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Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Rushall Olympic

Landell (37), Whittall (45), (84)

Hednesford Town

(2) 3

(0) 0



Current Form

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Aaron Clayton



Nuneaton Borough (H) 2.1.23

Danny Glover's tenure as manager of Hednesford Town gets off to the worst possible start this Boxing Day afternoon as the Pitmen are soundly and easily pushed aside by local rivals Rushall to leave them a full ten points from safety going into 2023

The eleven days that elapsed since the Pitmen's 1-1 draw at Redditch United had seen the familiar routine of the club dispensing with the services of another manager, as Steve Burr and assistant Neil Tooth had been moved on by the club after failing to turn the sinking club's fortunes around. Fan favourite Glover had subsequently been appointed as the club's new manager, bringing in Guy Hadland as his new number two in the process. Glover had been busy bringing in players ahead of today's local derby with the return of Tom Thorley, Chay Tilt and Harvey Portman to the ranks. Glover had been hit with a blow, however, just before Christmas with the news that the in-form Tierman Brooks had been recalled by parent club Notts County, leaving the new man at the helm with little time to bring in a replacement goalkeeper. Midfielder Luke Rowe had also elected to move on after accepting an offer to trade in the Pitmen's relegation battle with one at AFC Telford United. Both Thorley and Portman were included in the starting XI for today's game as two of five changes to the side that had started at Redditch as they replaced Rowe and Mark Derricott respectively, whilst Keith Lowe returned to the side ahead of Luke Redfern in defence. Niah Payne - who missed the Redditch game after being involved in a car crash - came in to make his debut ahead of Tom Hewlett, whilst Zac Hartley returned to the side at right-back as he replaced James McQuilkin

Rushall had been on a fine run of form up to Christmas, winning three of their last four games to sit fourth in the Southern Premier League Central table ahead of play today. Manager Liam McDonald was afforded the luxury of being able to name an unchanged side from the one that had eased past Hitchin Town last Saturday, with ex-Hednesford men Jake Weaver, Callum Coyle and Andre Landell all starting for the hosts

It was a chilly but bright Boxing Day afternoon in North Walsall, with the Pitmen backed by more superb travelling support despite their lowly position and having not picked up a single away win in the league this season so far. Pics skipper Sam Mantom fired in an early warning shot at goal in the second minute of the game as he struck a half-volley high and wide of the target from just outside the penalty area

The visitors took some time to settle as their in-form hosts had the better of the opening exchanges; former Pic Lowe made a fine block tackle just inside his own penalty area in the sixth minute to deny Landell after the striker had received a pass from Sam Whittall and worked the ball onto his right foot from fifteen yards out

Landell was involved once more for the home side in the tenth minute as he cut inside from the left flank, leaving Hartley in his wake and tricking his way past skipper Lewis Ison before drilling in a shot from a tight angle that forced Clayton into a save down at his near post

Three minutes later, excellent play from Jourdain Masidi down the right saw the Congolese man make a typically thrusting run into the box but saw his effort diverted behind for a corner kick by Ison at the near post

A well-taken, deep free kick from Whittall out on the left wing on sixteen minutes caused the Pitmen some issues as they struggled to clear their lines, with Ison eventually clearing the danger inside the six-yard box before former team-mate Landell could react to the bouncing ball

Two minutes later, a neat passage of play from Rushall saw Alex Fletcher and Whittall combine to send Landell away in behind the Hednesford defence, only for an offside flag against the striker to halt his progress

Todd Parker was perhaps a little lucky to escape with only a ticking-off from referee Mr Walker midway through the first period as he hauled down the excellent Mantom just outside the Hednesford penalty area to stop the former Walsall playmaker from getting his shot away. Whittall took the resultant kick but struck his effort high over Clayton's crossbar as he lifted the ball over the Hednesford wall

Former Stafford Rangers midfielder Fletcher was next to try his luck for the hosts on twenty-seven minutes as he seized upon some loose play out of defence by Lowe, picking up the veteran's slack forward pass before drilling in a shot from twenty yards out that narrowly cleared Clayton's crossbar

The Pitmen had been heavily reliant on the long ball to try and force a chance out of their misfiring forward line, with Payne and Leroy Lita well shackled by the strong defensive duo of Whittall and Jordaan Brown and left to chase aimless balls that regularly bounced off the 3G surface and straight into the arms of Weaver

Just after the half-hour mark, some superb vision from Mantom saw the midfielder play a delightful through ball into the path of Masidi, whose subsequent cross into the penalty area was scuffed by Landell, who had failed to bring the ball under control and allowed Lowe to make the block

Despite having looked out of ideas in the final third, the Pitmen went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock two minutes later through Payne; Adam Livingstone's jinking run and cross down the left saw the Scotsman wriggle past Masidi and send over a fine cross for the on-loan Spennymoor man, whose diving header came back off the crossbar and back into play with Weaver rooted to the post on his line

However, the hosts finally made the breakthrough eight minutes before the break as Landell once again showed the Pitmen what they were missing out on as he was gifted a strike at goal by former team-mate Bennett. A deep cross from Reece Mitchell was cleared by the visitors to the edge of their own penalty area, where Bennett was guilty of a lazy, heavy touch that played the ball straight into the path of Masidi, who in turn laid the ball off to Landell. The former Stourbridge man unleashed a low right-footed effort from just inside the box that beat Clayton down to his right and nestled in the corner of the net

The Pitmen struggled to conjure up a response to falling behind, with Livingstone looking lively down the left momentarily on forty minutes as he danced past three Rushall players before pulling the ball back towards Lita, only for Whittall to snuff out a chance for the veteran with a clearance at his near post

With the Pitmen looking and hoping to regroup at half-time with only a single goal to chase, Rushall struck again right on the stroke of half-time through a well-worked set-piece. Mantom took a free-kick out on the left flank and clipped the ball onto the head of Whittall at the far post, who beat his former team-mate Lowe to the ball and looped a header back across goal and beyond the reach of Clayton, finding the far corner of the net and doubling the Rushall advantage

The Pitmen had been solidly second-best throughout the first period and could have no complaints about the scoreline at the break, having offered very little to proceedings in the opening forty-five minutes. Ison was forced off at the break due to a knock and was replaced at the start of the second half by Redfern, with the captaincy being passed to Parker

The Pics were very much in control of proceedings from the off in the second half, taking full advantage of their dominance in the centre of the park where Mantom, Will Shorrock and Fletcher had dominated Thorley, Parker and Bennett thus far. Clayton made a smart stop at his near post on fifty minutes to scoop the ball up ahead of Brown as another Mantom free-kick was headed back to him on the left, with the former Southend man delivering a dangerous bouncing ball back into the danger zone at the second attempt

Lita tried his luck with an ambitious shot from range two minutes later as he picked up Portman's through ball before lashing his low effort well wide of goal from twenty-five yards out, promoting some ironic cheers from the home supporters in the process

Fletcher was to be the only player on either side to receive a booking in the game on fifty-five minutes as the ex-Shrewsbury Town man was shown a yellow card by Mr Walker for a foul on Lita just inside the Rushall half

Redfern did well to deny Landell a second goal of the afternoon two minutes later as the Stoke City loanee headed Landell's looping cross-cum-shot off the line before Masidi could force the ball home from close-range

Glover had seen enough from his misfiring side and elected to bring himself on to fire up the troops shortly before the hour mark as he replaced Bennett, who like some of his team-mates had barely featured in the game

Two minutes later, another storming run from Landell down the left saw him beat Hartley and drift into the penalty area, only to fire straight into the side netting when he perhaps should have squared the ball to the incoming Coyle

Clayton made another good stop to keep his side in contention midway through the second period as a tricky run and cross from Coyle down the left took a deflection off Redfern which diverted the ball towards goal, forcing Clayton into a fine parry at his near post to turn the ball away

Hartley made some space for himself to have a shot at goal on sixty-nine minutes as he cut inside from the right flank and jinked his way towards the Rushall penalty area but was unconvincing with his left-footed effort that drifted high and wide of goal

Coyle was denied by Clayton again on seventy-two minutes as another driving run from the former Hednesford loanee saw him leave Hartley in his wake once more before firing in a shot at goal from the edge of the penalty area that the former Birmingham City youngster did well to push away once more down to his right

Any idea of the Pitmen getting themselves back into the game looked to be fanciful at this stage, as Rushall continued to have the better of the play and chances and looked much more likely of the two sides to score again. Fletcher strode forwards to pick up another loose ball in midfield on seventy-five minutes before striking a well-hit effort that dipped narrowly over the crossbar

The visitors made their final change of a rotten afternoon with eight minutes remaining as Burton Albion loanee Hewlett came on in place of Hartley down the right

The Pics finally put some gloss on their confident performance with a third goal of the afternoon on eighty-four minutes; Shorrock was played into acres of space inside the Hednesford penalty area by Fletcher, with the former Bromsgrove Sporting man pulling the ball back to Coyle in the penalty spot. His attempted shot at goal was blocked by Lowe, but the ball ran kindly to the unmarked Whittall, who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the empty net after Clayton had been sent the opposite way by Lowe's block

The hosts could afford to make three late changes of their own, as both Landell and Coyle were replaced by Declan Riley and Liam Daly respectively, whilst Tyrese Hughes made a late appearance in place of Shorrock

There was still time for Hednesford to tamely miss a great chance to grab a consolation goal as Glover's deep cross from the left was headed down by Lita and goalwards but was cleared off the lien by the long leg of Daly. Payne arrived to reach the rebound but tamely allowed the ball to roll into the hands of Weaver on his own goal line when it seemed like it was an easy task to knock the ball home from a matter of inches out

All in all, a dreadful performance from the Pitmen on Glover's managerial debut, with many players in sky blue seemingly going through the motions and offering very little to the cause against a confident and assured Rushall side that had barely got out of second gear throughout. Glover's first home game is against another one of his former sides next Monday afternoon as the Pitmen return to the RACE Stadium to face second-placed Nuneaton Borough

Rushall Olympic: Weaver, Green, Mitchell, Fletcher , Brown, Whittall, Shorrock (Hughes 90), Mantom ©, Landell (Riley 88), Coyle (Daly 88), Masidi       Sub Unused: Cameron

Hednesford Town: Clayton, Hartley (Hewlett 82), Portman, Thorley, Lowe, Ison © (Redfern 45), Bennett (Glover 58), Parker, Lita, Payne, Livingstone      Subs Unused:  Derricott, Williams


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