11.9.2000

Nationwide Conference

Hednesford Town

Morecambe

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Ian Robinson

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Kingstonian (H) 16.9.00

The Pitmen kept their first clean sheet of the season as their recent upturn in form continued this evening with a battling goalless draw at Keys Park against Morecambe

Returning to Keys Park following successive away draws at Leigh RMI and Hereford United, manager John Baldwin was forced into one change to his quickly-improving side for tonight's clash as Mark Haran was ruled out due to an ankle injury and was replaced by midfielder Val Owen. Owen's return to the side saw Stuart Lake move to the centre of defence to allow for Haran's absence

Mid-table Morecambe arrived at Keys Park off the back of a poor run of recent form so far in September, having lost three games in succession without scoring a goal. Manager Jim Harvey made three changes from the side that had lost 2-0 at home to Kettering Town on Saturday as Mark Wright, Phil Eastwood and Garry Thompson came in for Steve Walters, Andy Heald and Chris Price. There was one familiar face in the Shrimps line-up as former Hednesford striker John Norman lined up as the lone striker for the visitors

With the Pitmen's confidence growing in the past three games, they made an assertive start to the evening's action and could have taken the lead inside the first three minutes through Neil Davis; Mark Cooper played a one-two with Scott Goodwin before crossing from the right and finding Davis, whose dipping header from eight yards out just fell the wrong side of the post

Veteran defender Russell Bradley also went close for the hosts in the seventh minute as he powerfully headed just over the crossbar from close range as Cooper's corner kick drifted to the far post and was met by Bradley's full-blooded header

In the tenth minute, Davis exchanged passes with Ian Robinson before cleverly playing Micky Norbury in behind Murphy. The Morecambe defender did enough to put Norbury off his stride, however, culminating in the former Telford striker dragging his shot across the face of goalkeeper Mark Smith's goal and wide of the target

Two minutes later, Robinson floated a free-kick into the Morecambe penalty area from just inside his own half to find Norbury, who chested the ball down and swivelled on the ball but struck his shot from eighteen yards out just wide of Smith's right-hand post

Morecambe had offered very little as an attacking threat thus far, with a tame header at goal from Stewart Drummond from a Heald cross that landed in the arms of Gayle the closest the away side could come to a chance in the opening quarter of the game

Cooper and Bradley linked up once more on eighteen minutes as the midfield man clipped a free-kick from the right into the Morecambe penalty area and found the head of Bradley once more, who again headed just wide of goal as he glanced the ball towards the target

Midway through the half, Morecambe almost gifted their hosts the game's opening goal as Smith's hurried attempted clearance hit team-mate Andy Fensome and ran kindly to Norbury, whose follow-up shot was heading for goal until Murphy made a timely block to turn the ball away for a Hednesford corner kick

Heald had Morecambe's best opening of the game so far on twenty-five minutes as Colin Potts picked the young forward out with a cross from the right that found Heald in acres of space at the far post. However, the youth team graduate rushed his shot and fired into the side-netting from an angle as Bradley moved to close him down

Sixty seconds later, Goodwin picked up a pass from Stuart Lake in midfield and took the ball into the Shrimps' half before attempting a cheeky lob over the head of Smith from fully thirty-five yards out that forced the former Crewe goalkeeper to backtrack and claim the ball underneath his crossbar

With five men at the back protecting Smith, the Pitmen were finding it difficult to break down the visitor's defence; on the half-hour mark, Norbury's chipped pass into the penalty area over the head of Price found Davis, whose first-time volley was brilliantly turned around the post by Smith for another Hednesford corner kick

The home side were forced into making their first substitution of the evening on thirty-three minutes as skipper Neil Pointon was forced off after suffering a hamstring pull and was replaced by youngster Jake Sedgemore; Cooper took the captain's armband in Pointon's absence

Mark Gayle had been completely under-utilised in the first period so far but was called upon to make a superb save on thirty-eight minutes as a corner kick from Heald drifted over the heads of everyone inside the six-yard box and looked to be dipping in the far corner of the net, forcing Gayle into a fingertip save to turn the ball over the crossbar

With three minutes of the first half remaining, Sedgemore's searching pas through to Norbury was cut out by Murphy, whose attempted backpass to Smith had a little too much on it for the experienced stopper as he had to chase the ball back and scoop it away from goal for a corner kick with Davis looking to turn the ball home from close-range

The Pitmen had enjoyed a dominant first half but had nothing to show for it at the break, having been frustrated by a stoic Morecambe side that had well and in numbers to frustrate their hosts and keep the scoreline goalless at the break. Norman had been left completely starved of service up front against Lake and Bradley, dropping deep into midfield just to get touches of the ball in the first period

The pattern of the first half continued for long periods of the second half also, as the Pitmen attacked in waves but saw many good moves break down in the final third of the pitch. Smith tipped a Norbury header over the crossbar three minutes after the restart as good play from Robinson saw the young midfield man turn past two players and cross from the left-hand corner of the Morecambe penalty area

On fifty-one minutes, Bagshaw's dancing feet saw him get away from Fensome and drill a low cross into the six-yard box that Smith parried away at his near post to deny Davis a simple tap-in from close-range

Davis was denied another clear opening three minutes as Cooper's fine through ball sent the striker away behind the Morecambe defence, only for a late offside flag against him to the former Aston Villa man a shot at the advancing Smith

Smith made another good save on fifty-seven minutes, this time denying Cooper as Goodwin's deep, drifting cross from the left was met by the head of the Hednesford skipper, who could not steer the ball beyond the Morecambe stopper as his downwards header was fielded by the goalkeeper

 

A rare attack from the visitors two minutes later saw Drummond and Norman combine to play Adriano Rigoglioso in on goal, only for the forward's shot from the edge of the penalty area to drift well wide of Gayle's left-hand post

Another superb piece of play from the impressive Robinson on sixty-two minutes saw the midfield man break from deep down the right, carrying the ball thirty yards as he beat two Morecambe players before trying his luck with a low right-footed shot from just inside the penalty area that Smith saved down at his near post

 

Talented youngster Ryan Zico-Black had come on for the visitors for Potts and was straight into the action midway through the second period as his clever reverse pass played Norman in on goal for the first time in the evening; with the Hednesford defence stood still appealing in vain for an offside flag, Norman took a touch before firing inches wide of Gayle's right-hand post from eight yards out

 

A long ball forwards from Sedgemore on sixty-nine minutes was flicked on by Norbury and into the path of Lyons, whose scuffed clearance dropped kindly for Cooper twenty-five yards from goal; the skipper controlled the ball and lashed a shot back at goal, just clearing Smith's crossbar with a swerving shot

 

Cooper and Rigoglioso both blotted their copybooks with a booking apiece on seventy-one minutes as the Hednesford man brought down the Morecambe substitute to stop him breaking, prompting an angry response from Zico-Black and engaging in some pushing and shoving between the two sets of players

 

Owen had struggled with the pace of the game so far and had been a passenger for much of the opening seventy minutes of the game, but produced a wonderful piece of skill to control a Lake pass and turn past Drummond in the same movement on seventy-four minutes, taking the ball to the edge of the Morecambe penalty area before seeing his well-struck shot blocked by the leg of Dave McKearney

 

Lake made a run to the near post to meet a Cooper corner kick three minutes later, heading the ball up into the air at the near post and prompting Smith to push the ball over the crossbar as both Bradley and Norbury looked to force the ball over the line

Drummond followed Cooper and Zico-Black into the referee's notebook with twelve minutes of the game remaining as he earned himself a yellow card for an accumulation of fouls and bouts of time-wasting later on in the second half

A quickly-taken corner from Cooper on eighty-one minutes was played short to Sedgemore, catching Morecambe off balance as they were still setting their defensive line - the substitute's cross was glanced across the face of goal by Davis, who got goal side of a dawdling McKearney but saw his effort flash wide of the far post

With five minutes remaining, three successive Hednesford corner kicks put more pressure on the Shrimps' back line as both Lake and Norbury headed towards goal and were denied by timely clearances away by the away side

Owen's long-range effort on eighty-seven minutes was beaten away by Smith but only into the path of Bagshaw, whose return cross to the far post was skewed horribly wide by Norbury on his weaker left foot from ten yards out

With two minutes remaining, Robinson's run and cross to the far post was met by the fist of Smith as he looked to clear his lines, clashing with Davis in the process and knocking both players to the floor. Davis came out of the coming-together worse off as he was forced to leave the pitch with blood gushing out of a head wound that would later require four stitches. Adam Shakespeare came on in the striker's place for the remaining minutes

Another useful point maintains the Pitmen's fourth game unbeaten run in September, lifting them up two places in the table to fourteenth place in the Nationwide Conference table although they will feel slightly aggrieved that they were unable to turn their long periods of possession and chances into a goal that could have won them all three points against an ultra-defensive and out-of-form Morecambe side that set their stall out early on. Kingstonian - only a point and two places above the Pitmen in the table - make the journey up from London to Keys Park at the weekend with Baldwin's men looking to extend their recent run of encouraging form and record a win over Geoff Chapple's F.A. Trophy winners

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Bradley, Pointon © (Sedgemore 33), Goodwin, Lake, Owen, Cooper , Robinson, Davis (Shakespeare 89), Norbury, Bagshaw      Subs Unused: Picknell, Carney

Morecambe: Smith, Fensome, Murphy, McKearney, Lyons, Price, Potts (Zico-Black 63), Drummond , Rigoglioso , Norman, Heald (Takano 71)       Subs Unused: McGuire, Wright, Banks