Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town


Irwin (29)


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Kieran Wells



Buxton (A) 23.2.19

Hednesford's depressing home league form continues to put their league placing in jeopardy this afternoon, as form side Marine edge out the Pitmen at Keys Park courtesy of a first-half goal from Steve Irwin


Returning to Keys Park after three weeks away, manager Nicky Eaden made only one change to the side that had been beaten by league leaders Warrington last weekend as Danny Lupano was replaced by the fit-again Nathan Fox; this saw Alex Melbourne return to his regular position at right-back. New signings Ethan Jones and Jordon Sangha were both named amongst the substitutes after recently agreeing to join the club


Marine's recent form had seen them move away from the drop zone during January, having remained unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year with five wins and a draw. A big part of this had been the form of on-loan keeper Joe Hilton, who had joined the Crosby club last month from Premier League neighbours Everton. Manager Neil Young named former Hednesford player Charley Edge in his starting XI as he made only one change the side that had beaten lowly Mickleover Sports last week


Marine's Steve Irwin had the first sight at goal in the third minute of the game after Reece King had needlessly fouled Niall Cummins just outside the Hednesford penalty area, handing Murray a chance to fire just wide of Kieran Preston's post with the resultant free-kick


Two minutes later, a quick break from the in-form visitors saw Cummins lay the ball off to James Murray, but the midfielder got his angles all wrong with a horribly miscued effort well wide of goal when he would have been expected to hot the target


The visitors continued to have the better of the opening proceedings, with Preston doing well to claim a cross from Murray on eight minutes ahead of the onrushing Carney inside the six-yard box


The Pitmen had looked a little shot-shy in the opening exchanges, with King finally offering an attacking threat for the hosts on fourteen minutes as he rose highest to head a long Ben Bailey throw over the Marine crossbar


Irwin was left requiring lengthy treatment on nineteen minutes after a heavy clash in midfield left the centre of the pitch left the Marine man flat out with a nasty looking cut to his head. After over four minutes of treatment to the head wound and a change of shirt, Irwin continued on


The Pitmen started to get a foothold in the game at this point and the first of a number of good openings on twenty-four minutes; a neat piece of play in and around the Marine penalty area saw the hosts produce some nice one-touch football that culminated in Kieran Wells slipping the ball through to Jud Ellis, whose low driven shot was well saved at his near post by Hilton


Hednesford went even closer to breaking the deadlock from the resultant corner kick, as Alex-Ray Harvey's cross was headed goalwards by Javan Vidal and hooked on by Shane Benjamin, only to be denied a combination of Kenny Strickland's header and the underside of the crossbar


Edge made his way into the referee's notebook on twenty-seven minutes after being robbed of the ball by Wells before cynically hacking down the striker


Marine struck what was to be the winning goal two minutes later as a quick throw-in down the right caught the Pitmen out; Craig Carney's cross fell to Cummins, whose neat back-heel was confidently slotted home by Irwin from close-range


Bailey made a timely - and risky - last-ditch challenge on Carney three minutes later as the Marine forward line linked up well to play through the centre of the Hednesford defence, making a sliding challenge to get just enough of the ball and take it away from the striker to deny him a certain goal


It was starting to look like one of those afternoons again for the Pitmen on thirty-five minutes, as the hard-working Wells was denied an equaliser by the woodwork after Benjamin's flick-on played his strike partner through on goal. Unfortunately for Wells, his first-time effort rattled the base of Hilton's left-hand post, rather than nestle in the corner of the net to add to the growing frustration around the ground


A quick break down the right from Marine on forty-two minutes saw right-back Sam Tattum send over a low cross that was turned wide by Cummins low down at Preston's near post


 Wells was again in action a minute later, lifting a shot well over the crossbar with a speculative effort from just inside the Marine penalty area after Benjamin had teed him up


Irwin was quickly into the action at the start of the second half, firing a dipping shot just over the bar after Cummins had played the ball into his path on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area


Hilton was called upon to make another fine save to keep Marine in front on fifty-three minutes, denying Vidal with a fine save at his near post after the midfielder had been played in by Wells


Vidal was denied by Hilton again three minutes later, making a regulation save to deny the former Wrexham man after Benjamin had flicked the ball on to Vidal


Hilton was again on top form to deny Wells on sixty-three minutes as the Hednesford striker took advantage of a slip from defender Sam Barnes to nip in behind the back line, only to be denied by an outstretched boot from the on-loan keeper to deflect the ball away from goal


A fantastic deep cross from Melbourne on sixty-five minutes led to another great chance for the luckless Wells, who saw his goalbound header tipped over the crossbar for a corner kick by Hilton


Eaden made his first substitution on seventy-one minutes, taking off the peripheral figure of Ellis and bringing on Walsall's on-loan midfield man Sangha


Another long throw from Bailey landed on the head of the frustrating King on seventy-three minutes, with Hilton once again produced heroics to turn King's header away from goal


The continued heroics of Hilton seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Pitmen's attacking instincts, as they offered less and less going forwards as the minutes ticked by. the game was held up for a long period on eighty-two minutes after Cummins had gone down awkwardly with what was to be an ankle injury that required him to be stretchered off after a lengthy spell of treatment


Whilst Cummins was receiving treatment for his nasty-looking injury, the Pitmen made their second change of the afternoon as Fox was replaced following a decent return to the side after six weeks away. Jones was brought on to add more numbers up front in a move that saw King drop to left-back for the remainder of a game that essentially petered out in the eight added minutes for Cummins' injury


Another familiar result and afternoon for the Hednesford supporters to forget at Keys Park, with the Pitmen now having lost eight league games at home this term already, mostly by the odd goal as they continually and consistently struggle to show any conviction in front of goal, regardless of personnel or tactics. A trip to Buxton's 3G pitch at Silverlands follows this up next weekend, before an absolutely critical relegation six-pointer looms at Keys Park in a fortnight's time with the visit of Grantham Town


Hednesford Town: Preston, Melbourne, Fox ▆ (Jones 83), Harvey, Moran, Bailey ©, Vidal , King, Benjamin, Wells, Ellis (Sangha 71)

Subs Unused: Gatter, Archer, Veiga


Marine: Hilton, Tattum, Edge , Barnes, Doyle, Strickland ©, Murray (Shaw 65), Irwin, Carney, Cummins (Elstone 85), Dunne (Hynes 45)     

Subs Unused: Mitchley, Mendes

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