16.3.2019

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Wells (39), Sweeney (51) (penalty) (56), O'Hanlon (85) 

 

Nantwich Town

Morgan (53), Glover (65), Malkin (76), Bell (83)

 

(1) 4

.

(0) 4

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

807

 

Dan Sweeney

 

L L W D L L W W W D

 .

Lancaster City (A) 23.3.19

The Pitmen extended their unbeaten league run to four games today, earning themselves a point over play-off chasing Nantwich at Keys Park in a thoroughly entertaining encounter that saw both teams have chances to take all three points

 

The Pitmen had enjoyed a well-deserved two-week break from action after having a blank weekend last Saturday, allowing manager Nicky Eaden to rest key players and allow others to recover from injuries sustained during the Pitmen's three-game winning run. Eaden was able to call upon Javan Vidal after the utility man had recovered from injury, replacing Alex Melbourne at right-back in one of two changes. Courey Grantham had returned to former club Basford United this week, allowing the returning figure of Dan Sweeney to come back into the side after the forward had agreed a new loan from Solihull Moors this week. Ben O'Hanlon was passed fit to join the substitutes, replacing the recently-departed Lewis Archer amongst the replacements

 

Nantwich - top of the league table at Christmas and now sitting in fourth place - arrived at Keys Park off the back of a fine 3-0 win over Stockport County in the Cheshire Senior Cup in midweek. League form had continued to be consistent for Dave Cooke's team, with only one defeat in the past six games to consolidate their position in the top four, sitting six points behind South Shields in third place at the start of play. Cooke named former Hednesford midfielder James Lawrie in his experienced starting XI which also included former Stoke City striker Ricardo Fuller, who was keeping former Hednesford favourite Danny Glover on the Dabbers' bench

 

It was a gusty day in South Staffordshire, with the wind causing both sides all sorts of problems as the ball was caught in the wind on numerous occasions during the game. After a keen opening ten minutes from both sides, Nantwich tested the reflexes of Kieran Preston through skipper Caspar Hughes; the midfielder picked up a through ball from Nathan Cotterell and fired goalwards, only to be denied by a fine save from the on-loan keeper

 

The Pitmen's first sight on goal came three minutes later, as a long throw from Ben Bailey eventually fell to Sweeney, whose goalbound shot was deflected inches wide of the post by Kieran Wells. A great chance fluffed by the in-form striker

 

Sweeney and Wells linked up again three minutes later, with Sweeney's through ball turned goalwards by the grounded Wells, whose effort was easily fielded by Will Jaaskelainen in the Nantwich goal

 

Bailey tried to use the gusty wind to his advantage on twenty-four minutes, as one of his long throws was headed back to him. The Hednesford skipper attempted a long-range effort over the head of Jaaskelainen, but his attempted lob was claimed by the on-loan keeper on his goal line

 

Bailey required a lengthy amount of treatment on what appeared to be a shoulder injury on twenty-eight minutes as he fell awkwardly after tussling with Fuller just inside the Hednesford half

 

Nantwich had been neat and tidy in possession during the opening half hour, playing an expansive style that stretched the Hednesford defence in wide positions. One such move on thirty-one minutes saw right-back Troy Bourne get in behind Nathan Fox and cross for Hughes, who laid the ball off to Fuller on the edge of the six-yard box. The veteran striker's low shot forced Preston into a fine save low down at his near post to turn the ball behind for a Nantwich corner

 

Fuller was involved again two minutes later, as clashed with Fox in the penalty area with the pair going toe-to-toe for the ball. Fuller felt that Fox had fouled him, but the referee was perfectly placed to deny Fuller a spot-kick as he judged that Fox's challenge was well-timed

 

Fuller was again the focal point of Nantwich's attack on thirty-five minutes as he shanked a good chance wide at the far post following a deep cross from Jamie Morgan

 

Despite the visitors having the better of the openings, it was the Pitmen who stole into the lead with six minutes remaining in the first half. A clever forward flick from Alex-Ray Harvey found Sweeney in behind the Nantwich defence, with the Solihull man showing great composure to take a touch and send over a fine cross from the right which allowed Wells to head beyond Jaaskelainen from close range and score his fourth goal in eight games

 

Fuller again found his radar off-target with three minutes of the half remaining, as he turned a Sean Cooke free-kick wide of the far post after he had nipped in ahead of former Nantwich man Jon Moran

 

There was still time for Fuller to test Preston in added time, as he got the better of Moran once more to break through the Hednesford back line and force Preston into a save with his legs from ten yards out

 

It had been an entertaining first period for the larger than normal 807 crowd to witness, with Nantwich no doubt feeling a little aggrieved at finding themselves a goal down after having the better of the chances in the first half. The windy conditions were added to at the start of the second period with the arrival of heavy rain, making the Keys Park pitch slick and muddy in places

 

The hosts were on the offensive straight from the off, with the impressive Sweeney picking up where he left off at the end of his previous loan spell with another driving display. His wicked cross on forty-nine minutes was oh-so-close to finding the boot of Wells once more but was just too far in front of the striker as the ball darted across the face of the Nantwich goal

 

The growing understanding between Sweeney and Wells paid dividends for the Pitmen once more on fifty minutes, as more tireless work from Wells set Sweeney away down the right wing. Sweeney cut inside and drove a low shot in at goal, forcing Jaaskelainen into a fine save at his near post

 

A minute later, Sweeney's skill and power earned his side a penalty kick, as Bailey's flick gave Sweeney the chance to run at Lawrie. The former Hednesford man was outdone by Sweeney's trickery, bringing the player down as he ran past Lawrie. The referee awarded the hosts a penalty kick, which Sweeney dispatched confidently by sending Jaaskelainen the wrong way to double Hednesford's advantage

 

However, the Pitmen allowed Nantwich an almost immediate path back into the game, as the Dabbers struck back from the restart; a long ball forwards caught Moran out, with the centre back allowing Fuller to beat Vidal to the bouncing ball and flick it into the path of Morgan, whose first-time shot beat Preston at his near post

 

And yet, the Pitmen mustered another response three minutes later, as Sweeney restored the home side's two-goal lead with a stunning strike. Danny Racchi's header found Sweeney unmarked in the centre of the park, with the forward powering his way through three challenges before shifting the ball onto his left foot and firing a spectacular rising shot past Jaaskelainen into the top corner of the net. Another spectacular strike to add to the goal of the season contenders for this term and one similar to the goal Sweeney had scored against Bamber Bridge back in October

 

Nantwich brought on Glover for the tiring Fuller on sixty-three minutes, with the former Pitmen top scorer warmly applauded by the Hednesford supporters in recognition of the striker's exploits at Keys Park. However, they were less appreciative of the striker's talents as he pulled Nantwich back into the game with his first touch on sixty-five minutes; a through all from Cooke caught the Hednesford defence on their heels, allowing Glover to run in behind the Pitmen's defence and place his shot beyond Preston to make it 3-2

 

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon with twenty minutes remaining, as the peripheral figure of Jack Hallahan was replaced by O'Hanlon down the left wing

 

The topsy-turvy nature of the game took another turn on seventy-six minutes, as Nantwich pulled level once more and set up a grandstand finish. A deep corner from Joe Malkin was headed goalwards by Joe Mullarkey, forcing Preston into a brilliant close-range save. Glover tried to force the rebound over the line but was also denied by an astonishing save from Preston from a yard out as the keeper palmed the ball off the line. However, Preston's heroics were in vain as the ball fell kindly for Malkin, who reacted quickest to volley home from a couple of yards out

 

The Dabbers were now on top of the game, taking advantage of the Pitmen playing far too deep and struggling to maintain possession of the ball.

Eaden looked to tighten things up the back with the introduction of Charlie Gatter on eighty-one minutes, as the centre-back came on in place of Racchi to give the hosts more defensive options

 

Glover went close to handing Nantwich the lead on eighty-two minutes, firing into the side netting after Malkin had pulled the ball back into the path of his strike partner inside the Hednesford penalty area

 

A combination of Preston and Fox denied Nantwich their fourth goal a minute later, with the Pitmen somehow managing to claw the ball off their own goal line after Cooke's free-kick dropped inside the Hednesford six-yard box

 

Nantwich's pressure finally told with eighty-three minutes, as a Cooke corner was palmed out by Preston, but only into the path of Matt Bell. The midfielder's first-time shot evaded the arms of Preston at his far post, finding the net and putting the Dabbers into the lead for the first time in the game

 

However, the Pitmen were not done just yet and showed another fine turn of character to level matters once more two minutes later; Bailey's long throw caused panic in the Nantwich ranks, with O'Hanlon stretching his neck muscles to head beyond Jaaskelainen from ten yards out

 

With a minute remaining, Wells was afforded another generous round of applause from the appreciate Hednesford supporters as he was replaced by Shane Benjamin for the final minutes

 

There was still time for Nantwich to have another great chance to win a breathless encounter, as Cooke's venomous free-kick was tipped away by Preston in added time with the final chance of a fine advert for the Evo-Stik Premier League

 

A highly entertaining encounter with eight goals unable to separate the two sides at the end of a breathless second half. The large crowd will have been impressed with the quality of finishing from both sides, who will both be reasonably happy with a point gained. A more pressing game looms for the Pitmen next weekend, as they can all but clinch safety for another season if they were to beat fellow strugglers Lancaster City at the Giant Axe

 

Hednesford Town: Preston, Vidal, Fox , Harvey, Moran, Bailey ©, Racchi (Gatter 81), King, Wells (Benjamin 89), Sweeney, Hallahan (O'Hanlon 70)       Subs Unused: Ellis, Veiga

 

Nantwich Town: Jaaskelainen, Morgan, Bourne , Stair, Mullarkey, Hughes ©, Lawrie (Walsh 57), Fuller (Glover 63), Malkin, Cooke, Cotterell (Bell 57)      Subs Unused: Saunders, Mwasile

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