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F.A. Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Rugby Town

Blythe (26)

Hednesford Town

Archer (24), (34), Cockerline (31)

(1) 1

(3) 3



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Joe Fitzpatrick




Marine (A) 29.9.18

Hednesford safely navigated their way through to the third qualifying round of this season's F.A. Cup courtesy of a first-half blitz to beat hosts Rugby Town at a wet and windy Butlin Road this afternoon


Last weekend's 2-0 win over Workington had seen the Pitmen record their first home win in the league this season to lift them up to ninth in the league table. Today saw them take a break from Evo-Stik Premier League duty and the chance to add £9,000 to the £6,000 they had collected in the previous round for beating Tamworth at Keys Park. Manager Rob Smith had a number of injury concerns to contend with, relying on Joe Fitzpatrick and Jed Davies passing themselves fit for the game despite the pair being rated as 50-50. Charlie Gatter was definitely one player missing due to injury, whilst a number of players carrying knocks - Josh Craddock and Stefan Galinski amongst them - played through the pain to enable the Pitmen to field a strong side


Rugby - managed by former Hednesford midfielder Carl Adams - had made a fine start to their United Counties League campaign with nine points from five games so far this term. They had also claimed the notable scalp of step three side Redditch United in the previous round of the F.A. Cup, winning 4-2 at the Valley Stadium after being 2-1 down with eight minutes remaining. As a consequence of this result, former Hednesford striker Danico Johnson missed today's game due to suspension after being shown a red card late on in the win over Redditch. Another former Hednesford striker - Romario Martin - failed to make the Valley's squad despite playing for them in midweek against Oadby Town


The visitors were quickly into their stride, with Matt Dodd winning an early free-kick in a dangerous position. Jed Davies's inswinging ball into the box was headed wide by the onrushing Galinski at the near post, just out of reach of Lewis Archer


The tricky Davies was next to test the Rugby defence on twelve minutes, picking up an Archer ball on the edge of the Rugby penalty area before lifting his effort over the crossbar from twenty yards out


Dan Cockerline did brilliantly to carve out a chance for himself in the seventeenth minute, picking up a miscued header from Rugby's Loyiso Recci a few yards inside the opposition penalty area before advancing on goal and placing a shot low to keeper Matt Hill's left, only to be denied a second goal of the season by the foot of the post


It had been all Hednesford in the opening twenty minutes, with the Pitmen continuing their barrage on the rugby goal on twenty-one minutes through Archer. The stocky forward gambled at the far post to reach a deep Matt Curley cross, getting goal-side of marker Keenah Rosser to head narrowly wide of the right-hand post


The Pitmen finally got their noses in front through the impressive Archer three minutes later, as an angled cross from Fitzpatrick found Archer lurking once more at the far post. The youngster did well to bring the ball under control and wriggle past the challenge of Rosser, before striking a low shot into the corner of the net from twelve yards out as he cut across goal


However, despite the Pitmen's dominance of the game, Rugby found themselves level once more two minutes later; a cross from Justin Marsden was parried away by Josef Bursik, but only into the path of midfielder Richard Blythe, who slammed the ball home on the rebound from just inside the penalty area


The away side set about earning themselves the lead once more and were back in front just after the half-hour mark. Fitzpatrick - having a great game after looking off-colour in recent matches - played a slide-rule pass into the feet of Cockerline, who was surrounded on the edge of the Rugby penalty area. The big man did well to sort his feet out and control the ball well, giving him enough time to size up Hill's position and sidefoot the ball home from eighteen yards out. A well-taken finish from a player in dire need of a goal


A breathless spell of football continued to tip the game in the Pitmen's favour on thirty-four minutes, as they stretched their lead with another well-taken goal from Archer. Fitzpatrick was the architect once again, winning the ball in midfield and advancing on goal, before slipping the ball through to Archer in a timely manner. Archer didn't break his stride as he hit the ball first time and confidently fire past Hill into the far corner of the net


Rugby went close to narrowing the deficit on thirty-six minutes, with Lewis Rankin's well-hit free kick from twenty yards drifting just wide of Bursik's left-hand post as the England International struggling to get across


Even with the commanding two-goal lead, Hednesford were intent on finishing the game as a contest in the first half, with more chances dropping their way as half-time approached. Fitzpatrick's dipping effort from long-range was just wide of the mark on thirty-eight minutes


A minute later, Cockerline went agonisingly close to doubling his tally for the afternoon as he picked up a pass from Craddock inside the Rugby half and unleashed a powerful shot from thirty yards out that dipped just wide of the post


In the final minute of the half, Archer went so close to wrapping up his hat-trick as he tortured the poor Rosser once more with a smart turn from Davies's pass to strike a shot just wide of Hill's right-hand post


And yet there was still time for the Pitmen to almost be handed a fourth goal, as Rosser inexplicably headed a Dodd cross towards his own goal under pressure from Cockerline, requiring a smart save from Hill on his line


Cockerline finished the half a frustrated figure, as his effort with the final shot of the half was well-saved by Hill down to his left, with the big striker shanking his rebound high over the crossbar


It had been a half the Pitmen had totally dominated and in truth probably should have had five goals to show for it, such was their level of dominance in looking to put the game out of sight


The expected response from Rugby after the break saw Blythe and Charlie Evans combine three minutes after the restart, with Evans lifting his shot from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area wide of Bursik's right-hand post


Bursik was on hand to make a fine save to keep the Pitmen out in front on fifty minutes, turning Rankin's goalbound shot away after Evans had crossed from the left for the striker


The Pitmen were forced into an early substitution in the second half, as Galinski finally admitted defeat in his battle against a groin problem on fifty-two minutes. He was replaced by Callam Mendez-Jones, who himself was struggling for full fitness in recent games. With Galinski departing, the captaincy was handed to Craddock in midfield


Rankin was again wasteful for the hosts on fifty-four minutes, tamely heading a cross from Rosser wide of Bursik's goal from a decent position inside the Hednesford penalty area


Both sides earned themselves a clutch of corner kicks but created little to nothing from them, with Bursik and his defensive colleagues looking strong as they dealt with the aerial threat of Rugby's big centre-backs


The visitors made their final two changes of the game on sixty-seven minutes as Smith looked to see out the remainder of the game and protect Hednesford's two-goal lead. The excellent Fitzpatrick - involved in all three goals - was replaced by Jermain Hollis and the hard-working Cockerline came off in favour of on-loan Michael Howard


The Pitmen were content to catch Rugby on the counter-attack as the hosts pushed more men forwards in the second half, with Archer slipping the ball through to Dodd on sixty-nine minutes. However, the winger was wasteful with his effort and allowed Hil to make a save at his near post


Hollis looked to stamp his authority on the game after his introduction firing wide from a decent position inside the Rugby penalty area on seventy-six minutes as the Pitmen continued to press


Craddock's own fitness concerns came to the fore with twelve minutes left, as he was also forced off the pitch after suffering a knock in the centre circle. With no substitutes remaining, the away side played out the final minutes with ten men; Griffiths became Hednesford's third captain in twenty-six minutes after taking the armband off his former Stafford Rangers colleague


With the game now in the final ten minutes and Rugby offering nothing going forwards, the Pitmen sensed a chance to add to their tally with a number of late breakaway chances. On eighty-five minutes, a neat passage of interplay through midfield opened up the Rugby defence and played in Howard on the corner of the penalty area. However, Howard was denied a fourth goal of the season by another fine save from Hill


In added time, Dodd somehow failed to add to the scoreline following another quick break down the right. The winger cut inside from the flank and elected to shoot at goal from a tight angle, rather than play the simple side-rule pass into the feet of the unmarked Howard. Hill made a fine smothering save to deny Dodd and followed this up with two further reaction stops down at his near post to deny the Pitmen a fourth goal at the death


A wholly professional performance from the Pitmen, who neatly sidestepped a potential banana skin and eased themselves into the third qualifying round thanks to a potent six-minute spell in the first half. With £15,000 now in the bank thanks to two well-deserved wins, Smith's side will enter the draw on Monday with confidence, having recorded their fifth win in seven games this afternoon. As a consequence of games elsewhere, Tuesday night's league game against Buxton will now be re-arranged after the Bucks played out a 0-0 draw with Coalville Town and require a replay in midweek. This means that the Pitmen have a free week to enable some of the aches and pains to subside ahead of a trip up the M6 next weekend to face struggling Marine, who have appointed former Chester manager Neil Young as their new man at the helm in the past week


Rugby Town: Hill, Rosser, Thomas, Edwards ©, Recci, Kavanagh (Blake 64 ), Evans, Blythe, Rankin, Tulloch, Marsden (Adams 57)   Subs: Blake, Adams, Bunting, Steele


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Curley, Fox, Fitzpatrick (Hollis 67), Galinski © (Mendez-Jones 52), Griffiths, Dodd, Craddock (inj. 78), Cockerline (Howard 67), Davies , Archer    Subs Unused: Grimshaw, Edge, Veiga, King

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