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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Gyasi (22), Verma (85), Thorley (90) (penalty)

Nantwich Town

Harrison (13), Kirby (33)

(1) 3

(2) 2



Current Form

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James McQuilkin



Chasetown (A) 26.12.23

The Pitmen make it back-to-back home wins for the first time this season as two late goals snatch victory away from a hardworking Nantwich team and earn the hosts a crucial three points in their bid to stay up

Saturday's costly defeat at Trafford had seen the Pitmen slip back to being four points adrift of safety at the foot of the table, adding extra pressure on manager Harry Harris and his players to provide a response upon their return to Keys Park for today's Boxing Day game. Harris made one change to his side from the one that had started three days ago as new signing James Carvell was handed a first start for the club as he replaced Joe Thompson in midfield

Fellow former Northern Premier League stalwarts Nantwich had also struggled with relegation to step four this term, sitting in seventeenth place in the table at the start of play after a winless run in their last three games. Manager Paul Carden made three changes to his side from the one that had earned themselves a point at home against Avro on Saturday as Perry Bircumshaw came in for Tyler Hill, Akiel Raffie replaced Kai Evans and Byron Harrison was preferred to Callum Saunders

Despite the game not being a typically local affair as befits most of the Boxing Day games in the league, there was still a near-800-strong crowd packed into Keys Park for today's encounter. The Pitmen looked to find the flying Jai Verma at every opportunity early on, with the diminutive number seven going on one of his tricky, mazy runs in from the left in the second minute but saw his weakly struck effort easily saved by Nantwich goalkeeper Scott Moloney

Ritchie Sutton - a former Dabbers manager during their tough 2022-2023 campaign - had his hands full with the tall, aggressive frame of Joe Piggott up front for the away side. the pair came together inside the Hednesford penalty area in the sixth minute as Piggott managed to get the better of the veteran defender momentarily, only for a smothering block from the 37-year-old to deny him a clear sight at goal

Dan Gyasi - Saturday's villain of the piece after missing a penalty at Trafford - went on a mazy run down the right for the Pitmen in the ninth minute as he teased his way past Perry Bircumshaw and drove into the box, only to have his pocket picked by the covering Nathan Okome

Nantwich were looking to play the ball long to their big front men at every opportunity and were rewarded for this with the game's opening goal of the afternoon in the thirteenth minute; Piggott brought the ball down on the left side of the penalty area and drove into the box before squaring the ball across the face of goal to Harrison, who had the simple task of following the ball into the empty net from a matter of inches out. A simple goal and more questionable defending from a porous and lacklustre Hednedsford back line, who had allowed Piggott time and space to pick out Harrison in the centre of goal

Nantwich's Jake Kirby looked to take advantage of more poor defending from the Pitmen three minutes later as he made an unchallenged run deep into the Hednesford half before Josh Endall's block tackle finally stopped him from getting a shot away twenty yards from goal

Kieran Boucher was called upon to make his first meaningful contribution to the game on twenty-one minutes as he dived full length to his left-hand side to claim a low, driven shot from Raffie after the former FC United of Manchester forward had cut inside from the right and fired in a shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area. The Pitmen quickly recycled the ball well as they worked it out to Gyasi on the right, who showed excellent footwork to escape the attention of Bircumshaw and cut into the penalty area. Just as it looked as though he had perhaps done a little too much, the former Redditch man executed a low driven shot beyond the reach of Moloney and found the far corner of the net with a fine finish. It was Gyasi's first goal for the club since arriving from Boldmere St. Michaels earlier this month

Back came the visitors, with a corner kick finding its way through to Kirby on twenty-six minutes, only for the former Stockport County midfielder to lift his rushed effort over the crossbar as Endall closed him down


Raffie wasted a good chance on the half-hour mark as he controlled Piggott's knockdown well but got the ball caught under his feet inside the penalty area and allowed Sutton to recover and clear the danger before he could turn and shoot

However, Nantwich did get themselves back in front on thirty-three minutes as a free-kick from Bircumshaw on the left dropped to Piggott, whose fierce rising effort from an angle struck the underside of the crossbar and came back out into play. With the Pitmen ball-watching once more, Kirby reacted quickest as he slid in and turned the rebound home from six yards out with a left-footed effort

The home side were once again stung into action after seeing all their hard work to get back into the game taken apart with Nantwich's second goal. More good wing play from Gyasi on thirty-five minutes saw the winger dance past two men in yellow and stand up a cross for Will Mellors-Blair, whose header drifted just wide of the far post, much to the frustration of the striker

Nantwich continued to look a threat in the final third, with Paddy Kay driving an ambitious effort well wide of Boucher's goal on thirty-seven minutes after more good hold-up play from Piggott

Gyasi picked up the game's first booking from referee Mr Wall on thirty-seven minutes after he disagreed with the official's decision to award a free-kick against for a challenge on Bircumshaw

A minute later, Jack Kelly also picked up a yellow card for his troubles as he brought down Raffie on the Nantwich right to stop him from breaking into space behind the full-back

Kay was again involved for the away side on forty-two minutes as his free-kick was played deep into the penalty area as he aimed for Harrison, only for the excellent Endall to clear his lines

As the game drifted into four added minutes at the end of the first half, Dabbers skipper Troy Bourne also picked up a booking from the match official for a foul on the lively Verma, who had kept the Nantwich full-back on his toes throughout the first period


Nantwich had been good value for their half-time lead after controlling long periods of the first half and giving the nervy and disjointed Hednesford defence issues with their direct and aggressive attacking play. Star man Verma and Gyasi had been lively down each flank but had struggled to make much headway against a well-drilled Dabbers defence to be able to create any real openings for the home side thus far

The Pitmen continued to plod their way through proceedings at the start of the second half, with Nantwich going close to extending their lead on forty-nine minutes as Kay did well to win possession off Kelly and tried an audacious curling effort from the corner of the penalty area that drifted just over Boucher's crossbar

A frustrated Harris had seen enough from his misfiring side and made a change on fifty-four minutes as Thompson came on up front to play as a target man as he replaced the ineffective Carvell, who had barely been involved in play thus far

This was to prove a bit of a turning point in the game, with the Pitmen now playing with two up top and having a target man to hit in the form of the tall, athletic Thompson. Neat play from Thompson on fifty-seven minutes saw him hold the ball up well and play the ball out to Verma, who managed to wriggle past two challenges despite Nantwich doubling up on him, only to see his low blocked

On fifty-eight minutes, Piggott went close for the Dabbers with a similar effort to one from Kay at the start of the second half as his cross-cum-shot from the edge of the penalty area drifted over the head of Boucher  and dropped narrowly over the crossbar

Two minutes later, Harrison looked to take advantage of Boucher's slow reactions to a backpass from Williams and came within a whisker of charging the goalkeeper's rushed clearance down just inside his penalty area

Midway through the second half, Nantwich made their first change of the afternoon as Evans came on in place of goalscorer Kirby to play up with Harrison and Piggott

Gyasi was continuing to give the visitors issues with his pace down the right, skinning Bircumshaw with a marauding run on sixty-seven minutes and crossing deep into the box where Okome had to head away from goal with Mellors-Blair looking to turn the ball home from close range

Moloney made a great save to keep his side in front with twenty minutes remaining as Kelly's deep corner kick dropped onto the boot of the unmarked Gyasi, who executed a superb dipping volley at goal that was brilliantly saved by the stopper at his far post to deny the winger his second goal of the afternoon

Nantwich felt that Endall got away with a blatant handball offence four minutes later as he charged down an effort from Harrison on the edge of the penalty area, only for Mr Wall to deny the Dabbers a free-kick as he believed that Endall's arm was down by his side and was too close to his body for it to be a legitimate handball

Carden took his protests about the handball a little too far for the referee's liking and after a break in play a couple of minutes later, Mr Wall went back and retrospectively booked Carden for dissent

The Pitmen started to turn the screw on Nantwich as we headed towards the final ten minutes of the game, with Moloney having to come out of his six-yard box and punch away a Kelly corner kick from off the head of Mellors-Blair at the near post to deny the striker

On seventy-nine minutes, Nantwich made a more defensively-minded change as defender Amir Tavakoli came on to shore up the Dabbers back line as he replaced Raffie

A minute later, Boucher made an unconvincing stop to deny Piggott as the striker's low effort was fumbled away from goal by the stopper, who had to rely on the presence of Endall to complete the clearance

Still the Pitmen pressed, and with five minutes remaining they got back onto level terms through that man Verma. Mellors-Blair held the ball up twenty-five yards from goal before slipping the ball into the path of the former Stoke City starlet, who showed excellent footwork to work space for himself as he stepped past Bourne before firing an unstoppable effort on his weaker left foot beyond Moloney and into the net from fifteen yards out. A superb strike from the winger

Before the game could restart, the hosts made their second change of the afternoon as Kaden May came on in place of goalscorer Gyasi to add his pace to proceedings as the Pitmen went in search of a winner


With time about to tick into six added minutes, the Pitmen were handed a glorious chance to win three games as they were awarded their second penalty kick in three days; Kelly's corner kick on the left was headed back to him by Piggott at the near post, with the left-back swinging deep cross back into the box where Endall had his shirt tugged by Bourne as the pair tussled. Mr Wall had no hesitation in awarding the Pitmen a spot-kick and sending Bourne off for a second bookable offence for the shirt pull. Unbelievably, it was Bourne's FOURTH red card of the season already and his second in successive games, meaning he now faces a seven-match ban for his latest indiscretion. After a spell of gamesmanship from the visitors where players appeared to fake cramp in a bid to break the game up, skipper Thorley stepped up to send Moloney the wrong way from the spot and spark wild celebrations amongst the Heath Hayes terrace, with some of the more excitable fans spilling onto the pitch to celebrate with the players

Deep into added time, Endall and Evans had a coming together just outside the Hednesford penalty area, leading to a bout of pushing and shoving between both sets of players that saw both players pick up a booking apiece for their part in the ruckus

With Nantwich down to ten men, Hednesford were able to hang on for three absolutely priceless points, lifting them off the foot of the league table coupled with 1874 Northwich's defeat to local rivals Witton Albion this afternoon. The Pitmen now face a local derby of their own on New Year's Day as they make the short hop over to Burntwood to face mid-table Chasetown and their new 4G pitch

Hednesford Town: Boucher, Williams, Kelly , Thorley ©, Sutton, Endall , Verma, McQuilkin, Mellors-Blair, Gyasi (May 86), Carvell (Thompson 54).    Subs Unused: Morley, Gwilt, Niven

Nantwich Town: Moloney, Bourne  (90) ©, Bircumshaw, Connolly, Okome, Butler, Raffie (Tavakoli 80), Kay, Harrison, Piggott , Kirby (Evans 66)      Subs Unused: Roberts, Holden, Saunders


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