30.9.2006

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Alexander (41)

Ossett Town

Hayward (23)

(1) 1

(1) 1

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Darren Alexander

L D W D W D L W W D

Lincoln United (A) 3.10.06

 Hednesford produced arguably their poorest performance of the season this afternoon but still earned themselves a point against struggling Ossett Town at Keys Park, losing their place at the top of the UniBond Premier League in the process

 

Having seen his side make it back-to-back wins against Leek Town on Monday night, manager Phil Starbuck was forced into one change to his starting XI as Ross Adams missed out on today's game due to injury and was replaced by Tom Franklin, who was deployed in an unfamiliar position out on the right-hand side

 Ossett made their first-ever trip to Keys Park in the midst of a poor run of recent form, having not won in their last six games in all competitions. There was one change to the side that had drawn 2-2 against Grantham Town in midweek as James Riordan was replaced by Danny Ryan in midfield. Manager Steve Kittrick included one familiar face to Hednesford supporters up front in the form of Andy Hayward, who had a spell at Keys Park back in the 1998-1999 season

On an unseasonably bright and sunny day, Ossett won the toss and elected to kick towards the Hednesford end in the first half, forcing the Pitmen to attack the Heath Hayes end. could have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute; midfield man David Briggs picked up a corner kick that was not effectively cleared but fired over the crossbar from the edge of the box

Ossett's Kirk Wheeler was the first player to end up in the referee's notebook in the eighth minute as he was shown a yellow card for illegally pulling back Alexander when in full flight

Wheeler could count himself lucky not to have been shown a second yellow card just three minutes later as he sent Phil Hadland sprawling with a late challenge out on the Hednesford right. Fortunately for the left-back, he was only given a dressing-down by the official and handed a final warning when the Keys Park crowd were baying for a red card

Brave defending from Iain Screaton denied Ossett in the thirteenth minute as he managed to block a goalbound shot from Rob O'Brien after more poor defending from the hosts

Ossett were content to let the Pitmen have plenty of the ball and catch the hosts on the counter-attack, almost taking the lead in this manner in the fifteenth minute as Ossett goalkeeper Neil Bennett pumped a long kick forwards that was allowed to bounce into the path of Hayward, who slotted the ball past Young from fifteen yards out. The veteran's celebrations were cut short, however, by a late offside flag on the Wimblebury side and the goal was disallowed

 The Pitmen slowly stirred, and spurred on by the hard work of Darren Alexander, came back into the game. Fellow striker Dave Whittaker should have done better from an Alexander pass in the eighteenth minute but fired wide of the target with an angled drive that flew into the Heath Hayes terrace

 

Chad Sheppard's cross two minutes later was just begging to be turned in by anyone in white, but the ball just evaded everyone inside the six-yard box and Ossett cleared their lines

Ossett's persistence with the long ball game finally paid off as they took the lead midway through the half. Another long punt up to the penalty area by Richard Marchant saw Ryan Young and Tom Marshall both leave the ball to each other, allowing Hayward to nip in and turn the ball goalwards; his initial shot was blocked by Tom Marshall, but he rebound ran kindly to the striker once more and he turned the ball into the net from close-range to hand Ossett the lead

The goal shocked Hednesford into life, with Ross Dyer making a run down the left and taking Rob Tonks out of the game with a mazy run before pulling the ball back into the path of Sheppard, only for the midfielder to lash his first-time shot well wide of goal from eighteen yards out

Burton Albion loanee Terry Henshaw did well to link up with Dyer down the left on thirty-four minutes, sending over a cross on the overlap that was headed over the crossbar by Alexander at the near post

Whittaker's woeful luck with injuries struck again two minutes later as he was forced off for the second successive game due to a dead leg and was replaced by Pedro. This saw a reshuffle in attack with Dyer moving up front and Pedro slotting into the wide position left by Dyer

Pedro added guile and creativity to the Pimen's game, skipping past Wheeler with ease on forty minutes and getting himself to the edge of the Ossett penalty area, only to get caught in two minds and producing a shot that looked like it was probably supposed to be a cross for Alexander that drifted wide of the far post

 The hard-working Alexander brought the sides level four minutes once more a minute later as he picked up a Sheppard pass on the edge of the Ossett penalty area and fired home a superb goal with an unstoppable effort past Bennett from twenty yards out

Starbuck's half-time talk was not heeded in any particular way by the Hednesford players, as they continued to struggle with Ossett's direct approach to the game in the early stages of the second period. Hayward flicked on a long ball from Mardchant into the path of strike partner Carl Fothergill on fifty minutes, only for Marshall to make a fine covering tackle to pick the striker's pocket in a timely manner

Marchant was the next player booked two minutes later after he had felled Sheppard just outside the Ossett penalty area. Sheppard took the resultant kick himself but lifted his effort over the crossbar and into the car park behind the Hednesford end stand

O'Brien's quick thinking three minutes later saw him turn the hapless Franklin after Ryder's throw-in and cross for Hayward, only for Young to make a parry at his near post to push the ball away from the striker's reach

Henshaw incurred the wrath of the referee on fifty-six minutes as he was booked for a late challenge on Ryan down the Ossett right flank to halt the winger's progress

The referee did not endear himself to the Keys Park faithful on the hour mark as he somehow awarded Ossett a corner kick after Hayward's off-target shot flew well wide of goal without anyone in a white short anywhere near the player or the ball

With Franklin struggling to contain O'Brien at right-back, Starbuck made another positional change and substitution a minute later with Danny Jellicoe coming on for Sheppard and slotting into the back four, allowing Franklin to return to his more natural role in midfield where Sheppard had been playing previously

With the shackles off, Franklin went close to giving the Pitmen the lead in his regular midfield role just three minutes later, making one of his late runs into the Ossett penalty area to latch onto a Dyer pass but drove his low shot wide of Bennett's right-hand post

Superb play from Pedro saw him ghost past two players down the left and cut the ball back to Franklin once more, only for Phil Lindley to track back and block the midfielder's shot 

 Alexander had a great chance to put the Pitmen in front twenty minutes from time  as he met Pedro's deep cross with his head but turned the ball against the crossbar from six yards out and Bennett beaten at his far post

The game became strappy and devoid of chances in the final fifteen minutes as the Pitmen struggled to create chances against a stoic Ossett side who elected to shut up shop and hold on to the point they were hanging on to. Alexander shot straight at Bennett on eighty minutes with a scuffed low shot after more good play from Pedro

On the other flank, Hadland had been quiet for long spells of the second half but produced a fine cross for Dyer with five minutes remaining as he clipped the ball to the far post, where the youngster headed tamely into the side-netting

 O'Brien could have stolen the points for the away side with two minutes remaining as he broke down the right on the counter-attack, but his curling shot from the corner of the penalty area flew just wide of the far post

Despite a flurry of corner kicks in added time from the hosts, Ossett held firm to claim their point and leave their hosts frustrated at not being able to make it three wins in a week. It's all a learning curve for the club, however, and another indication of how tough this league will be as teams wise up to the Pitmen and will look to protect points in whatever way possible when they come to Keys Park. Tuesday night sees the Pitmen on their travels once again as they visit Ashby Avenue to face Lincoln United

Hednesford Town: Young, Franklin, Henshaw , White ©, Screaton, Marshall, Dyer, Sheppard (Jellicoe 61), Alexander, Whittaker (Pedro 36), Hadland        Sub Unused: Walters

Ossett Town: Bennett, Tonks, Ryder, Wheeler , Marchant ▆ (Riordan 78), Lindley, O'Brien, Briggs, Hayward (Davidson 86), Fothergill, Ryan      Sub Unused: Pugh