Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Piearce (49)

Merthyr Tydfil

Aherne-Evans (17), Shepherd (83)

(0) 1

(1) 2




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Steve Palmer



 Crawley Town (A) 16.3.04

The Pitmen crash to an ugly and demoralising defeat this afternoon as they finish today's game with ten men after Merthyr Tydfil completed a league double over Barry Powell's side at Keys Park to leave Hednesford staring at relegation to step three

Last weekend had seen the Pitmen come away from Eastbourne Borough with a well-deserved point that did little to improve their poor league position as we entered the final two months of the season. Powell had been busy in the transfer market during the week by trading strikers, allowing Nathan Lamey to leave and join Southern League Western side Bromsgrove Rovers and re-signing the popular Steve Piearce as his replacement after last season's top scorer had made a return to Keys Park following a spell back at Halesowen Town. Piearce had to be content with a place on the bench as Powell stuck with the same side that had started at Priory Lane as the Pitmen went in search of a third home in in a row in all competitions

Merthyr - 2-0 winners over the Pitmen at Pennydarren Park in September - arrived in South Staffordshire off the back of a 4-2 defeat at fellow mid-table dwellers Havant & Waterlooville last weekend to leave the Martyrs sitting only four places and two points above the Pitmen in the table ahead of today's game. Manager Andy Beattie stuck with the same side that had visited West Leigh Park last Saturday as he looked to move up the table and close to the promised land of the top thirteen ahead of the summer's league restructuring

Merthyr keeper Neil Thomas was called into action for the visitors in only the second minute of the game as he made a fine save to turn a Les Hines free-kick over his crossbar with the Pitmen's first shot in anger

Thomas could only watch on four minutes later as Chris Brindley's drifting header from another Hines ball into the Merthyr box was turned goalwards by the veteran, only for the ball to fly over the angle of crossbar and post and into the Hednesford terrace behind the goal

Carl Palmer received an early yellow card in the eleventh minute the game as he slid in and brought Lee Howells down in the centre circle, leaving the Merthyr man grounded and the other Merthyr players remonstrating with referee Mr. Pardoe for retribution on the midfield man

With their first real venture into the Hednesford third of the pitch, Merthyr went close to taking the lead on fifteen minutes as a cross from Kevin Aherne-Evans was turned wide goal by the Martyrs' top scorer Cortez Belle as he got goal side of Lee Barrow from ten yards out


Two minutes later, a smart move from the visitors saw them take the lead as Paul Keddle played Danny Carter in down the left, with Carter's low cross turned home at the far post by Aherne-Evans, who nipped in ahead of Hines to fire past Ryan Young from eight yards out

Danny McGhee looked to be the Pitmen's best bet to get them back into the game with his pace and trickery down the right wing, jinking his way past Aherne-Evans on twenty-two minutes and cutting in from the byeline before forcing Thomas into a save at his near post with a shot at goal from a tight angle

More good play from McGhee three minutes later saw him drift in again from the flank and clip a cross into the Merthyr penalty area that Mark Danks attempted to turn towards goal. Skipper Gary Thorne got across and managed to get enough on the striker's shot to deflect it wide of goal

Former Bath City man Thorne was giving Steve Anthrobus little change for his work during the first half, marshalling the big man well and leaving the former Shrewsbury striker frustrated with the lack of support. This saw him booked on the half hour mark for a kick out at Thorne as he missed out on a drifting Steve Evans cross

Indeed, Merthyr looked more likely to add to their tally as the half progressed as Belle played Jason Donovan through on goal on thirty-four minutes, only for a thundering last-ditch challenge from Darren Simkin to deny the winger a shot at Young's goal

On forty minutes, Thorne's header back across goal from a Howells free-kick found Belle lurking at the far post; the ball got caught under the striker's feet which allowed Barrow time to block his eventual shot and turn it away from goal

In first half stoppage time, the Pitmen had their best chance of the half to level matters once more as an overlapping run from Simkin saw him sent down the flank by McGhee, whose cross was played into the feet of Carl Palmer by namesake Steve. A poor first touch from Palmer saw him attempt to control the ball just ten yards out rather than shoot, giving Merthyr enough time to get goal side once more and clear their lines

Powell - once again booed off at the break by the frustrated Hednesford supporters - swung the axe at half-time by making a double change to his side; Danks had failed to sparkle and was replaced by the returning Piearce, whilst McGhee was also replaced down the flank by Chris Gray in a move that left some supporters taken aback after McGhee's fine first half performance

Piearce's introduction had an immediate impact however, as the striker marked his third spell at the club with a goal just four minutes after coming on. A corner kick from Steve Evans was flicked on at the near post by Barrow and turned home from close range by Piearce, who proved he had lost none of the predatory instincts that made him the club's top scorer by poaching the Pitmen an equaliser

Gray's movement down the right wing saw him beat Keddle and cross for Anthrobus on fifty-three minutes, whose weak effort was easily claimed by Thomas at his near post

A late offside flag on the Wimblebury side of the ground pulled Belle back from a great opening on fifty-eight minutes as Carter's defence-slipping pass caught the striker a matter of inches the wrong side of the Hednesford defence, that was playing a high line as they pushed forwards

Steve Palmer drilled a low shot wide of goal two minutes later from the edge of the Merthyr penalty area before Piearce forced Thomas into a save with a first-time shot from a Steve Evans pass that was straight into the arms of the stopper

A mazy run from Gray five minutes later saw him dribble his way past three challenges but could not supply the finish to his move by driving his subsequent shot wide of goal from just inside the Merthyr penalty area

The Pitmen's high line was causing anxiety amongst the supporters, who in some quarters felt that the ageing defence of Brindley, Barrow and Simkin did not possess the pace to cope with Merthyr's attack. One such move on sixty-nine minutes saw Belle play a ball wide into space for Craig Steins to run onto before taking the pass back from Steins in the Hednesford penalty area, only to fire wide of goal with a wild effort

Six minutes later, a period of pressure from the hosts saw a Les Hines cross find Simkin all the way at the far post, with Simkin's subsequent cross back into the danger zone nodded wide by Gray at the far post, under pressure by Howells

The Pitmen made their final roll of the dice with eleven minutes of the game remaining as Damien Charie came on in place of Steve Evans, who had struggled to get any real joy up against Aherne-Evans

The hosts continued to press in the final ten minutes, particularly from set-pieces. Barrow lifted his header over the crossbar from a Hines corner kick on eighty-one minutes followed by a Barrow flick on another Hines cross two minutes later that was turned wide by the boot of Anthrobus at the far post

This was to prove a costly miss, as Merthyr broke quickly through Thorne's long, searching ball forwards. Bell played substitute Gary Shepherd through on goal, with the former Newport County striker once again proving to be a thorn in the Pitmen's side as he grabbed what was to prove the winner with a cool lob over the advancing Young from just outside the Hednesford penalty area

Brindley headed wide from Gray's recycled cross as the Pitmen desperately looked for another leveller in the minute that remained, whilst Anthrobus was denied by a fine tackle from Thorne once more in the final minute of the game as he looked to force Piearce's initial shot home from close range


The game ended in controversial circumstances for the hosts as they were reduced to ten men in a move that ended their chase for an equaliser; Gray and Donovan clashed as they challenged for a ball just outside the Merthyr penalty area after the Merthyr winger took exception to Gray's late challenge on him. A full blown brawl ensued with most of the players from both sides involved, which saw Steve Palmer booked for his part in the fracas before both Gray and Donovan were shown straight red cards for their part in the depressing sequence of events

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of anger and frustration from all sides of Keys Park as the Hednesford supporters trooped off home after witnessing yet another Jekyll and Hyde performance from their side that left them in serious danger of missing out on next season's step two set-up and facing a technical relegation to step three for the first time since the early nineties. The tough games continue for the dispirited Pitmen's they travel to title contenders Crawley Town on Tuesday night looking for a response to a game they really should have marked as one they should have been looking for a result from

Hednesford Town: Young, Simkin, Hines, McGhee (Gray 45 ▆ (90), BrindleyBarrowC. Palmer , S. Palmer © Anthrobus , Danks (Piearce 45), S. Evans (Charie 79)        Subs Unused: Maguire, P. Evans

Merthyr Tydfil: Thomas, Aherne-Evans, Keddle, Needs (Clarke 80), Jones, Thorne ©, Carter, Howells, Belle, Steins (Shepherd 70), Donovan ▆ (90)    Subs Unused: John, Morris, Price