28.3.2005

Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Barrow (17) (penalty), Bell (32)

Rugby United

Herbert (33)

(0) 0

(2) 4

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

664

Lee Williams

L L W W D W L W W W

 

Hemel Hempstead Town (H) 2.4.05

Hednesford made it three wins in a row this afternoon against struggling Rugby United at Keys Park - but were made to work for their win by the Valley in this Bank Holiday Monday league clash

Two confident wins on the road had lifted the Pitmen into the top four last week, beating Dunstable Town 3-0 and Solihull Borough 4-0. They welcomed another side in the bottom six in the form of Rugby with the same XI that had started the past two games - an easy decision for player/manager Chris Brindley to make currently with his side in excellent form and the squad firing on all cylinders

Rugby's great start to the season had become a distant memory since the turn of the year, as the Valley had steadily dropped down the table to sit in seventeenth place at the start of play. Under-pressure manager Tony Dobson made three changes to the side that had started Saturday's 1-0 defeat at home to Banbury United as Andy Commander replaced the injured Gary Redgate, young striker Jon Douglas replaced Justin Marsden and Jon Nicholls came in for Andy Beard. This left Rugby with a 4-5-1 formation, with Douglas ploughing a lone furrow up top on his own against Lee Barrow and Richard Teesdale

On a changeable Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, the visitors belied their league position by making a good start to the game. Craig Herbert's long punt forwards in the third minute was missed by Teesdale and dropped to Nicholls twenty-five yards from goal. The forward did well to work the ball onto his right foot but sliced his effort on the outside of his boot well wide of Ryan Young's goal

Three minutes late, a long ball forwards from Rory Squire was picked up by Douglas, who turned well and fired in a shot that Ryan Young parried away for a Rugby corner kick

From the resultant corner kick, Commander rose highest at the far post but headed over the crossbar from seven yards out after beating Lee Barrow to the ball

The Pitmen survived this early pressure from Rugby and started to create chances of their own. Good wing play from Anthony Maguire in the tenth minute saw him skip past the challenge of Jamie Williams, but his cross was a little too deep for either Leon McSweeney or Andy Bell to reach

Rugby goalkeeper Robert Beckwith call instruction for the first time in the game two minutes later as he tipped over a rising shot from Marlon Walters that the midfielder hit cleanly from 25 yards out

The Pitmen's growing pressure on the Rugby goal told as they were handed a penalty kick in the seventeenth minute of the game; a neat pass from skipper Lee Williams sent McSweeney into the penalty area where he was sent sprawling by Commander's reckless challenge. Referee Mr Mellor had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, allowing Barrow to step up and fire home the opener from twelve yards out with a firm effort that went in off inside of the post to beat Beckwith

The hosts had their tails up and nearly made it two-nil just three minutes later; Grant Beckett exchange passes with Walters and pull the ball back into the path of Lee Williams once more; the skipper took two touches before attempting a chip over Beckwith but could only clip his shot over the crossbar

Midway through the half, a quick break from Rugby saw Squire make a move down the left, taking Ross Adams with him before sending over a low cross to the near post where Young was on hand to claim the bouncing ball ahead of youngster Douglas

Barrow went close to adding to his, and the Pitmen's, tally for the afternoon on twenty-six minutes after Walters had won a free-kick to the left of the Rugby penalty area. The burly centre back trying his luck from the resultant kick and bludgeoned his shot beyond the Rugby wall but also wide of the target

Rugby's woeful look continued on the half hour mark as the hosts were gifted a fortuitous second goal through some comedy defending from the visitors. Maguire's free-kick caused problems in the Rugby penalty area, culminating in a swing and a miss from skipper Herbert before his second attempt at the clearance hit the leg of Bell before flying into the roof of the net from close range. A fluke goal, no doubt, and one that you tend to find go your way when you are on form and looking to points towards the top of the table

And yet, the wayside were handed a chance to get themselves back into the game just two minutes later; Squire made an excellent run down the right and cut into into the penalty area where he was brought down by Beckett. Mr Mellor once again had no doubt in his mind that it was a penalty and pointed to the spot, allowing Danny Hall to step up and take the kick. However, his penalty lacked power and was easily saved by Young to his left to leave the sky blues frustrated

Sixty seconds later, however, Rugby did indeed get themselves back into the game as a freekick taken by Craig Dutton was not cleared by the Hednesford defence, allowing Herbert to make room for himself before picking his spot from close-range to make it 2-1

Bell was eager to add to his tally for the afternoon and went close to restoring the Pitmen's two-goal lead on thirty-nine minutes as he received a pass from Lee Williams before working the ball into space on the edge of the area but firing into the side netting with a powerful low shot

The first period had been fairly action packed, with both sides playing their part in the game in front of another healthy Keys Park crowd. The final action of the first half came with two minutes to go as Maguire won a corner on the right, taking it himself and swinging in a cross that was headed high and wide of goal by the unmarked Teesdale at the near post

The hosts could be fairly content with their lead at half-time which they had deserved on the balance of play against an uninspiring Rugby side that you felt had come looking for the draw

The away side came at the Pitmen from the restart as they looked to get themselves level once more, with Douglas testing the reflexes of Young on forty-eight minutes as the stopper made a smothering stop at the feet of the former Coventry City youngster to deny him a chance after Dutton's fine ball over the top of the Hednesford defence

 

On fifty-three minutes, Adams and Maguire linked up well down the right, allowing Adams to cross with a deflected ball in that Beckwith managed to fumble behind for a corner ahead of the incoming Bell

Four minutes later, Maguire tested Beckwith with an angled drive after drifting in from the right-wing to pick up Beckett's crossfield ball to lash a first-time shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area

On the hour mark, Rugby had a fantastic chance to equalise as Gary Moran's teasing free-kick from the left was somehow missed by both Jamie Williams, who seemed to be put off by Young's presence as he allowed the fine cross from Moran to drift across the face of goal and wide of the target

McSweeney had been quiet for much of the game so far but came alive on sixty-four minutes as he was played through on goal by Bell's quick turn and slide rule pass. However, a late offside flag on the Wimblebury side denied the striker his chance at goal as he bore down on Beckwith's six yard-box

On sixty-eight minutes, Mark Branch's long throw was flicked on at the near post by Walters and into the path of Bell, but his effort failed to test Beckwith as he fired over the Hednesford end stand from sixteen yards out

Bell was left frustrated once more on seventy-one minutes as McSweeney turned provider to his strike partner with a clever chip over the head of Commander and into the path of the former Blackburn man, who took a touch when he probably should have pulled the trigger and allowed Hart to make a covering tackle to toe-poke the ball back to Beckwith

Rugby had made an attacking double change by this point as they looked to push on for the equaliser they had come for. Substitute Justin Marsden - a thorn in the Hednesford side when the two sides met earlier in the season - showed his pace once more with fifteen minutes remaining as he streaked away from Branch to reach Hart's long forwards pass. He turned inside and tried his luck with a cross-cum-shot that was tipped over the crossbar by Young ahead of Nicholls

With ten minutes remaining, Beckett picked up a quickly-taken throw-in from Branch and exchanged passes with Lee Williams before shooting from long-range, failing to test Beckwith on this occasion

On eighty-four minutes, McSweeney could have sealed the points for the Pitmen as he was played clear of a tiring Rugby defence by Walters, only to pull his shot across goal and narrowly wide of Beckwith's far post from just ten yards out

Beard had come on for Nicholls and managed to get goal side of Teesdale on eighty-seven minutes to get on the end of a cross from Dutton, but his toe-poke at goal lacked any real power or direction and Young scooped up the shot

 

Young's long punt downfield in the final minute bounced over the head of Commander as he tried to stop Bell from getting in on goal, only for Bell to lose his footing at the crucial moment and scuff his effort straight into the arms of Beckwith

In the third minute of added time, Rugby had one final push at goal as Moran was played into space in behind Branch down the left, pulling the ball into the path of Beard at the near post; his sidefooted effort at goal was from too tight an angle and was easily saved by Young as he guarded his post

Another fine win for the Pitmen lifts them into third place in the league table for now, as we head into the crucial April fixtures with Hednesford one of the form teams in the division. It will be a tough month for Brindley's side, however, with fellow play-off hopefuls Bedford Town and Aylesbury United still to play away from home in what could be two crucial games in the race for the top five. Next weekend sees the Pitmen at home again, as they play host to yet another team struggling towards the foot of the table in the form of Hemel Hempstead Town

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale, L. Williams ©, Maguire, Walters, Bell, McSweeney, Beckett      Subs Unused: Brindley, McMahon, Brannan, Anthrobus, Evans

 

Rugby United: Beckwith, Moran, J. Williams, Hart, Herbert ©, Commander, Hall, Dutton, Douglas (Pearson 67), Nicholls (Beard 82), Squire (Marsden 73)      Subs Unused: