9.4.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Prescot Cables

Hednesford Town

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Phil Hadland

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Ilkeston Town (A) 14.4.07

The Pitmen blew a great chance to give their fading play-off hopes a boost this evening on their first-ever visit to Valerie Park as they were held to a goalless draw by mid-table Prescot Cables 

Manager Phil Starbuck made one change to his XI from the one that had been beaten late on by Witton Albion on Saturday as Gary Sucharewycz returned to the side after serving his one-match suspension at the weekend, replacing Danny Bacon in the side which saw Dave Whittaker once again moved to an unfamiliar midfield position

Cables returned home after being beaten 1-0 in their Good Friday derby against title challengers Burscough, leaving the Amber and Blacks in fifteenth place in the UniBond Premier League. Manager Andy Gray made two changes to his side for tonight's game with Chris Burke coming in for Marvin Molyneux, and John Stannard replacing veteran Karl Connolly up front

On a cool evening, the all-red clad Pitmen started well as they looked to shake off Saturday's disappointment. In the fifth minute, a period of pressure ended with Tom Marshall striking a firm free-kick high and wide of goal from twenty yards out

Two minutes later, Prescot full-back Chris Burke tried his luck with the home side's first attempt on goal with an audacious forty-yard lob that Ryan Young held well inside his six-yard box as he backtracked to claim the ball

The returning Whittaker used his aerial prowess to good effect in the eleventh minute as he got on the end of a Phil Hadland corner but headed wide of the far post with a free header at the far post

The tricky Dean Thurston made a mazy run from deep in midfield four minutes later as he skipped past a challenge from Chris White before lashing his shot well wide of goal from nearly thirty yards out

Jon Douglas did well to flick the ball over the head of Steve McEwan on eighteen minutes and into the path of the pacy Dyer, whose right-footed effort was a couple of yards wide of goal from fifteen yards out

Dyer was involved again inside the Prescot penalty area on twenty-three minutes as he got on the end of another Hadland cross, but heading wide of goal as the ball bounced awkwardly for him

Four minutes later, Thurston was denied by Young as the midfielder exchanged passes with Eamonn Price before bursting into the penalty area and firing in a low shot that the Hednesford stopper made a good save from low down to his left

On the half-hour mark, the same player was inches wide of Young's left-hand post as he made a pocket of space just outside the penalty area by stepping past Ross Adams and driving a shot wide of goal

Screaton was warned about his conduct by the referee on thirty-four minutes after kicking the ball away following a foul on Karl O'Donnell just inside the Hednesford half of the pitch

Sucharewycz went close to marking his return to the team with a goal on thirty-nine minutes as he leapt highest to reach a Hadland free-kick at the far post, but his downwards header was claimed by McMahon low down at his post with Douglas sniffing for a rebound

Five minutes before the break, Dyer showed superb footwork to outwit both McEwan and Karl Bell in midfield before finding the dangerous Hadland out on the left with a sweeping pass. Hadland stole a yard on right-back Steve Smith and whipped in a cross that Douglasfirmly headed wide from ten yards out. good chance wasted by the Pitmen and something that had become an emerging probelm for their strikers in the past few weeks

With a minute of the first half remaining, Thurston went close again for Cables as he struck a fine effort from twenty-five yards out straight into the midriff of Young on his goal line

It had been a low-quality first period from both sides, with neither team looking to have the conviction in their ranks to notch a goal, with the game having an almost inevitable 'end of season' feel to it so far

Gray sent the hosts out with a more positive outlook at the start of the second half as they started by far the better side with a strong opening salvo; Thomas Moore sent Thurston away on goal on fifty minutes, turning and flicking the ball past Marshall before driving his shot wide from twelves yards out

Connolly - on as a half-time substitute for Stannard - also drove a shot wide three minutes later as he got goal side of Adams to latch onto a long, searching pass forwards from Bell

The Prescot pressure continued through McEwan on fifty-six minutes as the full-back made a late run into the Hednesford penalty area to get on the end of a free-kick from Moore but turned the ball narrowly wide of the post as he tried to pull it back into the danger zone

For the Pitmen, Douglas struck a fearsome first-time volley at goal on the hour mark from a Dyer cross, only for McMahon to make a comfortable save on his six-yard line

Price missed a great chance for Cables on sixty-three minutes as he slid in at the far post to meet a low cross from O'Donnell, only to miss the ball by a matter of inches as he attempted to hook the ball home from a couple of yards out

Five minutes later, A flick-on from Marshall at the near post sent a Hadland corner kick towards Douglas, only for the striker's shot to be smothered away from goal by Smith as Douglas attempted to force the ball home from a tight angle

White was booked on seventy minutes for an accumulation of petty fouls throughout the game as he looked to break up Prescot's attacks time and again in midfield

Pedro - dreadfully out of form and lacking confidence - was sent on by Starbuck on seventy-three minutes in a bid to offer some creative spark to his impotent attack, coming on in place of Douglas and forcing Dyer into a more central role in the process

His first contribution in the final fifteen minutes was in the build-up to a chance for Dyer, who was played in by Whittaker's header, but his shot went wide of the post

Price got the better of Soar a minute later as he chased down a long ball from Bell and got in behind the Hednesford defence down the right flank. He appeared to be caught in two minds as he entered the penalty area and produced what was neither a cross nor a shot that simply drifted away from goal at Young's far post

 with nine minutes of a tepid affair remaining,Pedro stepped past two tackles out on the right-wing and sent over a fine cross that was headed back across goal by Whittaker, only for McEwan to clear his lines before Dyer could pounce on the loose ball

Alexander made a late appearance from the bench for the Pitmen, coming on with six minutes remaining to replace Hadland and add more aerial threat to the Pitmen's attack

Another chance fell at the feet of Price for the hosts with four minutes remaining as Moore and O'Donnell linked up through the middle of the pitch to find the striker, only for his shot to drift wide of Young's near post as Marshall put him under pressure at the crucial moment and forced him to rush his shot

It was Marshall who was to have the final chance of the game to take the points back to Staffordshire in the final minute as an Adams free-kick found Marshall, unmarked standing on the penalty spot, to head firmly into the grateful arms of McMahon. A yard either side of the Cables stopper and Marshall would have most likely won it for the shot-shy visitors

A point gained for the Pitmen that extends their winless run to six games; goals have suddenly become hard to come by for a side that was scoring freely at the start of the campaign, no matter which combination of strikers starts the game from Starbuck's depth of talent available to him. The dropping of two points was brought into even more sharp focus as news filtered through of defeats for fellow play-off chasers Fleetwood, Guiseley and Marine. It may not be over yet for the Pitmen when it comes to the top five, but they will need to recapture some of their early-season form between now and the end of the month if they are to gatecrash the end-of-season lottery that is the play-offs. Saturday sees them travel to mid-table Ilkeston Town with three points no an absolute must now that we are in the final month of the campaign

Prescot Cables: McMahon, Smith, Burke, McEwan, Bell, Flynn ©, Thurston, Moore, O'Donnell, Price, Stannard (Connolly 45)       Subs Unused: Molyneux, Owens

Hednesford Town: Young, Marshall, Screaton, White © , Sucharewycz, Soar, Hadland (Alexander 85), Whittaker, Dyer, Douglas (Pedro 73), Adams    Sub Unused: Bacon