8.1.2022

Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Needham Market

Sayer (14), Hammond (22), Page (69)

Hednesford Town

O'Sullivan (15), Parker (35), Flanagan (62)

(2) 3

(2) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

236

Chay Tilt

L L L D L W L D D D

 

Peterborough Sports (H) 22.1.22

Hednesford earn themselves a point at Needham Market this afternoon in their first game of 2022 but have to come from behind twice to do so against the Marketmen

 

After an enforced break due to the cancellation of their New Year’s Day derby at Tamworth, the Pitmen returned to action with a new face in the ranks after capturing the experienced Kyle Bennett from AFC Telford United. He went straight into the side for today’s game as one of two changes to the side that had last played against Rushall Olympic on 27th December, replacing Josh Endall, with Carter Lycett returning at left-back to replace the now-departed Patrick Fini. Fini’s departure had been swiftly followed by that of Jono Brown and Andre Brown, who had been released by the club after not featuring in recent games

 

The Pitmen were taking on a Needham Market side that had been in excellent recent form, with only one defeat in their past nine games, including progress in the F.A. Trophy after beating National League side Wealdstone just before Christmas to move into the fourth round and a clash against Yeovil Town. Manager Kevin Horlock had seen his side pick up an excellent draw against high-flying Peterborough Sports on Tuesday night and made three changes to his side for today’s game as Kyle Hammond, Noah Collard and Harvey Sayer came in for Hugh Cullum, Taylor Clark and Tom Maycock

The Bloomfields pitch had been left heavy and muddy after the recent wet spell of weather and there had been some doubt as to whether the game was going to go ahead with several games in the league being called off. The Pitmen made the first decent opening of the game in the fifth minute as Riley O'Sullivan picked the pocket of left-back Callum Sturgess and played new boy Bennett in on goal. He in turn slipped the ball into the path of George Cater, whose low angled drive was turned away by the legs of Needham Market goalkeeper Marcus Garnham

Cater was involved for the visitors again three minutes later as he won a free-kick wide on the left flank, allowing Carter Lycett to play him in down the flank with a quickly-taken kick. After drifting inside of Sayer's challenge, Cater attempted a curling shot from just inside the Needham Market penalty area that sailed harmlessly over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net

Bradley Clarkson - now the unchallenged number one at the club following the departures of Oliver Basey and Jono Brown - was called upon for the first time two minutes later as a dangerous left-footed free-kick from Sayer from the Marketmen left bounced in his six-yard box, with the stopper claiming the ball ahead of Noah Collard from close-range to deny the midfielder a tap-in

 

In the fourteenth minute, Needham Market took the lead as they won a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area after Lycett had fouled Sayer. The winger took the kick himself and executed a fine curling shot around the Hednesford wall and beyond the reach of the dive of Clarkson to make it 1-0 to the hosts

However, the Pitmen struck back almost immediately as Riley O’Sullivan finally ended his goal drought with a quickfire equaliser for the visitors; Reece Flanagan's ball forwards found Cater making a run down the right flank, with the former Chasetown man standing up a fine cross to the far post where O’Sullivan was on hand to head the ball over the line, despite Garnham's best attempts to claw the ball away on his line. It was only O'Sullivan's second goal for the club but an important one that ended a run of eleven games without a goal for the former Coventry United man

Good paly from the hosts on the pudding of a pitch in the eighteenth minute saw Sayer once again involved as he teased his way past Lycett and crossed to the far post where Luke Ingram tamely turned his sidefooted effort well wide of goal, under pressure from skipper Ben Bailey

Midway through the half, however, the hosts re-took the lead as another free-kick was to prove the Pitmen’s undoing once more. Callum Page took a free-kick out on the left wing and floated in a dangerous ball that somehow found Hammond unmarked, with the midfielder tapping home from close-range to restore the Marketmen’s advantage. Poor marking from the Pitmen and another gift of a goal for Needham Market; Hednesford have now conceded two goals or more in eleven of their last fifteen games, which is a damning statistic

Patient build-up play from the visitors on twenty-six minutes saw Todd Parker, Bennett and Wes Atkinson all involved down the right flank for the Pitmen, with Bennett eventually supplying a fine low cross into the feet of O'Sullivan at the far post. The striker was denied a simple tap-in by the presence of Jake Dye, who produced a last-ditch challenge to toe-poke the ball away from O'Sullivan before he could apply the finish from six yards out

A corner kick from the hosts on thirty-one minutes saw Sayer deliver a fine cross to the far post that was dealt with by Lewis Ison, getting his head underneath the ball to clear the danger as he was pressurised by skipper Kieran Morphew

The hosts worked the ball from right to left three minutes later as Sayer and Collar played the ball out to Ben Fowkes, in space to the left of the Hednesford penalty area. Atkinson did well to force him wide but could not stop the cross, which Clarkson had to field low don at his near post before Ingram could apply the finish

With seven minutes of the first half remaining, the Pitmen pulled themselves level once more as neat play from the all-blue visitors saw more patient link-up saw Parker and Chay Tilt exchange passes to play Parker into space to the right-hand side of the Needham Market penalty area, with the youngster showing a cool head to steady himself and slide the ball past Garnham and into the far corner of the net to make it 2-2 from a tight angle

The game was quickly moving from end to end, much like a cup-tie, as both sides continued to press at will. On forty minutes, Sayer's neat threaded pass from midfield found Page, who in turn worked the ball out to left for Fowkes. He did well to get past Atkinson but saw his angled drive easily saved by Clarkson at his near post once more

With a minute of the half remaining, Page escaped the attentions of the Hednesford defence as he got on the end of a raking pass from skipper Morphew to receive the ball down the right. He tricked his way past Ison and sent over a cross to the far post, where Fowkes pulled the ball back to Ingram; his low shot was blocked by Flanagan but only as far as Dan Morphew, who lashed his shot well over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area

It had been a thoroughly entertaining encounter thus far with both sides throwing caution to the wind going forwards. You did feel that this was not to be the end of the scoring, as neither side had sufficient quality at the back to combat the opposition attack

Fowkes was first to strike a shot at goal in the second period as he picked up a pass from Sayer in the fiftieth minute and got the better of Atkinson as he worked the ball onto his right foot, only for his low, scuffed effort to end up in the arms of Clarkson once more

More pressing high up from the hosts on fifty-four minutes saw Ingram control a long punt forwards from Kieran Morphew and hold off Bailey's challenge before laying the ball off to Collard, whose wild effort sailed high over the bar and did not trouble Clarkson

The busy and dangerous Tilt produced a great piece of wing wizardry on fifty-seven minutes to get past Sturgess and cross for O'Sullivan, who could only bundle the ball straight into the arms of Garnham as he headed the ball down into the ground

The Pitmen took the lead for the first time in the game just after the hour mark as a corner kick from Flanagan was punched clear at his near post by Garnham and back into the path of the taker, who picked up the rebound and drove home a fine goal from a tight angle as he beat the stopper at his near post with a powerful effort

The visitors had their tails up and could have added a fourth goal three minutes later as Tilt got the better of Dye down the flank and crossed low for O'Sullivan, who was crowded out by the retreating Needham market defenders. Bennett picked up the loose ball and found Tilt again, who whipped in another cross to the near post that Kieran Morphew's header had to be claimed at his near post by Garnham to prevent an embarrassing own goal

The Pitmen made their first substitution of the afternoon on sixty-six minutes as there was a change at left-back with youngster Tom Armitage coming on in place of fellow teenager Lycett

 

But again, the Pitmen’s flaky defensive resolve was shown up once more as Needham Market equalised again on sixty-nine minutes as Hammond’s pass was completely missed by Bailey, allowing Ingram to run into acres of space down the right flank. He cut inside and tried his luck with a left-footed shot, but found Ison in the way of his effort as he deflected the ball away. The Marketmen recycled the ball well down the right flank once more and a first-time cross  was volleyed goalwards by Page, who saw his effort take an almighty deflection off Ison which diverted the ball past Clarkson via a touch off the post

A delightful touch from Tilt on seventy-two minutes saw him turn past Sturgess tight to the touchline and make his way to the byeline, crossing into the six-yard box where O'Sullivan inexplicably side-footed his effort over the crossbar. A poor miss and one he really should have taken

Bennett and Tilt were developing a good understanding as the pair linked up once more on seventy-six minutes with Bennett playing Tilt into space down the right with a slide-rule pass. He once again tied Sturgess up in knots with his wing play and drove his cross into the near post, where Garnham made a smothering save ahead of Cater

After such excitement earlier in the game, the chances started to dissipate in the final minutes as the conditions worsened and the pitch became greasy and slippery. Armitage made a good run down the flank on eighty-two minutes but his chipped cross towards O'Sullivan was easily claimed by Garnham

With five minutes remaining, Bennett was replaced by Andre Landell for the final minutes after an encouraging debut from the attacking midfielder, who had shown plenty of nice touches and maturity on the ball

On eighty-eight minutes, Sayer nicked the ball from Armitage and made his way into the Hednesford penalty area but drilled his low shot at goal straight into the shins of Ison and the centre-back was able to clear the danger away from Ingram

 

A point apiece means that it is now only one win in the past eleven games for the Pitmen, who remain ninth in the table by virtue of the fact that most of today’s league programme was wiped out due to COVID cases. Next weekend is now a free week for the Pitmen after scheduled opponents Stourbridge made progress in the F.A. Trophy and will now face Guiseley in next Saturday’s fourth-round tie. Meakin-Richards’ side face Peterborough Sports when they return to action, hosting the third-placed Turbines for the second time this season after Peterborough’s F.A. Trophy win there back in October

Needham Market:​ Garnham, Dye, Sturgess, Hammond, K. Morphew ©, D. Morphew, Sayer, Collard, Ingram, Page, Fowkes (Mpongo 68)      Subs Unused: Maycock, Clark, Northwood, Cullum

Hednesford Town: Clarkson, Atkinson, Lycett (Armitage 66), Bailey ©, Ison, Flanagan, Cater, Parker, O'Sullivan, Bennett (Landell 85), Tilt       Subs Unused: Riley, Master, Webb