25.3.2005

Southern Premier League

Solihull Borough

Hednesford Town

Bell (20), Walters (38), Beckett (65), Barrow (80) (penalty)

(0) 0

(2) 4

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Andy Bell

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Rugby United (H) 28.3.05

Hednesford moved into fourth place in the Southern Premier League table as they comprehensively hammered struggling local rivals Solihull Borough at their new home Damson Park this Good Friday evening

Saturday's comfortable win over Dunstable Town had moved Chris Brindley's side within a point of the final play-off place going into tonight's local derby, with Brindley electing to stick with the same XI that had so easily dispatch of Solihull's fellow relegation-threatened rivals at Creasey Park

Borough were looking increasingly likely to be the first side to drop to step four at the end of the season as they sat second bottom of the Southern Premier League going into the game, a full eight points adrift of Hemel Hempstead Town who occupied the final spot of safety in nineteenth place. New manager Robin Judd - who had taken over from previous manager Alan Russell last week - made two changes to the side that had lost 1-0 at home to King's Lynn at the weekend as Dean Peer replaced Peter Faulds and striker Paul Danks came back in for Scott Voice

On a cool evening in the West Midlands, neither side showed their hand early on, as the yellow-clad Pitmen struggled to build on Saturday's performance as passes went astray and chances were at a premium early on. Anthony Maguire went on one of his mazy runs down the right flank in the sixth minute, turning past Martin Hier with ease and crossing to the far post but failing to find the incoming Andy Bell as the ball drifted out to play over the striker's head

Skipper Lee Williams was next to attempt to shoot for the Pitmen four minutes later after Marlon Walters had won a free-kick twenty yards from goal after a foul on him by player/assistant manager Morton Titterton. Williams curled his effort over the Solihull wall but well wide of the target and into the group of Hednesford supporters behind the goal

Walters was fortunate not to go into the book after fifteen minutes as he crudely brought down former Hednesford man Marcus Jackson in midfield but was spared a yellow card by referee Mr Sutton who chose to lecture the player instead, rather than book him on this occasion

Solihull had looked impotent so far going forwards, clearly showing a lack of confidence in their ability that summed up their current league position and likely relegation to step four. Mark Shepherd did momentarily breakthrough in Hednesford back line in the seventeenth minute but was denied a shot at goal by a late offside flag from assistant Mr Legg after a fine threaded pass from former Birmingham City man Peer

The Pitmen's got their noses in front in the twentieth minute as they took the lead through top scorer Bell; Maguire's corner kick was partially cleared by Adam Cooper but only as far as Williams, who chipped the ball back into the penalty area where Bell did well to control the bouncing ball and strike an excellent right-footed shot into the corner of the net beyond the reach of Solihull goalkeeper Mark Shiels. The Solihull players surrounded Mr Sutton as they felt that Bell was offside when he received the ball, but the match official ignored the protests and the goal stood

After failing to raise the offside flag against Bell for the goal, the assistant on the main stand side then promptly handed the Pitmen two successive offside calls in a row as the visitors continued to dominate the game and went in search of a second goal. On twenty-three minutes, a delightful pass from Walters was latched onto by Leon McSweeney who brought the ball down well but was denied by a questionable offside decision against the Irishman

Two minutes later, Bell was to suffer the same fate as his strike partner after a long searching ball forward from Mark Branch was picked up by the striker, who appeared to be level with the Solihull defence when he made the move towards the ball but was also adjudged to be offside by the assistant on the main stand side

Solihull, to their credit, came back into contention and the veteran Peer had a good chance to level matters for the hosts just before the half hour mark as he picked up a pass from Rob Taylor, striking a rising shot at goal that came back off the crossbar with goalkeeper Ryan Young beaten. The ball bounced back into play and fell at the feet of Danks, who was denied by a smothering side by the recovering Young

Good wing play from Grant Beckett three minutes later saw the former Preston man get the better of Andy Smith, sending over across into the Solihull six-yard box that was a whisker too high for either Bell or McSweeney to reach from close-range and drifted behind for a goal-kick

The away side doubled their advantage on thirty-eight minutes after a bout of pressure saw Ross Adams cross from the right with the Solihull defence struggling to clear their lines; the ball dropped at the feet of Pete Barry, whose attempted clearance cannoned off the leg of the incoming Walters and was deflected beyond the reach of the unlucky Shiels and found the corner of the net. A lucky goal for Walters but one that the Pitmen had deserved on the balance of play

Whiteside could have made it three-nil with three minutes of the first half remaining as a corner kick from Williams was flicked on at the near post by Richard Teesdale, finding McSweeney at the far post. However, the header from Teesdale had a little too much power on it and McSweeney could only glance the ball wide from close-range as the ball came at him a little too quickly

It had been a game that the Pitmen had grown into after a slow start, but had seen them dominate the last twenty-five minutes of the first period. Solihull looked low on confidence and quality, having struggled to create many clear-cut openings against the meanest defence in the Southern Premier League since the turn of the year

On fifty minutes, Jackson lost the ball cheaply to Walters, who in turn played the ball forwards to Bell; the striker turned quickly and caught Cooper out, spraying the ball out into space where Maguire was free to run into acres of room. The winger got the better of Hier once more but was a little greedy with his effort as he tried his luck from an audacious angle that flew high and wide of the target

Top scorer Bell was determined to add to his night's tally as he flicked a pass from Williams over the head of Barry on fifty-three minutes to make space for himself just outside the Solihull penalty area. However, the young striker's effort lacked power and direction and he pulled his effort wide of Shiels' right-hand post

The Pitmen continued to attack in waves with Beckett involved once more four minutes later as he received a pass from Branch down the left before jinking his way into the Solihull penalty area. His attempted pass into the feet of Walters was diverted away from goal by Jackson but fell kindly to Williams, whose first-time shot was easily saved by Shiels

Another infuriatingly marginal offside denied the Pitmen a further goal on the hour mark as a long punt forwards from Lee Barrow was flicked on by Walters and into the path of McSweeney, who was adjudged to have made a move in behind the Solihull defence a little too early; on closer inspection, it appeared that McSweeney was at least level with the Borough defenders when he made his move

It was proving to be a frustrating evening for McSweeney as the striker went close for the visitors once more on sixty-three minutes; great play from Walters once more split the Solihull defence with a fine through ball to the striker, who attempted to work the ball onto his left foot but was hurried into a shot by Peer and dragged his effort wide of the left-hand post

The Pitmen finally added a third goal to their tally two minutes later as Bell turned creator for his side on this occasion; good play down the right from Adams saw the full-back play Bell into space down by the corner flag - the striker showed great technique to turn past Smith in a tight position and pulled the ball back into the Solihull penalty area where Beckett was arriving late to strike a delightful right-footed shot beyond the reach of Shiels from fifteen yards out

Confidence in the Hednesford ranks was clear to see, as the men in yellow played some delightful football from this point onwards, controlling possession for long periods against a Solihull side that was simply chasing shadows at times. Williams and Walters linked up in midfield to play a neat triangle of passing around Jackson on sixty-eight minutes, culminating in Williams striking a firm shot at goal that lacked direction and ended up wide of the target

Titterton had to be alert for the hosts on seventy-two minutes as he hacked the ball away from danger to deny Barrow a clear effort at goal following a Maguire corner that had dropped at the feet of the centre back inside the six-yard box

A delightful piece of play involving no less than five players set McSweeney on his way four minutes later; Branch played a quick one-two with Williams before repeating this with Walters and slipping the ball into the path of Bell. The striker plays a neat pass around the corner into the feet of his strike partner, who had time and space to run into the Solihull penalty area, only to be taken wide by Cooper which limited McSweeney to an angled shot that went wide

Solihull had offered next to nothing as an attacking threat, with Taylor striking Borough's only real chance at goal well wide of the target on seventy-seven minutes after Jackson had found him lurking just inside the Hednesford penalty area

 

The home side's difficult evening got even worse with ten minutes to go as they handed the Pittman another golden opportunity to score a fourth goal from the penalty spot whilst also being reduced to ten men. A long, searching ball into the Solihull penalty area was aimed at McSweeney, who was wrestled to the ground by Cooper as the pair grappled to reach the cross; Mr Sutton had no other option to show Cooper a straight red card for the challenge and award Hednesford a penalty kick. McSweeney pleaded with the bench to take the spot-kick and get him back on the scoresheet, but the responsibility fell to regular penalty taker Barrow, who confidently fired past Shiels from twelve yards to complete the evening's scoring

With very little to lose from this point onwards, Solihull push forwards in search of a consolation goal; Taylor showed some excellent win play out on the left on eighty-two minutes as he got the better of Adams and crossed for Shepherd, whose weak header was saved by Young from the yards out

A minute later, Brindley looked to give Teesdale a well-earned rest as he brought himself on for the final minutes to play alongside Barrow in the centre of defence

With five minutes remaining, a tremendous pass from Peer was flicked on by Shepherd and into the path of substitute Voice, only for the former Wolves man to drag his shot well wide of goal when he should have done better from twelve yards out

The visitors made a late double change to see the final few minutes out as young striker Craig Marshall came on in place of Bell and McSweeney was replaced by Paul McMahon - both departing players were given generous applause from the away fans for their fine contribution to the night's entertainment

In the first minute of added time, a slip from Jackson allowed McMahon to pick up the loose ball and take it into the Borough penalty area; he was jockeyed wide of the target by Peer but did well to clip the ball over to Marshall, whose looping header on the stretch was claimed by Shiels

It had been a superb display from the Pitmen, claiming the three points that moves them up a place in the table to fourth. Bank Holiday Monday sees them play host to another struggling side in the form of Rugby United as they look to make it three wins in a row and consolidate their place in the top five ahead of a tough April schedule

Solihull Borough: Shiels, Smith, Hier, Barry, Cooper  (80), Peer (Faulds 66), Jackson, Titterton, Danks (Voice 81), Shepherd (Curtis 70), Taylor      Subs Unused: Hawker, Johnson

Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale (Brindley 83), Williams ©, Maguire, Walters, Bell (C. Marshall 88), McSweeney (McMahon 88), Beckett      Subs Unused: Brannan, Evans