Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Scarborough Athletic

Brooksby (13)

(0) 0

(1) 1



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Josh Craddock


Basford United (A) 20.8.18

It's a losing start to the Pitmen's new season, as newly-promoted Scarborough edge out the home side courtesy of a first-half goal from Wayne Brooksby. The hosts had to battle on with ten men for three-quarters of the game after midfielder Reece King was shown a straight red card for a challenge in midfield


The Pitmen's pre-season programme had been one shrouded in chaos and let-downs, as the constant meddling from the FA and the Northern League had combined to leave Rob Smith's side a long way behind the other teams in the league in terms of preparation. Smith handed debuts to Josef Bursik, Stefan Galinski, Dan Cockerline and Charley Edge, with Sam Griffiths and Josh Craddock returning to the club for another spell after rejoining from Stafford Rangers. Smith had made two late signings ahead of the new season, with both Michael Howard and Romario Martin both amongst the substitutes. The Pitmen were without Jermain Hollis, Tom Hill and Jed Davies, with all unavailable through a combination of injuries and suspensions


Steve Kittrick's Scarborough side earned themselves promotion last term after winning promotion from Evo-Stik Division One North in their first season at the new Flamingo Land ground. The former Telford and Guiseley boss had assembled what could be described as a typically stout, experienced step three side over the summer, taking a number of players from step two sides such as Leon Scott (Darlington), Brooksby (Bradford Park Avenue), Bailey Gooda (Harrogate Town), Ross Killock (Chester) and Josh Lacey (Gainsborough Trinity). Added to the already experienced heads such as James Walshaw and Dave Merris and it was clear to see why many believe that the Seadogs will be in the mix at the end of the season


The away side started with authority, backed by a very healthy away following from Yorkshire, but it was the Pitmen who had the first opening of the game on nine minutes; Matt Dodd made a twisty run down the flank and pulled the ball back to Cockerline, whose low shot was easily saved by Tommy Taylor in the Scarborough goal


However, with their first meaningful attack the Seadogs took the lead on thirteen minutes through Brooksby, as a long ball forwards from Taylor bounced over the head of Galinski and into the path of Brooksby. The midfielder did well to evade Charlie Gatter's challenge and fire past Bursik from eight yards out


The Pitmen responded with a free kick from Edge two minutes later, swinging the ball into the Scarborough penalty area and watching the ball cleared as far as Craddock, who fired well over with a wild effort from long-range


A minute later, Bursik made a quite wonderful save to keep his side in contention, making a brilliant one-handed save to his right to tip over a goalbound effort from Michael Coulson


The Pitmen were being forced to play much of their football in their own half, with Will Annan's cross headed behind by Matt Curley on twenty minutes as Scarborough continued to have the better of the play


A minute later, Dodd did well to outmuscle Scarborough left-back Lacey and send over a cross to the far post, but his ball in lacked accuracy and evaded both Cockerline and Edge before drifting out of play


King was to make the task of getting back into the game even harder for the Pitmen on twenty-four minutes, as he was shown a straight red card for a tackle in midfield on Brooksby, going in far too aggressively on the goalscorer as he challenged. The referee - following consultation with the assistant and led by the oh-so-familiar histrionics from the visitors' players and coaches - showed King a red card, adding to the home side's problems in midfield already with only one game played


Taylor caused a few flutters in the Scarborough ranks on twenty-nine minutes, dropping an Edge corner kick in his six-yard box before recovering to claim it at the second attempt


Scarborough tested the reflexes of Bursik once again on thirty-three minutes, with James Cadman letting fly from twenty-five yards out and forcing the on-loan keeper into a low stop


Walshaw proved there was more to his game than just raw power and goals on thirty-six minutes, producing a superb rabona cross on the bye-line which forced Bursik into another save on his goal-line


The Pitmen had struggled with the direct nature of Scarborough's play for the whole first half and conceded a corner following another long ball forwards from Taylor on forty minutes. From the resultant kick, Kevin Burgess shot straight at Bursik from the edge of the penalty area after the Pitmen had failed to effectively clear their lines


There had been little doubt that Scarborough had deserved their half-time lead, playing to their strengths and taking advantage of the Pitmen's lack of numbers to create problems with the direct nature of their play. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Smith made a double change at the break, bringing on young loanee Howard for Edge and Callam Mendez-Jones for the woefully exposed Joe Fitzpatrick, who had been completely overrun by Scarborough's know-how in midfield. This saw Matt Curley moved to a more central role in the side, with Mendez-Jones slotting in at right-back


This reshuffle seemed to have the desired effect for the Pitmen, at least in a defensive area, as they were far more competitive during the second half with their new set-up. The hosts enjoyed more possession in the early stages of the second period, without really making any meaningful chances as Craddock stepped up to marshall the patched-up midfield


Scarborough continued to press, however, and Coulson hot a bobbled effort straight at Bursik on fifty minutes with the Seadogs' first shot of the second half


Curley adapted to his new position well on fifty-four minutes, picking the ball up on the edge of the Scarborough penalty area and sending over a great cross to the far post that just missed the heads of both Cockerline and Howard


Back came Scarborough, who had the ball in the net once more on fifty-seven minutes through Cadman, only to be denied by a late offside flag against the midfielder as he slotted past Bursik from close-range


Curley did well to win a free-kick on the edge of the Scarborough penalty area on the hour mark, taking the kick himself but again saw his superb cross drift wide of the far post


The Pitmen's best chance of the came literally dropped in their laps a minute later, as Curley's inswinging corner was dropped by Taylor inside his six-yard box. A mighty scramble ensued, with Cockerline, Mendez-Jones and Craddock all having a swipe at the ball and somehow failing to turn the ball home due to a combination of slack finishing, last-ditch defending and just sheer bad fortune


Lacey headed wide for the visitors from a corner kick on sixty-four minutes before there was a level of concern surrounding Bursik four minutes later as the young keeper went down as he lined up a goal kick. With no substitute keeper on the bench for the Pitmen, Bursik was patched up and continued on with his goal kick


With fifteen minutes remaining, the hosts made their final change of the afternoon as Mikey Nelson came on in place of Cockerline, who had found the going tough against two big centre-backs in Burgess and Gooda. This left the Pitmen severely lacking in the forward area, with Scarborough keeping Hednesford at arm's length in the final fifteen minutes. Indeed, they could have added to their tally on seventy-eight minutes, as Galinski did brilliantly to clear the ball off his line after Bursik had dropped a free-kick inside his six-yard box


A quick break from Scarborough almost caught the Pitmen out on eighty-five minutes as they took advantage of the Pitmen adding numbers going forward to catch them on the counter-attack. Cadman's long ball found Coulson and in turn found Walshaw unmarked in the penalty area. The former Altrincham man showed an unusual lack of his predatory instinct to turn his shot wide of goal with the net at his mercy


The Pitmen failed to test Taylor in the final minutes to leave them with an opening day defeat for the first time in four years. Whilst there was plenty to be positive about - defensive solidity, Josh Craddock's performance, not allowing the loss of King to be of an advantage to Scarborough - there was also worrying - and very familiar - failings to the side that seem to be a by-product of the many Hednesford sides of the last few seasons. The distinct lack of experienced attacking options was there for all to see, particularly the lack of a step three target man. Whilst there is a pace and vibrancy about the Pitmen in some areas, the naivety of the younger forward players, playing against older, wiser and more seasoned players will be their undoing in many games this season as they are bullied out of battles. Scarborough also proved adept at the 'dark arts' of the game that the Pitmen are ill at ease with, ie clever game management in breaking up play with 'injuries' at key times and berating weak officials in a timely manner; something that again comes with experience and know-how at this level and seems an uneasy fit for this young Hednesford squad


It's a quick turnaround of games for Smith and his troops as they look to get that first win on the board, who visit another newly-promoted side in the form of Basford United on Monday night


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Curley, Griffiths, Gatter, Galinski ©, Craddock, King ▆ (24), Dodd, Cockerline (Nelson 75), Fitzpatrick (Mendez-Jones 45), Edge (Howard 45)     Subs Unused: Fox, Martin


Scarborough Athletic: Taylor, Killock, Lacey, Scott (Merris 60), Burgess ©, Gooda, Brooksby (Beadle 78), Cadman, Walshaw, Coulson, Annan  (Bowman 88)     Subs Unused: Morgan, Jowett

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