond Northern Premier League


Hednesford Town

Briggs (18), Lewis (58), Dyer (62)

(0) 0

(1) 3



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Ben Harbutt


FC United of Manchester (H) 21.3.09

The Pitmen finally got back to winning ways this afternoon, defeating mid-table Marine at the Arriva Stadium for the first time ever and getting their play-off push back on track in the process after a nightmarish run of six successive defeats


With a number of players unavailable for various reasons including top scorer Tyrone Barnett (suspended), under-pressure manager Dean Edwards could only name three substitutes for the game and was forced to reshuffle his starting XI as a result. Stuart Brock, who had returned from America earlier this week after a trial there, replaced the hapless Danny Woodhall in goal, whilst there were recalls for Rapinder Gill and Matt Lewis. Ben Harbutt made his league debut for the Pitmen at centre back, with Decio Gomes only deemed fit enough to make the bench

Marine's challenge for the play-of spots had long since dissipated after a run of form similar to the Pitmen's in recent weeks, with Alvin McDonald's side having only won two games so far in 2009. McDonald made one change to the side that had been heavily beaten at Eastwood Town in midweek as defender Ian Latham for Joe McMahon

The visitors were soon into their stride, with Mark Briggs immediately getting to grips with the fine playing surface to spray his passes around the park. Marine, on the other hand, seemed to be having difficulty keeping the ball on the pitch, with a number of passes going astray and out into touch for Hednesford throw-ins early on

Ross Draper was first to get an attempt in from either side, breaking forward after ten minutes with the usual gusto and power Hednesford fans have come to expect from the young skipper but on this occasion, his shot was high, wide and not at all handsome

Draper followed this up with another attempt three minutes later, getting away from the defender but again failing to test Sean Lake in the Marine goal with a miscued shot

From the resultant goal kick, Lake winced as he cleared the ball with the home keeper clearly carrying an injury. The Pitmen attempted to use this to their advantage, as at every opportunity they tried to force the Mariners defenders to play the ball back to Lake, who limped out of every kick in the first period

The Pitmen's pressure finally bore fruit on eighteen minutes, when Marine's Steve Hussey - under pressure to clear the ball out of defence - only managed to find Briggs with his ball out. The midfielder calmly controlled the ball before sweeping it past Lake and into the far corner to open the scoring

The away side were enjoying a more controlled approach to the game, with Danny Harvey and Harbutt looking solid at the back, and Gill relishing his role on the right-hand side. Marine were limited to either off-target, long-range efforts or trying to beat Brock at set-pieces, with the experienced stopper dealing with everything in the air

Dyer almost added to the Pitmen's lead on the half-hour mark, getting away from his marker in typical Dyer style, but he failed to steer his angled shot wide of Lake, who made a good save low down to his right

Harvey was to go even closer for the Pitmen five minutes later, rushing on to a Briggs corner and powerfully heading towards goal, only to see the ball cannon off the crossbar and back into play

As half-time approached, you felt that despite the Pitmen's clear dominance of the game, they would require a second goal to settle the game, as Marine were still more than capable of grabbing a goal. With the dangerous Peter Cumiskey on the bench, Marine still had enough firepower to get back into the game in the second half

Marine started the second period with more purpose, with Shaun Tuck and Karl O'Donnell looking to carve out chances early on, but again the excellent Harvey and Harbutt snuffed out any threat to the Hednesford goal

At the other end, Lewis had been quiet alongside Dyer, but he soon made up for his lack of involvement just before the hour mark with his first goal since joining the Pitmen from AFC Telford United on loan last month. Dyer's blistering pace down the Hednesford right saw him beat Adam Farley for pace; as he ventured towards goal, Lake came out to meet him, but instead of trying and squeeze the ball home, Dyer unselfishly squared the ball to the onrushing Lewis who, despite mis-controlling the ball initially, steadied himself before knocking the ball home from close range

The confidence was flowing through the Pitmen at this point, and with Marine's confidence shot, they scored a third goal four minutes later. Draper's run and cross to the far post was met by Dyer, who managed to head the ball towards goal despite the ball being slightly behind him. Marine's Freddy Potter had managed to get back into a defensive position and made a last-gasp attempt to clear the ball away, blocking the ball with his arm on the goal-line. Despite vociferous calls for a penalty and a red card for Potter, common sense prevailed and the referee gave the goal to Dyer and booked Potter for his handball

With the game sewn up, Hednesford decided to make changes to their team, with Durrell sent on with just under fifteen minutes left in place of Briggs. His first involvement saw him bring the ball down and shoot, but his effort was blocked by a defender. Gomes and Luke Edwards saw action ten minutes later, with Gill and Lewis withdrawn to see through the final minutes

A satisfying three points for the Pitmen, with a threadbare squad producing the goods just when they were needed. With FC United of Manchester visiting next Saturday and being backed by their large away support, Edwards' young squad have to make this opportunity count with other sides in the play-off chase losing today. You don't get many second chances in this league, so the Pitmen have to grab this with both hands between now and the end of the season

Marine: Lake; Potter , McDermott, Farley ©, Latham, Fowler, Brookfield (Doyle 60), Hussey (Brookfield 67), Tuck (Cumiskey 74), O'Donnell, Woolcott        Subs Unused: McMahon, Williams

Hednesford Town: Brock, Gill (Gomes 82), Maguire, Harbutt, Harvey, Marshall, Briggs (Durrell 72), Hall, Lewis (Edwards 82), Dyer, Draper ©        Subs Unused: None

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