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Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Nuneaton Borough

Charles (12), Stenson (83)

Hednesford Town

Lita (15)

(1) 2

(1) 1



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Nathan Cameron



Long Eaton United (H) 3.9.22

Despite a spirited display from the managerless Pitmen, the visitors fall to successive 2-1 defeats this Bank Holiday Monday afternoon as they are edged out of a tight contest by new league leaders Nuneaton Borough

With news of Keenen Meakin-Richards' resignation still the main talking point amongst the Hednesford supporters, the Pitmen made the short journey across the A5 in the hands of caretaker managers Leroy Lita and Martin Riley for today's game, with Riley assisted by Walsall academy coach Chris McCoy on the sidelines as Lita remained as part of the XI. On the pitch, there were two changes to the side that had been beaten by Bedford Town two days previously as Harvey Portman returned to the side at left-back in place of Harry Manton and Cameron Ebbutt replaced the holidaying Joe Cuff on the left flank

Nuneaton - starting the season in second place in the table after a fine start to the season - had beaten Redditch United 2-1 on Saturday to extend their unbeaten run to four games going into today's derby. Manager Jimmy Ginnelly made three changes to the side that had started at the Trico Stadium as Jaden Charles replaced Kane Richards, Isaiah Osbourne came in for Ryan Beswick and Revarnelle James was preferred to Lathaniel Rowe-Turner

In front of a fine Liberty Way crowd of 891, the Pitmen looked to make a solid start to the game with successive corner kicks testing the organisational skills of former Hednesford loanee Tony Breeden in the Nuneaton goal. He tipped a floated cross from Portman over the crossbar in the fourth minute to deny the incoming Lita a chance at goal, with Boro hacking Todd Parker's resultant corner away from danger

More good approach play from the Pitmen two minutes later saw Parker - playing in a more advanced role - exchange passes with Luke Rowe before playing Riley O'Sullivan into space. The striker's touch was a heavy one just inside the Nuneaton penalty area and allowed Joe Magunda to clear

Back came the hosts after a slightly cagey start to proceedings, with Hednesford goalkeeper Lewis Gwilliams gifting them a superb chance to open the scoring in the eleventh minute. A superb through ball from James sent Tyrell Waite clear of the Pitmen's back line, with the Pitmen's stopper bringing the striker down just outside the penalty area as he looked to take the ball around the goalkeeper. Despite protests from the Nuneaton players and supporters that Gwilliams should be shown a straight red card for the foul, referee Mr Warner showed him a yellow card instead as Lewis Ison had managed to cover behind the stopper so that he was not the last man


 Charles placed the ball down and executed a superb free-kick from twenty yards out, lifting his shot over the wall and past Gwilliams into the right-hand corner of the net to hand Nuneaton the lead; a fine free-kick, but highly questionable positioning from Gwilliams, who failed to make an attempt to keep the ball out as it skipped past him

The Pitmen were not to be behind for long, however, as that man Lita levelled matters with an almost-immediate goal against his former club. Portman intercepted a pass and supplied the ball to Parker, whose incisive through ball picked out the run of the veteran striker; Lita showed fantastic composure to steady himself and fire beyond the onrushing Breeden from fifteen yards out with a fine low shot into the far corner of the net

The visitors enjoyed a fine spell of possession in the next fifteen minutes without really making inroads into the Nuneaton defence, despite Lita's movement and nuisance value. On twenty minutes, Parker and Kyle Bennett worked the ball out to O'Sullivan on the right, who in turn played Josh Webb into space on the overlap. With Lita and Ebbutt to pick out in the six-yard box, Webb elected to drive the ball across the face of goal but saw his cross cleared by Magunda

Bennett looked to create an opening for himself with his clever movement three minutes later as he twisted and turned on the edge of the Nuneaton penalty area before trying his luck with a low, driven shot that was deflected behind for a Hednesford corner by Camron McWilliams

Parker was clearly relishing his freedom in a more attacking role and played a delightful pass out to Ebbutt on twenty-eight minutes, with the former Hereford man seeing his looping cross claimed by Breeden at his near post ahead of Lita

Despite the Pitmen having the better of the recent play, Nuneaton remained a threat and almost re-took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark through the prolific Matt Stenson; a deep cross from Charles out on the left skipped across the face of Gwilliams' goal and just out of reach of the former Barwell and Solihull Moors striker, who made a late run into the six-yard box

Good defending from the excellent Nathan Cameron - a loanee at Nuneaton twelve seasons ago - saw the big defender make a timely header away from danger on thirty-four minutes to glance a free-kick from Charlie Dowd away from danger as Waite challenged him at the near post

Flowing play from the Pitmen two minutes later saw Parker and Rowe play the ball out to Ebbutt, who held the ball up well before laying it off to Portman, whose cross into the path of Lita was cleared as far as O'Sullivan on the opposite side of the penalty area. The former Coventry United man tried to get his shot away at goal but saw his effort blocked by skipper Scott McManus

On forty-one minutes, a quick break from the Pitmen saw Ison's long ball out to the right find O'Sullivan once more, who controlled the ball well and held off a challenge from Magunda before laying it off to Bennett. The former Bristol Rovers man took a touch too many perhaps and allowed the ball to run away from him just outside the Nuneaton penalty area

In added time, a corner kick from Nuneaton gave the Pitmen a few issues as they struggled to clear their lines, with James lashing the rebounded ball high over the crossbar from twenty yards out as he picked up a partially cleared ball from Cameron

It had been a keenly contested first period from both sides, with the Pitmen providing the ideal response to Saturday's dreadful performance as they gave as good as they got against a previously free-scoring Boro side. The hosts elected to make their first change of the afternoon before the start of the second half as Dowd was replaced by former Kidderminster Harriers forward Richards

The Pitmen started the second half with the same gusto as they had done in the first period, with Breeden forced into an early save from Lita on forty-seven minutes as he turned the striker's first-time shot around the post for a corner kick to the away side

Parker's resultant corner kick from the right was flicked on at the near post by Ison and into the path of O'Sullivan who was denied by a fine clearance from the covering Stenson

The half was to prove a frustratingly stop-start one for the crowd, with neither side getting into their stride for spells of the second period. Richards was to prove to be an inspired substitution as he made several lively runs across the Hednesford defence. Cameron made a superb block to deny the substitute on fifty-three minutes with a timely block at the near post to turn Richards' shot behind for a corner kick

Three minutes later, a quickly-taken free-kick from the Pitmen saw Webb played into space out on the right, with the full-back making his way to the byeline before cutting the ball back to Bennett. The forward did well to control the ball but once again failed to get his shot away in time and the ball was cleared once more

The Pitmen made their first substitution of the afternoon on the hour mark as Ebbutt was taken off in favour of teenager Numair Rashad, with O'Sullivan switching wings to accommodate the arrival of the substitute

Cameron picked up the Pitmen's second yellow card of the game two minutes later as he brought down McWilliams thirty yards from the Hednesford goal and was booked by Mr Warner for the tackle. The resultant free-kick from Charles was off-target on this occasion, as his curling effort cleared the crossbar

Luke Benbow - a nemesis of Hednesford teams of old - was Nuneaton's second substitute on sixty-four minutes as he replaced James and moved up front to partner Waite and Stenson

More excellent play from Lita midway through the second half saw the striker win a free-kick just outside the Nuneaton penalty area as he grappled with Magunda. Bennett took the free-kick but got a little too much on it as Cameron had to stretch to reach the ball at the far post and head wide of the target

Stenson had a good chance to head Nuneaton back into the lead on seventy-one minutes as he headed a deep corner kick from Richards over the crossbar from eight yards out as he was put under pressure by Ison

Portman and Bennett linked up well on seventy-five minutes to work the ball into the path of Parker, who took a couple of touches but again wanted a little too much time to decide what he wanted to do with the ball and saw his shot charged down by Magunda

Nuneaton were looking dangerous on the counter once more, with Waite striking a firm shot at goal two minutes later that was watched just wide of goal by Gwilliams down to his right-hand side

Waite was involved in what was to be Nuneaton's winning goal on eighty-three minutes as his run and pass found Stenson inside the Hednesford penalty area, with the striker taking a touch before dispatching a fine low shot beyond the reach of Gwilliams and finding the far corner of the net. Stenson wheeled away in celebration, waving his shirt above his head and was booked by Mr Warner for doing so before the game restarted

The Pitmen had already lined up their second change of the game before the goal and were committed to making it before the game restarted as Lewis Hayden came on in place of Portman; this saw Webb once again moving across from right-back to left-back to cover for Portman's departure

The Pitmen thought that they had got themselves back into the game within sixty seconds as some quick working of the ball across the edge of the Nuneaton penalty area saw Rowe unleash a low shot at goal that forced Breeden into a save down to his right-hand side. The ball ran kindly to Bennett, who turned the loose ball home from close range but was denied his first goal of the season by an offside flag from the assistant on the rugby club side of the ground

Two minutes later, the visitors made their final substitution of the game with Wilding returned to the side at the base of the midfield as he came on in place of the hard-working Rowe

The visitors went close to grabbing their second equaliser of the game on eighty-eight minutes as a corner kick from Parker on the right was met by a full-blooded header from Ison, who made a timely run into the six-yard box but saw his goalbound effort clip the top of the crossbar and send the ball out of play

Despite a frenetic four minutes of added time, where the Pitmen looked to throw more bodies forwards in search of that elusive equaliser, Nuneaton stood firm to record their fourth win in succession, which was enough to take them to the top of the Southern Premier League Central table. The Pitmen remain second bottom of the table and will feel a little aggrieved at not being able to claim a point that their efforts had deserved. Saturday sees the Pitmen return to the RACE Stadium as they play host to Long Eaton United in the first qualifying round of the F.A. Cup

Nuneaton Borough: Breeden, McWilliams, Charles, Osbourne, Magunda (Rowe-Turner 59), McManus ©, James (Benbow 64), Dowd (Richards 45), Stenson , Waite, Mancinelli       Subs Unused: Master, Noble

Hednesford Town: Gwilliams , Webb, Portman (Hayden 84), Cameron , Ison ©, Rowe (Wilding 86), Ebbutt (Rashad 60), Parker, Lita, Bennett, O'Sullivan      Subs Unused: Riley, Morley


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