25.3.2002

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Lake (5), Brownrigg (21), Davis (44)

Newport County

Paul (81), Eckhardt (89)

(3) 3

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

620

Stewart Airdrie

W L W W D L L L W W

 

Moor Green (H) 30.3.02

Two wins in three days has lifted the Pitmen to the heady heights of fifteenth place in the Dr. Martens League table as they inch their way past Newport County in the ultimate game of two halves at Keys Park this Easter Bank Holiday Monday afternoon

 

Saturday's 4-0 win over Weymouth had given the Pitmen a real boost going into tonight's re-arranged home game with the Exiles and kept them above the dreaded drop zone in the process. Manager Kenny Hibbitt was forced into one change to the side that had started at the Wessex Stadium on Saturday as Wayne Simpson was ruled out with an ankle injury and was replaced by Andy Brownrigg at the base of the midfield. Kevin Francis has shaken off his injury issues sufficiently to be named as one of the substitutes for tonight's game

 

Newport's first-ever visit to Hednesford came off the back of a weekend defeat at Folkestone Invicta, which had been their first defeat on the road since 30th January. This left Tim Harris's men in eighth place in the table going into tonight's encounter, with Harris making one change to his side as Nathan Davies came in for the injured Michael Fowler

 

A cool afternoon at Keys Park warmed up almost immediately as the home side surged forward from the off as they looked to carry on their winning form from Saturday into tonight's game; in the fifth minute of the game, the excellent Stewart Airdrie got down the right flank and sent over a cross that the experienced Pat Mountain made a complete mess of in the Newport goal, fumbling the ball at the feet of Stuart Lake who managed to hook the loose ball over the Newport stopper and into the empty net from an angle to open the scoring; it was Lake's third goal in the past three games as his personal form mirrored that of the side around him

 

Neil Davis tested Mountain's reflexes in the eighth minute of the game with a low shot that appeared to be going wide anyway until Mountain palmed the ball behind for a Hednesford corner

 

An inswinging free-kick from Richard Lucas four minutes later was partially cleared by Newport skipper Jeff Eckhardt out to Derek Rae, whose first-time chip back into the penalty area was headed over the crossbar by Matt Gardiner and into the Hednesford fans gathered in the Hednesford end of the ground

 

Good play from Wale Kwik-Ajet in the fifteenth minute saw him skip past a challenge from the experienced Billy Clark down the left and slip the ball into the path of Rae, whose rising shot from eighteen yards out cleared both Mountain's crossbar and the stand behind his goal

 

Good interplay from the Pitmen two minutes later saw Brownrigg in space on the edge of the Newport penalty area after Davis had laid the ball off to him, but momentary indecision from the former Rotherham United man saw Clark clear the ball from danger

 

Brownrigg was involved again for the hosts in the twenty-first minute of the game as Hednesford moved further in front to further exert their dominance on proceedings; a sweeping move down the left involving Lucas and Davis played Brownrigg in, with the midfielder confidently thumping a twenty-yard effort beyond Mountain for a fine first-ever Hednesford goal for the player

 

The hosts were dominating both play and chances, limiting Newport to just one effort at goal in the first half-hour of the game as Martin Paul dragged a low effort well wide of Gayle's goal from a Darren Robinson cross

 

Lake went close to adding another goal to his recent glut on thirty-three minutes as he headed wide of goal from an Airdrie corner kick, followed two minutes later by a Davis snap-shot that Mountain gathered easily

 

Mark Haran was off-target with a miscued header from Lucas's free-kick on thirty-seven minutes before Eckhardt was similarly out of range as his header from a Robinson cross sailed into the Heath Hayes terrace at the far post

 

The Pitmen put a gloss finish on their fine first-half display with a third goal on the stroke of half-time; Davis did well to remain onside after being played in by Lake and struck a shot that Mountain did well to palm away to Brownrigg. The midfielder unselfishly played the ball back to Davis, who made no mistake this time from twelve yards out as he lashed his shot beyond Mountain and into the net

 

It had been a superb showing from the Pitmen thus far, up there with their best first-half performances of the whole season as they looked to have the game won at the break. However, the defensive errors and fragile confidence that we have seen for much of this season was back with a vengeance in the second half as they allowed their opponents back into the game as the minutes ticked by

 

The hosts started the second period well enough as Ajet wasted a great chance to add a fourth goal to the Pitmen's tally in the forty-eighth minute with a shot that was saved by Mountain after being played clear of the Newport defence by Airdrie's incisive through ball

 

Rae was similarly out of luck five minutes later as he drilled a shot well wide of goal from just outside the Newport penalty area with the Exiles defenders standing off him

 

Ten minutes into the second half, Newport created their first real opening of the game as half-time substitute Darren Ryan skipped past the challenge of Lucas down the right wing and drove in an angled shot that Gayle did well to save at his near post

 

On the hour mark, Rae made a late run into the penalty area to meet a deep cross from Lucas and was inches away from adding to his goal on Saturday as he headed just wide of the far post

 

Haran was lucky to escape a booking on sixty-five minutes as his mistimed challenge on Paul resulted in a lengthy talking-to for the centre-back from referee Mr Capps

 

With twenty minutes of the game left and the hosts remaining in control, Davis was afforded warm applause by the Keys Park crowd as he was replaced by Leon Brown for the remainder of the game

 

Eckhardt headed wide for the visitors once more on seventy-four minutes, followed a minute later by Gayle claiming a cross from Robinson under his crossbar under pressure from Ryan

 

The visitors had more get up and go about them and put more pressure on the Pitmen's back line as the minutes ticked by. A corner kick from Davies on seventy-nine minutes was flicked on at the near post by Clark and just out of reach of the highly experienced Eckhardt at the far post

 

Newport got a goal back and gave themselves a a glimmer of a chance on eighty-one minutes; a deep corner kick from the left caught Gayle out as he misjudged the flight of the ball and allowed it to sail over his head and into the path of Paul, who had the simple task of volleying home from close-range at the far post

 

Before the game could restart, Hibbitt elected to bring on new signing Wayne Thomas for his home debut in place of Airdrie, who had been a passenger for much of the final fifteen minutes of the game as Newport continued to press

 

The game suddenly became quite stretched, with Newport played higher up the pitch and the Pitmen now playing on the counter-attack. Ajet had a great chance to kill off any late hopes Newport had of a comeback with three minutes remaining as he pulled a shot wide of goal after being put in behind the Newport defence - Brown was screaming for his strike partner to pull the ball back into this path inside the six-yard box, but the former Hamilton Academical man elected to shoot from an angle and wasted a great opportunity

 

Newport seized upon this and pulled another goal back with a minute of the game remaining to set up a grandstand finish. Ryan's deep cross into the Hednesford penalty area was not dealt with by any of the three centre-backs, allowing Eckhardt to head home at the far post and make it 3-2

 

The board went up to signify there would be five minutes of added time to boost the Exiles, who pushed on and forced a series of late corner kicks. Gayle made a good save to palm away a header from Paul from once such set-piece on the second minute of added time and Haran was on hand to hack a late, late chipped effort from Ryan off the line with what was to prove to be the final action of a breathless final fifteen minutes

 

A great game for any neutral in attendance to witness, as the Pitmen just about held on to their lead to record a critical win in their fight for survival. Fifteenth place in the table is the highest that Hednesford have been in the league all season long as they go into Saturday's home game with local rivals Moor Green looking to make it three successive wins and put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three ahead of the April schedule of games, which includes a trip to tonight's opponents next Monday night 

 

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Lake, Lucas ©, Haran, Gardiner, Barrow, Brownrigg, Rae, Davis (Brown 70), Ajet, Airdrie (Thomas 81)      Sub Unused: Francis

 

Newport County: Mountain, Robinson, Benton, Clark, A. Thomas, Davies, Rose, Walker (Ryan 45), Eckhardt ©, Paul, Cowe (Plant 45)      Sub Unused: Edwards

 

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