Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Rushall Olympic

Walker (42), Daniel (88)

Hednesford Town

O'Connor (75), Patterson (86)

(1) 2

(0) 2



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Jamey Osborne


Kendal Town (H) 4.4.13

A typically frenetic local derby ended with a point for each side at Dales Lane this afternoon, but after both sides felt they could have earned all three points from a game that saw plenty of effort and endeavour, but very little quality

Coming off the weekend's narrow win over Buxton, Hednesford supremo Rob Smith made one key positional change to the side that had edged out the Derbyshire outfit - in came defender Sam Barnes in place of midfielder Dave MacPherson, as Smith looked to curb the attacking threat of Rushall's lively front pairing of Dave Walker and Ahmed Obeng. Striker Sean O'Connor returned to the squad after a month's loan at local rivals Stafford Rangers

A mammoth effort from Rushall over the previous forty-eight hours had seen all of the remaining snow moved off the pitch, leaving an uneven, boggy surface for the two sides at kick-off. The substantial slope at Rushall also lent itself towards a game that was likely to be played more in the air than on the floor

With the Pitmen looking to close the gap between themselves and league leaders North Ferriby, they made a promising start to the game as both sides struggled with the underfoot conditions. There was immediate pressure on Rushall goalkeeper Chris Gemmell as a free-kick from Elliott Durrell on three minutes was turned behind by Gemmell for a Hednesford corner kick

Two minutes later, Gemmell was again forced to concede a corner to Hednesford, as he could do little but palm Ben Bailey's flicked header over the crossbar. Durrell's deep ball in from the resultant corner found the head of Neil Harvey, who only succeeded in heading wide at the far post as he stretched full length to get something on the ball

Jamey Osbourne was next to test the reflexes of the overworked Gemmell on thirteen minutes, picking up a loose ball after Rushall had only partially cleared Kris Taylor's free-kick. The midfielder tried his luck from fully thirty yards, but Gemmell was equal to the shot with a smart save

Harvey had earlier taken a knock on the bog of a pitch and appeared to be struggling to shake off the after-effects. He eventually admitted defeat on nineteen minutes, as Aaron Rey replaced him up front alongside the ever-willing Michael Lennon

Despite winning a number of set-pieces courtesy of an over-fussy referee, the Pitmen failed to make anything of the positive positions they put themselves in, as time and time again the old stager Wayne Daniel defied his advancing years with another dominant performance in the centre of the Pics defence

Similarly, the Pitmen could be pleased with their own defensive display in the first twenty minutes, as Bailey, Francino Francis and Barnes effectively nullified the threat of Walker and Obeng. The only real opportunity that fell Rushall's way was on the half-hour as Crane turned a Ramone Stephens effort over the crossbar

However, as half time approached, the one decent chance that fell the way of Walker saw the Pics' top scorer open the scoring against the run of play. The Pitmen failed to effectively deal with Grant Beckett's corner kick, allowing new signing Lee Downes to play the ball back into the danger zone, where Walker was lurking. The big forward turned and rifled in a shot from an angle that took a slight deflection off the heel of Barnes, which did enough to take the ball out of the reach of Dan Crane and find the far corner of the net

Playing up the slope in the second half, Hednesford emerged with much more purpose, as they looked to get back into a game they had had much of play in. Last-ditch defending from Michael Tolley denied Durrell a clear sight on goal within two minutes of the restart, followed by a rising shot from Taylor that failed to trouble Gemmell from twenty yards out

Rushall responded with a swift counter-attack on fifty-three minutes, as Obeng broke clear of the Hednesford defence wide on the right. He squared the ball to Stephens, whose shot was well saved by Crane

The game was zipping from end to end at this point, as the two sides traded chances in a fraught few minutes. Rey wriggled clear of a challenge as he came in from the right-wing, but from a tight angle only managed to fire into the side netting

Three minutes later, Walker could have almost wrapped the game up for the hosts as he managed to get the better of Francis as they battled for the ball, but sidefooted his shot over the crossbar

There was a feeling that a goal was imminent for the visitors, and Smith gambled on this hunch on sixty-seven minutes by taking off one of his three centre backs in the form of Barnes to introduce another forward, with Kyle Patterson coming on

Osbourne's trickery on seventy minutes saw him drift inside and past three Rushall players before he appeared to be crudely brought down just outside the box. Incredibly, Osbourne was booked for diving by the referee, rather than awarding the clear free-kick it should have been

The final roll of the dice for the Pitmen came on seventy-five minutes, as O'Connor replaced Lennon just before Taylor was taking a corner from the Hednesford right. The decision paid instant dividends, as the corner kick found the head of O'Connor, who forced Gemmell into a fine save from point-blank range. The ball bounced back into the path of O'Connor, who did enough to bundle the ball over the line from close range to level matters

The final ten minutes saw the game ebb and flow, as both sides continued to trade chances. Former Hednesford full-back Kyle Haynes was allowed to break and run fully seventy yards unchallenged before his bobbled shot was cleared off the line by John Disney

With four minutes remaining, the game took a crucial - and comical - turn, as the Pitmen took the lead for the first time in the afternoon in bizarre circumstances; Osbourne's misplaced through ball looked to be a simple clearance for Gemmell, who had Patterson bearing down on him. However, the Pics stopper made a hash of his kick, swinging at clean air as he allowed the ball to bobble under his kicking foot. Patterson seized upon Gemmell's horrendous mis-kick to gleefully tap into the empty net to grab his first goal for the club since returning to Keys Park

However, the Pitmen's joy was short-lived, as Rushall equalised two minutes later. Another Beckett corner caused chaos in the Hednesford ranks, allowing Daniel to rise highest and head powerfully past Crane to equalise once more

Rushall's equaliser was one of a double blow for the Pitmen at the final whistle, as news filtered through of a late, late winner for North Ferriby United at Blyth Spartans, leaving the Pitmen now needing snookers in their title challenge this season. The games continue to come thick and fast this week as the Pitmen play host to Kendal Town in just seventy-two hours time at Keys Park in another re-arranged league game

Rushall Olympic: Gemmell, Haynes, Beckett, Tolley, Daniel ©, Caines, Downes, Craddock , Walker, Obeng (Islam 79), Stevens (Landell 74)       Subs Unused: Edmunds, Spittle

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, Barnes (Patterson 70), Osborne , Durrell, Harvey (Rey 19), Lennon (O’Connor 76), Taylor       Subs Unused: MacPherson, Wright

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