Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Nuneaton Borough

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Steve Anthrobus



Chelmsford City (H) 6.9.03

It's two goalless draws in succession for the Pitmen in the Southern Premier League as they are held by early league leaders Nuneaton Borough at Keys Park this evening, although the performance will have pleased manager Barry Powell after an indifferent run of form during August

An uninspiring 0-0 draw at Chippenham Town had seen the Pitmen end the month sitting in the bottom four of the league table ahead of tonight's local derby, still with only the one win to their name at Havant & Waterlooville. Powell made one change to the side that had started at Hardenhuish Park by bringing new signing Nathan Lamey in for his home debut after appearing as a late substitute on Saturday for Mark Danks, who again made way for the former Moor Green man this evening. Kevin Seabury had left the club to join Bridgnorth Town after a short spell whilst Darren Simkin was playing his last game before serving a one-match suspension following his red card at Havant

Nuneaton - relegated from the Nationwide Conference in the summer - were many people's prediction to go straight back up at the first attempt having hired the experienced Alan Lewer in the summer and made a number of strong signings as a sign of their determination to return to the top tier of non-league football. Boro had underlined their championship credentials on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Eastbourne Borough at Manor Park to make it three wins and two draws from their first five games. Lewer made one change to the side that had collected all three points at the weekend, bringing in Danny Williams for Chris Tullin at full-back whilst also naming former Hednesford man Gary Fitzpatrick in his starting XI

The first trappings of Autumn were in the air as the excellent near-1,000 strong crowd were greeted with a cool evening in South Staffordshire. An early clash between Gez Murphy and Simkin saw the two players square up to each other, prompting the referee to separate the pair and give them nearly dressing-down

The first sight on goal came in the ninth minute of a fairly cagey opening salvo from both sides, as the giant Terry Angus headed wide of goal from a Brian McGorry cross after the corner kick was initially cleared by the Hednesford defence

The home side responded with a neat passage of play through the midfield from the two Palmers, Steve and Carl, playing Anthony Maguire clear down the left flank. His cross was little too high for Steve Anthrobus to reach nor the late arrival of Lamey, who was a foot or so away from connecting with the dipping ball at the far post

Lamey was involved again on twelve minutes, making a darting run into the area to seize upon a through ball from Carl Palmer, but was denied a clear shot at goal by a timely block from veteran centre-back Angus

Stuart Whittaker was causing the Hednesford defence some early issues with his movement, getting goalside of Stuart Ryder on eighteen minutes to latch on to a Brian Quailey pass but fired weakly into the arms of former Nuneaton stopper Ryan Young

At the other end, the experienced Darren Acton made a regulation stop on twenty minutes to pluck the ball out of the air and deny the hard-working Anthrobus a chance from an Ashley Williams cross

Both sides were struggling to get any real tempo going, with the Pitmen bossing the midfield areas but struggling to create chances, whilst Boro looked dangerous in the final third without really challenging the midfield duo of Steve and Carl Palmer

Simkin's drove a long-range free-kick over the Hednesford end and into the car park behind the goal on twenty-five minutes with a wild effort, before McGorry's low cross from the right-wing was hacked away from goal by Ryder two minutes later with Murphy lurking in the six-yard box

A powerful, lung-busting run from Carl Palmer on the half-hour mark saw him surge past four players from inside his own half and deep into Nuneaton territory, only for his weak, bobbling shot to bounce straight into the grateful arms of Acton. Lamey was unimpressed with Palmer's shot selection and let him know his thoughts as the pair trotted back into their own half

A foul by Karl Brown on Quailey earned Nuneaton a free-kick in a dangerous position just to the left of the Hednesford penalty area on thirty-four minutes, with Mark Clifford getting on the end of McGorry's cross but turned it well wide of the far post, under pressure from Williams

Murphy and Whittaker combined well on the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area to set up Quailey five minutes later, slipping the ball in behind a hesitant Hednesford defence only for Young to spot the danger and smother the through ball at Quailey's feet

With half-time looming, Ryder stole in at the far post to meet a cross from Maguire after a Hines corner ended up at the youngster's feet. His recycled ball in was met by the former Walsall man, who headed into the side-netting from eight yards out, slightly off-balance

It had been a fairly tame affair, with clear-cut chances at a premium as both sides had struggled to get a foothold in the game. Once again, Hednesford were struggling to create any real openings of any note, frustrating their supporters in the process

Nuneaton started the second half with more purpose, going a little more direct in their approach with Murphy slicing a long-range effort wide on forty-nine minutes after Acton's long kick was flicked into his path by Neil Moore

Four minutes later, Angus's downward header from a corner kick bounced across the Hednesford six-yard box before Hines finally completed the clearance at the far post

Brown and Steve Palmer linked up well on the counter-attack for the Pitmen on fifty-seven minutes, playing a neat one-two before setting Lamey on his way. The stocky striker turned Angus well and fired goalwards with his right foot, only to flash his effort wide of the far post. Arguably the Pitmen's best effort of the game so far in a game of few chances

Another run from Carl Palmer saw him get the better of Moor on sixty-one minutes before playing Anthrobus in, only for Acton to get the better in the battle of the veterans with a smothering save at Anthrobus's feet

Anthrobus was having arguably his best game for the club since his summer signing from Welsh club TNS, looking at ease with Lamey alongside him creating space for the big man to move into. He got the better of Angus on sixty-six minutes as Brown hooked a ball forwards to him, but his sliced shot sailed over the crossbar with Acton beaten

Lamey forced Acton into a superb save two minutes later, unleashing a shot from the edge of the Nuneaton penalty area that Acton brilliantly palmed away from goal to deny Lamey a debut goal

Tullin came on for Williams as Boro made their first change of the evening, followed a few minutes later by former Solihull Borough striker Andy Corbett replacing Murphy up front

Fitzpatrick played a superb ball through the centre of the Hednesford defence to Corbett on seventy-nine minutes, only for Ryder to make a timely interception as he slid in to deny the youngster a clear shot at goal

Three minutes later, Anthrobus was denied by Acton once more, as the former Tamworth stopper made another breathtaking, instinctive save from close-range to turn Anthrobus's goal-bound header over the crossbar and behind for a corner kick

Both sides had chances to win it as the game entered its final minutes, with Brown lashing an effort wide of goal from the right-hand side of the penalty area on eighty-five minutes followed two minutes later by Whittaker's scuffed effort straight into the arms of Young

In added time, an inswinging corner kick from McGorry was met by that man Angus once again, but his goalbound header was smuggled away by a combination of Young, Hines and Maguire

In the context of the league table, a point gained here had been well-earned and useful for the Pitmen, who have now played pretty much every side expected to be in the mix at the end of the season already after just six games. There are still many concerns over their inability to put the ball in the net, although Acton's fine performance tonight was very much the difference between the Pitmen earning a solitary point and all three. They get another opportunity to earn a first home win of the new season on Saturday when basement side Chelmsford City make the long trip to Keys Park from Essex

Hednesford Town: Young, Williams, Hines, Maguire, Simkin, Ryder, C. Palmer, S. Palmer ©, Anthrobus, Lamey, Brown     Subs Unused: Swann, Brindley, Danks, Dodd, P. Evans

Nuneaton Borough: Acton, Hoyle, Williams (Tullin 69), Fitzpatrick, Moore, Angus ©, McGorry, Quailey, Murphy (Corbett 74), Whittaker, Clifford       Subs Unused: Lamb, Quaile, Collins