F.A. Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Nuneaton Griff

Baxter (34), Slinn (83)

Hednesford Town

MacPherson (1), Harvey (50), Rey (58)

(1) 2

(1) 3



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Alex Melbourne


Bedworth United (H) 29.9.12

Hednesford are through to the third qualifying round of this season's F.A. Cup - but were given an almighty scare by Midland Combination side Nuneaton Griff at the Pingles Stadium this afternoon in the process

Recovering from the shock of a 4-0 mauling at the hands of Worksop Town in midweek, the Pitmen made an enforced change to their forward line - Aaron Rey returned to the starting XI at the expense of Michael Lennon, who had a personal commitment and was not involved. Neil Harvey's inclusion raised more than a few eyebrows in the Pingles Stadium before kick-off, as it was thought the striker was in Barbados preparing for the Caribbean Cup. As it transpired, Harvey had opted to stay in the UK after only being assured of a place on the bench for Barbados in the upcoming tournament

For Midland Combination opponents Griff, this was the biggest game in the club's history, as they made their first-ever appearance in the second qualifying round. They were looking to plug a three-division gap on their more illustrious opponents but made the worst possible start to proceedings as the step three visitors swept into a swift lead

With the first attack of the game, the Pitmen swept into the lead as Alex Melbourne's header into the area saw him slip the ball into the path of Dave MacPherson. The skipper struck the ball past the outstretched arms of Griff keeper Dave Watson and into the far corner of the net to open the scoring after just a matter of seconds

MacPherson went close to adding to the scoreline on three minutes, picking up the ball after Elliott Durrell's corner kick was cleared to the edge of the penalty area before firing over the crossbar

Nuneaton responded a minute later with some neat build-up play that opened up the Hednesford defence. Kyle Baxter ran onto the ball but miscued his shot horribly and scuffed it well, well wide of goal

The Pitmen should have doubled their lead on eleven minutes as Durrell made his way to the bye-line and cut the ball back into the path of Melbourne, who sliced his shot wide of the far post

A minute later, another Durrell ball into the box was not dealt with by a hesitant Griff defence, allowing Harvey to pounce on the ball and fire wide with a difficult bobbling ball to control


Dan Crane had been pretty redundant so far in the Hednesford goal, but he was alert to the danger on fifteen minutes to deny Dave Barnett as more impressive build-up play carved the Pitmen's defence open again

Harvey must be wondering how he did not open his account for the day on twenty-five minutes, as Melbourne's chipped cross was headed back across the face of goal by MacPherson. Harvey had the simple task of tapping the ball home, but under pressure from Watson and Griff man of the match Ryan Millerchip he somehow poked the ball wide of goal

Rey - still looking for his first goal for the Pitmen - carved out a chance for himself two minutes later, as his trickery saw him turn two Griff challenges on the edge of the area and fire in an angled shot that Watson parried well at his near post

Watson very nearly blotted his copybook on the half-hour mark, as Campion's long throw from the left was palmed narrowly wide of goal by the keeper, under pressure from Harvey at his near post

The Pitmen had looked reasonably comfortable to this point in the game, but Griff had looked good on the break and were quick to capitalise on any sloppy football from the away side. One such moment from Ben Bailey gave Nuneaton their lifeline on thirty-eight minutes, as Hednesford pressed the self-destruct button in defence yet again. Bailey, playing out at left-back, had the opportunity to put the ball out of play as he was pressurised by Aden Moore. He only succeeded in playing a short ball back to Crane, allowing Baxter to nip in and round Crane before placing the ball into the net to equalise

The final minutes of the half saw Griff exert severe pressure on the Hednesford defence, who were looking shaky and disorganised. Moore lifted his strike over the crossbar on forty-one minutes after more good approach play, followed by a swift attacking move a minute later that put Barnett in on goal. he dallied on the ball, however, and allowed Melbourne to recover at clear the ball

The expected rocket from Rob Smith and Chris Brindley at the break saw the Pitmen emerge brighter in the second half, with Bailey looking to make up for his earlier mistake with a towering header from Woolfe's free-kick just a couple of minutes after the restart. However, his powerful leap only succeeded in dropping wide of the far post as Rey galloped in

Crane almost added to the Pitmen's embarrassment on forty-eight minutes, as he looked to pick the ball up on the edge of his penalty area. Moore took advantage of Crane's indecision and nipped in to steal the ball off him. Fortunately for Crane, Moore finished horribly as he shanked the ball wide of goal, rather than roll the ball into the empty net

Griff were made to pay the price for this bad miss, as the Pitmen took the lead again on fifty minutes through Harvey. Woolfe picked the ball up twenty-five yards from goal and slipped the ball into the path of Harvey, who sidefooted past Watson from an angle for his fourth goal of the season

Hednesford had their tails up, and pushed Griff further and further into their own half as they looked to kill the game off. A wicked free-kick from Durrell just begged to be headed in at the far post, but Harvey, Rey and Bailey all failed to connect with the ball

On fifty-five minutes, Rey escaped the attentions of his marker down the left-wing, playing the ball into Darren Campion who had made a run forward. The left-back took too long to get his shot away and allowed Corey Faulconbridge to make a last-ditch tackle

The impressive Durrell - always looking to produce something in midfield - created the Pitmen's third goal on fifty-eight minutes after getting the better of Griff's Darren Hutchinson on the right-wing and crossing into the six-yard box. The bobbly surface meant Lee Hildreth completely missed the ball as he looked to clear, allowing Rey to tap the ball home at the far post for his first Hednesford goal

The goal Durrell's efforts deserved continued to desert him, as a vicious long-range effort on sixty-nine minutes flew narrowly wide of the far post

More comedy defending - this time from Francis - followed a minute later, as the big centre-back sliced his clearance and allowed Moore a free run on goal. Once again, however, Moore wasted a golden opportunity to put Griff back into the game as he horribly swiped at the ball and missed by a good distance

With nineteen minutes remaining, Melbourne could have wrapped the game up as he ran onto Harvey's lay-off and struck the shot towards goal, only to be denied by a goal-line clearance from Faulconbridge

Credit to Griff, however, as they continued to plug away despite the scoreline. A couple of last-ditch Hednesford challenges cleared dangerous balls into the area on seventy-six minutes, with MacPherson having to hack the ball off the goal line to deny Baxter another goal

In an effort to close the game out, defender Sam Barnes was introduced in place of winger Woolfe, with the Pitmen moving to five at the back for the remainder of the game. A few moments later, youngster Amani Allen was brought on in place of Rey

Griff's efforts were rewarded on eighty-three minutes, as a long throw from Barnett caused more problems for the Hednesford back line, allowing Ryan Slinn to steal in at the far post and knock the ball into the net from close range

Despite narrowing the scoreline, Griff offered little in the final minutes as they searched for an incredible equaliser, allowing the Pitmen to move into the third qualifying round for the second successive season - but only just

Nuneaton Griff: Watson, Hutchison (Hutchison 81), Greenway, Faulconbridge, Millerchip ©, Hildreth, Barnett, Williams, Moore, Baxter, Lillicrapp (Slinn 67)      Subs Unused: Sullivan, Gallagher, Slobbie, Pritchard, Robinson, Reardon

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson ©, Melbourne, Durrell, Harvey, Rey (Allen 81), Woolfe (Barnes 77)       Subs Unused: O’Connor, Watkins, Taylor, Recci, Hornby

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