Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

Ison (30) (penalty), Flanagan (88) (penalty)

Rushall Olympic

Usher-Shipway (51), Whittall (71) (penalty)

(1) 2

(2) 2



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Reece Flanagan



Needham Market (A) 8.1.22

Today's festive local derby ends a point apiece as the Pitmen rescue a draw against Rushall Olympic courtesy of yet another late penalty kick from Reece Flanagan

Keenen Meakin-Richards side - with only one win in their last nine games - was subject to four changes from the side that had drawn 2-2 against Bromsgrove Sporting before Christmas as Ben Bailey returned to the side in place of Martin Riley, Patrick Fini was selected ahead of Tom Armitage, Chay Tilt replaced Shaquille Master and Flanagan came back into contention as Andre Landell dropped to the bench. This became five changes just before kick-off as on-loan goalkeeper Oliver Basey was ruled out after picking up a knock in the warm-up and was replaced by Bradley Clarkson, who was making his league debut for the Pitmen

Rushall made the short hop across the county lines and into Staffordshire sitting in fourth place in the league table; former Hednesford manager Liam McDonald made three changes from the side that had started the draw against Hitchin Town two weeks previously as Mitchell Clarke came in for ex-Pitman Tyler Lyttle, Kory Roberts replaced Rackeem Reid and Ben Usher-Shipway was chosen ahead of Owen Parry. They too were forced into a late change to the original XI as former Hednesford favourite Danny Glover had to be replaced after pulling up in the warm-up, with his place going to Tyrone Ofori

It was another cold and overcast winter's day in Staffordshire, with the Keys Park pitch heavy with water after the recent spell of showery weather. Backed by a season's best crowd of over 1,100 people, both sides struggled to get going on the heavy underfoot conditions, with the ball concentrated mainly in midfield. Former Hednesford skipper Tom Thorley was in relaxed form for the Pics, spraying balls around the pitch at will and looking to get his side going


The Pitmen made a break down the right through Wes Atkinson in the eighth minute as he exchanged passes with George Cater, sending over a cross towards the head of Riley O'Sullivan but finding Kidderminster Harriers loanee Tom Palmer in commanding form between the sticks for Rushall to claim the ball

At the other end, the tricky Ofori was looking to take his unexpected chance in today's derby as he wriggled past Ben Bailey in the twelfth minute and got to the byeline, pulling the ball back into the path of the incoming Callum Coyle - another of the ex-Hednesford brigade - only for Josh Endall to hack the danger clear from inside his six-yard box

Clarkson's first real involvement in the game came in the eighteenth minute as Ofori burst into the penalty area after making a marauding run down the left flank and cut inside Atkinson, but good defending from Bailey saw the striker only get minimal contact on his shot and allowed Clarkson to save

A long, raking pass forward from the dreadlocked Kory Roberts on twenty-one minutes found Coyle racing away down the right flank, teasing his way past Fini's challenge and getting himself to the byeline. Once again, however, Endall was on hand to divert the ball away from goal for a Rushall corner kick as Ofori lurked behind him

Two minutes later, Thorley quickly took a free-kick that found Ofori in space once more as the Pitmen switched off momentarily. He looked to get past Bailey with a run across the face of the penalty area but could not get his shot away as the Pitmen defended well to clear their lines

On twenty-seven minutes, Thorley's corner kick from the left flank was swung into the Hednesford six-yard box, where his former team-mate Bailey was on hand to deny Mitchell Clarke a free header as he managed to head the ball away from goal, with Clarkson rooted to the spot

The Pitmen had offered the square route of nothing going forwards so far, struggling to make any inroads on the Rushall defence. However, they were handed a chance to take the lead on the half-hour mark as Flanagan's free-kick from the right was aimed at O'Sullivan, who was floored by a push from Roberts as the pair challenged for the high ball. Referee Mr Swift had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, something that was greeted with amazement by the Rushall players who felt that there had been minimal, if any, contact between the players. Ison stepped up and fired high into the net, sending Palmer the wrong way to give the hosts the lead

The Pics reacted swiftly and Usher-Shipway got the better of Fini down the right flank two minutes later, crossing for Coyle whose shot was blocked from twelve yards out. The away side recycled the ball well as some weak-willed defending from the hosts failed to clear the danger, culminating in skipper Kristian Green's cross falling to Thorley, whose crisply-struck half volley from just outside the area narrowly cleared the crossbar

Ison was the first player to be shown a yellow card by Mr Swift on thirty-seven minutes as his late tackle on Moore was enough for the referee to brandish a card the way of the Hednesford goalscorer. This saw a bout of pushing and shoving between both sets of players, culminating in Moore also being booked for his part in the skirmish

More patient play from the Pics on forty minutes saw Ofori pick the ball up and work it wide to Thorley, whose first-time pass out to Coyle saw the midfielder play Reece Mitchell down the flank on the overlap. His deep cross to the far post was a little too heavy for Ofori or Alex Moore to reach as it sailed over everyone's head and out of play for a goal kick

There were muted calls for a penalty kick to Rushall two minutes later as Usher-Shipway went to ground under Endall's challenge, but Mr Swift was unimpressed with the claims and play continued

The final action of the half saw Rushall go close to levelling matters as Mitchell's long ball forwards down the left caught Bailey out, with the skipper slipping over at the most inconvenient time possible. The ball found Ofori, who raced in on goal but saw his right-footed shot saved by Clarkson

Although they headed into the break a goal to the good, Hednesford had barely deserved their half-time lead, having failed to register a single shot on target from open play in the first period in what had been a largely poor display. There was a half-time change for the hosts as Fini was taken off and replaced by Carter Lycett at left-back

Rushall came out of the blocks early in the second period and forced the Pitmen back into their own third early on as they looked for an immediate response. On fifty-one minutes as they got themselves level once more although there was perhaps more than an element of luck in the Pics' goal; a corner kick from Thorley was punched clear by Clarkson but only as far as Usher-Shipway, whose first-time shot back at goal took a hefty deflection off Green, diverting the ball beyond the reach of the unsighted Clarkson and into the corner of the net

O'Sullivan did well to pick the pocket of Sam Whittall on fifty-four minutes, taking the ball into the Rushall penalty area with the midfielder attempting to win the ball back. Rather than look to pick out the incoming Tilt in the six-yard box, O'Sullivan opted to shoot from a tight angle and found Palmer equal to his shot at his near post. This was to prove to be the Pitmen's only shot on target across the whole ninety minutes

A minute later, Lycett's inswinging corner kick from the right dropped into the Rushall six-yard box but was hacked clear by Mitchell before either Tilt or Endall could apply the finish from close-range

On fifty-eight minutes, Ison was left nursing a knock from a challenge just inside his own half and was forced off with a swollen knee; he was replaced by Master, which saw a re-jig in midfield that saw Parker dropping deeper and Flanagan also dropping back into a more central role

The Pitmen played themselves into danger on sixty-two minutes as Clarkson's kick forwards was headed back into the Hednesford half by Thorley. Usher-Shipway helped the ball on to Ofori, who took advantage of another Bailey slip to toe-poke the ball back to Usher-Shipway, whose eventual shot from fifteen yards out was saved by Clarkson

On sixty-eight minutes, the Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon as O'Sullivan was hooked after extending his barren run of games without a goal and was replaced by top scorer Andre Landell up front

The Pics took the lead for the first time in the game with nineteen minutes remaining as they were awarded a penalty kick of their own. Palmer was gifted a goal-kick at the other end of the pitch by Mr Swift, despite the assistant on the main stand side awarding the Pitmen a corner kick, culminating in the long kick forwards from the stopper being worked down the right by the Pics and into the path of substitute Reid, who was floored by a clumsy and needless challenge from Endall - it was not a challenge that needed to be made as the striker was heading back out of the box. In the absence of Glover, penalty expert Whittall stepped up and squeezed the ball underneath the dive of Clarkson to hand Rushall the lead

The visitors could have put the game to bed with eleven minutes left as a break from Reid saw him leave Endall on his backside down the right and feed Coyle, whose slide-rule pass into the path of Usher-Shipway saw the former Solihull Moors man fire his goalbound effort from ten yards out off Clarkson's right-hand post and out for a goal-kick. Close from the Pics

The Pitmen had been, put very frankly, dreadful, in the second half and had offered absolutely nothing in the final third of the pitch. They had been heavily reliant on set-pieces to create chances, with a Lycett corner kick on eighty-two minutes eventually finding Bailey at the far post but Green got the better of the Pitmen's skipper as he cleared his lines with ease

A quick break from the Pics with four minutes remaining Moore win a free-kick and send over an outswinging ball into the penalty area, where Whittall's downwards header found Reid, who took a tumble in the box under Clarkson's challenge. Mr Swift was once again unmoved by the Pics' protests and the game continued

However, the hosts kept plugging away and were rewarded with another late, late penalty kick as they had been against Bromsgrove in their last game, as a mazy run from Tilt on eighty-eight minutes was halted by Mitchell just inside the Rushall penalty area. Despite protests from the Pics players, who once again felt that the award was soft, the third penalty of the afternoon was awarded with Flanagan once again coming up trumps for the second game in a row as he sent Palmer the wrong way to make it 2-2

Perhaps a fair result on reflection, as many local derbies tend to be low-quality affairs where the talking points tend to mark the lack of decent football on show. Another home draw for the Pitmen to make it only one win in ten games for them now, with sides directly below them in the table well-placed to overtake them with numerous teams with multiple games in hand on the Pitmen going into the New Year. January 1st sees the Pitmen make the short hop across the A5 to face their other local rival, Tamworth, who themselves are in a rotten run of form, having failed to win in any of their last ten games

Hednesford Town: Clarkson, Atkinson , Fini (Lycett 45), Bailey ©, Endall, Flanagan, Cater, Ison  (Master 58), O'Sullivan (Landell 68), Parker, Tilt       Sub Unused: Armitage

Rushall Olympic: Palmer, Green ©, Mitchell, Thorley, Clarke (Lyttle 77), Whittall, Usher-Shipway, Moore , Ofori (Reid 62), Coyle, Roberts      Subs Unused: Glover, Clement


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