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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Glover (90)

Mickleover Sports

Mills (18), Barnes-Homer (53), Norcross (74)

(0) 1

(1) 3



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Anthony Dwyer


Altrincham (A) 28.4.18

Mickleover Sports completed a league double over the Pitmen this afternoon, ruthlessly exposing the home side's lack of stamina to record a comfortable win at Keys Park with three well-taken goals


Just forty-eight hours after the Pitmen had played hosts to Rushall Olympic on the same pitch, Rob Smith's side were back in action as they looked to finish their home league campaign with a win. Smith once again rotated the few players he had at his disposal, with Tom Thorley returning to the side in place of James Fitzgibbon and Louis Harris brought back into the side at Danny Glover's expense. Jack Rea was the final inclusion to the side, coming back into the fold ahead of Joe Fitzpatrick in midfield


The experienced Mickleover side had once again enjoyed a consistent season at step three level, with the form of midfielder Andy Dales a major factor in their success. Such had been Dales' impact that he had this week been called into Paul Fairclough's England C squad ahead of a trip to Ireland at the end of the season. Canny ex-pros Clinton Morrison and Pablo Mills were still prominent figures at the club, with ex-Hednesford players Matthew Barnes-Homer and Louis Briscoe recently added to their ranks


A warm, but cloudy, afternoon in South Staffordshire began with a quick, incisive move down the Mickleover left, as Dales drove towards the Hednesford penalty area. However, his cross with the outside of his boot - aimed at Barnes-Homer - was cut out courtesy of a timely interception by Matt Curley. The ball was recycled well by Mickleover, with Ben Turner's deep cross punched away unconvincingly by James Wren, relying on Curley to complete the clearance


Louis Harris was the recipient of a very, very early booking from an overly-fussy referee, receiving a yellow card for a foul in midfield  With the referee setting an early, and petty, precedent, other challenges on both sides went unpunished when they should have also been pulled up


Confusion in the Hednesford defence almost gifted Barner-Homer a chance for the visitors on six minutes, as Ben Bailey and Wren got into a muddle in dealing with a long ball forwards from Mills. Callam Mendez-Jones was on hand to mop up, robbing the ball off the toes of Barnes-Homer and allowing Wren to recover and claim the ball


Player/manager John McGrath sent over a dangerous free kick for Sports on eleven minutes, finding the head of Alex Morris. The giant centre-back headed the ball back across the face of goal, just missing the head of Barnes-Homer at the far post and allowing Thorley to clear


Mickleover were rewarded for their strong start with the opening goal on eighteen minutes; McGrath's deep corner was met by the head of former Hednesford triallist Mills, whose looping header dipped over the reach of Wren and into the net from ten yards out to give Sports a deserved lead


Once again, the game was taking a rather familiar, depressing theme for the Pitmen - plenty of possession, neat build-up play, but absolutely nothing in terms of quality in the final third and no penetration from the attacking players. Joey Butlin was struggling against the powerful Mills and Morris, whilst the willing and swift Anthony Dwyer was doing his best to create openings on the right to little success


Dwyer's trickery finally created an opening for the home side on twenty-five minutes as he sent over a great cross for James Lawrie, whose glancing header drifted just wide of the far post


Back came Mickleover, with exciting Dales causing panic in the Hednesford ranks with a teasing cross from the left that Wren partially cleared, but only to the feet of the experienced Jimmy Phillips. He failed to get the ball under control and allowed the Pitmen to finally hack the ball clear after a period of panic


 Butlin was on hand to end a neat passage of play from the Pitmen to drive home a shot on thirty-four minutes, but an offside flag denied Butlin his first league goal in four months after he was played in on goal by Jack Rea's neat flick


The Pitmen continued to be frustrated as the half drew to a close as a deep inswinging cross from Dwyer was flicked on by Bailey to Reece King, whose subsequent header came back off the crossbar before being cleared by Mills


 Another losing position at half-time then, and another Smith team talk that looked to undo all of the problems created by a poor first-half display. Dwyer was first to react for the hosts on fifty minutes, poking a weak effort goalwards from Bailey's long throw that was easily saved by Mickleover keeper Lewis King


 A brilliant run from Dales a minute later saw the midfielder shrug off two challenges as he ran fully fifty yards with the ball, before driving his shot just over the crossbar from just inside the Hednesford penalty area


It was Dales again who had a hand in Mickleover's next chance a minute later, laying the ball off to Will Norcross on the edge of the penalty area. However, Norcross's shot lacked power and was pounced upon by Wren inside his six-yard box


 Another quick, incisive break from Mickleover earned them a second goal on fifty-three minutes as Dales linked up with Turner, with the full-back crossing for Barnes-Homer to fire home from close range past a horribly exposed Wren


Dwyer - the only real bright spark in another uninspiring display from the Pitmen - forced King into a fine save on fifty-six minutes as he broke clear of the Mickleover defence and unleashed a superb dipping shot that King tipped over the crossbar


More comical defending from the Pitmen invited unneeded pressure on themselves on fifty-nine minutes as Bailey's lax clearance presented Norcross with the ball, with Norcross finding danger man Dales twenty-five yards from goal. Dales jinked his way through the retreating Hednesford defence but lifted his shot over the crossbar


 Former Telford duo Rea and Dwyer linked up to create a chance for the Pitmen a minute later with Rea crossing well for winger Dwyer, who took a touch before driving his shot narrowly wide of the left-hand post


Smith made a double change for the mis-firing Pitmen on sixty-two minutes, bringing on top scorer Glover and Fitzpatrick in place of Rea and Harris


The visitors put the result beyond doubt with a killer third goal on seventy-four minutes, as a quick break by Barners-Homer saw him slip in behind the Hednesford defence, before laying the ball off to Norcross. The midfielder steadied himself before slotting the ball into the empty net to give Sports an unassailable lead


The Pitmen got themselves what was to be a consolation goal with ten minutes left with Glover perhaps unsurprisingly on the scoresheet again. A great run from Dwyer saw him create some room down the right, driving in a low cross that Glover volleyed into the roof of the net from ten yards out to reduce arrears


 King went close to making the game interesting in the final minutes, as he headed just wide of the far post after a deep cross from substitute Fitzpatrick had picked out the tall, rangy midfielder


 Mickleover could have added a fourth goal to their tally in added time as Dales clipped the post with a swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area after the Hednesford defence had dropped off him


For many of the small crowd inside Keys Park, this would be their final game of the season at Keys Park with only a Birmingham Senior Cup semi-final against Nuneaton Town to come on Thursday night. The Pitmen wrap up their league campaign with a trip to league champions Altrincham next weekend, looking for a positive end to a disappointing season that, at times, promised so much


Hednesford Town: Wren, Thorley ©, Curley, Bailey, Mendez-Jones, Rea (Glover 62 ), Dwyer, King, Butlin, Harris ▆ (Fitzpatrick 62 ), Lawrie    Subs Unused: Campion, Fitzgibbon, Veiga


Mickleover Sports: King, Grocott © (Hickman 68), Turner, McGrath, Mills, Morris, Dales, Belgrave , Barnes-Homer, Phillips, Norcross (Briscoe 77)   Subs Unused: Garnett, Williams, Morrison

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