Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Matlock Town

Dinanga (8), McManus (62)

Hednesford Town

(1) 2

(0) 0



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Tom Thorley


Caolville Town (H) 26.11.16

Paul Casey's first league game as Hednesford manager ended in defeat at in-form Matlock own this afternoon, leaving the new man at the helm with much to ponder about his new club


Much had taken place at Keys Park since Tuesday night's F.A. Trophy defeat to local rivals Stafford Rangers, with Casey busy in the transfer market as he looked to add to his threadbare squad. Three new faces were named in the squad by Casey ahead of the trip to Causeway Lane, with centre back Dan Brenan arriving from Loughborough University, winger Luke Shearer returning to the club from Sporting Khalsa and big striker Tony Clarke making the switch from Bromsgrove Sporting. Danny Glover had been ruled out for several weeks due to injury, with Lewis Wright replacing Michael Williams at right-back after his red card at Marston Road in midweek


Matlock had been one of the league's form sides in recent weeks, with ex-Hednesford midfielder Craig Hopkins and joint-manager Glenn Kirkwood overseeing a run of seven wins from the last eight games. The Gladiators boasted one of the league's most in-form players in Marcus Dinanga, with the Burton Albion loanee already in double figures this season already on the goal front. Last weekend saw Matlock beat league rivals Grantham Town in the F.A. Trophy, with Hopkins and Kirkwood perhaps understandably sticking with the same XI that had started the Grantham game for today's return to league action


On a hard, bumpy pitch, the Pitmen started with purpose, playing a quick, direct game early on. George Carline went agonisingly close to giving the Pitmen a sixth-minute lead but was denied by a wonderful save from veteran Matlock keeper Phil Barnes. A cross from Cohen Bramall found Carline lurking on the edge of the penalty area, with the midfielder unleashing a superb volley that looked destined for the top corner of the net until Barnes got enough on the ball to turn it onto the underside of the crossbar and away from goal


The men in red were made to pay for this miss, as danger man Dinanga struck goal number eleven of the season on eight minutes. Curtis Morrison won a loose ball before playing it through to Dinanga, who got goal side of Brenan and turned the ball past Dan Crane from sixteen yards out to make it 1-0 to the hosts


Neat play down the left saw Bramall and Shearer link up well in the fifteenth minute, but Bramall's cross-cum-shot ended up on the top of the Matlock net as Barnes watched it over his crossbar

A risky backwards header from the lanky Brenan almost gifted the lively Dinanga a chance to double his tally for the afternoon three minutes later but was thankful that Crane had spotted the header early on the lash the ball clear on the edge of this own penalty area


Dinanga and Morrison linked up once more to create another opening on twenty-one minutes, requiring a late block from Flanagan to turn Dinanga's shot away for a Matlock corner kick


Morrison was again involved three minutes later, turning Brenan well and firing just wide of Crane's goal from the edge of the penalty area with a low, powerfully-struck shot


Singh fired straight into the arms of Barnes with a weak free-kick on the half-hour mark after winning the kick himself, before Shearer used his pace to get in behind the Matlock defence two minutes later but pulled his shot on the run wide of the target as he attempted a shot across Barnes's goal


Casey made the bold tactical move of removing the ineffective Singh on thirty-nine minutes, replacing him with Ashley Sammons to give the Pitmen more presence up front with Shearer fighting a lone battle. Singh appeared to be visibly unhappy with the decision and remonstrated with the new Hednesford manager as he departed the pitch

It had been a highly disjointed performance from the Pitmen, who had looked unusually lacklustre going forwards and had offered very little int he way of a threat going forwards as they had done in previous games. At the back, Brenan's understanding with Jimmy Mutton will need some working on as the pair had been continually too far apart at set-pieces and counter-attacks 


 The Pitmen started the second period well enough, with Carline heading narrowly wide of goal on fifty minutes from a Tom Thorley corner kick as they pressed with Casey's half-time words still ringing in their ears

Mutton headed well wide for the Pitmen four minutes later, glancing a Thorley corner kick into the Hednesford fans gathered behind the goal after making a late run into the Matlock penalty area


Brenan could probably count himself lucky to only be shown a yellow card for a nasty-looking challenge on Dinanga on fifty-eight minutes. The youngster will have learnt a lot from his first outing at step three having been given the runaround by Dinanga for much of the game and had looked ill at ease with the quality of today's opponents


  The Pitmen were forced into their second change of the afternoon on the hour mark as Bramall limped off and was replaced by Jamie Matthews, who had missed Tuesday night due to illness


The disruption to the Hednesford side saw them pay the price once more, as they fell two goals behind on sixty-two minutes. The Pitmen looked to have initially cleared their lines through a combination of Thorley and Mutton, only for Niall McManus to swiftly turn on the ball and fire past Crane on the rebound with a well-taken goal


The Pitmen started to play some of the passing game that had been noted for this term following the second Matlock goal, with one such move opening Matlock up down the Hednesford right on sixty-eight minutes. A superb low cross from Carline found Matthews unmarked at the far post, but the striker somehow failed to turn the ball home from a yard out. Another costly miss from the striker to add to his unwanted collection for the season at it remains to be seen if Casey will have as much patience with the player that Liam McDonald had as he continues to tot up the poor misses

Carline - linked with a move to Solihull this week to link up with McDonald once more - lifted a shot high over the crossbar on sixty-eight minutes following a run from Wright down the right-wing that saw him cross from the touchline


Tristian Dunkley - goal hero on Tuesday night - was given more valuable match time by Casey on seventy minutes as he came on in place of the tiring Shearer


The Pitmen enjoyed plenty of possession in the final fifteen minutes but were well shackled by a well-organised Matlock defence. Calum Flanagan made a rare foray into the Matlock half on seventy-eight minutes and sent over a high ball that was scuffed wide by Sammons after Joe Doyle-Charles had only cleared the ball as far as the former Birmingham City man

With eight minutes remaining, Dinanga's pace saw him skip away from both Brenan and Flanagan before a brilliant covering tackle from Thorley denied the Burton loanee and clear shot at goal once more

The Pitmen's only real opening came with five minutes remaining, as Sammons fired a Carline lay-off wide of goal from twenty-five yards out with a wayward drive that drew ironic cheers from the travelling supporters


Much to ponder then for Hednesford's new manager ahead of next week's first-ever visit of strugglers Coalville Town to Keys Park, who will have learned plenty about his squad on the face of today's performance. A full week's training will be a massive benefit for Casey as he attempts to mould the side in his own form ahead of the busy winter period, with a high likelihood of many players coming and going as the new man at the helm gets his own way


Matlock Town: Barnes, Marsden, Green, Doyle-Charles, A. Yates, Wiley, McManus, Michael Williams A (Pursehouse 45), Morrison (Newsham 69), Dinanga, Cribley (J. Yates 82)      Subs Unused: Grocott, De Girolamo


Hednesford Town: Crane, Wright, Flanagan, Maye, Mutton, Brenan , Singh (Sammons 39), Thorley ©, Carline, Shearer ▆ (Dunkley 70), Bramall (Matthews 60)       Subs Unused: Michael Williams B, Clarke

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