Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Gatter (5)

Shaw Lane

Walker (70), (88), Reeves (80)

(1) 1

(0) 3



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Tom Thorley


Rushall Olympic (A) 26.12.17

After an enforced break due to the cold weather, the Pitmen returned to action with a controversial defeat to high-flying Shaw Lane this afternoon, despite taking a first-half lead through Charlie Gatter


The previous two Saturdays had left Hednesford frustrated, with games against Buxton and Barwell postponed due to the recent cold snap in Staffordshire. This break in play had scuppered the Pitmen's recent surge in form, having won four consecutive games in all competitions before the snow and ice arrived. Rob Smith had taken the opportunity to strengthen his squad during the break with the signings of Louis Harris from Romulus and winger Mason Walsh on loan from Altrincham. The Pitmen were dealt a blow ahead of kick-off with confirmation that influential defensive trio Darren Campion, Ben Bailey and Jim Mutton would all miss the game due to various knocks


The big-spending Shaw Lane were making their first ever visit to Keys Park, having recently appointed a new manager in the form of Paul Quinn who recently replaced Boston-bound Craig Wood. He inherited a side sitting second in the Evo-Stik Premier table, just three points behind leaders Altrincham going into today's play. Once again, Shaw Lane could call upon experienced higher level players in their ranks, with a heavy number of ex-Bradford (Park Avenue), Harrogate Town and Guiseley players in their squad


The Pitmen got themselves off to an absolute flyer in the game, as they immediately struck home with their first meaningful effort on goal in the fifth minute; James Lawrie's deep corner was cleared unconvincingly by the Shaw Lane defence, allowing Callam Mendez-Jones to lay the ball off to on-loan Gatter, who drove home the opener from sixteen yards out


Shaw Lane reacted with a spell of pressure and a brace of corner kicks, which the makeshift Hednesford defence did well to deal with effectively. James Wren commanded his area once again with his level of authority, claiming a deep, swerving cross well just under his crossbar on seven minutes


Winger James Fitzgibbon was once again the Pitmen's best bet for creating chances, with the flying midfielder skipping past two challenges on sixteen minutes and driving his shot into the side netting via a touch from Shaw Lane debutant Ed Wilcynski in goal


Another quality delivery from Lawrie three minutes later almost led to a second Hednesford goal as his cross was headed down by Sam Oji and into the path of Danny Glover, who was inches away from turning the ball home from close range


The Pitmen almost became victims of their own downfall on twenty-six minutes, as Gatter's lobbed pass back to Wren had the Hednesford stopper racing back towards his own goal. Fortunately for both players, the ball dropped the right side of the post and hit the side netting


From the resultant corner kick, former Bradford striker Paul Clayton tried his luck with a diving header, but miscued his effort and diverted the ball well wide of goal


Four minutes later, the Pitmen once again invited pressure on themselves through a miscued clearance from Wren, as his clearance fell straight to Spencer Harris. The midfielder's first time shot looked to be carrying into the empty net, but Wren got back to hack the ball off the line and the make a fine smothering save to deny Alex Byrne on the follow-up at his far post


The referee Mr. Pratt was to make the first of a series of questionable decisions a minute later, booking Danny Glover for a foul in the Shaw Lane half - this decision was to have major consequences later on in the half for the hosts, as it was to turn out


Both Joe Fitzpatrick and the frustrating Lawrie lifted long-range shots high over the crossbar as the Pitmen continued to search for a second goal before Wren made a smart save on his line on thirty-four minutes to deny Clayton for Shaw Lane


A neat piece of build-up play from Shaw Lane saw them open up the Hednesford defence on forty-one minutes, with Byrne on the end of a flowing move down the left but firing high and wide of Wren's goal


Glover went close to adding to the Pitmen's advantage right on the half time break, as Lawrie's free-kick picked out the striker, who turned the ball wide despite having his shirt pulled inside the six-yard box


This was to be the end of Glover's afternoon, as the eight-goal striker was shown a controversial second yellow card in added time by Mr.Pratt; after challenging for a bouncing ball with full back James Pollard, Glover was eventually shown a second yellow card by the referee, seemingly retrospectively after initially playing on and awarding a throw-in. The actions of Pollard and the Shaw Lane bench could be called into serious question by any neutral in the ground after they appeared to sway Mr. Pratt's decision with their over-the-top antics


Five minutes into the second half, Shaw Lane captain Ryan Qualter could count himself lucky to stay on the pitch after a late challenge on the excellent Thorley only saw him shown a yellow card for his tackle


Matt Curley - filling in at left back in place of the injured Campion - made a move forward and got on the end of a neat, flowing move on fifty-three minutes but lifted his effort high and wide of goal


Oji was the next Hednesford player to walk the tightrope with the referee on sixty minutes, earning a yellow card for blocking the taking of a free kick. He then pushed it further a couple of minutes later by twice having to have his shirt changed after picking up a blood injury and holding play up as he did so


The Pitmen's brave resistance was finally broken by Shaw Lane on seventy minutes as a corner was only partially cleared by the Pitmen, allowing Nicky Walker to seize upon the loose ball and volley smartly home from a tight angle to level matters


Shaw Lane started to crank up the pressure on Hednesford's defence, with Byrne falling with ease under Oji's challenge to win a free kick just outside the penalty area on seventy-five minutes. A Byrne effort was initially blocked by the Hednesford wall, with the same player driving a shot wide of goal from the rebound


The game took it's final key turn two minutes later, with the introduction of midfielder Louis Harris to the game. The former Wolves midfielder came on in place of Taylor, running straight across the pitch to earn the dubious honour of the shortest debut in the club's history by jumping into a challenge with namesake Spencer Harris. despite there not appearing to be any actual contact. Once again, the integrity of the Shaw Lane bench and Harris himself could be called into question with their over-the-top reactions, planting the seed of doubt in Mr. Pratt's mind and possibly swaying him towards showing Harris a red card, rather than the deserved yellow


With the Pitmen severely lacking in numbers and deflated from this second dismissal, it was perhaps a matter of time before Shaw Lane would seize the initiative. Three minutes later they did so, as a quick passing move played Ben Gordon in, whose slide-rule pass to substitute Damien Reeves was turned into the net by the former Altrincham man


Walsh came on for his Hednesford debut a minute later, replacing the tiring Fitzgibbon out on the wing. The Altrincham man showed some nice touches in a promising cameo as the Pitmen made a real go of trying to earn themselves a point in the final ten minutes. Walsh earned the Pitmen a free kick in a dangerous position after beating Gordon for pace on eighty-two minutes, putting Gordon into the book in the process. They earned three successive corner kicks off the back of this, with Oji and Gatter both going close with half chances


The Pitmen failed to get their reward for being brave, however and were undone on the counter-attack on eighty-eight minutes as Shaw Lane earned all three points through Walker, who seized upon a tired-looking Mendez-Jones back header to turn the ball past Wren from twelve yards out


It's rare to see a team applauded off after a 3-1 home defeat, but the nine men remaining on the pitch thoroughly deserved the praise after giving their all in the face of adversity. Having been the better of the two sides with eleven men, you suspect the Pitmen would have pushed their opponents close with a full compliment of players, such is their current spirit and belief. This spirit will be put to the test once more on Boxing Day, when Smith and his squad make the short hop across to Rushall Olympic, where former manager Liam McDonald awaits


Hednesford Town: Wren, Thorley ©, Curley, Mendez-Jones, Oji , Gatter, Taylor (Harris 78 (78)), Fitzpatrick, Lawrie, Glover ▆ (45), Fitzgibbon (Walsh 80)  Subs unused: Mbunga, Graham, Butlin


Shaw Lane: Wilczynski, Pollard, Gordon , Lugsden, Qualter , Lugsden (Reeves 65), Byrne (Whitehouse 85), Abadaki, Clayton (Chilaka 76), Harris, Walker   Subs unused:  Rothery, Payne


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