25.10.2014

Vanarama Conference North

Oxford City

Hednesford Town

Batchelor (45), (88), Walker (66)

(0) 0

(1) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

316

Richard Batchelor

L D W D L W L W D W

Stalybridge Celtic (A) 1.11.14

Hednesford record back-to-back league victories on the road this afternoon, as they put ten man Oxford City to the sword with a confident second-half performance that saw new signing Richard Batchelor grab two goals on his debut

Last week's 1-1 draw at home to Bradford (Park Avenue) had briefly checked the Pitmen's much-improved recent form after successive wins over Boston and Hyde earlier in the month. With Jamey Osborne suspended and James Hurst still not fit for contention, manager Rob Smith made a handful of changes to his side for the trip to Oxford; Alex Melbourne was brought in ahead of Jamie Ashmore, whilst Osborne was replaced by fit-again Glenn Walker, who had recovered from a leg injury. New signing Richard Batchelor was brought straight into the side after joining the club on Thursday from league rivals Leamington

Oxford had proved many of the doubters wrong in their first quarter of the season, having been amongst the candidates for relegation in the summer after a rotten finish to 2013-2014. New manager Justin Merritt had gone about rebuilding the City after taking the reigns from Mike Ford in pre-season, bringing in a number of foreign names in an attempt to improve his side. Results had been mixed - an 8-1 defeat at home to AFC Fylde was followed three days later by a 7-2 win at Boston, but a fourth-placed position at the start of play was proof of progress at Court Place Farm

With both sides looking to take advantage of many of the clubs around them playing in the fourth qualifying round of the F.A. Cup this afternoon, it was the hosts who made the better start with a succession of early corner kicks that forced the Pitmen back into their own third, with Dan Crane making his first claim of the afternoon in the second minute to pick Declan Benjamin's cross out of the air after the ball was played out to him

It took until the sixteenth minute of the game for the Pitmen to launch an attack of any real note, as Ben Bailey created an opening from nothing in midfield. The centre back did brilliantly to slide in and intercept the ball on halfway, before making a barnstorming run forwards and into the penalty area. However, rather than elect to shoot, Bailey attempted to square the ball to the unmarked Steve Diggin, who was free on the penalty spot. Bailey's pass was weak and lacked direction, however, allowing Ander Del Alano to intercept the ball and clear

A neat period of play from Oxford on twenty minutes opened up the Pitmen down the left-hand side, with skipper Darren Campion making a superb block on his own goal line to deny Tom Winters a certain goal from close range after the winger had danced around Melbourne and Crane. Chris Westwood did well to hack the ball away from the onrushing Adi Yussuf before the striker could get to the rebound

From the resultant corner, Crane was on top form to deny Marlon Jackson in front of goal, pushing the ball away from danger and out to the edge of the penalty area. Winters tried his luck with a long-range effort but cleared the crossbar with a wild shot

Oxford continued to have the better of the chances, with Del Alano going close with a free kick on thirty-two minutes as he whipped a twenty-yard effort just wide of Crane's right-hand post

Bailey and Westwood were working hard once again to protect their side's clean sheet in the face of pressure from Oxford, very much in the same way that they were up against it in the second half against Bradford the previous week

However, the Pitmen were handed a real lifeline courtesy of Benjamin's over-aggressive approach on forty minutes, as the right-back was rightly shown a straight red card for a tackle on Diggin. Challenging for a bouncing ball on the corner of the Oxford penalty area, Benjamin launched a two-footed tackle on Diggin, raising both feet high off the ground and leaving the former Brackley striker in a crumpled heap. The referee made an immediate decision, showing the former Banbury player a red card and reducing the hosts to ten men

Tom Thorley wasted the resultant free-kick, lifting his effort high over the crossbar after his initial kick had rebounded back to him off the wall

In the final minute of the half, the Pitmen took advantage of their numerical superiority with the opening goal. A great Campion free-kick from the left fell on to the head of debutant Batchelor, who headed firmly past Oxford keeper Nathan Abbey from six yards to register his first goal for his new club at the far post

With the extra man on the pitch, Hednesford made a bright start to the second half as they looked to exploit the space behind the Oxford back line. A corner kick on forty-nine minutes by Campion was headed back across the face of goal by Bailey, who found Walker on the right-wing. His cross to the far post found the head of Danny Glover, who glanced his effort over the crossbar

Diggin saw a great chance to open his Hednesford account snuffed out on fifty-two minutes, as his low drive from fifteen yards out was deflected wide of goal by Alejandro Santiago after good work from strike partner Glover down the left-wing

Thorley - who was having an indifferent game in midfield - wasted a glorious chance to double the side's lead on fifty-five minutes as he raced onto a through ball by Glover. With no Oxford player within ten yards of him, Thorley had all the time in the world to steady himself and shoot at goal, only for Abbey to make a fairly comfortable save from ten yards out

Abbey was called upon to deny Diggin that vital first strike on fifty-nine minutes, turning the striker's shot wide of goal from his right-hand post to earn the Pitmen a corner kick

The Pitmen finally found a way through the Oxford defence again on sixty-six minutes, with Walker joining Batchelor in chalking up his first Hednesford goal. In a similar circumstance to Batchelor's opening goal, Thorley swung in a deep cross from the left to find Walker, who headed home at the far post, despite Abbey's best attempts to keep the ball out

Batchelor's memorable debut afternoon continued on sixty-nine minutes, as he took a Bailey clearance full in the face from close range and required a lengthy period of treatment for a bloody nose

Crane made a rare contribution to the game on seventy-five minutes, making a confident claim in his six-yard box to pluck an Oxford free-kick out of the air with blue and white shirts all around him

Crane made another comfortable stop on eighty-four minutes, easily fielding Winters' weak effort from twenty-five yards

Diggin's afternoon was brought to a halt with four minutes remaining, as loanee Tom Peers came on in his place up front

With two minutes of normal time remaining, the Pitmen grabbed a third goal that their second-half efforts deserved, with Batchelor again notching on his dream debut for the Pitmen; Thorley's lofted free-kick to the far post found Batchelor lurking, with the midfielder leaping highest to head firmly past Abbey from close range to settle matters

Big Marvin Robinson made a late cameo appearance for the Pitmen against his former club, coming on in place of Glover with a minute remaining. The experienced striker managed to earn a booking in his short time on the pitch, pulling Del Alano's shirt in added time and getting his name taken by the referee for interfering with play

A typical Hednesford game of two halves in many ways then - first half poor, second half excellent, with the lack of consistency again prevalent in a disjointed first forty-five minutes. There was little or no doubt that Benjamin's red card was the turning point in the game, with Smith and his team looking for more from his team when they make the trip to Stalybridge next Saturday

Oxford City: Abbey, Benjamin  (40), Stonehouse (Rodrigues 64), Del Alamo (Lapoujade 64), Santiago, Insa, Pond (Isaac 45), Mullings, Yussef, Jackson, Winters      Subs Unused: Adefolabi, Henderson

 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Melbourne, Campion ©, Bailey, Westwood, Crowther, Thorley, Walker, Glover (Robinson 89 ), Diggin (Peers 86), Batchelor      Subs unused: Ashmore, Francis, Price

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