Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

S. Evans (60)

Newport County

Eckhart (10), Davis (13)

(0) 1

(2) 2 




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Carl Palmer



Weston-Super-Mare (A) 25.11.03

A familiar face was to end the Pitmen's recent excellent run of form this afternoon at Keys Park, as former Hednesford favourite Neil Davis strikes what was to prove the winner for Newport County and end Hednesford's five match winning run in the process

Four wins in succession saw manager Barry Powell resist the temptation to make any changes to his starting line-up and stuck with the XI that had beaten Worcester City at St. Georges Park last weekend. Winger Steve Evans was making his full home debut for the club after missing the first three months of the season due to injury and had been impressive on his debut at Worcester down the flank

Newport had been impressive on the road so far this season, winning four games already this term away from Spytty Park whilst struggling for wins at their athletics stadium home to leave the Exiles sitting in mid-table ahead of today's game. Manager Peter Nicholas made two changes to the side that had drawn a blank in last weekend 0-0 dark at hometown Dorchester Town, bringing Davis back in ahead of Raith Plant and Scott Morgan favoured at full-back to Steven Williams

Heavy rain on the Keys Park pitch earlier in the day had left a slick surface for the sides to play on at 3pm, with more rain forecast to fall as the game moved into it's later stages. Newport found the conditions more to their liking in the early stages of the game and almost took the lead in the fifth minute as Gareth Phillips got the better of Darren Simkin as he controlled an Andrew Mumford pass, but lashed his rushed shot well wide of goal from fifteen yards out

However, the visitors were rewarded for their assertive start as they essentially put the game beyond their hosts with a quick fire double strike inside the first thirteen minutes. In the tenth minute of the game a free-kick out on the right hand side was taken by Mumford, whose inswinging cross was met by County skipper Jeff Eckhardt, whose powerful header nestled into the far corner, beyond the reach of Hednesford keeper Ryan Young

The Pitmen were still trying to get themselves back into position when they were hit with a sucker punch three minutes later in similar circumstances to the first goal; Mumford was the provider once again but from a corner kick this time, clipping the ball into the near post where former Hednesford striker Davis neatly headed home for his seventh goal of the season

The hosts were stunned - confidence was high and form was good going into today's game, but away day specialists Newport had hit them early and hard to leave them with a mountain to climb after only fifteen minutes of the game gone

The Pitmen started to come back into contention and create openings of their own, with Steve Evans heavily involved in many of their more positive moves forward. A superb cross from the former Tamworth man on eighteen minutes was turned into his own side netting by Eckhardt, under pressure from Steve Anthrobus


Two minutes later, Anthrobus and Evans linked up well again to set up the in-form Mark Danks, only for Evans's inswinging cross to just evade the boot of the striker at the far post as he looked to tap the ball home past Newport keeper Duncan Roberts

Chris Brindley headed wide of goal three minutes later from a Les Hines cross, before a typically powerful run by Carl Palmer saw him hold off a challenge from Mumford long enough to play the balling Anthrobus, only for the big striker to turn and fire well wide of goal


Carl Palmer linked up well with Chris Gray on twenty-seven minutes, playing a fine sweeping ball out to the winger form the centre circle and making a run into the penalty area to offer himself at the other end. Gray's cross evaded Palmer but did find Steve Evans, whose ball back across the face of the Newport penalty area was hacked clear by the retreating Eckhardt


At the other end, Newport remained dangerous from set-pieces as Eckhardt flicked on a Mumford free-kick and into the path of Davis, whose prod goalwards was hacked clear by Hines inside the Hednesford six yard box


A speculative effort from Newport's Terry Evans almost added to the Pitmen's misery on thirty-six minutes as the full-back's shot from fully thirty-five yards out bounced and skipped off the wet surface and into Young's hands after the Hednesford keeper had sized up the shot and managed to get his body behind the bouncing ball

Danks won a free-kick for the Pitmen just outside the penalty area on forty minutes to give Simkin the chance to strike a shot at goal but could only lift his effort high over Roberts' crossbar

With half-time looming, Brindley lumped a hopeful ball forwards out of defence and found the head of Anthrobus, whose glancing header found Gray in behind the Newport defence. However, a late offside flag on the Wimblebury side of the ground denied Gray a clear shot at goal as he bore down on Roberts

Powell's half-time rollocking of his under-performing players seemed to have the desired effect as the hosts emerged with more purpose in the opening stages of the second half. Steve Palmer drove a shot just over the crossbar on forty-seven minutes, followed four minutes later by a run from the Hednesford skipper from deep in midfield that saw him create space to play Steve Evans in down the left wing. Evans did well to step inside Morgan and try his luck with a curling shot, but could only curl his shot wide of the far post

Roberts made a good save to deny Gray on fifty-four minutes after the winger had ghosted in behind the Newport defence to get on the end of a Carl Palmer pass and steered the ball towards goal

The Pitmen continued to put pressure on the Newport defence with Carl Palmer playing a quick one-two with namesake Steve from a free-kick and crossing to the far post where Danks shot wide with a first-time effort

The home side's persistence finally paid off on the hour mark as they got themselves back into the game with a first-ever Hednesford goal for Steve Evans; Hines delivered another one of his fine free-kicks into the penalty area from a wide area, with the ball somehow finding it's way through a forest of legs to Evans, who was lurking at the far post. The winger drove his shot back across goal and through the retreating Newport defence, finding the far corner of the net to reduce arrears

With their tails up and with something to play for at last, the hosts pressed the Newport defence in search of an equaliser that had looked barely likely forty minutes earlier. Gray led Terry Evans a merry dance down the wing on sixty-five minutes and got to the byeline, pulling the ball back into the danger zone where the ball was lifted into the Heath Hayes terrace by Carl Palmer's wild shot from twelve yards out

Three minutes later, Alex Gibson strode forwards to give Gray an overlap down the right, collecting Gray's pass and crossing deep to the far post where Anthrobus headed weakly into the hands of Roberts

Newport were playing on the counter-attack as they soaked up the Hednesford pressure and looked to catch the Hednesford defence napping. Davis played a delightful pass round the corner and into the path of strike partner John Phillips, only for the alert Hines to make a timely challenge to deny the quiet Newport striker a clean strike at goal

Hines was involved at the other end of the pitch on seventy-one minutes, swinging in a corner kick that was partially cleared by the Newport defence and played back to him by Simkin. Hines's second effort found the head of Carl Palmer, who couldn't keep his effort down and glanced the ball narrowly over the crossbar

Nathan Lamey was introduced into the game on seventy-four minutes in place of the tiring Steve Evans as the hosts went to three up top as Lamey went to join Danks and Anthrobus in a bid to force home an equaliser

With eleven minutes remaining, a mistake by Morgan allowed Gray to rob the ball from him just outside the Newport penalty area and cross for Anthrobus, who took his eye off the ball momentarily and produced an air shot as he completely missed the ball as it skipped past him

Three minutes later, Danks showed a clean pair of heels to Nathan Davies as he turned well from Carl Palmer's pass before playing Lamey into the Newport penalty area down the left. Lamey's cross towards Anthrobus took nick off Eckhardt's knee, which did enough to divert the ball away from the veteran striker's boot as he stretched to meet the ball

With four minutes remaining, Brindley's downward header from a Hines free-kick bounced around the Newport six-yard box before being cleared by Davies to Hines, who crossed once more for Simkin to head wide at the far post

As the game headed into added time, the Pitmen became desperate in search of that elusive equalising goal, sending Brindley up front for the final minutes to add height to the attack. Hines sent over successive corner kicks aimed at the veteran defender, but excellent defending from Eckhardt and his defensive line denied the Pitmen any further clear-cut opportunities as Newport earned themselves another fine away-day win

It had been a disappointing afternoon for the Pitmen, who will rue the missed opportunities of the second half to right the wrongs of a crazy three minute spell early in the game that essentially consigned them to defeat. Powell's side will be looking for an immediate response to this defeat on Tuesday night when they make the long trip down to Weston-Super-Mare

Hednesford Town: Young, Gibson, Hines, S. Evans (Lamey 74), Brindley, Simkin, C. Palmer, S. Palmer ©, Anthrobus, Danks, Gray      Subs Unused: Williams, Dodd, Brown, P. Evans

Newport County: Roberts, T. Evans, Morgan, Davies, Eckhardt ©, Thomas, Mumford, Jones, Davis, J. Phillips (Plant 74), G. Phillips      Subs Unused: S. Williams, A. Williams, O'Sullivan, Wesson