Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Nuneaton Borough

Collins (23), (50), Brown (85)

Hednesford Town

(1) 3

(0) 0




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Ryan Young



Cambridge City (H) 13.12.03

The Pitmen's utterly dreadful record at Nuneaton Borough's Manor Park continued this afternoon as Barry Powell's men slumped to a sound defeat against the title favourites with arguably their worst performance of the season to date

Powell - returning to the dugout after missing Tuesday night's F.A. Trophy replay win over Lancaster City with a virus - resisted the temptation to make changes to his side despite having cup-tied Chris Gray available again for selection after he had sat out Tuesday night's game. Gray was named as a substitute as Damien Charie missed out on the squad to accommodate the winger

Nuneaton had been heavy favourites to return to the Conference at the first time of asking after they had been relegated to step two in the summer for the first time in four years. Manager Alan Lewer's side had been knocked out of the F.A. Trophy last weekend by UniBond Premier League side Hucknall Town to continue their mixed recent form of three defeats and three wins from their last six games. Lewer made one change to the side that had started against Hucknall, bringing the fit-again Jason Drysdale in for Neil Moore down the right-hand side. He named former Hednesford favourite Gary Fitzpatrick in his starting XI in midfield and another, more recent favourite Stuart Lake amongst the substitutes after Lake's recent switch from Keys Park

In front of a large Manor Park crowd, the Pitmen - wearing their red third kit from the last two seasons - looked nervy and error-prone from the start, particularly in defence where passes went astray early on and presented an experienced Nuneaton attack with the ball cheaply

Nuneaton thought that they had broken the deadlock in the sixth minute after a period of pressure with Drysdale's cross from the right turned into the net at the far post by Michael Brown, only for the referee to rule out the goal due to an alleged handball by Brown as he attacked the cross from Drysdale

A clever piece of play from Gez Murphy saw him wrong-foot Darren Simkin in the Hednesford penalty area in the eleventh minute with a drag-back from Dion Scott's pass, only to lift his shot high over the crossbar with a dipping effort from fifteen yards out


Former Nuneaton stopper Ryan Young kept his side in contention with a fine save four minutes later, turning Brown's low shot around the post for a Boro corner after the striker had turned past Chris Brindley on the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area


The Pitmen had offered little to nothing with regards an attacking threat in the opening quarter of the game as the experienced Terry Angus and his defence soaked up the limited pressure exerted on it by the Hednesford attack, with Steve Anthrobus lifting a half-chance high into the Cock and Bear terrace in the twentieth minute to ironic cheers from the Nuneaton fans

The hosts took a deserved lead three minutes later after Les Hines had conceded a free-kick just outside the Hednesford penalty area to earn him a yellow card. Matt Collins took the kick which was cleared back to him by the Pitmen's defence, with the midfielder drilling home his rebounded shot via a slight deflection off Steve Evans on its way past an unsighted Young - it was Collins' first goal for the club since his summer move from West Bromwich Albion

The Pitmen were shocked into a reaction following Nuneaton's opening goal, with Mark Danks seeing more of the ball as the visitors started to press. A darting run from the youngster on twenty-nine minutes saw him skip past Michael Love and send over a deep cross from the right-wing that Angus did well to get to hand head behind before Anthrobus could reach the cross

A well-struck shot from Simkin two minutes later from the edge of the Nuneaton penalty area looked to be heading for the corner of the net following a Hines corner, only for Drysdale to hack the shot off the line after covering his post diligently

Anthrobus was guilty of dragging a good chance wide of the Pitmen on thirty-six minutes, playing a neat one-two with Carl Palmer in the build-up before pulling his low shot wide of Darren Acton's near post

A great pass from Fitzpatrick on thirty-nine minutes was played into the path of Stuart Whittaker, who took a touch before sending over a fine cross to the far post where Brown headed goalwards, only for Brindley to get his body in the way of the ball and block Brown's effort

In added time at the end of the first half, Angus rose above everyone in the Hednesford penalty area to stretch and reach an inswinging Fitzpatrick free-kick from the left, only to head well over Young's crossbar

Despite being behind and having limited chances in the first period, the Pitmen were at least still in the game at only 1-0 down, although Powell's half-time team talk was dismantled within five minutes of try restart as Nuneaton doubled their goal tally for the afternoon. Whittaker took a free-kick out on the right flank and crossed well for Murphy, whose knock-down was turned into the net from close-range by Collins, who was unmarked inside the Hednesford six-yard box

The Pitmen's meagre shots on target tally was added to on fifty-four minutes as Steve Palmer strode forwards and struck a long-range shot at goal that Acton made a fine save to turn the ball away for a corner kick

Three minutes later, Powell had seen enough from his misfiring side and made a tactical change by bringing striker Nathan Lamey on for winger Steve Evans, who had struggled to get into the game

A downward header from Brindley from an Ashley Dodd cross on the hour mark caused momentary panic in the Nuneaton ranks as Anthrobus and Danks attempted to get to the ball, only for Angus to clear from danger before either striker could get on the end of it

Boro were still the more likely team to grab a goal, peppering Young's goal with shots at regular intervals during the second period. Whittaker forced Young into a save at his near post on sixty-three minutes, followed three minutes later by a rising shot from Scott that the Hednesford keeper turned over the crossbar

A surging run from Scott on sixty-eight minutes saw the midfielder take the ball deep into the Hednesford half as the Pitmen's defence dropped off and allowed him to advance on the penalty area, only for his shot to fly tamely over the crossbar

Young made a double save at his near post to push successive shots from Murphy and Scott away from goal two minutes later as a Fitzpatrick free-kick was not cleared effectively by the Hednesford defence

Dodd was replaced by the more attack-minded Gray on seventy minutes as the Pitmen pushed forwards in search of a goal to get themselves back into contention

Anthrobus was off-target with a header from Alex Gibson's inswinging cross on seventy-five minutes followed by a quick break from Nuneaton that saw Scott play Murphy in behind the Hednesford goal, only for the over-worked Young to once again come to his side's rescue by smothering the ballet the striker's feet

Gibson and Gray presented Boro with another chance to stretch their lead on seventy-nine minutes as the pair left the ball to each other and allowed Love to pick up the scraps. The former Stevenage Borough man swung in a low cross that was stabbed just wide of goal by the incoming Brown, who reacted quickest to get in behind the Hednesford defence

Brown finally put the Pitmen out of their misery with five minutes remaining as Whittaker's cross from the right was flicked on by Scott and into the path of the striker, who calmly fired past Young from close-range to make it three for the hosts

There was still time for Nuneaton to go close on two more occasions as the Pitmen's defence huffed and puffed its way through the final minutes, looking for the final whistle. Scott nutmegged Steve Palmer to play Fitzpatrick into the Hednesford penalty area, although the midfielder's pull-back to Murphy was just too far in front of him and allowed Brindley to clear. A minute later, Whittaker tricked his way past Hines and crossed to the far post, only for Brown to head well wide as he was pressured by Gibson

All in all, a dreadful day for the Pitmen; a poor performance, no goals and a sound beating at a ground that they have only recorded three wins in nearly 100 years of games between the old rivals. Powell will once again be flummoxed at his side's Jekyll and Hyde approach to the season so far - very good on occasions such as at Worcester a couple of weeks ago but utterly dreadful on other occasions such as today with no real middle ground. They return home to Keys Park next weekend looking to address their inconsistency with a visit from Cambridge City, who sit below the Pitmen in fourteenth place in the table

Nuneaton Borough: Acton, Clifford, Love, Collins, Scott, Angus ©, Drysdale, Fitzpatrick, Brown, Murphy, Whittaker      Subs Unused: Moore, Poole, D. Williams, Lake, Lamb

Hednesford Town: Young, Gibson, Hines , S. Evans (Lamey 57), Brindley, Simkin, C. Palmer, S. Palmer ©, Anthrobus, Danks, Dodd (Gray 70)     Subs Unused: A. Williams, Maguire, P. Evans