6.1.2018

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Nantwich Town

Clayton (42) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Lawrie (54) (penalty), (74), Mendez-Jones (58), Thorley (80), Glover (86)

(1) 1

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(0) 5

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James Lawrie

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Coalville Town (H) 13.1.18

 The Pitmen's fine recent form shows no sign of abating, as they blitz Nantwich Town this afternoon with a ruthless second-half goalscoring display to claim all three points at the Weaver Stadium, completing their second league double in five days in the process to move into seventh place in the league table

 

Rob Smith's side arrived in Cheshire on the crest of a wave after an outstanding festive period that had seen his side record three successive victories, including a memorable 2-1 win over local rivals Stafford Rangers on New Years Day. Once again, Smith stuck with the same side that had started the last three games and was able to call upon the services of Ben Bailey to take his place amongst the substitutes after the centre back had recovered from injury

 

Nantwich had so far failed to live up to their lofty achievements of last season when they had made the play-offs after a fifth-place finish. Dave Cooke could still call upon a number of reliable performers such as Sean Cooke and Harry Clayton, as well as former Hednesford duo Sam Hall and Courtney Wildin. They started play in a lowly eighteenth position, looking to lift themselves up towards the comfort of mid-table

 

It was a bitterly cold day in Cheshire, with a chilly wind blowing across the pitch to make it feel even colder. The game had barely got going before the Dabbers were forced into an early substitution, as striker Jordan Cole went down inside the Hednesford penalty area clutching his leg

 After extensive treatment, Cole limped off and was replaced by the veteran former Northern Ireland International Steve Jones, with the 41-year-old playing alongside Cooke up front

 

Joey Butlin was an early entrant into the referee's notebook, as he clearly and blatantly handled the ball in the air as he leapt to challenge for a high ball in the ninth minute

 

After the two sides had traded corner kicks with no success, James Fitzgibbon had the first genuine opening of the game in the eighteenth minute, as he raced onto a through ball from Tom Thorley. Despite being put under pressure by Troy Bourne, Fitzgibbon managed to get his shot away, albeit off balance, and struck his shot straight at Krystian Burzynski in the Nantwich goal

 

The excellent Sam Oji continued his fine recent form with a timely block on Jones in the twenty-third minute, snuffing out the former Walsall man's shot by blocking the ball as Jones drifted inside from the wing

 

Mason Walsh had so far struggled to get involved in the game, but the winger made his first real contribution in the game two minutes later with a superb run down the right wing, cutting inside and firing in a shot that flashed across the face of the Nantwich goal and wide of the target

 

Hall almost caught James Wren out on twenty-eight minutes, as the Nantwich skipper's cross into the six-yard box was dropped by Wren, only for the in-form stopper to gather the ball at the second attempt as Clayton waited to pounce

 

A minute later, James Lawrie's deep cross found Butlin in the Nantwich penalty area, only for the burly striker to turn his effort narrowly over the crossbar from ten yards out

 

The Pitmen went closest to opening the scoring on thirty-five minutes, as a neat piece of play saw the ball fed to Joe Fitzpatrick, whose low, driven shot from long range was saved by the legs of Burzynski

 

Nantwich countered this with a great chance of their own two minutes later, as Cooke takes advantage of sloppy play from Oji to get in on goal, only for Wren to make an outstanding save to save bravely at the feet of the striker as he shaped to shoot

 

The game ebbed and flowed as it headed towards half-time, with chances at both ends; Walsh curled a shot wide for the visitors after more mesmerising wing play, followed by a shot from Lawrie on forty minutes that was straight into the arms of Burzynski. The Dabbers replied with a half chance for Clayton a minute later, sliding in at the far post and just failing to turn a cross home

 

With half-time approaching, Nantwich were awarded a penalty on forty-two minutes; Jones did well to turn Charlie Gatter, with the youngster bringing the veteran down just inside the penalty area. Clayton stepped up to take the resultant spot kick and fired confidently past Wren to give the hosts the lead

 

The Dabbers had a further chance to double their advantage in added time, as a cross from Caspar Hughes dropped to Jones, who was once again denied by another smothering save from Wren, who had kept this side in contention at the half-time whistle

 

The hosts were quickly out of the blocks early on the second half, with Clayton stretching to reach a cross from Hughes on forty-seven minutes, only to narrowly miss the ball as it flew across the face of Wren's goal

 

Slowly, however, the Pitmen started to get a foothold in the game, with the chances quickly stacking up as they searched for an equaliser. Oji headed narrowly wide of the far post from Lawrie's corner on forty-eight minutes before Walsh's goalbound strike was cleared off the goal line by Wildin on fifty-two minutes following confusion in the Nantwich penalty area

 

The Pitmen were handed a great opportunity to level matters two minutes later, as Bourne was adjudged to have pushed Butlin in the penalty area as they challenged for a Walsh cross. On second viewing, the decision looked a little soft, although Lawrie showed no charity with his spot kick, firing beyond Burzynski to level matters with his third goal of the season

 

The award of the penalty seemed to act as a turning point in the game, as Nantwich appeared to lose their discipline and hand the momentum to the away side in the process. Bourne was the first of a succession of Dabbers players who entered the book on fifty eight minutes for a foul on Lawrie. The midfielder - buoyed by his penalty - sent over an inch-perfect cross from the free kick, which was turned home by Callam Mendez-Jones, who had the simple task of firing home from close range as he moved quickest to the ball

 

A late challenge from Hall sparked an angry response from the Hednesford players on the hour mark, as his late challenge left Lawrie in a heap in the centre circle. Hall was rightly booked for his foul, with Clayton and Joel Stair also shown a yellow card for over-reacting to the incident after a discussion between the match officials

 

Two minutes later, with the Hall incident still at the forefront of the player's minds, Stair was shown a second yellow card by the referee after a throw-in for continual dissent, leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb in the final quarter of the game

 

Crewe-born Danny Glover was in familiar territory at the Weaver Stadium, with Hednesford's top scorer introduced to proceedings on sixty seven minutes as he replaced Butlin

 

The Pitmen were now in complete control of the game, creating chance after chance against the ten men of Nantwich. On sixty nine minutes, a great run from Fitzgibbon saw him cut inside and lift a shot just over the crossbar

 

Three minutes later, good play from Walsh saw him slip past Jamie Morgan and cross for Thorley, whose header was well wide of goal

 

The Pitmen finally gave themselves breathing space on seventy four minutes, as a great pass by Walsh found Lawrie unmarked on the edge of the Nantwich penalty area. The midfielder unleashed an unstoppable shot that beat Burzynski and found the top corner of the net for his second of the afternoon

 

Bailey was introduced to the game on seventy seven minutes as he looked to step up his rehabilitation, coming on in place of Oji at centre back

 

Burzynski gave Nantwich more problems on seventy eight minutes, as he went down in his own penalty area after taking a goal kick, holding his right leg. After a spell of treatment, the keeper continued to play in obvious pain, with Nantwich unable to substitute him having already made their three changes

 

The Pitmen ruthlessly exploited this with a fourth goal two minutes later, as skipper Thorley raced onto a through ball, skipping around the despairing dive of Burzynski and sliding the loose ball into the empty net

 

Jordan Graham was the Pitmen's third and final substitute of the afternoon with nine minutes remaining, coming on in place of Fitzgibbon

 

Nantwich weren't quite done themselves, though, with a combination of Wren and Mendez-Jones denying them a consolation goal on eighty four minutes as they combined to clear Cooke's goalbound shot away from the net

 

Hednesford rubbed more salt in the wounds with a final, fifth, goal from Glover on eighty six minutes. A superb cross-field ball from Walsh was controlled by Graham, whose pull-back was confidently slammed home by Glover for his ninth goal of the season

 

Glover had a further chance to make it 6-1 in added time, but his header from a Graham cross was saved by Burzynski in the centre of his goal

 

A fourth win in a row moves the Pitmen up into seventh place in the table, with only a solitary point currently separating them from the play-offs Teams around them have a number of games in hand, although the old adage of 'points in the bag' is one to remember as some teams will face a large number of midweek games as they look to play catch up. Smith and his troops will now look to avenge one of their poorest performances of the campaign next weekend as they play host to Coalville Town, who hammered the Pitmen 5-2 back in September shortly after Smith and Larry Chambers returned to Keys Park

 

Nantwich Town: Burzynski, Morgan, Wildin, Stair (62), Bourne , Hall © (Cotterell 70), Hughes, Bell, Clayton , Cooke, Cole (Jones 5 (Mwaisle 66))   Subs Unused: Phillips, Forbes

 

Hednesford Town: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley, Fitzpatrick, Oji (Bailey 77), Gatter , Walsh, Thorley ©, Butlin (Glover 67), Lawrie, Fitzgibbon (Graham 81)  Subs unused: King, Mutton

 

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