Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Mukendi (35), Weir-Daley (37)

Rushall Olympic

Forde (72)

(2) 2

(0) 1



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Vinny Mukendi


Corby Town (A) 28.1.17

Hednesford finally got back on the pitch - and back to winning ways - this afternoon, claiming revenge over local rivals Rushall Olympic for the 2-1 reverse back in October by beating the league's second-placed side at Keys Park


The Pitmen had been frustrated over the last fortnight, having had two league games postponed due to the cold and wet January weather. Manager Paul Casey had utilised the enforced break to make more changes to his squad, having seen Courtney Wildin's loan spell from Boston United end, Ashley Sammons joining Solihull Moors and Kyle Rowley departing for Rugby Town. Coming into the club were centre-back Dan Preston on loan from AFC Telford United and Welsh left-back Callum Roberts, who joined the club on loan from Shrewsbury Town. Casey made four changes to the side that had played poorly at Spennymoor two weeks ago, handing Preston and Roberts starts in place of Dan Brenan and Wildin respectively in defence, whilst skipper Tom Thorley returned in place of George Forsyth and Mukendi replaced Tony Clarke up front


The Pitmen were dealt a blow just before kick-off with the news that Roberts had been forced to pull out due to injury, meaning youth team graduate Remeao Hutton stepped in to make an unexpected full debut for the club


Rushall's unlikely title challenge had taken a tumble in recent weeks, with the Pics overtaken by Blyth Spartans in recent games after John Allen's men had failed to win any of their last three league games to start falling away from the league summit and back towards the play-off pack. Former Hednesford assistant manager Allen made three changes to the side that had lost to Workington in their previous league game as Henry Eze came in for the suspended Lee Smith, George Bowerman replaced Jordan Fitzpatrick and Mickeal Partodikromo returned to the side in favour of former Hednesford triallist Jazz Luckie. Ex-Pitman Luke Bottomer and another former triallist, Stan Mugisha, were also part of the Pics matchday squad


The Pitmen made a bright start to the game in front a poorly crowd for a local derby, with Mukendi a constant threat to the Rushall defence in the opening exchanges after he was rewarded for his superb cameo against Spennymoor Town in the Pitmen's last outing. He got goal side of Joel Kettle in the fourth minute to meet a cross from Haynes, only to divert the ball high over the crossbar

The Hednesford supporters got their first look at the highly-rated youngster Hutton three minutes later as he made a powerful run down the left and whipped in a low cross from the corner of the Rushall penalty area that was hacked away from the boot of Spencer Weir-Daley by Eze

Rushall responded a minute later with a corner kick from Bottomer that was flicked on by Eze at the near post, only for the ball to drift across the face of Lloyd Ransome's goal and away from danger


Luckie made an early introduction to the game in the fifteenth minute as he was brought on in place of former Walsall man Bowerman, who was forced off due to injury


The stoic Rushall defence, well marshalled by Kettle, dealt well with a spell of pressure from the Pitmen in the fifteenth minute as the hosts forced three corners in a row but failed to force home their advantage from Thorley's set-pieces


Mukendi went closest to opening the scoring midway through the first half as the big man wriggled clear of the Rushall defence, turning Eze before firing into the side netting from a tight angle after Thorley had played him through on goal


A great run from Kyle Haynes, against one of his former clubs, saw the right-back send over a cross that was inches away from being headed into the net by the flying Mukendi before being cleared by Isaac Cooper at left-back for the Pics


Four minutes later, the tricky Mukendi found some space on the edge of the penalty area and curled in a shot that was turned behind by veteran Pics keeper Jose Veiga. From the resultant inswinging Thorley corner kick, Mukendi rose highest but headed well wide of goal as the Pitmen piled on the pressure

Weir-Daley drilled a shot just wide for the hosts on the half-hour mark with an angled effort from Hutton's pass. Two minutes later, a neat spell of play in midfield involving Thorley, Haynes and Mukendi saw Hutton lift a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the Rushall penalty area


The home side finally earned the breakthrough their efforts deserved on thirty-seven minutes, as an attempted clearance from Kettle deflected off Iwan Cartwright and into the path of Mukendi, who took the ball forwards and fired low into the net past Veiga


With their next attack and their tails up, the Pitmen doubled their lead with Mukendi again heavily involved again; a cross from the left from Hutton was headed down by Mukendi as he beat Veiga to the ball, allowing Weir-Daley to turn the ball home from close range for his first Hednesford goal with a typically opportunistic strike

The Pitmen's quick one-two had knocked the stuffing out of Rushall, who almost gifted the hosts another goal on forty-two minute as a scuffed clearance from Aris Christophorou fell at the feet of Cartwright; the Nuneaton loanee took a touch before playing a delightful ball into the feet of Mukendi, whose right-footed effort sailed over Veiga's goal and into the car park behind the goal

The Pitmen had been good value for their lead at the half-time break, having dominated possession and chances throughout the first-half against a Rushall side that lacked confidence in itself after four winless games in all competitions


The Pics were stung into action after the break after their meek first-half showing and threatened through Cooper, whose run and cross on fifty minutes found Joe Hull in the middle. His well-struck shot from twenty yards out was turned away by the reactions of Ransome, who made a good parry to his right-hand side with what was essentially his first real involvement in the game

Superb hold-up play from Mukendi on fifty-four minutes saw him see off the attentions of Eze and slip the ball into the path of Thorley, whose superb pass put Weir-Daley in behind the Rushall defence. However, a flag against Mukendi for his challenge on Eze saw the referee pull the play back before the former Boston man could strike a shot at goal


Despite dominating the game in the final third in many positions, there was one man in white appeared not to be pulling his weight with the disappointing David McDermott hauled off on fifty-nine minutes in favour of Jamie Sheldon after an ineffective performance down the right flank


A great passage of play from the Pitmen on sixty-four minutes saw them open up the Rushall defence with a neat passing move through midfield, playing Weir-Daley in on goal. However, the striker skewed his effort wide of goal when it looked easier to hit the target


That was to be the end of Weir-Daley's afternoon, as he was taken off in place of Danny Glover on sixty-nine minutes to warm applause from all sides of the ground after a fine display 


Weir-Daley's miss looked to possibly be a costly one for the home side, as they allowed Rushall a route back into the game on seventy-two minutes; a high, hanging cross from the left-wing from Cooper was not cleared by the hesitant Hednesford defence, allowing Aaron Forde to loop a header over Ransome to reduce the deficit as he stole in at the far post


Man of the match Mukendi continued to give Rushall problems with his movement and aggression; an attempted overhead kick on seventy-seven minutes saw the big man catch Eze on the follow-through, resulting in a booking for the Hednesford striker for dangerous play despite not knowing where the Rushall man was

Rushall sensed a leveller to rescue an unlikely point in the latter stages of the game as they looked to take advantage of the Pitmen's fragile confidence at the back. Preston was on hand to make a timely challenge on eighty-one minutes to half the run of Mugisha, who had come on for substitute Luckie in the second half

The pacy Jamie Matthews was introduced into the game with eight minutes remaining, coming on in place of Nuneaton loan man Cartwright in midfield as the Pitmen made a tactical shift to their personnel for the remainder of the game

Preston was the second Hednesford man booked in quick succession a minute as he was shown a yellow card for hauling down Bottomer and halting the winger's run into Hednesford territory

As the game entered the final couple of minutes, Rushall squandered a glorious chance to steal a barely deserved point through Sam Whittall; a bouncing ball fell kindly to the former Wolves man in the six-yard box, but Whittall's subsequent shot lacked composure and he spooned his shot over the crossbar with only Ransome to beat

A late flurry of corner kicks from the Pics were well dealt with by the Pitmen, with Preston impressive in the air alongside Gavin Caines with a solid central defensive display from the pair that bodes well for the coming games


It was a welcome three points for the under-fire Casey and his team, their first win of 2017. With the play-offs still well within reach, Casey will be hoping this is a kickstart to the second half of the season after a winter of upheaval so far at Keys Park with so many ins and outs caused by Liam McDonald's departure and Casey's arrival. They visit basement club Corby Town next weekend looking to make it back-to-back wins and complete a league double over the Steelmen in the process


Hednesford Town: Ransome, Haynes, Hutton, McNaught, Caines, Preston , Thorley ©, Cartwright (Matthews 82), Mukendi , McDermott (Sheldon 59), Weir-Daley (Glover 69)        Subs Unused: Crane, Forsyth


Rushall Olympic: Veiga, Christophorou, Cooper (Jackson 73), Forde, Eze ©, Hull, Bottomer, Whittall, McKenzie, Bowerman (Luckie 15 (Mugisha 65)), Partodikromo       Subs Unused: Diop, Hayes