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Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Bailey (12), Cuff (35), Clements (49)

Royston Town

Murray (47), Robson (73), (86)

(2) 3

(0) 3



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Adam Livingstone



Barwell (H) 25.10.22

Despite holding a two-goal advantage twice in the game, the struggling Pitmen have to settle for a draw against Royston Town this afternoon at the RACE Stadium as the visitors grabbed three second-half goals

Tuesday night's narrow defeat to league leaders Tamworth had given manager Steve Burr much to ponder ahead of this second of five home games in a row for the Pitmen. Leroy Lita had been passed fit to return to the side after suffering from a bout of concussion, with the veteran coming back into the XI ahead of Joe Cuff in the only change to the side that had started in midweek

Mid-table Royston arrived at the RACE Stadium off the back of a 2-1 home defeat to Ilkeston Town on Tuesday night; manager Steve Castle made two changes to his Crows side from the one that had started against Ilson as Spyros Mentis and Andrew Osei-Bonsu came in for Jay Rolfe and Ronnie Henry respectively

Despite the heavy rain of the past couple of days, the Keys Park pitch was in great condition ahead of kick-off. The hosts looked to take the early advantage with a quick and direct passing game early on. A Ryan Nesbitt short corner in the fourth minute was rolled into the path of Todd Parker, who took a touch before shooting from twelve yards out but saw his goalbound effort deflected away by the boot of Cole Dasilva. The ball ran back to Nesbitt, who drifted inside from the right flank and drive in an angled shot of his own that was saved at his near post by Royston goalkeeper Dimitrios Kyriatzis

Tiernan Brooks - impressive in several of the Pitmen's last few games - made another important stop to add to his growing collection three minutes later as he palmed a curling cross-cum-shot from Connor Furlong away from goal at his far post after the winger's run down the right saw him edge past Adam Livingstone and crossed towards the head of Matt Bateman

The Pitmen went closest of either side to break the deadlock in the twelfth minute as some superb wing play from Livingstone saw the Scotsman bring down an Ison free-kick wide on the left, leaving Dasilva in his wake before pulling the ball across the face of the six-yard box and into the path of Nesbitt, whose first-time shot was blocked in front of goal by Danny Newton

From Parker's resultant corner, the Pitmen finally grabbed the lead as skipper Ben Bailey made a darting run into the six-yard box to meet the midfielder's ball into the front post, glancing his header beyond Kyriatzis and into the net for his first goal since returning to the club

The Pitmen looked to establish their dominance on the game with a quick break out of defence three minutes later as Parker's long, searching ball forwards found Lita in space through the centre of the pitch. The striker held the ball up well whilst reinforcements arrived, laying the ball off to Kyle Bennett who in turn cleverly returned the ball to Lita. His first-time shot from ten yards out lacked direction, however, as he lifted his effort over the crossbar

Royston's top scorer Bateman looked to get his side going with a half-chance on eighteen minutes, getting on the end of a cross from Dasilva but lightly glancing the ball wide of goal from eight yards out as he beat Keith Lowe to the header

Nesbitt looked to catch the dawdling Royston defence out from another pre-orchestrated corner kick a minute later as Parker played the ball short to the striker, whose shot was eventually smothered away by the Crows' defence

The Pitmen were forced into their first change of the afternoon on twenty-one minutes as Zac Hartley - who had looked impressive getting up and down the right flank - was taken off with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. He was replaced by Cuff, which forced the Pitmen re-jig their side with Lewis Ison covering at right-back and Cuff playing on the right wing

Bennett tested the handling of Kyriatzis two minutes later as he picked up a Parker pass in space thirty yards from goal, stepping inside of a challenge from Fernando Bell-Toxlte before unleashing a long-range effort that the Greek goalkeeper held at the second attempt

Cuff was next to try his luck for the hosts on twenty-six minutes as he picked up a Bennett pass out on the right before turning past Joe Nakatani-Brown and unleashing a powerfully-stuck shot from the edge of the box that narrowly cleared the crossbar

Successive corner kicks from the Pitmen on twenty-eight minutes continued to pile the pressure on the Royston defence, with Nesbitt's second ball in looking for Bailey once more but was headed over the crossbar on this occasion by the centre-back

Lita's nuisance value earned the Pitmen a free-kick in a dangerous position on thirty-two minutes as he had his shirt pulled by Newton to stop him from clashing onto a loose ball. Ison and Cuff stood over the resultant free-kick, with Cuff firing a low shot into the right-hand corner of the net from twenty yards out, despite the best efforts of Kyriatzis to keep the ball out

Three minutes later, Ison and Nesbitt linked up well to cross from the right, where Livingston arrived late on the left wing to drill a shot well wide of goal from a tight angle

Cuff wasted a glorious chance to hand Nesbitt a tap-in on thirty-nine minutes as the winger went on a mazy run from deep, beating three Royston players in the process before taking the ball into the box. Despite having Nesbitt unmarked square of him for a tap-in, Cuff elected to take on Adam Murray for a second time and eventually lost possession of the ball as Kyriatzis made the save at his feet. A great opportunity lost due to Cuff's showboating and poor decision making

Another great chance fell to the Pitmen with two minutes of the first half remaining as a corner kick from Parker on the left was flapped at by the unconvincing Kyriatzis, who palmed the ball straight into the path of Lita. The striker seemed surprised that the ball fell to him and could not apply the finish from close range as Bell-Toxtle cleared off the line

It had been a dominant display from the Pitmen thus far, who had been impressive going forwards and scored two good goals from set-pieces to exert their authority on the game. They were handed a blow, however, at the break as top scorer Lita had suffered a back spasm late on in the half and had to be withdrawn at the break as Stanley Obinna Anaebonam replaced him

These relative shifts in tactic were to shift the momentum back towards the visitors, as they immediately reduced the deficit with the first attack of the second half; substitute Sean Kean's crossfield ball found Furlong out on the left, with the winger's low cross into the front post diverted past Brooks by Murray from close range as he nipped in to get goal side of Lowe

However, this appeared to have been covered off by the Pitmen just two minutes later as Clements struck an absolute beauty of a goal to score his first goal for the club since his return. Anaebonam did well to make progress down the left before feeding the ball into the path of Cuff, standing to the right-hand side of the Royston penalty area. The substitute laid the ball off to Clements, who dispatched a superb curling shot from twenty-five yards out that soared past Kyriatzis and nestled in the top far corner of the net. It was the midfielder's first goal for the club since he scored in a 2-1 win over Northwich Victoria in April 2012 - over a decade ago

The Pitmen looked to kill the game off as a contest with more bustling play from Cuff on fifty-two minutes, jinking one way then the other to get past Mentis before drilling in a cross from tight on the right byeline towards Nesbitt that had a little too much on it

Royston were looking to pick out the big, physical threat of Murray at every opportunity, lofting the ball up into the big man three minutes later as he held off Lowe's challenge before attempting to play Bateman in. The assistant on the Wimblebury side had other ideas, however, and flagged the former Hemel Hempstead Town marksman offside 

On fifty-seven minutes, Obinna Anaebonam made another surging run down the left as he left Keane in his wake to enter the penalty area before stabbing a low cross into the danger zone but narrowly out of reach of the incoming Nesbitt

Murray found himself in a good position to the left-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area two minutes later as Bell-Toxtle sprayed the ball out to him from midfield. The defender-turned-striker hit a first-time shot from twenty yards out that took a deflection off the heel of the excellent Livingstone and drifted just wide of Brooks's left-hand post for a Royston corner

On the hour mark, good link-up play down the left for the hosts saw Livingstone find Obinna Anaebonam, whose trickery saw him dance past two challenges before lifting his effort from just outside the box high over the crossbar. A cross toward Cuff at the far post would probably have been a better option with the benefit of hindsight

Murray was left pleading with referee Mr Lunn on sixty-three minutes as he went down in the Hednesford penalty area under pressure from Lowe, only to be gestured to his feet by the match official who saw no foul play in Lowe's challenge

The Pitmen thought that they had seen off the best Royston could throw at them at this stage, as the visitors elected to take off top scorer Bateman a minute or so later and bring on youngster Kian Harness in his place

Harness's first action was to immediately pick up the game's first booking of the afternoon midway through the second half as he scythed down Cuff on the right flank and was probably a little lucky only to pick up a caution from Mr Lunn for a horribly mistimed challenge

Still the Pitmen pressed, with Nesbitt failing to notch with a good chance presented to him on seventy-two minutes as Obinna Anaebonam's run and cross from the left was met by the head of the former Redditch United man, only for his flicked effort to drop the wrong side of Kyriatzis's left-hand post

Nesbitt's miss was brought into starker focus less than sixty seconds later as Royston once again reduced the deficit to just one goal. A long goal kick forwards from Kyriatzis was flicked on by Murray, causing the Pitmen to struggle in clearing their lines as the ball bobbled around just outside the box. Nathan Tshikuna picked up the ball and played a delightful pass into the feet of substitute Jarid Robson, who finished well past Brooks with a right-footed effort from sixteen yards out

Suddenly, the momentum was swinging back towards the away side as they continually pumped the ball long into the Hednesford half. The home side's overworked midfield of Clements and Parker were struggling to contain the flow of Royston balls forwards. Straight from the restart, Royston won the ball back and sent Furlong away down the left once more, with his low cross into the feet of Murray cut out by some last-ditch defenƒding from Bailey at his near post

Ison wasted a good chance from Nesbitt's half-cleared corner with fifteen minutes remaining, slicing his shot high over the crossbar at the far post after the ball had made its way to him ten yards from goal

Brooks made another defiant save to keep his side in front with eleven minutes of the game remaining as another long ball forwards from Kyriatzis was once again flicked on by Murray and into the path of Robson, who turned past Lowe and entered the penalty area, only to be denied by the smothering legs of Brooks from six yards out

With eight minutes remaining, the Pitmen looked to add to their tiring ranks in midfield as Luke Rowe came on in place of Bennett to make it a three-man central midfield for the remainder of the game

More defensive indecision from the Pitmen two minutes later saw them struggle once more to deal with the high ball into the box as Cuff's attempted clearance fell to Tshikuna, whose ball into the feet of Murray saw the Royston skipper turn quickly and fire in a weak shot that was fielded by Brooks down to his right

The Pitmen's inability to keep control of the ball and allow Royston to keep pumping high balls into Murray eventually told for the away side with four minutes remaining as they grabbed an equaliser through Robson once more; yet another long ball forwards towards the big defender saw Robson pick the loose ball up from deep and play Furlong into space down the left. His turn and cross found Robson unmarked in the six yards box, with the substitute chesting the ball down before turning the ball past Brooks from close range

There were fears from the home crowd that Royston could go on and take all of the points at this juncture as the momentum was firmly behind the away side, with Murray flicking another long ball on towards Tshikuna on eighty-nine minutes that was just a little too far in front of the former AFC Rushden & Diamonds man

The Pitmen's second-half performance was summed up perfectly by Cuff in the first minute of added time, as he crudely brought down Mentis by the corner flag with a late tackle that earned him a deserved yellow card from Mr Lunn. He was followed into the book by Mentis himself for dissent just before the final whistle as Royston settled on the point that they had worked hard to fight back for

The Keys Park crowd was left a little flat and subdued at the final whistle, having seen their side play extremely well for the first forty-five minutes but had tamely rolled over in the second half to allow Royston to bully their way back into the game with brute force and a direct style of play. It was very much two costly points dropped for Burr's team, who are now six points adrift of safety courtesy of Barwell's surprise 3-1 win at Redditch today. Barwell provide the opposition on Tuesday night when they make the short trip across the A5 to the RACE Stadium in what is now an absolute must-win for the basement-dwelling Pitmen

Hednesford Town: Brooks, Ison, Hartley (Cuff 21 ), Bailey ©, Lowe, Clements, Nesbitt, Parker, Lita (Obinna Anaebonam 45), Bennett (Rowe 82),  Livingstone      Subs Unused: Ibrahim, Clayton

Royston Town: Kyriatzis, Dasilva (Robson 45 ), Nakatani-Brown (Keane 45), Mentis , Murray ©, Newton, Osei-Bonsu, Bell-Toxtle, Bateman (Harness 64), Tshikuna, Furlong       Subs Unused: Williams, Bustamante


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