Evo-Stik Northern Premier League


Hednesford Town

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Francino Francis


Blyth Spartans (H) 9.4.13

The Pitmen came away from Merseyside with a point earned - but with league title rivals North Ferriby also claiming a point, Rob Smith's side wasted a superb opportunity to close the gap on the Villagers in the chase for the Evo-Stik Premier League crown

With the games continuing to come thick and fast for the Pitmen, manager Rob Smith made two significant changes to the side that had beaten relegation-haunted Kendal Town in midweek at Keys Park; in came ex-Marine pair Neil Harvey and Aaron Rey, replacing Sean O'Connor and two-goal hero Michael Lennon

Marine's own play-off hopes were diminishing with every passing game, as their once-promising season had unravelled in recent times with a lack of consistency. They could call upon the talents of new signing Lee Trundle, with the former Swansea and Bristol City playmaker making his Mariners home debut at number ten this afternoon

In the bright sunshine, on a glorious Grand National day in Liverpool, the Pitmen started with purpose as they looked for that crucial win to haul in long time leaders Ferriby, who were playing at in-form Ilkeston at the same time

Trundle tried his luck with the first attack of the game on three minutes - a hopeful dipping effort at goal from fully twenty-five yards that was easily fielded by Dan Crane

Jamey Osborne tested the reflexes of Ryan McMahon in the Marine goal on six minutes, racing in on goal and firing into the midriff of the keeper

Two minutes later, Harvey was bundled to the ground in an advanced position, allowing the prolific Elliott Durrell to size up a free-kick to the left of the Marine penalty area. He struck it well enough - but got too much flight on his shot, and narrowly cleared the crossbar with his swerving drive

Durrell then fashioned a chance for himself on ten minutes, seizing on a loose ball aimed at Danny Grannon and beating the Marine centre back for pace. however, his shot lacked conviction, as he dragged it wide of the far post

Marine responded with Liam Rice, whose run and cross found the head of Will Jones, but his glancing header failed to test Crane as it flew wide

Trundle felt he should have been awarded a penalty midway through the half, as he and former Mariner Sam Barnes clashed in the area. Referee Mr Marsden was unmoved, however, and waved play on, despite Trundle's protests

Both sides struggled to fashion any other real chances in an evenly fought first period. McMahon was alert to punch a Durrell free-kick away from goal, under pressure from Harvey, before Kris Taylor's corner kick went close to dropping straight in on thirty-nine minutes, with McMahon having to turn the ball onto the roof of the net

The resultant second corner from Taylor was partially cleared by the Marine defence, back into the path of Taylor. The midfielder tried his luck with a shot from long-range but cleared the bar by some distance

The hosts went close to going in at half time a goal to the good via the head of Ben Bailey, as Stephen Johnson's cross was diverted narrowly wide of his own post by the head of the Hednesford centre back as the first half came to an end

Durrell struck a warning shot at Marine early in the second half, as he flashed a low shot just wide of the left-hand post with the first attack of the second period

Rice fired wide for Marine, followed a minute later by a fizzing shot wide from Osborne after Durrell had set him up twenty yards from goal

The experienced Trundle went close to marking his home debut with a goal on the hour mark, bringing down a deep Shaun Dowling cross and attempted to lob Crane from the edge of the area. With Crane beaten, the ball bounced off the top of the crossbar and out of play

An over-fussy referee meant both sides had their fair share of set-pieces, with a free-kick from Taylor on sixty-three minutes testing the reflexes of McMahon as he turned the midfielder's shot behind for a corner kick

With fifteen minutes remaining, the Pitmen made an attacking substitution with the introduction of Lennon for the hard-working Rey

The former Nantwich man was an immediate hit after coming on, chasing and harrying the Marine defence with his usual effort and nuisance value

After Johnson had fired narrowly over the crossbar with a dipping effort for Marine, John Disney was given a great chance to open his goalscoring account for the Pitmen on seventy-seven minutes; Durrell squared a ball across to the onrushing right back via a touch from Harvey, with John Shaw making a fine block to deny the defender a goal. Taylor seized upon the rebound but blazed over with a wild right-footed shot

News spread quickly around the terraces of the Arriva Stadium of a goal for Ilkeston in their clash with Ferriby, with the fans quick to translate this news to the Hednesford players

Harvey headed over the bar for the Pitmen when well placed, followed by another run forward from Disney that was stopped by a last-ditch challenge from Shaw

O'Connor was introduced at Harvey's expense with ten minutes remaining to try and force the game, but it was fellow substitute Lennon that almost won it for the Pitmen a minute later - Taylor's through ball set Lennon free of the Marine defence, but McMahon frustrated the in-form forward with a good save low down

Both sides had superb chances to win the game in the final moments, as Taylor's well-hit shot was turned onto the crossbar by McMahon's touch on eight six minutes

As the game ended added time, it was the experienced Nick Rogan that went agonisingly close to winning it for the hosts, as he beat the otherwise excellent Francino Francis to a Dowling cross and headed goalwards; it required a superb flying save from Crane to deny the former Barrow striker a winning goal with the final action of the game

News of a late Ferriby goal at Ilkeston meant it was as you were for the top two at the end of proceedings, with Hednesford ruing a number of missed opportunities to take two points off the league leaders. Blyth Spartans visit Keys Park in midweek as Smith's troops look to regain that winning habit once more

Marine: McMahon ©, Dowling, Shaw, Brown, Grannon (Devine 43), Goulding, Johnson (Ordish 85), Rice, Jones , Trundle (Rogan 85), Doherty       Subs Unused: Brown, Williams

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, Barnes, Osborne , Durrell, Harvey (O’Connor 81), Rey (Lennon 74), Taylor      Subs Unused: Patterson, Wright, Anagho-Ntamark

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