Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Howard (37)


Mickleover Sports

Jarman (90) (penalty)

(1) 1

(0) 1



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Michael Howard




Workington (A) 1.12.18

 The Pitmen are denied their second successive home win in the league this afternoon, as Mickleover Sports are handed a late, late penalty kick - dispatched by Nathan Jarman - to send the Derbyshire outfit home with a share of the points


Manager Rob Smith was forced into making major changes to his squad following this week's developments; Reece King now faced a long ban following his second red card of the season at Hyde United last week, whilst Solihull Moors duo Dan Sweeney and Callum Coyle had been recalled by their parent club in midweek. This left Smith with few options to his squad, calling up youngster Charlie Drain to join the squad after plundering goals for the youth side in recent games. Josh Craddock was passed fit once more to return to the side in place of King, whilst Michael Howard made a welcome return to the starting XI in place of the now-departed Sweeney. Josef Bursik also returned from another successful spell with the England U19 squad, where the goalkeeper had played in all three of England's games


Mickleover's form in recent weeks had seen them start to slip down the Evo-Stik league table, with Sports sitting just above the relegation zone ahead of today's game. Player/manager John McGrath made major changes to his side after they had been soundly beaten in their Integro League Cup tie in midweek against league rivals Buxton, bringing six players back into the fold after their 3-0 home defeat to the Bucks


The dwindling crowds at Keys Park were once again offered a poor spectacle of football, with neither side looking likely to break the deadlock in a slow opening. Mickleover's Evan Garnett was way off target with a wild shot from the edge of the area in the fifth minute, lashing his shot high into the Heath Hayes terrace


Midfielder Joe Fitzpatrick was equally off-target four minutes later, as he lifted his shot well wide of goal as he traded passes with Dan Cockerline before firing wide from twenty-five yards out


Mickleover forward Nathan Jarman - a thorn in many Hednesford sides over the years - tested Bursik's handling on twelve minutes, driving in a long-range free-kick along the ground that the young Hednesford keeper claimed at the second attempt


The Pitmen felt that they had a shout for a penalty kick on nineteen minutes as a Matt Curley cross found Howard out on the left wing, with the youngster cutting inside and trying his luck with a shot that appeared to strike the hand of a Mickleover defender before being cleared. The referee Mr Cooke - no stranger to controversial games involving the Pitmen - waved away the protests from the hosts and allowed the game to continue


Mickleover created the clearest opening of the game so far on twenty-six minutes, as a superb through-ball carved open the Hednesford defence and found Adam Prusa. Bursik did well to put the player off as he headed for goal, forcing Prusa wide. This enabled Rudy Misambo to recover the ground and make a timely challenge to deny Prusa a tap-in at the far post


Both sides saw players receive yellow cards for challenges in midfield around the half-hour mark, with skipper Craddock warned of his aggression after picking up his caution for the afternoon


A superb passage of play from the Pitmen saw them go agonisingly close to opening the scoring on thirty-five minutes; Craddock won the ball in midfield and slipped it through to Cockerline, who in turn played in Howard just outside the Mickleover penalty area. Howard - on his wrong foot - took a touch and sidefooted the ball past Lewis King in the Sports goal, but also dragged his effort inches wide of the far post


Another swift break through the centre finally saw the home side break the deadlock two minutes later, as Craddock and Fitzpatrick linked up, culminating in a great switch-pass from Craddock to Howard on the edge of the penalty area. After taking a touch inside, Howard confidently drove the ball past the reach of King, finding the far corner of the net for his fifth goal of the campaign so far


The ever-willing Howard created a half-chance for Cockerline a couple of minutes before half-time, making a lung-busting run down the right wing and streaking past three Sports players before sending over a cross towards his fellow loanee. However, the ball was slightly out of the gangly striker's reach with Cockerline resorting to having to stretch to reach the ball and tamely poke the ball into the gloves of King


Jarman was quickly into his groove at the start of the second period, getting in on the end of a cross from Ben Turner on forty-eight minutes but toe-poking his effort just wide of Bursik's near post 


Six minutes later, a run from Garnett was halted by a last-ditch tackle from Nathan Fox, denying the striker a clear shot at goal as he drove past two Hednesford defenders


The experienced Ricky Ravenhill could count himself a little lucky to still be on the pitch on fifty-eight minutes, as he picked up a yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Fitzpatrick in midfield. It was a tackle that was reminiscent of King's challenge at Hyde last weekend that earned the youngster a straight red card for a similar challenge in similar circumstances. If referees want respect from players and supporters alike, it's these kind of decisions that need to stop being subjective from game to game


The Pitmen's one and only change came on the hour mark, as Craddock limped off the pitch and was replaced by another player with fitness issues, Davies


The prolific Jarman - scorer of the winning goal in the reverse fixture at the Don Amott Arena back in September, remained the visitors' best chance of a goal, with the striker creating an opening for himself on sixty-three minutes as he nudged Sam Griffiths off the ball before trying his luck with an optimistic long-range volley that flew well wide of goal


Davies got himself into the action on sixty-seven minutes, as he tried his luck with a swerving free-kick out on the right wing that nearly dipped under the crossbar at the far post, requiring a dave from King to deny the substitute a freak goal


Two minutes later, Davies again tested King's agility with a low drive on the run from twenty yards out that the Mickleover keeper fielded with ease on his goal line


Davies and Cockerline were both booked by the fussy and unco-operative Mr Cooke within moments of each other, with no fewer than six Mickleover players ending up in the referee's notebook at the end of the game to add to the four from Hednesford


A clever piece of play from Howard created a chance out of nothing for Davies on seventy-two minutes, picking the pocket of Sports skipper Tom Burgin and laying the ball back to Davies, whose attempted chip over the head of the retreating King was way off-target


A fantastic last-ditch challenge from Callam Mendez-Jones denied Garnett a certain goal on seventy-nine minutes, diving in to turn the ball away from goal after Jarman looked to have played his strike partner in on goal


Cockerline got in behind the Mickleover back line for the first time in the game with eight minutes remaining, diverting a Fitzpatrick shot wide of goal, but being pulled up by an offside flag in the process


With the game seemingly petering out and the Pitmen looking good value to see it through, Mr Cooke once again decided to be the centre of attention with a controversial injury-time penalty award to Mickleover. A corner kick towards the experienced Pablo Mills saw Charlie Gatter and the former Derby man tangle, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot to penalise Gatter's challenge. Jarman stepped up to fire low beyond Bursik to his left, although the young keeper got very close to getting enough on the ball to keep it out


It was a cruel way for the Pitmen to be denied a win in a game of few chances either way, although Sports will feel that they deserved a draw on the balance of play and chances. For the hosts, once again, a lack of a recognised frontman to convert one of the chances created cost them what could have been a comfortable victory and a chance to move closer to the play-off chasers. It's one of the longest trips of the season next up for Smith's side, as they head to struggling Workington next weekend looking to break this frustrating run of inconsistent results


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Mendez-Jones, Griffiths, Fitzpatrick, Misambo, Gatter , Curley, Craddock ©  (Davies 60 ), Cockerline , Howard, Fox      Subs Unused: Abadaki, Lycett, Drain, Veiga

Mickleover Sports: King, Tuaroh , Turner , Ravenhill , Mills, Burgin © , Cribley (Boula 71), Phillips (Warren 66), Garnett , Jarman, Prusa ▆      Subs Unused: Walsh, Ford, Scott 


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