26.4.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

North Ferriby United

Larvin (60)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

408

Adam Fussell

W L L W W D D L W L

Hednesford's rollercoaster 2007-2008 season ends with back-to-back home defeats, as the Pitmen turned in an abject performance on the final day of the season to hand struggling North Ferriby United three key points to clinch the Villagers' step three survival

 

Manager Phil Starbuck, struggling to keep his players motivated after the season fizzled out many weeks previously, made one change to the side that defeated Ossett Town the previous week, giving teenager Adam Fussell his first-team debut at left-back - Rob Davies was dropped from the squad altogether to make way for the youngster with what is likely to be first of several players to have played their final game for the club

North Ferriby sat in the final relegation spot at the start of play and were desperate to earn themselves the win that could keep them up at the expense of one of no less than eight teams who could still be dragged into the bottom three. Manager Neil Allison made one change to his side from the one that had been hammered by fellow strugglers Prescot Cables last weekend as Kenny Larvin replaced Gary Bradshaw up front as Allison looked for more firepower from his side

As is the tradition on the last day of the season, the sun was shining down on Keys Park for the campaign's closing afternoon and the supporters basked in warm and bright weather. Chad Sheppard tested North Ferriby goalkeeper Steve Wilson with a third-minute free-kick that the visiting number one turned over the bar under pressure from a number of incoming players

North Ferriby's number ten Alex Davidson was to prove a real thorn in the Pitmen's side all afternoon, and he started as he meant to go on in the seventh minute with a mazy run that took out Paul Robinson and Sheppard -  his low driven shot was beaten away by Paul Evans for a corner kick

Youngster Fussell had the Pitmen's first sight at goal in the ninth minute of the game as Wilson dropped a David Brown cross, allowing Ross Dyer to pick the loose ball up and lay it off to Fussell, whose shot was blocked by Andy Thompson as it headed towards goal

Back came North Ferriby, with talented young midfielder Nathan Hotte fired in a fine shot from just outside the penalty area three minutes later which whistled just wide the target

Ferriby's David Cooke did well get the better of Ben Brown on eighteen minutes and cross to the far post, where Larvin was matter of inches away from a simple tap-in at the far post as the ball just evaded him

Davidson went on another one of his jinking runs on twenty-three minutes, beating Hednesford skipper Tom Marshall all ends up before firing high over the Heath Hayes terrace with a wild effort from twenty yards out

Alan Nagington had failed to register a single league goal at Keys Park all season long and failed to test Wilson on twenty-six minutes as his tame header was held easily by the Ferriby stopper after Maguire had crossed from the left

 

Mario Pedro tried his luck from long range just after the half-hour mark with a slaloming run into the Ferriby penalty area before striking a rising shot that flew high and wide of goal

Larvin was next to test Evans sixty seconds later as the Villagers broke quickly down the right through Russell Fry, who played the Ferriby striker in. However, Larvin's low shot lacked power and was easily fielded by Evans inside his six-yard box

Marshall headed over the crossbar and over the top of the Hednesford end stand on thirty-five minutes, before a neat passage of play involving Maguire, Sheppard and David Brown played Dyer in on goal two minutes later, only for an offside flag against the young striker denying him a shot at goal

With three minutes of the first half remaining, Fry was allowed time and space just outside the Hednesford penalty area to line up a long-range effort that shot that Evans saw over the crossbar

It had been a low-quality first period, with the Pitmen simply going through the motions and  Ferriby seemingly lacking belief up front to grab that all-important goal that may or may not keep them up

Evans almost gifted the opposition their vital goal just three minutes into the second half as he attempting some ball juggling on the edge of the area but only succeeded in striking Davidson as he looked to clear his lines. To Evans's relief, the ball sailed wide of goal and away from danger

After handing Fussell his first start for the club today, Starbuck was forced into giving another one of his other teenagers a debut ten minutes after the restart as David Brown pulled up injured and was replaced by teenage defender Ben Harbutt 

Dyer made a typically marauding run in on goal just before the hour mark as he drifted past Paul Foot's challenge and entered the penalty area, only for a heavy final touch to allow Wilson time to smother the ball at the striker's feet

Just a minute later, and the away side grabbed their crucial UniBond Premier League lifeline; Larvin, who had impressed alongside Davidson, got in front of the Hednesford defence to dive in and glance Andy Thompson's cross past Evans from close range

Bradshaw - a scorer in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign - came on for Fry and almost grabbed a second goal just a few minutes after appearing. Cooke did all the leg work, making a run from deep inside his own half to the edge of the Hednesford penalty area before playing in the diminutive striker, who fired wide with a first-time effort from twelve yards out

The Pitmen had simply run out of ideas at this point and you felt that they could play all afternoon and not threaten Wilson's goal. Nagington had barely had a touch of the ball and had been stifled by the visiting defence in another anonymous display from the striker to add to countless games of similar ilk  this term

Indeed, Ferriby went closer to adding to their tally through Davidson on seventy-four minutes as he caught the Hednesford defence square to run in on a pass from Chris Bolder, only for Evans to get something on the striker's shot and deflect it behind for a corner kick

From the resultant Bolder corner kick, Foot rose at the near post to glance the ball just wide of Evans's near post as the big Ferriby defender beat Paul Robinson to the ball

North Ferriby's Michael Price ensured it was to be a nervy last few minutes for the Villagers as he brought down Harbutt with a very crude challenge out on the Pitmen's right-hand side and was promptly shown the red card on eighty minutes

From the resultant Hednesford free-kick, Fussell's ball found Harbutt, but his effort was brilliantly saved by Wilson from close-range as the former Hull City stopper instinctively denied the teenager a debut goal

Referee Mr Thornhill could have evened up the numbers with seven minutes remaining when Marshall brought down Bradshaw as he headed towards goal. The official decided that Robinson was covering, and only showed Marshall a yellow card when many would probably have sent the central defender off

North Ferriby continued to move forward in search of a second goal, although news was filtering through from the other games that results were going their way. Bradshaw dragged an effort well wide of goal with four minutes remaining as he attempted a shot from a tight angle, followed two minutes later by a wild shot from Bradshaw's fellow substitute Mal Osendiende from just ten yards out

 

The full-time whistle saw jubilant scenes from everyone connected with North Ferriby, who had secured their place in the UniBond Premier League for 2008-2009. Whether the Pitmen will join them in the Northern division remains in some doubt, as the spectre of restructuring in the summer hangs over the club and the real possibility of a return to the Southern Premier League. Either way, it has been a largely poor season from the Pitmen, who have flattered to deceive at times and perhaps can feel slightly fortunate to finish as high as eighth in the table. There has been a lot of scrutiny of Starbuck's tactics, selection and transfer policy over the past two seasons and it remains to be seen if the former Nottingham Forest man will still be in charge at the start of the new campaign. Expect plenty of drama and talking points at Keys Park in the coming weeks before we start it all again in August

Hednesford Town: Evans, B. Brown, Fussell, Sheppard, Marshall © , Robinson, D. Brown (Harbutt 55), Pedro, Dyer, Nagington, Maguire      Subs Unused: McLeod, Nicholls

North Ferriby United: Wilson, Thompson, Price  (80), Hotte, Foot ©, Cooke, Morley, Bolder, Fry (Bradshaw 63), Davidson, Larvin (Osendiende 79)    Sub Unused: Russell

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