10.11.2001

Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Lancashire (75)

Newport (Isle of Wight)

Wakefield (80), Thompson (87)

(0) 1

(0) 2

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Stewart Airdrie

L W W L L W W L W L

 

Merthyr Tydfil (H) 24.11.01

The Pitmen crash to their second successive league defeat under Kenny Hibbitt after a late double from Newport (Isle of Wight) sees the Islanders claim all three points in their first-ever visit to Keys Park

Last weekend had seen the Pitmen get back to winning ways with a dominant 5-0 win over Dr. Martens League Western side Racing Club Warwick at Keys Park to progress in the F.A. Trophy and came into today's game looking to make it four wins from Hibbitt's first five games in charge of the club. The Hednesford supremo had been busy in the transfer market during the week with three new signings to bolster his injury-hit squad, handing starts to centre back Matt Gardiner - signed from Hereford United - and on-loan Crewe Alexandra winger Phil Trainer, whilst former Birmingham City midfielder James Dyson was named amongst the substitutes. These changes saw Ashley Williams, Damien Charie and the injured Neil Davis all miss out as Kevin Francis was also restored to the starting XI in the final of three changes to the side that had started against Warwick

Newport made the long, long trip across the Solent and up into South Staffordshire for their third-longest journey of the season in mixed form, leaving them struggling towards the foot of the league table after promotion from the Dr, Martens Eastern Division in the summer. The Islanders had been without a league game for three weeks due to a combination of postponements and cup games but had beaten league rivals Crawley Town 1-0 in the F.A. Trophy last weekend. Manager Tony Mount made one change to the side that had started against Crawley as Danny Gibbons came back into the side in place of Ben Thompson in a straight swap up front. There was no place for the experienced Guy Whittingham, however, with the former Aston Villa and Portsmouth man ruled out due to injury on his return to the Midlands

With so many changes and new faces in the side, it was perhaps unsurprising that the Pitmen took a while to settle. It was the visitors who had the first meaningful effort on goal in the eleventh minute of the game as a cross from Adam Holbrook was turned goalwards by Lance Middleton after a bout of ball-juggling, only for Mark Gayle to make a regulation save on his goal line

Good play from Stewart Airdrie down the right flank on fourteen minutes saw him turn past Dave Wilson and cross for Francis, only for the big man to get underneath the ball and head well over from eight yards out

In the eighteenth minute, Airdrie was involved again as he beat two players and squared the ball to Andy Brownrigg, whose low drive from twenty yards out drifted wide of goal

Midway through an unremarkable first period, Graham Lancashire stole a yard on Chris Collins to latch onto a cross from Trainer, only to tamely turn the ball into the hands of Colin Matthews in the Newport goal

Two minutes later, the Pitmen continued to put pressure on the visiting defence with a series of corner kicks from Richard Lucas. The left-back's third flag-kick was flicked on by Stuart Lake at the near post and into the path of Adam Shakespeare, but the youngster diverted the ball over the crossbar with a miscued header from six yards out

On twenty-nine minutes the visitors broke quickly down the right through Holbrook, crossing low into the box with a ball that was missed by Gardiner and fell to Dave Wakefield, whose scuffed effort ended up in the hands of a relieved Gayle

Airdrie won a free-kick for the hosts on thirty-two minutes after another marauding run to draw a foul from Wilson out wide. Lucas sent over a fine inswinging ball to the far post that Francis looped a header back across the face of goal, only for Matthews to scramble the ball away from danger with Lancashire lurking

Francis was guilty of missing the Pitmen's best chance of the half six minutes before the break as the impressive Airdrie did well to get to the byeline and cross for the big striker, only for Francis to somehow head over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. A poor miss from an experienced player who should do better from a good position inside the six-yard box

With half-time looming the Islanders thought that they had stolen into the lead as a cross from Middleton was headed home by defender Gary Green, only for the referee to rule the goal out for a push on Gardiner in the build-up

Hibbitt's half-time team talk seemed to have the desired effect as the hosts made an assertive start to the second period. Trainer did well to step inside from the left flank on fifty minutes and cross for Lancashire, only for a well-timed tackle from Green to deny the striker a clear sight at goal

Trainer was involved again three minutes later to play Lucas in on the overlap down the left, with the Hednesford skipper's cross hammered over the crossbar by the onrushing Brownrigg. On second view, it would have perhaps been a better option to allow the ball to run to Lancashire, who was in a better position and unmarked at the far post

On the hour mark, Trainer was certainly proving his worth to his new side as he made another good run down the left and crossed for Francis once more; the former Birmingham City man controlled Trainer's cross well but fired just wide of Matthews' post as he did well to spin and get his shot away

Dyson was handed his Hednesford debut by Hibbitt on sixty-three minutes as he came on in the centre of midfield in place of Brownrigg, who had struggled to get a foothold in the game

Airdrie - already the scorer of a likely goal of the season against Hinckley last month - went so close to scoring an equally spectacular goal on sixty-seven minutes as he left no fewer than four Newport players in his wake before driving a long-range effort inches over Matthews' crossbar

A rare attack from the visitors on seventy minutes saw Steve Leigh meet a cross from Holbrook and head down into the path of Wakefield, whose first-time shot was parried away by Gayle

A minute later the impressive Airdrie was taken off in favour of Charie, which was a move questioned by many on the terraces as the winger had looked the Pitmen's most attacking threat in the game

Gayle was called upon to make another save on seventy-three minutes as Wilson's long pass somehow found the boot of Wakefield, whose toe-punt was claimed by the Hednesford stopper at his near post

A dreary game finally burst into life with fifteen minutes remaining as the hosts took the lead with yet another Keys Park goal for Lancashire; A Lucas corner from the right dropped into the Newport six-yard box and was eventually turned home from close-range by Lancashire, getting the final touch to a bobbling ball that the Newport defence failed to clear on numerous occasions

However, the lead was to last only five minutes as the Hednesford defence once again pressed the self-destruct button to gift their visitors a leveller. A long and fairly aimless ball forward from Collins caught Lucas out of position as the Hednesford man allowed the ball to drift over his head and into the path of Wakefield, who made a darting run onto the long ball and rounded Gayle before slotting home

Straight from the restart, the Pitmen went close to restoring their lead as Charie made yards down the right-wing and crossed for Lake, only for Matthews to make a fine save and turn Lake's first-time shot away from goal at his near post

Youngster Leon Brown was brought on with eight minutes remaining to add pace and urgency to the Hednesford attack, coming on in place of the ineffective Francis

Further chances fell to Lancashire and Lake as the minutes ticked by, with Lake's header from a Lucas free-kick skimming the top of the Newport crossbar

With the Pitmen continuing to press, disaster struck with three minutes remaining as the visitors were handed another goal through more dreadful Hednesford decision-making at the back. A long ball was once again the Pitmen's undoing as the experienced Wayne Simpson was caught out by Leigh's searching ball towards Wakefield and led to him bundling the ball away with his hand. The referee awarded Newport a free-kick on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area which was taken by substitute Ben Thompson; his curling effort was too much for Gayle to handle as the normally reliable keeper allowed the shot to squirm through his fingers and into the net

Despite a late flurry of corner kicks, it was too late for the Pitmen to salvage a point in added time as Brown's scuffed effort at the far post was as close as the home side could get to a leveller. The players trudged off to muffled boos from a disgruntled home crowd who had yet again witnessed a Jekyll and Hyde performance from their side that is starting to become a feature of the season; dominant in possession, wasteful with the chances that come their way and dreadfully lax at the back to gift soft goals to the opposition. Hibbitt still has plenty to do to find a blend that works for his squad with those two wins at the start of his tenure now a distant memory. With a fortnight's gap between games due to F.A. Cup action, expect there to be changes to the squad  before the Pitmen make it three home games in a row in two week's time with the visit of Merthyr Tydfil to Keys Park

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Lake, Lucas ©, Simpson, Gardiner, Shakespeare, Airdrie (Charie 71  ), Brownrigg (Dyson 63), Francis (Brown 82), Lancashire, Trainer     Subs Unused: None

Newport (Isle of Wight): Matthews, Holbrook, Wilson, Collins, Green, Cole, Leigh, Barnsdale, Middleton (Thompson 77), Gibbons (Tate 69), Wakefield    Subs Unused: Riley

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