Zamaretto Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Dyer (24)

Merthyr Tydfil

Leek (7)

(1) 1

(1) 1



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Elliott Durrell


Buxton (A) 17.10.09

Another new era for the Pitmen started this afternoon with an uninspiring draw against basement side Merthyr Tydfil as new manager Simon Line's tenure starts with a home draw

Line had barely been charge for more than forty-eight hours since his move from Market Drayton Town so decided against making wholesale changes to the team. His one big change was the introduction of Grant Goodhead in defence - a centre back who had followed Line from Market Drayton to Keys Park where he was a youth team player five years ago. He replaced Scott Lycett, who moved to the bench after coming off with blurred vision last week at Hemel Hempstead Town. This move saw Ben Bailey playing in a new role just in front of the defenders, in more of a 'sweeper' role

Merthyr made the journey up to Staffordshire off the back of a rotten run of league form that had seen the Martyrs fail to win a league game since their 2-1 win over Bashley on the opening day of the season, mirroring the club's off-the-field woes having gone into administration over the summer months. Player/manager Gary Shephard made one change to the side that had drawn 0-0 with Farnborough last weekend as Dean Clarke replaced Jamie Rewbury

If the players were keen to impress their new manager as assistant Delwyn Humphreys, they didn't do a very good job of it in the opening minutes, as Merthyr - starting the day on zero points after clawing back their ten points docked for entering administration - started the brighter. A succession of corners and free-kicks were dealt with by the Pitmen's defence, albeit in an unconvincing manner, with Merthyr making their persistence pay on seven minutes. Shephard, the scourge of previous Hednesford defences, took advantage of a poor ball from Sam Aiston and played the ball into the path of Kris Leek, who unleashed a fine shot from the edge of the area that flew past Gavin Ward in the Pitmen's goal

The Pitmen's defending had a familiar ring to it in the first quarter, as Line must have watched in horror at the lack of cohesion amongst the four players at the back, with two seemingly easy balls out of defence both found blue shirts, immediately putting them on the back foot. One particular move saw Richard Walker carelessly gift the ball to Cortez Belle, who shaped to shoot but was denied by a fine sliding tackle from the excellent Bailey

Leek could have added another goal to his early strike on sixteen minutes, but this time his snapshot was well held by Ward, who tracked his shot all the way

Hednesford were rattled into action, with Bailey firing narrowly over the bar after collecting Elliott Durrell's pass on nineteen minutes

The pressure on Merthyr's goal went up considerably in the next five minutes, with the Pitmen reaping the rewards midway through the first half. Bailey, who was revelling in his new role, robbed Paul Keddle in the centre circle, before playing an inch-perfect pass through the centre of the Merthyr defence to Dyer, who raced clear of the square centre backs. Last season's top scorer kept his cool by rounding Merthyr keeper Andrew Delve and sliding the ball home from eight yards out

The home side were buoyed by their goal and Tyrone Barnett almost put them in front on twenty-six minutes, out-jumping Delve to head only inches over the crossbar after he had got to Durrell's cross

Both sides gave it their best shot in an exciting final fifteen minutes of the half. Durrell, busy and bright for the home side, missed the goal with a powerful effort on thirty-six minutes, whilst Belle forced Ward into a fine save at the other end just before the break

Line's team talk at the break you would have guessed included a piece on defensive discipline, but once again clangers at the back almost let Merthyr in just after the restart. Marcus Griffiths, on as a substitute, was given time and space to fire at goal on fifty-one minutes, forcing Ward to make a superb save to turn the ball over for a corner kick. From the resultant kick. the ball bounced to Belle, who had been left unmarked inside the box, but his untidy shot bounced straight to a grateful Ward

Ward was in action again three minutes later, palming away Leek's shot after the defence had once again gone AWOL on the edge of the penalty area

The Pitmen responded with Justin Nisbett making a marauding run in from the left-wing, beating two players but not getting a great contact on the ball, with it dribbling through to Delve

The game was being stretched as it entered the final quarter, with both sides ruing missed opportunities in the latter stages. On sixty-six minutes, Griffiths almost put Merthyr back in front but missed Belle's cross by inches when it looked as though he had the simple task of heading into an empty net

The Pitmen responded with their own frustrating near-miss on seventy minutes, with Durrell darting to the bye-line before pulling the ball back across goal, with both Dyer and Barnett somehow failing to tap home at the far post as they made late runs in on goal

A ten-minute spell of pressure on the Merthyr goal should have brought about a winner for the home side between seventy and eighty minutes, but a succession of missed chances went begging for the Pitmen

Bailey rose to head Aiston's cross inches over the bar on seventy-three minutes, closely followed by a deflected header from Merthyr's Gareth Wharton that came off his own crossbar

However, just as the Pitmen were looking good to snatch victory, more defensive woes nearly turned a potential three points into a potential zero points, as Merthyr were given a great chance to win the game with ten minutes left. Belle was allowed to out-muscle Walker as he made his way towards the penalty area and crossing for Leek to head goalwards, forcing Ward into another superb save on his goal-line

By this point, Line had made his first substitution as manager of Hednesford, bringing on Aaron Gibson for Nisbett in a straight swop down the left-hand side

The final few minutes saw both sides produce chances, with the game also getting heated on two occasions. Durrell was at the centre of everything on the pitch, as he was pole-axed by Leek in the centre of the park with five minutes to go, prompting a bout of handbags between the players. Durrell dusted himself down to almost win to win it for the Pitmen with two minutes to go. A surging run from midfield saw him beat two Merthyr players before another powerful shot from the little striker missed the far post by a matter of inches

Line will have plenty to think about in the coming week after his first experience of his new charges. he will have been impressed with the number, and quality, of the chances the forward line can produce, but will no doubt be worried at the shipping of easy goals and chances at the back. He has the luxury of a week's break to gain a better understanding of his new squad before the Pitmen make the trip to ex-UniBond Premier League rivals Buxton next weekend in the first qualifying round of the F.A. Trophy

Hednesford Town: Ward, Platt, Martin , Walker ©, Goodhead, Bailey (Lycett 83), Durrell , Aiston , Barnett, Dyer, Nisbett (Gibson 73)     Subs Unused: Amos, Overton, Flynn

Merthyr Tydfil: Delve, Williams, Keddle, Thomas, Porter, Clarke, Khalil (R. Griffiths 45), Jones, Shephard (Armitage 78), Belle, Leek       Subs Unused: Dorrian, Warton, Morgan

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