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UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town


Young (10), Mulvaney (82) (penalty)

(0) 0

(1) 2



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Dave Whittaker


Grantham Town (A) 22.8.06

Hednesford's inaugural game in the UniBond Northern Premier League ends in defeat this afternoon, as league stalwarts Marine ease their hosts out of the game at Keys Park to record an opening day win over the league new boys


New man at the helm Phil Starbuck had gone about an almost total change of personnel to the Hednesford squad over the summer months since his appointment and handed debuts to no fewer than eight players for today's curtain-raiser. Martin Ridley, Iain Screaton, Danny Jellicoe, Mario Pedro, Tom Franklin, Kyle Perry, Dave Whittaker and Phil Hadland all started the game. On the bench, Darren Alexander was named after his move to Keys Park from Chasetown in midweek

Northern Premier League stalwarts Marine made their first-ever visit to Keys Park having finished third in the league last season and falling short against Farsley Celtic in the play-off semi-finals. Manager Alvin McDonald had also been busy during the summer months and had recruited strongly, handing debuts to former Liverpool man Phil Brazier, Mick O'Donnell, Ian Holmes as well as clinching the permanent signing of prolific forward Peter Cumiskey from local rivals Vauxhall Motors

It was a slightly overcast afternoon in South Staffordshire, very much at odds with previous sun-drenched opening days of the season. The Pitmen started brightly, with Ridley crossing from the right in the fourth minute to find the head of Whittaker, only for the former Witton Albion man to head high over the crossbar from twelve yards out

Despite this, the hosts found themselves chasing the game in the tenth minute as Marine struck with their first chance of the game; Tom Marshall gave the ball away cheaply to Dave Brookfield, who got to the byeline and pulled this ball back into the path of Nicky Young at the back post, who had the simple task of steering the ball home past Ryan Young

There was an almost instant reply from the hosts as Marshall looked to atone for his error sixty seconds later as he sent over a deep cross from the left into the path of Perry, only for the former Walsall youngster to head narrowly wide of the right-hand post from ten yards out

Perry incurred the wrath of referee Mr Holbrook in the seventeenth minute as he was spoken to in quite a stern manner by the match official after an overly aggressive challenge on Marine goalkeeper Andy Ralph as the stopper beat Perry to an inswinging cross from Pedro

Pedro was showing signs of the exciting form he had shown in pre-season down the left wing, jinking in and out of challenges and causing Brazier all sorts of issues at full-back. A surging run from the Portuguese man on twenty-one minutes saw him drift past Brazier and cross for Perry only for his misdirected header to sail over the crossbar and out of play

Neat build-up play involving Brookfield and Paul Byrne on twenty-six minutes saw the pair link up well just outside the Hednesford penalty area before Byrne's low cross into the six-yard box was deflected behind by new club captain Jellicoe as he denied the experienced Cumiskey a clear shot at goal

From the resultant Lee Parle corner kick, Marine skipper James Connolly rose highest inside the penalty area but could not keep his header down and headed into the Heath Hayes terrace

The visitors had a great chance to double their advantage on the half-hour mark as Parle's corner to the near post was nodded down by Nicky Young and into the path of Byrne, whose shot was cleared off the line by the alert presence of Screaton

Good play from Franklin three minutes later saw the new boy dispossess Parle in the centre circle and take the ball forwards before exchanging passes with Hadland and drilling a shot wide of Ralph's goal

Hadland's wing wizardry saw him leave both O'Donnell and Wayne McDermott in his wake on forty minutes before getting his angle all wrong just inside the Marine penalty area and firing over the crossbar

With half-time looming, the Pitmen forced successive corners and almost got themselves level with the second one through Pedro; his cross from the left curled towards goal and looked as though it was heading for the net until Adam Farley headed the ball off the line and away from danger

A chorus of boos from a small section of the crowd reverberated around Keys Park at the break as some of the Hednesford supporters let Starbuck know that this was not going to be an easy job to appease the locals, so often left disappointed by their side in recent years

The home team looked brighter in the second period and went close to an equaliser just a minute into the second half; Screaton's long throw from the right was met by Franklin, who arrived late into the Marine penalty area to head the ball narrowly over the crossbar from ten yards out

Pedro had scored an outstanding overhead kick in last week's pre-season win at Eastwood Town and went close to a similar goal on his league debut on fifty-four minutes as Screaton's long throw was flicked on by Marshall and into the path of Pedro, whose scissor kick was just wide of goal

Ralph's long free-kick forwards on fifty-nine minutes was flicked on by O'Donnell and into the path of Cumiskey, who held off a challenge from Jellicoe to fire in a shot that was held well by Ryan Young on his goal line

Parle and Byrne played a neat one-two around Ross Adams four minutes later, with Byrne's near-post cross headed tamely wide of goal by Nick Young as he nipped in ahead of Marshall

The Pitmen made a bold double attacking change on sixty-five minutes as Alexander replaced the disappointing Perry and Ross Dyer came on in place of the tiring Hadland

Dyer was straight into the action three minutes later, showing a good touch and turn of pace to make a fine run down the right and beat McDermott. He drifted inside and looked to pick out Whittaker, only for a last-ditch block from Connolly to take the ball away from Whittaker before he could shoot

Alexander was also looking to make an impact after his late switch from Chasetown this week, checking down a White pass and turning Farley before slipping the ball into the path of Dyer, only for an offside flag to deny the teenager a shot at goal

White probably should have ended up in the book on seventy-two minutes as he hauled down substitute Lee Mulvaney as he made a run past the former Arnold Town man, only for Mr Holbrook to leave it at just a warning for the veteran midfielder

Three minutes later, Marshall flicked on a Pedro corner kick into the Marine six-yard box, only for Parle to hack the ball clear ahead of the incoming Alexander at the far post


 It was Whittaker who had the best chance to equalise for the Pitmen ten minutes from time, picking up the ball after a scramble in the penalty area and turning the ball goalwards, only for Ralph to made a tremendous save at his near post to keep the big striker at bay and deny him a debut goal

This let-off shook Marine back into action after a spell of pressure from the hosts and they wrapped up the points two minutes later. Comical defending from the Pitmen saw the ball bobble around the penalty area before being seized on by Mulvaney, who was allowed time and space to get a shot away, which was well saved by Young. The rebound fell to Nick Young, who was also denied by a fine save from the former Redditch United stopper. Mulvaney picked up the ball once more but was floored with a late challenge by Jellicoe as he shaped to shoot once more, prompting the referee to award the Mariners a penalty kick. Mulvaney stepped up to send Young the wrong way from the spot and take the game away from the hosts

Pedro tricked his way into the penalty area on eighty-seven minutes but saw his shot on the run drift just over the crossbar from twenty yards out, with Dyer screaming for him to lay the ball off to him

 It had not been the start to life in the Northern Premier League that Starbuck or his new squad were looking for and they will have learned some valuable lessons from a highly experienced Marine side, who showed excellent game management and some of the 'tricks of the trade' required when playing up north. The Pitmen make the trip to old Southern League sparring partners Grantham Town on Tuesday night as they kick off their away campaign in search of that elusive first win of the season at the second attempt

Hednesford Town: R. Young, Ridley, T. Marshall, Screaton, Jellicoe ©, Adams, Pedro, Franklin, Perry (Alexander 65), Whittaker, Hadland (Dyer 65)       Sub Unused: Walters

Marine: Ralph, Brazier, McDermott, Farley, Connolly ©, Brookfield, O'Donnell, Parle, N. Young (Dever 61), Cumiskey (Mulvaney 68), Byrne (Nesbitt 79)        Subs Unused: None

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