11.9.2010

F.A. Cup 1st Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Durrell (10)

Newcastle Town

Johnson (40) (penalty), Morton (55)

(1) 1

(1) 2

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Elliott Durrell

L W W L W D L L

Swindon Supermarine (H) 14.9.10

Well, perhaps it should have been inevitable... the Pitmen's nightmare F.A. Cup record of recent years continued in earnest this afternoon, as high-flying Evo-Stik Division One side Newcastle Town join the list of lower league opponents to have defeated Hednesford in this competition

Having lost narrowly to Truro last Saturday, Bernard McNally was forced into changes in defence; Scott Fuller's hamstring injury ruled him out of contention, with Cheyenne Dunkley returning to the first team in his place. Jimmy Turner was also ruled out through injury, with Louis Keenan making his first start for the club as Turner's replacement

Despite plying their trade at step four, Newcastle made the short trip down the M6 from Stoke in superb form, sitting second in the Evo-Stik Division One South table after picking up thirteen points out of fifteen already this season. Former Hednesford striker Alan Nagington was the one recognisable name amongst the Newcastle ranks, although there were a number of players previously of Leek Town in the Blues' ranks who have crossed swords with the Pitmen in recent seasons

Having been humbled by Hereford-based Pegasus Juniors at the same stage last season, the Pitmen started with a determination not to suffer the same fate as their 09-10 counterparts. Mark Bellingham was making a nuisance of himself in the first ten minutes, forcing Newcastle keeper Daniel Read into a rushed early clearance after the ball had been played back to him with very little pace on it

Hednesford's early pressure paid dividends on ten minutes, as the influential Durrell got the hosts off to the perfect start. Bellingham picked the ball up, held it well on the edge of the area before slipping the ball through to Durrell, who made a darting run into the inside right position. After steadying himself, the forward rifled a low shot across Read, with the keeper making a meal of his save as he allowed the ball to squirm under his body and let the ball find the corner of the net

One lesson to learn from previous horror shows involving the Pitmen is that you should never drop off and allow the opposition back into the game once you have taken the lead. This happened in 2008-2009 against Atherstone, and in 2009-2010 against Pegasus. The players failed to heed this warning, however, and let Newcastle come at them

Within five minutes of the Pitmen opening the scoring, Newcastle's Chris Budrys was presented with a great opportunity to equalise for the Evo-Stik high-flyers, getting on the end of former Hednesford striker Alan Nagington's through ball and holding off Dunkley before firing over Dan Crane's crossbar

Newcastle's Ryan Dicker followed up seven minutes later with a well-hit shot from twenty yards that flew narrowly over the crossbar

The pressure on Hednesford's creaky defence continued on twenty-six minutes, with Mickey Morton wasting an excellent opportunity to put Newcastle level. Morton found himself unmarked in the six-yard box as he picked up Dicker's ball, but put his close-range shot wide of goal when it looked easier to score

The Pitmen were struggling to deal with Newcastle's movement and pace and were limited to counter-attacks as a way of relieving pressure on their defenders. Kyle Patterson raced onto a through ball from Chris Clements on thirty-four minutes, out-muscling his marker before firing weakly at Read

Newcastle finally got their reward five minutes before half time, although they were gifted an opportunity to equalise thanks to Ben Bailey, who put out a leg and tripped Morton just inside the area, leaving the referee with little choice but to award a penalty. Jordan Johnson took the kick and had the confidence to send Crane the wrong way with a deft chip into the left-hand corner of the net

McNally took the decision to replace Liam Francis at half time, bringing on club captain Sean Platt in his place after Francis had had a nightmare first half. On paper, this appeared to give the Pitmen a better balance to their defence, but in reality, the hosts struggled to get a foothold in the game as the second half kicked off

Nagington was first to fire in a warning shot, getting the better of Keenan before firing narrowly wide of Crane's left-hand post on forty-eight minutes

Hednesford failed to respond and on fifty-five minutes suffered a sucker punch; Ian Willis broke clear, playing the ball into Morton who hit a first-time shot past Crane and into the top corner of the net

In response... well, very little from the Pitmen, as the Newcastle goal seemed to deflate them. Their passing became sloppy, giving away needless throw-ins and free kicks, with Patterson and Bellingham starved of any support up top

Morton's afternoon swung very much the wrong way on sixty nine minutes, as he caught his foot in the turf clearing a ball, twisting his leg in the wrong direction. There was immediate concern for the Newcastle man, who lay motionless on the turf. after nearly ten minutes of treatment, Morton was stretchered off, with what turned out to be a broken tibia and fibia

By this point, Hednesford had made a double change up front, with Alfie Carter replacing Jamey Osborne and Dorryl Proffitt coming on in place of a visibly frustrated Bellingham

The final twenty minutes saw Hednesford playing with essentially four strikers, with Patterson, Durrell, Carter and Proffitt all searching for an unlikely equaliser. It is to Newcastle's credit that the Pitmen failed to test Read in the final quarter, despite the personnel up front

Indeed, it looked more likely that Newcastle would put the game to bed with a third goal of their own in the latter stages, with Nagington beating Bailey for pace before prodding the ball wide on eighty minutes

Durrell tried to drag the Pitmen forward with five minutes left, going on a darting run across the edge of the area before being crudely brought down. The playmaker picked himself up and took the resultant kick, but his shot pretty much summed up Hednesford's afternoon - off-target, lacking direction and wasteful

A chorus of boos greeted the players at the final whistle, with a number of supporters calling into question McNally's ability to raise his troops in must-win games. Whether it's true or not, McNally cannot afford many more bad days at the office like this 

Newcastle Town: Read, Espley, Willis, Donnelly ©, Dicker, Douglas, Johnson, Morton (Teague 75), Budrys, Nagington, Skelton (James 67)      Subs Unused: Diskin, Cliffe

Hednesford Town: Crane, Bailey, Keenan, Francis (Platt 45), Dunkley, Denny, Durrell, Clements, Bellingham © (Proffitt 66), Patterson, Osborne (Carter 58)      Subs Unused: Overfield, Brock

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