2.5.2011

Zamaretto Southern Premier League Play-Off Final

Hednesford Town

Wellecomme (63), Quinn (107)

Salisbury City

Wright (85), Adelsbury (118)

(0) 2

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

1,903

Cheyenne Dunkley

W W D L W W W W W L

After Extra Time | Salisbury win 3-2 on penalties

The Pitmen fall at the final hurdle in the cruellest of circumstances this afternoon as Salisbury City clinch promotion to step two via the lottery of a penalty shoot-out in this afternoon's topsy-turvy Southern Premier League play-off final

Having seen off the challenge of Leamington in Thursday night's semi-final, Hednesford manager Rob Smith elected to keep faith with the same XI that had largely been responsible for the club's run at the end of the season and into the play-offs, preferring Ben Bailey to Decio Gomes at right-back in the only potential positional change

Salisbury had earned their place in this afternoon's final courtesy of a tight 1-0 win over Cambridge City on Thursday night at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium; player/manager Darrell Clarke also named an unchanged side for today's game as he looked to restore the Lilywhites to Conference set-up after the upset of last season's demotion from Blue Square Premier

It was yet another beautifully warm and sunny afternoon as the UK basked in unseasonably warm May Bank Holiday temperatures. A crowd just shy of 2,000 people were to witness a slow burner of a game, as neither side showed their hand early on as the game started in a cagey manner. Nick Wellecomme was handed a half-chance for the hosts in the seventh minute as Liam Francis's forward ball was chested down by Kyle Patterson just inside the Salisbury half before the striker chipped a pass into the path of his strike partner, who looked to make a run in behind the Lilywhites defence but was denied by a clear run in on goal by skipper Brian Dutton's intervention, turning the ball behind for a corner

Four minutes later, the Pitmen made a move down the left flank through Patterson, who won the ball from Ryan Brett and looked to play the ball through to Ross Davidson on the left-hand edge of the penalty area via a touch from Wellecomme. The former Stafford Rangers winger tamely struck a low effort towards goal but was denied by a clearance from Josh Casey

Good play from Wellecomme once more in the fourteenth minute saw him hold off Dutton's challenge and lay the ball off to Chris Clements, whose low driven shot from just outside the penalty area drifted well wide of goalkeeper Tommy Smith's left-hand post

Despite the summery conditions, there was a gusty wind that blew across the Keys Park pitch intermittently throughout the first period, with several long passes from both sides drifting harmlessly out of play or over the heads of players. A neat ball forwards from Stuart Anderson toward the dangerous Jake Reid on seventeen minutes had a little too much behind it and allowed Dan Crane to come out of his goal to make the save

Midway through the first half, Clements won a free kick in a dangerous position after being pulled down by Ben Adelsbury, earning the defender the  game's first yellow card in the process. Darren Campion's resultant free-kick was well struck but went straight into the Salisbury wall and was cleared by the men in orange

On twenty-five minutes, a long throw from Bailey was flicked on by Wellecomme and into the path of Patterson, who showed more excellent close control just inside the Salisbury box to hold off Adelsbury and make his way to the byeline, where his deep cross towards Clements saw Brett clear the danger at the far post

The closest either side came to opening the scoring was on the half-hour mark as Salisbury rattled the crossbar through Jamie Turley; a corner kick on the right from Casey was played short into the near post to Kayne McLaggon, who turned well and chipped a cross to the far post, where Turley arrived to volley a first-time shot against the bar from ten yards out. An inch or two lower at it would surely have been 1-0 to the visitors

This gave the away side confidence and saw them have much the better of the remainder of the first half as they started to create openings. McLaggon made a fine run into the penalty area on thirty-four minutes as Dutton picked him out with a raking ball forwards, turning past Francis but being denied by the outstanding Cheyenne Dunkley, whose timely block denied the former Southampton youngster a clear shot at goal

Three minutes later, Dutton made his way forwards and got on the end of another fine delivery from Casey as the left-back's corner kick found the head of the centre-back, who headed narrowly over the crossbar from six yards out as Dunkley did enough to put him off

Crane made an outstanding save to deny Salisbury the game's opener on forty-two minutes as a free-kick on halfway from Turley was played into the penalty area, where Reid's backwards header from six yards out looked to be heading for the far corner of the net until Crane came across his goal to make a stunning one-handed stop to turn the ball away. McLaggon followed the ball in and almost turned the rebound home but was denied by Campion's goal-line clearance for the hosts

In first-half added time, another corner from Casey was allowed to drop at the feet of McLaggon in the six-yard box, only for the striker to get the ball caught under his feet which allowed Dunkley time to boot the ball clear of danger for the home side

It had been a keenly-fought final thus far, although it had lacked a spark of any note as both sides had played it fairly safe up to now. The hosts had been unusually lacking in ideas going forwards as Clements, Wellecomme and Patterson had struggled to make any headway against a well-organised Lilywhites defence, well marshalled by the experienced Dutton

Half-time had seen a welcome drop in the gusty conditions, which seemed to favour the Pitmen at the start of the second half as they made more of a game of it early on. On fifty minutes, a delightful through ball from Clements looked to find Wellecomme, who stole a yard on Dutton for the first time in the game but was denied by Smith's quick thinking as the goalkeeper came out and made the save ahead of the striker

A free-kick straight off the training ground from the visitors on fifty-two minutes saw Casey and Anderson set up Adelsbury, whose shot was blocked by Clements before Jay Denny completed the clearance

Bailey's long ball forwards from the halfway line on fifty-six minutes was brilliantly flicked on by Wellecomme, who stooped to nod the ball into the path of Davidson, making a late run into the Salisbury box behind the striker. Before Davidson could shoot however, Brett came across to make a vital interception and hack the ball clear

Dunkley headed onto the roof of the Salisbury net on fifty-nine minutes as Campion's free-kick from the left was met by the young centre-back at the far post, only for the former Crewe man to get a little too much on the ball and send it over the bar

The Pitmen's bright start to the second half came to fruition on sixty-three minutes as they opened the scoring through Wellecomme. Clements supplied a wonderful through ball to find Patterson in space down the left-wing, allowing the striker time and space to take a couple of touches before settling himself and squaring the ball to Wellecomme, who neatly flicked the ball past Smith from close range and into the roof of the net

The home side were looking a lot more like the outfit they had looked for the past two months for the next ten minutes, pushing Salisbury back into their own half with their brand of direct attacking football on the break. Patterson's surging run through the centre on sixty-six minutes saw him leave Brett behind and shoot from twenty yards out, pulling his effort wide of Smith's right-hand post

Campion's chipped free-kick midway through the second half was headed down by Francis and into the path of Wellecomme, but more excellent defending from Dutton put paid to the goalscorer's chance of a second goal as he cleared the ball from danger

Back came the visitors and substitute Adam Kelly fired just wide of the target on seventy minutes after Reid had laid off Casey's cross into his path just inside the Hednesford penalty area

A bout of pushing and shoving saw Wellecomme and Casey both booked two minutes later after a foul on the striker by the full-back saw the two square up. Hednesford assistant manager Larry Chambers had a little too much to say to the match officials about the incident that had taken place right in from of the benches and was sent to the stands for his overly-aggressive appeals

With sixteen minutes remaining, Anderson's free-kick into the Hednesford penalty area was partially cleared by the exemplary Dunkley, finding Chris Knight lurking to the left-hand side of the penalty area. He brought the ball under control and sent over a cross to the far post, where Turley headed into the side-netting from a tight angle

Campion was booked three minutes later for a foul on substitute Ben Joyce, handing Salisbury a free-kick level with the right-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area. Anderson's deep cross to the far post was headed up in the air by Adelsbury, forcing Dunkley to head over his own crossbar as Crane struggle to get a fist to the ball inside his six-yard box

The Pitmen's first substitution of the afternoon came on eighty-one minutes as Patterson was replaced by Marvin Robinson as Smith threw on more experience to his forward line and give the men in white another target to aim at with their clearances

Still, the away side pressed and Melbourne had to hack the loose ball clear inside his own six-yard box on eighty-three minutes as Brett's cross somehow made it all the way across the penalty area without anyone in orange turning the ball home from close-range

The Lilywhites finally levelled the game up once more with five minutes remaining as Smith's long ball forwards was cleared by Dunkley but only as far as Anderson in midfield; his first-time pass back into the penalty area was seized upon by Matt Wright, reacting quickest to loop a first-time shot over the head of Crane and into the net from sixteen yards out

With time running out and extra-time looming, the Pitmen nearly nicked a winner in the final minute of normal time as Bailey's deep cross was headed out to Campion by Joyce, whose wicked curling drive from twenty-five yards out looked destined for the top corner of the net until Smith produced a wonderful one-handed save to turn the ball away

Extra-time it was to be then, with neither side wanting to peak too quickly at the start of the extra half-hour as the end-to-end flow of the game slowed considerably. Bailey's long throw from the right on ninety-three minutes was punched away by Smith and into the path of Denny, who shanked his long-range effort high over the crossbar and into the Salisbury fans behind Smith's goal

On ninety-seven minutes, the Pitmen made their second substitution of the game as instinctive Danny Quinn came on in place of goalscorer Wellecomme up front

Clements tried his luck from a free-kick three minutes later but struck his effort straight into the Salisbury wall before Campion fired wide from the rebound as the ball fell at his feet

Salisbury seemed content to contain the Pitmen and catch them on the counter-attack, with Joyce racing onto Brett's long ball forwards on 102 minutes and taking it into the Pitmen's penalty area before losing control of the ball and allowing Dunkley to take the ball away from him

In the final minute of the first half of extra time, Quinn latched onto a Clements pass in behind the Salisbury defence before being flagged for offside by the official on the Wimblebury side

After a quick turnaround, the second period of extra-time exploded into life as the Pitmen took the lead once more through Quinn; a Clements free-kick midway inside the Salisbury half was chipped into the penalty area where Francis flicked the ball on standing on the penalty spot and found Quinn, who did enough to turn the loose ball home from close-range with a deft flick past Smith, sending Keys Park wild with excitement

Quinn went for the spectacular as he looked to settle the tie three minutes later as Robinson shook off Casey's challenge down the right and played Melbourne into space in front of him; the youngster's cross into the penalty area was aimed at Quinn, whose attempted scissor kick from twelve yards failed to come off as the ball drifted over his head and he could not connect

On 115 minutes, Clements went within a matter of inches of clinching promotion for the Pitmen as he made a mazy run from the edge of the penalty area and into the six-yard box before shooting across the face of Smith's goal and seeing his low effort come back off the base of the far post

Despite being under the cosh for much of the last ten minutes, Salisbury somehow found a way back into the game with an equaliser out of the blue with just a couple of minutes of extra-time remaining; a long throw from Brett on the right was headed out by Dunkley and into the path of Adelsbury, who managed to bring the ball under control twenty-five yards from goal before unleashing a stunning right-footed shot that arrowed into the far corner of the net to beat Crane all ends up and make it 2-2, delighting the visiting fans at the Hednesford end of the ground and silencing the once-jubilant home supporters

With neither side willing to gamble in the closing seconds we moved to the dreaded penalty kicks, taken at the Heath Hayes end of the ground housing the home fans. The Pitmen went first through Clements, who scored to Smith's right. Anderson stepped up for Salisbury and levelled before Campion made it 2-1 with a shot underneath Smith's body. Wright was to miss Salisbury's next kick as he scuffed his effort wide but Dunkley could not take advantage as he hit the crossbar with the Pitmen's next penalty kick. Knight fired past Crane with the next kick to make it 2-2

All level then going into the final two rounds of kicks; Robinson's weak penalty kick was easily saved by Smith down to his right to hand Salisbury a chance to take the lead for the first time in the shoot out, with Kelly confidently dispatching the next spot-kick to make it 3-2 to the away side. Quinn stepped up to take the Pitmen's final penalty but saw his kick saved by Smith once more to win it for the visitors

A hugely disappointing way to end what had been a rollercoaster campaign for the Pitmen and their supporters, but one that had been one of the most entertaining seasons in recent years with Smith moulding this Hednesford side into a tough, uncompromising outfit that is also not short of talented young players such as Clements, Campion and Dunkley at its core. With the right level of backing, it will be hoped that Smith and Chambers can build on the positives of this season and push the team one place better to the title next term, although that may have to be done via a return to the Northern Premier League as rumours continue to circulate about another lateral shift of leagues in 2011-2012 for Hednesford

Hednesford Town: Crane, Bailey , Campion , Dunkley , Francis ©, Denny , Melbourne, Clements, Wellecomme ▆ (Quinn 97), Patterson (Robinson 81 ), Davidson       Subs Unused: Keenan, Gomes

 

Salisbury City: Smith, Brett , Casey , Adelsbury , Dutton ©, Turley, Shephard (Joyce 72), Anderson, McLaggon (Kelly 59), Reid (Wright 78), Knight        Subs Unused: Cooper, Price

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