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F.A. Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Rushall Olympic

Birch (7), Dowdall (83)

Hednesford Town

(1) 2

(0) 0



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Ross Adams


Buxton (H) 15.10.07

The Pitmen's five-match unbeaten stretch was undone in dramatic circumstances this afternoon as local rivals Rushall put a very poor Pitmen side to the sword, knocking them out of this season's F.A. Cup at the third qualifying round stage and setting up a clash at Blue Square Premier side York City

Injuries from last week's win against Ossett continued to bite for manager Phil Starbuck, who was struggling to even muster up enough players to fill the five-man bench for today's derby clash. Tom Ward returned to the side after injury, but Linden Dovey was ruled out due to being cup-tied. Tuesday's goalscorer Lee Whittington also missed out and was replaced by Ross Dyer. Youth team players Adam Fussell and Ryan Edwards were drafted into the first team to make up the numbers amongst the substitutes, whilst there were a handful of walking wounded forced into starting the game who would not have played in any other circumstances

The Hednesford supporters were greeted with a large number of familiar faces in the Pics side for today's game as Lee Barrow, Grant Beckett, Paul Szewczyk and Damien Charie were all named in Paul Holleran's squad for the British Gas Midland side's biggest game of the season so far. Last week had seen the Pics make progress in the F.A Trophy with a win over Carlton Town, with Holleran able to name an unchanged side after securing a second month's loan for striker Gary Birch from AFC Telford United in midweek

On a miserable afternoon at Dales Lane, the hosts started with real intent and went close to opening the scoring in the third minute as Phil Rowe played Birch through on goal, only for Gilmartin to make a good stop low down to his left

However, the home side did get their noses in from in the seventh minutes of the game as Birch got goal side of the Hednesford defence and forced Gilmartin into a smothering save. Birch reacted quickly to head the loose ball back towards goal and was once again denied by some fine goalkeeping by Gilmartin, only for the static Hednesford defence to allow the burly striker a third bite of the cherry and bundle the ball home at the third attempt. Not a pretty goal by any means, and one that was a damning indictment on the Pitmen's defensive line

In the build-up to the goal, defender Paul Robinson had been laid out by Birch as the pair clashed, with the referee allowing the play to continue around the stricken defender and not pulling play back. This irked Starbuck, who was spoken to by the match official after venting his anger at the assistant

Richard Beale had to be alert to deny Dyer on ten minutes, getting across to make a block on the youngster as Dyer streaked past the experienced full-back and headed into the Rushall penalty area

Tom Ward wasted the Pitmen's best chance so far two minutes later as his weak header dropped wide after reaching Robinson's deep free-kick to the far post


Dyer also headed wide from a good position five minutes later as Ashley Woolliscroft's free-kick was eventually worked to the far post of Breeden's goal where Dyer headed into the side-netting from an angle

Marshall headed just wide of goal for the Pitmen midway through the first half but would have been denied a goal due to him holding Breeden in the build-up

Three minutes later, Mario Pedro's first involvement saw him jink his way past Beale and into the Rushall penalty area, only for Barrow to jockey the winger over the byeline with some intelligent defensive play to push him away from danger


Breeden was alert to the danger posed by Ward on the half-hour mark as the midfielder raced onto a Pedro pass and got past Barrow, only for Breeden to spot the danger early on and smother the ball at Ward's feet as he slightly over-ran the ball


The away side almost got themselves level in bizarre circumstances with six minutes of the half remaining as Pedro's cross was diverted towards his own goal by Barrow, who stuck a foot out to clear the cross but only succeeded in turning the ball towards his own net. He was fortunate that young Rushall goalkeeper Breeden was alert to the danger and managed to turn the ball away with a fine save. It was at this point you started to question whether this was going to be the Pitmen's day with the key moments of the game going against them

Hednesford started the second half well, with the disappointing Pedro finally making his mark on the game by getting on the end of a Dyer through ball before firing just over the bar with a rising shot

Robinson's injury sustained early in the first half saw his game come to an end only five minutes as he limped off; on came teenager Edwards for his debut in his place

Marshall denied Birch a clear striker at goal on fifty-six minutes after Rowe's fine through-ball had sent the striker clean through on goal, only for the defender to make a smart block from ten yards out

Dyer raced onto an incisive Dominic Heath pass on sixty-one minutes but firing over the crossbar with a shot that deflected off his shin following a Dan Preston's challenge

The Pitmen were enjoying the lion's share of possession but were struggling to create clear-cut openings off the back of this. Wingers Heath and Perdo were being well shackled by Beale and Jordan Gough, leaving Dyer fighting for scraps against Barrow and Preston


A quick Rushall counter-attack on sixty-five minutes saw substitute Sean Dowdall race onto a pass from Rowe, only to be denied a certain goal by the long legs of Gilmartin

Ward's frustration seemed to mirror his team's overall on seventy-two minutes as he crudely took Breeden out with a sliding tackle on the goalkeeper as he shepherded a harmless through ball out for a goal kick

Former Stafford man Beale should have clinched the win for Rushall with fifteen minutes but headed over the crossbar after he had met an outswinging cross from Neil Barnfield

Tom Marshall was pushed forwards by Starbuck with the game entering the final fifteen minutes to add height and aggression to the forward line. He attempted to force home a bouncing ball inside the six-yard box on seventy-eight minutes after Breeden's fumble but could not get a clean connection on the ball despite a couple of swings at it. The ball eventually fell to Pedro, who was crowded out by the Pics defenders

Marshall forced Breeden into a great stop from a long-range shot a minute later, striking a shot from fully thirty yards out that the stopper brilliantly turned over his crossbar for a Hednesford corner kick 

Blair was brought on by Starbuck with eight minutes remaining as his final roll of the dice to add more creativity to what had been a fairly impotent performance from the front three so far

However, with so many men committed going forwards, the Pitmen were caught on the break by Rushall a minute later as they killed off their local rivals with a second goal; a quick break down the left saw Gough run into acres of space in front of him before he played Dowdall in on goal, with the substitute applying the finish past a horribly exposed Gilmartin

A late rally from the Pitmen - more in desperation than anything else - saw Steve Palmer's low shot from the edge of the penalty area take a nick off Pedro and force Breeden into another fine save down to his left

 The step four hosts hung on in added time to claim a famous victory over their higher-level local rivals, and earn an attractive fourth qualifying round tie with York City in the process. For the Pitmen, it's back to the drawing board for Starbuck and Jimmy Mullen after this poor defeat. Injuries have had a real effect on the squad, but performances today show the genuine lack of depth and quality in the squad, even if the first XI has shown plenty of promise in recent games. They get a chance to shake this cup shock off on Monday night when they return to league action with a home game against fellow mid-table dwellers Buxton


Rushall Olympic: Breeden, Gough, Beale, R. Brown , Barrow ©, Preston, Beckett, Rowe, Birch (Dowdall 61), Szewczyk (Charie 70), Barnfield      Subs Unused: Holdcroft, Johnson, Haywood

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Marshall ©, Adams, Robinson (Edwards 50), Simms, Palmer, Pedro, Ward  (Blair 82), Heath, Woolliscroft, Dyer      Subs Unused: Fussell, Sanders, D. Brown

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