31.3.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Nantwich Town

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Chris Shaw

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Kendal Town (H) 7.4.12

Having recovered from the 5-1 mauling at Chorley the previous week, manager Rob Smith made changes to his misfiring side for the game against mid-table Nantwich

 

Liam Blakeman made only his second start for the Pitmen since rejoining the side in January, replacing Nick Wellecomme at number nine. Jamey Osborne was also restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Ben Jevons. The bench was completed by loanee Michael Ordish, who was fit again after suffering an injury on his debut at Burscough

Blakeman was quickly into the action on four minutes, picking up a loose ball and firing over the bar from long range as the Nantwich defenders looked to close the midfielder down

Jimmy Quinn's Dabbers responded with a superb chance on eight minutes; A Casper Hughes free-kick was not dealt with, allowing Si Everall to ghost in at the far post and head against the post

The Pitmen were forced into an early substitution on fourteen minutes, as Gary Hay limped off the pitch with a leg injury. Rather than replace him with Wellecomme as many expected, Smith instead decided to introduce Andre Landell as the lone striker

The introduction of Landell gave the Pitmen pace and movement up front, but in the air Nantwich dominated, with giant number five Mat Bailey unchallenged on any ball pumped forward in the direction of the Nantwich penalty area

It took until twenty-six minutes for the hosts to register another shot on target, as Bailey's clearance only dropped as far as Chris Clements, who fired in a low shot from twenty yards. Jonny Brain in the Northwich goal made a superb one-handed save down to his left, denying Clements a fifteenth goal of the season

After Bailey had headed over from a Hughes free kick on the half-hour, former Hednesford captain Dave MacPherson should have broken the deadlock, as he got on the end of a Tom Unwin corner kick and fired towards goal. Dan Crane saw the danger early and made a good save to deny the midfielder

Nantwich finished the half strongly, winning a succession of corner kicks in the final five minutes of the half. However, they failed to test Crane further, as a combination of headers from the impressive Jermaine Johnson and the no-nonsense clearances of Chris Shaw dealt well with the threat

The Pitmen made a decent start to the second period, with Osborne's trickery forcing him forward with the first attack of the half. His shot from just outside the area was wayward, however, and only succeeded in firing the ball into the Hednesford supporters in the Heath Hayes end

Jay Denny's contribution to the side should never be underestimated, as the skipper continued to put in a tremendous amount of effort for the cause in midfield. A Clements free-kick eventually found its way to Denny on fifty-five minutes, dropping to him at the far post. His clever attempted lob back across the goal was spotted by Brain, who managed to climb high and pluck the ball out of the air

Two minutes later, loanee Sam Craven was replaced by Elliott Durrell, adding greater urgency to the Hednesford forward line with the introduction of the playmaker

Hednesford's lack of cutting edge became more apparent from a series of set-pieces, with Bailey, Brain and MacPherson all dealing comfortably with balls in from Clements and Durrell

Wellecomme was finally introduced into the action on sixty-seven minutes, replacing Blakeman up front after the former Southport man had faded in the second half

A golden opportunity fell to the feet of Everall on sixty-nine minutes, as Chris Flynn flicked a long ball into the path of the forward, only for him to strike the ball wide of Crane's left-hand post

Man of the match Shaw was wasteful with a half-chance a minute later, driving the ball well over the crossbar after the ball was laid into his path as he strode forward

Wellecomme's physical presence nearly earned him a goal on seventy-five minutes, but his shot on the turn failed to test Brain down at the foot of his post

Despite the Pitmen creating a number of half-chances, it was Nantwich who were crafting the clearer opportunities. Danger man Michael Lennon made inroads into the Hednesford defence and played the ball into the path of substitute Josh Lane, who wasted a great chance by firing over from just a few yards out

With time running out, the Pitmen launched a late assault on the Nantwich goal and thought they had grabbed a priceless winner with six minutes remaining. Clements sent over a swerving free-kick that Dunkley headed downwards. Landell stole in ahead of the pack to head into the empty net, only for his celebrations to be curbed by a late, and mysterious, offside flag

With two minutes remaining, another Clements ball in found Dunkley lurking once again, with the defender volleying agonisingly wide of the post

And yet it was Nantwich who should have taken all three points in stoppage time, as Urwin's through ball found Sean Cooke, but he lacked composure as he approached goal and fired wide

Another two points lost for the home side, who later found out that every side above them, plus seventh-placed Marine, had all won their games, leaving them with a severe test if they are to make the end of season shake-up. A minimum of five wins is a likely ask, and with Smith's men in such indifferent form - especially at Keys Park - this seems a very big ask at present

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Shaw, Dunkley, Johnson, Denny ©, Osborne, Clements, Blakeman (Wellecomme 67), Hay (Landell 14), Craven (Durrell 56)      Subs Unused: Jevons, Ordish

Nantwich Town: Brain, Lowe, White, Hughes (Cooke 79), Bailey ©, McDonald, Urwin, MacPherson, Everall (Lane 72), Lennon, Foster (Flynn 64)      Subs Unused: Maguire, Moss

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