UniBond Northern Premier League

Nantwich Town

Marshall (86) (OG)

Hednesford Town

Barnett (17), Dyer (56), Durrell (90)

(0) 1

(1) 3



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Cedric Abraham


Boston United (H) 11.4.09

The Pitmen's play-off push is very much on tonight, as Hednesford's players produced an outstanding display of attacking football to sweep aside third-placed Nantwich Town and complete the double over the Cheshire side


Manager Dean Edwards was still smarting from Saturday's capitulation at the hands of struggling Whitby Town and included centre-backs Cedric Abraham and Decio Gomes in the side after Danny Harvey and Sean Platt were both ruled out due to injuries picked up at the weekend, whilst Anthony Maguire returned after recovering from his facial injury suffered at Guiseley a couple of weeks ago. Otherwise, it was the same side that started on Saturday, as the Pitmen looked for that elusive three points that would lift them above Bradford (Park Avenue) and into fifth place

Steve Davis's Dabbers side had enjoyed a fine debut season at step three and were looking a shoo-in for the play-offs on sixty-eight points and six games to play. Davis's side had been narrowly beaten at home to Guiseley at the weekend and made four changes to his side for tonight's crucial encounter as Mark Beeston replaced Richard Smith, Glyn Blackhurst came in for Phil Parkinson, Dave Walker was selected ahead of ex-Pitman Dave Whittaker and Rodney Jack returned in place of Danny Griggs

On a perfect April evening, with a pitch that looked pretty much perfect, the away side made a great start, pushing the hosts back in the very first minute of the game. Ross Dyer, the man amongst the goals recently, was quickly onto the ball playing in Elliott Durrell, but his attempted shot from the edge of the area was blocked by former Macclesfield defender Darren Tinson

Despite the Pitmen's early confidence, it was Nantwich that really should have taken the lead on five minutes; former Crewe man Jack managed to get past Ludovic Quistin down the Nantwich right before squaring the ball to Ashley Carter, who somehow missed an open goal from a couple of yards out with only Stuart Brock to beat

Back came the Pitmen, and Tyrone Barnett tested Nantwich keeper Lee Jones's reflexes with a smart roll-off Tinson and shot from eighteen yards out

Ross Draper was being his usual authoritative self in the middle of the pitch, breaking up any threat from former Hednesford skipper Dave MacPherson. Abraham was also impressing the sizeable Hednesford away following with a number of no-nonsense clearances away from danger

Former Stafford Rangers striker Walker, looking to add to his impressive goal tally for the season, almost grabbed another strike on ten minutes as he stretched to get to another cross from Jack, but he failed to get enough on the ball and his header drifted wide of goal

If Carter's early miss had been a real sitter, then Ross Dyer proceeded to outdo the Nantwich man with an astonishing miss on twelve minutes. Sam Hall set Elliott Durrell on his way down the right, with the little forward darting into the box and playing an unselfish square ball to Dyer, who was coming in at the far post; with the goal at his mercy, a yard out, Dyer somehow miscued the ball, sending it spinning back across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post

Luckily for Dyer, his miss mattered very little to the overall play of the Pitmen,  as they snatched the lead five minutes later. Durrell's shot was turned away by Jones for a corner, with Hall's resultant kick finding the head of Barnett, who forced the ball home at the near post for his second goal in three games

The away side were enjoying their football on a neat, slick surface, displaying the kind of attacking football they were playing back in October and November. Nantwich's expansive game also meant time and space for Hednesford's most potent attackers, with Durrell and Draper having a great time linking the play to the two forward men

Draper was next to try his luck for the Pitmen mid-way through the half, picking up a loose ball after Maguire's shot was blocked. The skipper hit a powerful dipping drive that was only just wide of the far post

There were loud and vociferous protests from the crowd and Hednesford bench three minutes later, as Nantwich's Beeston appeared to catch Durrell very, very late as Durrell attempted to take the ball past him down the right. However, the referee ignored all of the protestations and only booked the Dabbers player

Brock was called upon for the first time in the game on thirty minutes, with Jack once again supplying a great ball - this time for Blackhurst - whose well-directed header was turned away for a corner kick by the Pitmen's number one

Durrell's movement had been a constant problem for a nervous-looking Nantwich defence, and he appeared to have won the Pitmen a penalty just before half-time when he was brought down a yard or so inside the area. However, the referee thought otherwise and played on

After a half-time refreshment, the home side emerged brightly in the second period, with Charlie O'Loughlin heading straight into the arms of Brock during the early stages of the half. The Pitmen responded with Barnett hitting an awkward shot at Jones a minutes later

Barnett tested Jones for a second time in sixty seconds with a one-on-one with the Nantwich keeper, but once again Jones came off better, making a smart save low down to deny Barnett a second goal. The game had a cup tie feel to it at this point, with chances jumping from end to end. Walker could have equalised a minute later, with Brock and Maguire doing their best to deny him in whatever way possible

There was a feeling at the break that the goalscoring was not finished, and two minutes later this was proved correct. Barnett took the ball down the left, before turning onto his right foot and sending the ball over towards Dyer. Via a deflection off O'Loughlin, the ball fell to Hednesford's top scorer, who hammered the ball into the roof of the net to put to bed any doubts following his shocking miss in the first half

It was all Hednesford at this point, with Nantwich simply trying to stem the tide of attacks from a rampant away side. Draper made one of his typically marauding runs three minutes later, but his shot lacked accuracy and the ball flew over the bar. Barnett was continuing to cause problems too, as he linked up well with Dyer but also failed to find the target with a wayward shot

Barnett had totted up enough chances to have put him level on twenty-four goals for the season with Dyer, such was Hednesford's supremacy. Durrell crossed from the right-hand side on seventy-one minutes for the striker, but his dipping header failed to test Jones

Draper, who only has two more games left in his season before his suspension kicks in, was looking to get the most out of his last two-and-a-bit games left by driving the Pitmen forward at every opportunity. He should have added another goal two minutes later, beating two Nantwich defenders on the edge of the area before testing Jones with a powerful shot that the Nantwich goalkeeper turned away

With the Pitmen on top, there was very little positive for Nantwich fans to take from the game. The visitors, however, gifted their hosts a lifeline four minutes from time with a rare lapse in concentration. A long ball forward looked to have been dealt with by Tom Marshall, as he headed the ball back towards Brock's goal; however, Brock had made an early decision to claim the high ball and rushed out to claim it. The result? Marshall headed past Brock, with the ball dribbling into the empty net

Not content with simply sitting on their now-narrow lead, the Pitmen continued to press, and in the final minute, Durrell was rewarded for a fine performance with Hednesford's third goal. Hall's run and cross found Durrell unmarked on the edge of the area; he took his time to control the ball, before firing low past Jones to end a fantastic game, which was a credit to the UniBond League thanks to both sides sticking to their footballing principles

For the Pitmen, this represents a real move forward, with them now occupying the final play-off place. With a game in hand on fourth-placed FC United of Manchester - who do not play this weekend - a win over Boston United on Saturday, coupled with a favourable result at Bradford, could see them as high as third. Alternatively, defeat to the struggling Pilgrims would essentially end their interest in the play-offs with other sides around them in much stronger positions in the final three games of the season

Nantwich Town: Jones, Beeston , Tickle, Tinson, O'Loughlin, Blackhurst, Carter (Griggs 76), MacPherson ©, Walker (Whittaker 65), Lennon, Jack      Subs Unused: Hawthorne, Kinsey

Hednesford Town: Brock, Maguire, Quistin, Gomes, Abraham, Marshall, Hall, Durrell, Barnett (West 90), Dyer, Draper ©        Subs Unused: Coulston, Bailey, Gill, Woolley