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Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Berks (55) 


Newport County

(0) 1

(0) 0




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Michael Bingham




Folkestone Invicta (A) 15.3.03

The Pitmen finally got back to winning ways this afternoon to give under-fire manager Ian Painter some vital breathing space with a single goal win over Newport County, thus leapfrogging their South Wales opponents in the league table in the process to move back into the top ten


Monday night's draw at home to Chelmsford City had left the Pitmen without a win in the past five league games, leaving Painter's side only seven points above the drop zone ahead of this mid-table clash against the Exiles. Painter had once again been busy in the transfer market during the week, bringing in the vastly experienced left-back Allen Tankard from Mansfield Town and combative midfielder Emeka Nwadike on loan from league rivals Ilkeston Town. Both players came straight into the side for this afternoon's game, with the suspended Darren Simkin and the injured Wayne Simpson making way for the pair. Kevin Francis was passed fit to take his place amongst the substitutes after recovering sufficiently from a swollen knee


Newport arrived at Keys Park off the back of mixed form, with Peter Nicholas's side also without a win in the league in five games since they beat Hinckley United back in early January. Former Hednesford favourite Neil Davis was still unavailable for the visitors due to ongoing injury problems, although the man who scored the winner in the reverse fixture, Garry Shepherd, was passed fit to play this afternoon as Newport went in search of a win to move them a little closer to the top five above them in the table


It was to prove a fairly uninspiring first period from both sides, as clear-cut chances were hard to come by. A cultured pass from Newport midfielder Andrew Davies set Kristian Dimond away from the Hednesford defence in the fourth minutes, but the young midfielder was eased off the ball by a firm but fair challenge from Stuart Ryder on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area


At the other end, Pat Mountain was on his toes to snuff out a potential threat from the Pitmen on nine minutes, making an early move out of his penalty area to hoof the ball over the Wimblebury side to deny Steve Piearce a chance to get on the end of a through ball from Derek Rae


Piearce felt slightly aggrieved at not being awarded a penalty on fifteen minutes, but his appeals were waved away by an over-fussy Mr. Whitehurst after the striker felt that he was brought down by skipper Jeff Eckhardt


Two minutes later, a corner kick from Richard French found Jason Perry's header at the far post, but a block from Ashley Williams saw the ball cannon back off the young full-back before he could boot the ball away from goal


 On twenty-four minutes, Mark Jones also saw his appeal for a spot-kick turned down after a hefty challenge from Perry on the striker right on the edge of the Newport penalty area - again, the referee was unimpressed by the claims and the game continued


Newport's best chance to date came on twenty-seven minutes, as Shepherd got away from Tankard and squared the ball into the path of Ryan Ashington, only for the midfielder to get his foot underneath the ball and lift it high over the Heath Hayes stand


 Jones's long goal drought for the Pitmen should have come to an end on thirty-three minutes, but the ex-Wolves man somehow heading straight at Mountain with the whole goal to aim for after some good play and a cross from David Berks


Berks was enjoying a fine half of football for the Pitmen, taking on Steve Benton at will and supplying numerous balls into the area that were perhaps not utilised as well as they should have been by Piearce and Jones


Mountain was equal to a speculative free-kick from Berks on thirty-eight minutes, holding the midfielder's effort confidently with Jones following the shot in to try and pick up any rebound


Hednesford keeper Michael Bingham made a good save from Shepherd with the final action of a poor first half as Newport half-heartedly pressed the Hednesford defence in added time


More inspired goalkeeping from Bingham kept the scores level after the break, as the former Blackburn man made a full-length save on fifty minutes to turn Shepherd's shot away from goal, followed by another brilliant one-handed save four minutes later to deny Ashington a certain goal from twelve yards out

 Despite Newport's bright start to the second half, it was the home side that stole into the lead through a first Hednesford goal for Berks on fifty-five minutes. Jones was played behind the Newport defence by a fine pass from Rae, sizing up his options before pulling the ball back into the danger zone from the left wing, where Berks was on hand to fire past Mountain into the roof of the net


Shepherd's personal duel with Bingham continued into the second half, with Bingham again coming out on top for the hosts as he turned the striker's swerving half-volley around the post for a corner kick on sixty-four minutes


The hosts made their first substitution of the afternoon four minutes later, as Tankard picked up an injury on his debut and was forced off following treatment. The former Port Vale man was replaced by youngster Anthony Maguire, with Ryder dropping into Tankard's position to allow for the loss of the new boy


A long, searching goal kick from Mountain almost caught the Hednesford defence out on seventy-two minutes, with Shepherd racing onto the bouncing ball. Before Shepherd could get his shot away, Ryder was alert to the danger and hoofed the ball clear in the nick of time


Shaun Wray had been very quiet down the flank for the Pitmen, having a limited impact in the game in a subdued display from the former Stafford man. He was replaced by Damien Charie on seventy-two minutes as Painter went with youth over experience


Berks went close to settling the encounter on seventy-seven minutes, lifting a long-range effort narrowly over Mountain's crossbar from the edge of the Newport penalty area 


With ten minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon, as Francis returned to action after a short lay-off to replace Jones up front


Francis got involved at both ends of the pitch for the hosts, heading a cross from the hard-working Nwadike well clear of the crossbar on eighty-two minutes, before helping his defence out with a timely header inside his own penalty area two minutes later to deny Eckhardt a great chance at goal for the Exiles


Eckhardt did get his head to a free-kick from French three minutes later but miscued his effort as he briefly took his eyes off the ball and headed horribly wide of the far post


A late rally from Newport saw Shepherd's shot deflected wide by a combination of Ryder's legs and Bingham's arm in added time, with Perry's late chance pulled up by the referee for a pull on Williams by the Newport defender as he leapt to meet a cross

The relief at the final whistle was palpable from all inside Keys Park of a Hednesford persuasion, as they finally chalk up their second win of 2003 to move up into tenth place in the table. They will look to carry this win and rare clean sheet into next weekend's long journey to relegation-threatened Folkestone Invicta as we enter the final fifth of the season

Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams, Tankard (Maguire 68), Nwadike, Brindley ©, Ryder, Wray (Charie 72), Rae, Jones (Francis 80), Piearce, Berks     Subs Unused: Lancashire, Jenkins


Newport County: Mountain, Collins, Benton, Clark, Perry, Eckhardt ©, Davies (Stevenson 70), Ashington, Dimond (Rose 70), Plant (Sherman 82), Shepherd, French      Subs Unused: Thomas, O'Brian

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