13.4.2010

Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Merthyr Tydfil

Griffiths (21)

Hednesford Town

Durrell (63), (73)

(1) 1

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

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258

Elliott Durrell

W W L W W W W D W W

Stourbridge (H) 15.4.10

Hednesford's play-off odyssey was still very much on course this evening, as the Pitmen - for twenty-four hours at least - moved into the final play-off place courtesy of this tight victory over crisis club Merthyr Tydfil

Manager Bernard McNally made two changes to the side that had snatched a late, late win at Chippenham on Saturday, with Matty Wood returning to the starting line-up ahead of Chris Clements. the other change saw Elliott Durrell replace Josh Craddock in midfield after he had served his two-match suspension

It had been a rotten season for the Martyrs on and off the pitch, with financial issues carrying a heavy burden for the players on the pitch and the real possibility of the club going out of business. They had spent much of the camping either in or hovering just above the bottom four. A 1-1 draw at Cambridge City at the weekend had kept Gary Shephard's side just above the top zone, with the player/manager sticking with the same side for tonight's crucial encounter to both sides

With confidence high following the win at Hardenhuish Park, the away side made a good start; Tyrone Barnett was first to try his luck for the Pitmen, heading over the bar in just the second minute of the game following a cross by Wood

Barnett was at the heart of the Pitmen's best move on eleven minutes, sneaking around the back of the giant Cortez Belle - filling in at centre back for the hosts - and rifling a shot narrowly wide of goal from Elliott Durrell's lofted cross

Durrell himself should have done better three minutes later, racing onto a ball from Adam McGurk before taking the ball around Merthyr keeper Andrew Delve and firing over the crossbar with the goal begging

Ross Dyer was also unlucky two minutes later, haring onto another defence-splitting ball before driving the ball straight at Delve, who saved with his legs

Despite having plenty of chances the Pitmen were sloppy in possession, with the midfield giving the ball away on numerous occasions. They were made to pay for this mid-way through the first half, with the hosts scoring with their first meaningful attack of the game. The Pitmen's defence failed to clear with the through ball finding Marcus Griffiths, who turned Ben Bailey and fired confidently past Stuart Brock from fifteen yards out

Back came the Pitmen, stung by Merthyr's goal against the run of play. McGurk's dangerous free-kick was well saved by Delve a minute later before Barnett headed high  over the crossbar from Durrell's corner kick on twenty-seven minutes

Durrell's free-kick just after the half-hour mark took a huge deflection off the wall as it was arrowing into the corner of the net, going out for a corner kick

Merthyr were a dangerous proposition on the break, looking to punish Hednesford's lack of cohesion in a central defence shorn of Cheyenne Dunkley or Decio Gomes

McNally must have cut a frustrated figure at half time, as he made a tactical change to the side. Craddock was introduced in place of Wood, allowing the former Walsall youngster to slot into midfield, whilst Proffitt moved into the right wing-back role vacated by Wood

The Pitmen looked a far stronger outfit for this move, as they pushed Merthyr back in search of a crucial equaliser. Dyer was first to test Merthyr's resolve, breaking clear of the defence before firing wide as he went one-on-one with Delve

Dyer and Barnett causing havoc for Belle and fellow Merthyr defender Andrew Thomas, with the former heavily involved in the Pitmen's equaliser on sixty-three minutes. His pace proved too much for Thomas, who hauled him down just outside the area, leaving the referee with little option but to red card the Merthyr defender

Durrell took the resulting free-kick, unleashing a powerfully driven shot that proved too much for Delve, flying past the Merthyr keeper to level the game

Hednesford were all over Merthyr's ten men for the next ten minutes, with Craddock firing wide with a long-range effort two minutes later. This was followed sixty seconds later by Dyer's effort that only went inches wide of the far post

Craddock had been impressive since coming on at the break, getting stuck into Merthyr and playing some good football in the process. His clever through ball on seventy-three minutes sent Durrell away from the Merthyr defence, with the youngster taking the ball around the advancing Delve before sliding the ball home for his second of the evening

Hednesford's defence came into its own as the game entered the final fifteen minutes, as Merthyr launched their expected fightback. Belle was moved into his more comfortable home up front to cause problems in the air. He was shadowed well by the similarly powerful Liam Francis, who did a good job in marking the giant forward in the final few minutes

With two minutes remaining, McNally made his second change of the evening, bringing on the physical Zak Martin in place of Aaron Gibson to add aggression to the back line

Indeed, a flurry of late corners and free-kicks came to nothing, with Brock, Francis and Bailey coping fairly comfortably with the high balls pumped into the penalty area by Merthyr, whose form in recent weeks suggests they will have a difficult last few games as they look to chalk up enough points to avoid relegation

All in all, a mirror image of the Pitmen's win at Truro a few weeks ago - a rousing recovery in the second half after conceding a goal against the run of play. Three points earned puts the Pitmen in fifth place at present, with two home games on the bounce to come on Thursday and Saturday against Stourbridge and Banbury United respectively. Things are looking good - but let's not get carried away

Merthyr Tydfil: Delve, Keddle ©, Thomas  (63), Rewbury , Belle, Khalil (Morgan 79), Clarke, Shephard (Trotman 69), Griffiths, Armitage (Leek 57)       Subs Unused: Brown, Hartshorn

Hednesford Town: Brock, Wood (Craddock 45), Gibson, Bailey, Francis, Platt ©, Durrell, McGurk, Barnett, Dyer, Proffitt      Subs Unused: Clements, Martin, Gomes, Flynn