22.1.2022

Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Tilt (15), (72), Bennett (20)

Peterborough Sports

(2) 3

(0) 0

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Kyle Bennett

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Hitchin Town (A) 29.1.22

Hednesford register their first win of 2022 as they confidently and impressively defeated third-placed Peterborough Sports at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park this afternoon

It was the Pitmen's first home game of the New Year, having seen their game against Stourbridge postponed last week due to the Glassboys' ongoing F.A. Trophy commitments. Manager Keenen Meakin-Richards had overseen much change to his squad since their 3-3 draw at Needham Market two weeks ago, having made the difficult decision to release club great Ben Bailey and Sam Griffiths. There had been one arrival in the form of on-loan Wolves goalkeeper Joe O'Shaughnessy as a replacement for the departed Jono Brown, although the teenager was unavailable to make his debut today after being struck down with a bout of illness. With all this in mind, there was one change to the side that had started at Bloomfields, as Bailey was replaced by the hugely experienced Martin Riley after the 35-year-old had recovered from COVID

Sports had already beaten the Pitmen twice already this season, plundering seven goals in the process and arrived at Keys Park sitting in third place in the Southern Premier League Central table. However, Jimmy Dean's side had been in indifferent form since the start of December, winning only two of their last seven games to fall away from fellow title challengers Banbury United and Coalville Town. Dean made one change to his side from their 2-2 draw at Barwell last Saturday as Dan Jarvis replaced Shaun Keane at full-back

It was a cold and overcast afternoon in South Staffordshire, although the Keys Park crowd remained impressively steady at a touch under 550. George Cater was played into space down the left flank by Reece Flanagan's fourth-minute pass, skipping past Jarvis with ease and pulling the ball back into the danger zone where skipper Richard Jones cleared the danger ahead of Riley O'Sullivan

The visitors were forced into an early substitution as Josh Moreman was forced off in the sixth minute due to injury and replaced by Luke Warner-Eley out on the wing 

New skipper Lewis Ison picked up a pass from Todd Parker a minute later and played a delightful long ball into the path of Wes Atkinson down the right. The full-back did well to get past Johnny Herd and sent over a dangerous low cross that Jones once again cleared with a sliced effort just over his own crossbar

The hosts forced three corners in succession in the tenth minute of the game, with Flanagan testing Sports' resolve with an array of crosses into the box. One ball into the far post was cleared by Herd but only as far as Ison, whose half-volley from twelve yards out sailed over the crossbar

Peterborough's first sight at goal came in the fourteenth minute as goalkeeper Paul White booted a long ball forwards and into the path of Warner-Eley, who saw the ball deflected back into his path via a touch from Parker to allow him to make a run forwards. However, his low shot from twenty yards out was comfortably saved by Bradley Clarkson

The Pitmen's bright start to the game was rewarded with the opening goal in the fifteenth minute; Carter Lycett's raking ball forwards was knocked down by O'Sullivan and into the path of Bennett, who produced a superb angled, weighted pass through the middle of the Peterborough defence and into the path of Tilt, who made a perfectly-timed run in behind the Sports defence before slotting the ball past White from twelve yards out

Clarkson was on hand to make another comfortable save in the eighteenth minute as Sports worked the ball from right to left and to Warner-Eley on the corner of the Hednesford penalty area; his half-volley towards goal was at a nice height for the stopper, who plucked the ball out of the air

The highly impressive Bennett marked his home debut with a sensational strike to put the Pitmen two goals ahead in the twentieth minute, picking up a Parker pass twenty yards from goal and lining up an unstoppable rising shot that flew past a bemused White and found the top corner of the net. A superb strike from the attacker

It could have been three for the Pitmen on twenty-three minutes as Flanagan's inswinging free-kick from the left flank was flicked on by Riley and into the path of O'Sullivan, who just couldn't turn the ball home as Richard Jones and White managed to smuggle the ball away

Dion Sembie-Ferris was the first player of the afternoon to be shown a yellow card by referee Mr Pattison as he was booked following a foul on the bright and breezy Bennett in the Sports' half

Brad McGowan followed his team-mate into the book on thirty-three minutes as he hauled the tireless O'Sullivan down in the centre-circle, earning him a yellow card and a free-kick to the Pitmen. Flanagan chipped his free-kick into the penalty area, where Richard Jones could only head the ball back into the path of O'Sullivan - the big striker controlled the ball well and worked it onto his right foot before shooting low at goal and forcing White into a save down to his left

The tricky Warner-Eley was denied a clear shooting opportunity by the excellent Ison on thirty-eight minutes as the Hednesford captain came across his penalty area to make a timely block and deny the forward a shot at goal

Sports had struggled to chances much in the Hednesford third of the pitch as the hosts stood firm in face of their visitor's aggressive and direct approach. Jarvis made a move into the Hednesford penalty area on fifty-two minutes as he latched onto a pass from Mark Jones, but lashed his angled drive wide of the post

 

Cater could have put the game beyond Peterborough in the first minute of added time as he was played through down the right flank by Parker's slide-rule pass, beating Richard Jones but seeing White push his shot from a tight angle away from goal at his near post

It had been a hugely impressive showing from the Pitmen, who had looked dangerous on the break through Tilt, Cater and Bennett whilst remaining solid and organised at the back. In midfield, Flanagan and Parker were enjoying plenty of time on the ball against an out-of-sorts Peterborough side that had struggled to express itself in a poor first-half showing

Sports looked to start the second half with more purpose and forced two early corner kicks in a bid to crank up the pressure on the Hednesford defence, which had conceded two or more goals in eleven of their last fourteen games. Ison and Riley were up to the task, however, and showed great composure to negate the threat offered by the away side and the large number of 6ft-plus players in their ranks. O'Sullivan was also lending a hand to his side at the back, dropping into defence and using his height to good effect

A quick counter-attack from the Pitmen on fifty-two minutes saw Bennett play yet another fine pass through to Tilt, who danced past Herd and crossed low into the near post where White claimed the ball ahead of O'Sullivan

Three minutes later, Atkinson made a goal-saving challenge for the Pitmen as Peterborough quickly countered through Warner-Eley after Lycett's free-kick had been cleared, with the right-back having to get goal side of the player to deny him a clear shooting opportunity just inside the Hednesford penalty area

Clarkson had a moment of nerves on fifty-seven minutes as he fumbled a shot from Josh McCammon inside his own six-yard box before recovering well and smothering the ball at the second attempt before it could spin away into the net

On the hour mark, Riley played Lycett into acres of space down the left with a fine, direct pass forwards. The youngster teased his way to the byeline and crossed looking for Bennett, who was slightly behind the play and could not quite get his foot to the ball into the Peterborough penalty area

Four minutes later, Sports appealed in vain for a penalty kick as substitute Lewis Hilliard went to ground under a challenge from Ison, only for Mr Pattison to gesture to the Sports' number fourteen to get back to his feet

More good forward play from O'Sullivan on sixty-eight minutes saw the striker exchange passes with Parker in midfield before driving a low shot from just outside the box inches wide of the post

Clarkson was on the spot to make what was to be a crucial stop on seventy-two minutes, saving with his legs to deny Jarvis a certain goal after he had ghosted in behind Riley to turn Sembie-Ferris's cross goalwards. The Pitmen broke quickly and Cater took the ball down the left, leaving both Dan Lawlor and McGowan in his wake before pulling the ball back to Parker, who was denied by Jarvis. The ball ran loose to Tilt via a touch from Richard Jones, whose shot from fifteen yards out took a huge selection off the boot of the Peterborough skipper, looping the ball upwards and over the head of White and dipping inches underneath the crossbar to nestle in the back of the net. A hugely fortuitous goal, but the sort of goal that good form and football earns you sometimes

With the game now essentially won, the Pitmen could afford to make changes to their side and give key players a well-earned rest; on seventy-four minutes, Cater was given a warm ovation from all sides of the ground as he was replaced by Armitage on the left flank after another good performance from the former Chasetown man

Four minutes later, the excellent Bennett was also given a warm round of applause from the home crowd in recognition of his fine home debut as he was replaced by Andre Landell

The third goal had knocked the stuffing out of the visitors, who had ceased to be a threat going forwards with such a large deficit to make up and only ten minutes to do so. On eighty-one minutes, Parker's poor pass out of defence was seized upon by Lawlor, whose pass into the path of Sembie-Ferris saw the forward drag his shot wide of goal. Clarkson blotted his copybook by trying to keep the ball in but fumbled the ball behind for a cheap Peterborough corner when he would have been better advised to let the ball run out of play

From Hilliard's corner kick, the ball bobbled around in the Hednesford six-yard box after Richard Jones had headed the ball back into the danger zone, only for Flanagan to finally clear the lines before McGowan could turn the ball home

A minute later, Lawlor was rightly booked by Mr Pattison for a foul on O'Sullivan, although the midfielder had been guilty of a totting up of sly fouls for much of the game as well as spending time in the ear of the referee at every contentious decision

With eight minutes remaining, the home side made their final change of the afternoon as centre-back Josh Endall came on in place of O'Sullivan to see out the final minutes and add numbers to the Pitmen's defence

Endall's only contribution to the game came with three minutes to go as he was booked for a hefty challenge on Sembie-Ferris in the centre-circle that left the midfielder in a heap on the turf and requiring treatment. Some of the Sports players believed that the substitute's challenge merited a red card, but Mr Pattison was content that the challenge only warranted a booking

It had been a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining ninety minutes from the hosts, who were good value for their first win in five games against a Sports side who will now be looking to establish themselves in the play-off picture as any title aspirations appear to have now disappeared. Meakin-Richards' side will go looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since the first week of the season on Saturday when they travel to struggling Hitchin Town

Hednesford Town: Clarkson, Atkinson, Lycett, Riley, Ison ©, Flanagan Cater (Armitage 74), Parker, O'Sullivan (Endall 82 ), Bennett (Landell 78), Tilt       Subs Unused: Master, Williams

Peterborough Sports: White, Jarvis, Herd, McGowan , R. Jones ©, Lawlor , Sembie-Ferris , Chong (Hilliard 62), M. Jones (Gash 62), McCammon, Moreman (Warner-Eley 6)       Subs Unused: Fryatt, Keane

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