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Nationwide Conference

Hednesford Town


Ellender (35)

(0) 0

(1) 1



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Stewart Airdrie



Woking (A) 9.12.00

The Pitmen crash to their fourth home defeat in succession this afternoon, with tenth-placed Scarborough taking all three points back up the North East as the hosts once again draw a blank on their own turf

John Baldwin's inconsistent side had been left frustrated at the late, late postponement of last weekend's game at Hayes as the referee called the game off just five minutes before kick-off, leaving the Pitmen without a game since their 4-2 defeat to Oldham Athletic in the F.A. Cup two weeks ago. Baldwin was without the services of the suspended Mark Gayle, who was serving the first of a three-match ban for the red card he picked up against Nuneaton Borough. The stopper was replaced by Stuart Ford, who made his first start of the season for the Pitmen. There were three further changes to the side from the one that had started the Oldham game as Mark Haran, Val Owen and Micky Norbury all returned to the side in place of Ian Robinson, Paul Bagshaw and Scott Bonsall

Scarborough's recent form had seen the Seadogs fail to win any of their nine games, although five of these had been draws for player/manager Neil Thompson's side. Their last two games had both been impressive 2-2 draws against title challengers Stevenage Borough and Yeovil Town, with Thompson electing to stick with the same XI that had started against Yeovil last weekend as he looked for that elusive first win since September

There had been strong rumours of off-the-pitch activities going on at the club, with chairman Steve Price finally announcing to the press in the past week that the club was up for sale to the right bidder if they could match Price's valuation for the club

The in-form Stewart Airdrie - superb in the Oldham game two weeks ago - was straight into the game and created a superb opening for the strikers in the fourth minute as his mazy run down the right saw him get away from Thompson and send over a brilliant low cross that both Neil Davis and Norbury could not take advantage of as neither striker could turn the ball home from close-range

Davis drove a low shot wide of goal in the seventh minute after Norbury's flick-on from a Stuart Lake free-kick dropped into the path of the striker, only for Davis to strike his effort from fifteen yards out well wide of goalkeeper Phil Priestley's goal

Scarborough's first positive move of the game saw them awarded a penalty kick in the twelfth minute as Steve Brodie burst into the Hednesford penalty area down the left and was sent sprawling by a mistimed and clumsy challenge from Russell Bradley. Experienced midfield man Simon Betts stepped up to take the resultant penalty kick and had trouble setting the ball on the spot as the swirling wind kept blowing it away. This seemed to affect his concentration as he tamely sidefooted his spot-kick to Ford's right, with the former Scarborough stopper guessing correctly and palming the ball away from goal. The ball landed at the feet of Gareth Stoker, who blasted the rebound over the crossbar from only six yards out with a wild follow-up shot

The home side responded positively to this let-off, with a neat triangle of passing in midfield involving Mark Cooper, Lake and Jake Sedgemore playing Airdrie away down the right in the fifteenth minute; his mazy run into the box saw him skip past Shaun Rennison before pulling his angled shot just wide of the target from an angle

A quickly taken free-kick from Cooper two minutes later played the ball shirt to Airdrie, whose cross was glanced towards goal by Davis but blocked by the leg of skipper Paul Ellender and cleared

Rennison and Norbury were enjoying a competitive game up against each other, with the Hednesford striker getting the better of his marker a minute later just outside the Scarborough penalty area before executing a clever lob over the head of Rochdale loanee Priestley but also just over the crossbar

On twenty minutes, more exciting wing play from Airdrie saw him shimmy his way past Thompson and pull the ball back into the path of Owen, whose well-struck volley twelve yards from goal looked to be heading into the net until Priestley produced a superb stop at point-blank range to deny the midfielder. Norbury and Davis both followed the ball in but could not force the rebound over the line

Four minutes later, Norbury once again held off the attention of Rennison as he picked up a Neil Pointon pass to the left of the Scarborough penalty area and crossed for the incoming Sedgemore, who tried to chip Priestley from ten yards out but lifted his shot over the crossbar

The Seadogs had struggled to make an impression in the final third, with the hosts limiting them to shots outside the box or forcing errors with the final ball. The lively Brodie was a constant threat to the Pitmen's back line, however, with a superb late run from the number ten pulled up for a tight offside on twenty-seven minutes as he latched onto David Pounder's through ball

Four minutes later, Pointon's quickly-taken free-kick down the left found Sedgemore in space just outside the penalty area; the youngster turned well and got goal side of Ellender before striking a low shot at goal that was easily saved by Priestley

Against the run of play, the Seadogs took the lead on thirty-five minutes as Pounder's deep corner kick was cleared by Pointon as far as Brodie on the edge of the penalty area, with the striker's chip back at goal beating Ford but coming back off the crossbar. Ellender followed the ball back in and was on hand to hammer the ball over the line from eight yards out

Back came the Pitmen once more, with Airdrie whipping in a fine ball from the right on thirty-nine minutes that was headed towards goal by Bradley, who was denied an equaliser by a flying save from Priestley to turn the ball over the crossbar

Sixty seconds later, Cooper's free-kick was chested down by Norbury, who fired in a shot across goal from twelve yards out that beat Priestley but also the far post, with Lake coming within inches of turning the loose ball home

The first booking of the afternoon came on forty-five minutes as referee Mr Pollock showed Betts a yellow card after he had brought Cooper down with a late challenge in midfield

In first-half added time, the burly Ellender headed high over the crossbar from another Pounder corner kick, getting goal-side of Bradley but heading high over the bar from eight yards out

The Pitmen will certainly have been smarting at being behind at the break, having had the better of the play in the opening forty-five minutes as they had done in plenty of games this season but had once again been punished by one moment of quality from their opponents

A quick break from the visitors on forty-nine minutes saw them go close to a second goal as Thompson was allowed to make an unchallenged run into the Hednesford penalty area and struck a low shot at goal that Ford saved down to his right

Two minutes later, the Pitmen felt that they had a good shout for a penalty kick as Pointon's angled cross from the left was met by the head of Norbury, who was manhandled by Ellender as he reached the ball and tumbled to the ground. Despite the striker's pleas, Mr Pollock remained unconvinced and play continued

The hosts continued to pile the pressure on the Scarborough defence, winning a succession of corner kicks as they looked for the equalising goal; Airdrie's run and cross on fifty-five minutes was headed back across goal by the late-arriving Davis, only for Priestley to claim the bouncing ball ahead of Norbury

Good play from Lake - playing in a more advanced role than in previous games in front of the central defence - found Sedgemore in space on fifty-nine minutes, with the former West Brom youngster sidestepping Rennison's attempted challenge before shooting wide from twenty yards out

On sixty-two minutes, Haran made a timely block to deny Scarborough's man of the match Brodie a clear shooting opportunity after a superb pass from Denny Ingram had played the Seadogs' seven-goal top scorer in on goal behind Bradley

Two minutes later, a corner kick from Cooper drifted all the way to the far post, where Lake did well to head the ball back across goal on the stretch and find Davis, who was denied a certain goal by a brave block on the line from Rennison to turn the ball behind for another corner kick

Airdrie won a free-kick for the hosts in a dangerous position just outside the Scarborough penalty area midway through the second half after being brought down by Thompson, allowing Lake to place the ball down and curl his free-kick beyond the wall but also just wide of Priestley's right-hand post

The Pitmen's first change of the afternoon came on seventy-two minutes as Lee Colkin came on in place of Owen to add more penetration down the left flank; this saw Sedgemore moved into a more central role to accommodate the former Northampton Town man's introduction

Colkin and Pointon combined well down the left two minutes later to send over a deep cross to Airdrie, who nipped in ahead of Thompson to toe-poke a shot at goal that was easily saved by Priestley down to his left

Rennison was unlucky to see his header graze the Hednesford crossbar on seventy-six minutes as he got a run on Bradley from a Pounder free-kick to meet the ball eight yards from Ford's goal

Two minutes later, Bradley picked up the home side's first and only booking of the afternoon as he was caught out by Brodie's quick feet and could only bring the striker down twenty-five yards from goal. Stoker took the resultant free-kick but stuck a tame shot straight at Ford

Robinson was brought on by the Pitmen with nine minutes remaining to add more pace to the ranks as he replaced Pointon, who had enjoyed one of his best games of the club but had simply run out of steam after charging up and down the flank for over eighty minutes

A quick throw from Robinson played that man Airdrie into space once more on eighty-four minutes, with the ex-Guiseley man getting to the byeline and dribbling along the line for a spell before looking to pick out Davis; the ball was cut out Ellender's boot but only as far as Cooper, whose curling return shot from fifteen yards out missed the target by a matter of inches

With two minutes remaining, a quick counter-attack from the Seadogs saw Brodie burst clear of the Hednesford offside trap that was playing a dangerously high line, controlling the ball well down the right before slipping it through to Cherif Diallo. The Frenchman took a couple of touches but was forced wide by Ford's presence and could only stab his shot wide of the post when he really should have settled the game as a contest

Stoker was booked in the final minute of the game for time-wasting as he ran the ball out of play and then prevented Colkin from retrieving it to take a quick throw-in down the left flank

Despite three corner kicks in a row in added time, the Pitmen failed to find a way through the stoic Scarborough defence and crashed to a fourth home defeat in a row that drops them into the relegation zone for the first time since August. Results at Keys Park have been dreadful for the majority of the season, although performances have generally been good as the Pitmen continue to struggle to turn possession and chances into goals. They travel to Surrey next weekend to face fellow strugglers Woking, who lie two places, and three points, above them in the Nationwide Conference table in what is already looking like a 'six-pointer', even at this early stage of the season

Hednesford Town: Ford, Bradley , Pointon © (Robinson 81), Haran, Lake, Cooper,  Sedgemore, Owen (Colkin 72), Davis, Norbury, Airdrie        Subs Unused: Bonsall, Goodwin, Bagshaw

Scarborough: Priestley, Betts , Thompson, Rennison, Ellender ©, Ingram (Toon 90), Williams, Stoker , Diallo, Brodie, Pounder      Subs Unused: Faure, Woods, Brunton, Gildea

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