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Pitching In Southern Premier League Central


Beavon (2)

Hednesford Town

Lita (69)

(1) 1

(0) 1



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Nathan Cameron



Stourbridge (H) 16.8.22

The Pitmen chalk up their first point of the season this afternoon courtesy of a second-half strike from veteran striker Leroy Lita as the visitors share the spoils with hosts Mickleover at the Don Amott Arena

Having been beaten 1-0 against Redditch United on the opening day of the season last Saturday, manager Keenen Meakin-Richards had been busy making further changes to his squad ahead of today's trip to Derbyshire. The club had finally completed the signing of the experienced Nathan Cameron, who had spent much of pre-season on trial at the RACE Stadium before choosing to put pen to paper on a deal in midweek. Moving on as a result of this was left-back Carter Lycett, who had been released by the club after just over three seasons in the first-team picture. Cameron came straight into the side as one of three changes to the side that had started last weekend's season opener as he replaced Lycett, with Cameron Ebbutt coming in for the suspended Joe Cuff and midfielder Sam Wilding made his first start for the club ahead of Luke Rowe as the other two changes

Mickleover started life in the Southern Premier League Central with a 2-2 draw at fellow league new boys Kings Langley last weekend, with long-serving manager John McGrath electing to stick with the same XI that had started at the Orbital Fasteners Stadium side for today's first home game of the campaign

It was another sweltering day across the UK as the summer heatwave returned for another spell; temperatures topped 32 degrees at kick-off, with the impressive 3G pitch at the Don Amott Arena receiving a heavy watering ahead of kick-off to leave it slick and fast-running

Mickleover's early play was similarly slick and fast-running, as the hosts swept into the lead before most of the 251 spectators had settled into their vantage point; in just the second minute of the game, Hednesford goalkeeper Lewis Gwilliams' loose throw-out skipped past the boot of Todd Parker and into the path of Mason Warren, whose pass was slipped into the path of former Burton Albion striker Stuart Beavon. The experienced striker showed great feet to take the ball past Cameron before driving a fine shot across the body of Gwilliams from the edge of the penalty area and found the far corner of the net to open the scoring

The Pitmen struggled to get their play going in the opening stages as they now chased the game, with several early overhit passes ending up drifting out of play for cheap set-pieces to the hosts

Popular midfielder Andy Dales went close to doubling the hosts' lead in the eighth minute as a neat passing move from Mickleover involving Warren and Ryan Wilson sent Rhys Dolan away down the left flank, with the full-back cutting inside of a couple of half-hearted Hednesford challenges before laying the ball off to Dales on the edge of the area, whose low shot was deflected just wide by the boot of Cameron

The blue-clad Pitmen felt that they had a decent shout for a penalty kick four minutes later as the ball was worked down the right flank to Lewis Hayden, whose through to Leroy Lita saw the veteran striker go to ground under a challenge from Wilson. Referee Mr Burton was unimpressed with the 37-year-old's pleas and the game continued

Mickleover continued to press the Hednesford back line, with Beavon doing well to intercept a Harvey Portman pass out of defence on sixteen minutes and slip the ball through to Elliott Reeves, who was forced wide by some excellent covering from skipper Lewis Ison and forced the former Alfreton Town man into a wild shot into the empty stand behind the goal

The Pitmen's first sight at goal came in the twentieth minute of the game as Ebbutt won his side a free-kick to the left of the Mickleover penalty area. Kyle Bennett's resultant cross into the penalty area was flicked on by Ison and met by the head of the giant Cameron at the far post, who could not get enough purchase on his effort and headed the ball into the ground before Mickleover goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge made a simple save at his post

The first of the mandatory water breaks came into effect midway through the first half, with Meakin-Richards using the opportunity to talk to his underperforming players about their performance thus far

Gwilliams partially redeemed himself for the lead-up to the Mickleover goal on twenty-six minutes as he made a good save to deny the hosts a second goal from close-range; a quickly taken throw-in down the right found Beavon, whose cross with the outside of his boot found Warren. He shrugged off O'Sullivan's challenge and crossed from the left to find Dales, whose goalbound header from six yards out was parried away by the Hednesford number one before he claimed a weak rebounded header from Reeves

Reeves looked to take advantage of more defensive inconsistency from the visitors on the half-hour mark as Parker's pass to Portman was intercepted by Dales, who played the striker through on goal but was forced wide by the presence of Gwilliams, taking the ball around the stopper but then shooting into the side-netting from a tight angle as Ison scampered back to cover

Mickleover full-back Elliott Walker was shown Mickleover's first yellow card of the afternoon on thirty-three minutes for going in a little too aggressively on Portman as the youngster cleared his lines and was rightly booked for the tackle

Four minutes later, Lita was left a frustrated figure as he made a fine run into the Mickleover penalty area to latch onto a forwards pass from Wilding, only for an offside decision against O'Sullivan to scupper his chances of shooting at goal from sixteen yards out

With half-time looming, Gwilliams made another good save from close-range to deny James Butler on forty-four minutes as a corner kick from Warren was headed goalwards by the youngster, only for Gwilliams to make a fine claim on his goal line

It had been a largely disappointing and limp first forty-five minutes from the visitors, who had failed to test Hedge throughout the first period as their attacking play had once again lacked any craft or penetration against two solid banks of four in front of them

The first ten minutes of the second half continued very much in the same vein as the first, with Mickleover content to sit deep and try to catch the Pitmen on the counter-attack; the away side were seeing more of the ball, however, and started the stretch the hosts' defence more and more through the likes of Lita and O'Sullivan's running


On fifty-two minutes, Ebbutt's pass found Portman in acres of space down the left flank, with the youngster's deep cross nodded down by Lewis Hayden into the path of Bennett, who lashed his first-time effort high and wide of goal from ten yards out with a disappointing effort when he should probably have taken another touch

Three minutes later, Cameron showed his aerial threat in the Mickleover penalty area as he rose highest to meet a deep free-kick from Ison but glanced his effort over the crossbar from eight yards out

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on the hour mark as Rowe came on in place of the disappointing Ebbutt to give the visitors more legs and energy in midfield

This seemed to perk up the visitors, who pressed higher up the pitch and forced a series of set-pieces out of the hosts. Parker's floated corner kick on sixty-five minutes was met by Cameron at the far post, only for his downward header to be cleared by the home defence before Lita could react

The experienced Phil Watt was the first player to be shown a yellow card on sixty-eight minutes as he hauled the sprightly Lita down twenty-five yards from goal and was cautioned by Mr Burton for the mistimed tackle

The Pitmen finally got themselves back on level terms with a superbly-crafted goal involving Parker and O'Sullivan just sixty seconds later; Hayden's long ball forwards dropped into the feet of Parker, who showed great skill and composure to hold off a challenge from Callum Chettle before playing a delightful pass through the gap and into the path of O'Sullivan, who did well to keep the ball in on the left-hand byeline and pull the ball across to Lita. The veteran striker was in the right place at the right time to turn the ball home from close range, grabbing his first goal of the season in the process

The Pitmen now had their tails up and went in search of a winner in the latter stages of the contest as Mickleover started to flake in the late afternoon sunshine; on seventy-three minutes, Lita and Parker combined to play the ball into the feet of O'Sullivan, who turned past Butler on the edge of the penalty area and struck a firm left-footed shot at goal that Hedge did well to push away at his near post

Lita looked to add to his goal with another strike on seventy-eight minutes as Parker's corner kick was cleared as far as the former Reading man on the penalty spot. His low-driven effort was deflected behind, however, as Watt did well to block his shot at goal

On eighty-two minutes, Lita was at it again as he made a darting run across the penalty area to latch onto Hayden's through ball, taking a clever touch to work it into space ahead of Butler before striking a low shot straight at Hedge

With six minutes of the game remaining, youngster Joe Morley was brought on to play down the right flank as the experienced Bennett was taken off in favour of the academy graduate

Mickleover had offered very little as an attacking threat in the second period and you felt that they were happy to hang on to a point at this juncture. Their best effort of the second period came through Warren on eighty-five minutes as he picked the ball up to the left-hand corner of the Hednesford penalty area before driving in a rising shot that cleared the crossbar

With the game drifting into added time, the away side made their final change of the afternoon as teenager Harry Manton was handed his first minutes as a Hednesford player, replacing O'Sullivan down the left for what remained of the game

In the final minute of added time, Reeves rose highest to meet a cross from Warren out on the left but weakly headed wide of goal from eight yards out as Ison closed the space down in front of him

It had very much been a point gained for the Pitmen, who had recovered well from a truly awful first half showing to come back into contention after the break and earn themselves their first point of the season. Focus shifts to Tuesday night, when the Pitmen return to the RACE Stadium to face perennial slow starters Stourbridge looking for that elusive first win of the new campaign

Mickleover: Hedge, Walker , Dolan (Marshall 73), Wilson, Butler, Watt , Bateman, Warren, Reeves, Beavon (Chettle 65), Dales (Fankwe 70)       Subs Unused: Davidson-Mitchell, Mann

Hednesford Town: Gwilliams, Hayden, Portman, Cameron, Ison ©, Wilding, O'Sullivan (Manton 90), Parker, Lita, Bennett (Morley 84), Ebbutt (Rowe 60)     Subs Unused: Rashad, Williams


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