6.4.2019

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

South Shields

Lowe (10), Bell (52), Briggs (58), (77) (penalty)

 

Hednesford Town

B. Wells (67)

 

(1) 4

.

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

1,214

Danny Racchi

D L L W W W D D W L

 .

Stalybridge Celtic (H) 13.4.19

The Pitmen's recent unbeaten run is halted abruptly by title challengers South Shields this afternoon, as the hosts underlined their credentials for the Evo-Stik Premier League crown with a dominant second-half display at Mariners Park

 

Hednesford made the long journey up to the North East off the back of a fine run of recent form, lifting them into the relative safety of mid-table following fears of a relegation battle in January. Manager Nicky Eaden was without the services of both Jon Moran and Javan Vidal (injured), meaning a return to the starting XI for the recently re-signed Matt Curley at right-back in the only change to the side that had defeated Matlock Town last weekend

 

Shields had been the main beneficiaries following the demise of North Ferriby United in the hunt for the title, gaining three points on rivals Farsley Celtic and Warrington Town following the Humberside club's record being expunged last week. The Mariners were on a fine run of form themselves, having won six of their last seven games since losing to Warrington back in February. Going into today's round of games, Shields sat only one point behind leaders Farsley, both with six games left to play in April

 

Backed by another fine thousand-plus crowd at Mariners Park, Shields made an assertive start to the game and enjoyed the better of the possession in the early stages of the game as they proved adept with the ball at their feet as they brought the ball out from the back. A neat passage of play from the hosts saw them take the lead in the tenth minute as a quick switch of play saw Shields break down the left through full-back Blair Adams; he played the ball to Nathan Lowe, whose misplaced pass should have been intercepted by Alex-Ray Harvey. However, Harvey was guilty of handing the ball cheaply to Lowe, who took advantage of the midfielder's slack touch to fire confidently home past Jake Weaver from twenty yards out. A poor touch and an unusually poor attitude from the experienced midfielder to gift the home side an early lead

 

The hosts kept the pressure on the Hednesford backline, with Curley handing Shields another good chance to double their lead three minutes as he was caught ball-watching in allowing Lowe in on goal. The striker was unselfish in his pull-back to Robert Briggs, who beat Harvey to the loose ball but lashed it high over the crossbar

 

However, after weathering the early South Shields storm, the Pitmen started to come back into the contest by creating chances of their own. In the eighteenth minute, good play from the away side down the left wing saw Harvey feed Ben O'Hanlon, whose outswinging cross was headed wide by Kieran Wells

 

A run and cross from Dan Sweeney down the left found the head of Reece King two minutes later, but the in-form midfielder failed to find the boot of either of the Wells brothers at the far post as Shields struggled to clear their lines

 

Shields responded on twenty-seven minutes through Briggs, whose dipping free-kick from the left-hand side corner of the penalty area came back off the near post as Weaver scrambled across to cover his goal. The ball rebounded to Shields captain Jon Shaw, whose goalbound shot was beaten away by Weaver as he recovered well

 

The Pitmen's best chance of the game to date came a minute later, as Ben Bailey's long ball was headed down by Sweeney into the path of O'Hanlon. Another fine swinging cross from the on-loan Darlington man found Kieran Wells lurking at the near post, with the striker nodding his effort narrowly wide of the near post

 

Another sustained period of pressure from the Pitmen on the half-hour mark saw Curley send over a deep cross from the right that was headed over the crossbar by the dangerous Wells from six yards out

 

The visitors continued to have the better of the first-half chances, with King handed a glorious chance to level matters for Hednesford on thirty-three minutes; O'Hanlon - who had had a fine half down the left wing - sent over another dangerous cross that bounced around the South Shields penalty area. The ball fell kindly at the feet of King, whose first-time effort was brilliantly turned away by home keeper Liam Connell, parrying the shot away from goal to his right-hand side

 

With half-time looming, the Pitmen finished the half strongly with another low cross from O'Hanlon that once again gave South Shields issues in their penalty area. The ball was played into the feet of the excellent Danny Racchi, whose low drive from fully twenty-five yards out flew wide of goal

 

The hosts started the second half strongly, shaking off some of the complacency that had dogged their first-half display. A quick break down the right wing caught the Pitmen put on fifty-one minutes, culminating in a low cross from Briggs that was cut out in a timely manner by Gatter to deny Lee Mason a tap-in

 

A route one approach from the hosts opened up the Hednesford back line two minutes later, as a long ball forwards from Craig Baxter was flicked on by Lowe to find Bell in behind a Pitmen defence playing a high line. Despite the best efforts of both Gatter and Weaver to deny the forward, Bell sidefooted past the advancing keeper from the edge of the penalty area and into the empty net to double the hosts' lead

 

Shields stepped up through the gears, playing the channels well and opening the Pitmen up with relative ease during a powerful opening salvo in the second period. A quick break down the left on fifty-four minutes saw Bell once again in behind the Hednesford defence, this time playing Briggs in on goal. On this occasion, however, Weaver was equal to the shot and saved well to deny the creative midfield man

 

A quick counter-attack from the Pitmen on fifty-six minutes saw the ball played wide to Sweeney, who cut inside from the left flank before wildly firing over the crossbar with a poorly-executed effort

 

Shields ended the game as a contest with a killer third goal on fifty-eight minutes, with Briggs grabbing a goal his efforts deserved after a fine display in midfield. A corner from Lowe was played back to him down the right wing, with the forward's low cross into the near post turned home by Briggs from close-range for his sixteenth goal of a productive season

 

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon following Shields' third goal, with the disappointing Sweeney hauled off and replaced by Andre Wright up front

 

O'Hanlon had his name taken by the referee on fifty-nine minutes after an aggressive foul on the edge of the penalty area that Lowe curled the resultant free-kick over the crossbar from a good position

 

Four minutes later, the visitors were forced into another change after centre-back Gatter was taken off following an injury. Left-back Nathan Fox was brought on in Gatter's place to play out of position in the centre of defence

 

The visitors continued to plod on and gave their loyal away supporters a brief moment of joy with a goal on sixty-seven minutes. Harvey's deep corner kick was headed back across goal by King, with Brad Wells grabbing his second goal in two games since joining the club as he took advantage of a flap from Connell to force the ball over the line. Following the goal, Connell clearly handed out retribution on Kieran Wells with a blatant kick out at the striker as he attempted to recover the ball. Despite the referee being in a fine position to witness the incident, he merely handed a warning to Connell rather than hand him a yellow card at worst.  Even a number of home supporters behind the goal felt that the stopper was lucky to stay on the pitch after a petulant moment

 

Weaver was on hand once more to keep the Pitmen in contention three minutes later, making another smothering save to deny Luke Daly from close range following a loose Bailey clearance before fielding a follow-up shot from Briggs

 

The hosts restored their three-goal advantage in more controversial circumstances on seventy-seven minutes, as the referee handed Shields a soft penalty after former Gateshead man Phil Turnbull was eased off the ball by Racchi down the left, only for the referee to point to the penalty spot, much to the amazement of the away side. Briggs stepped up and fired home, despite Weaver's best efforts to keep it out down to his left

 

The home side continued to attack, looking for more goals to improve their goal difference as news filtered through of a goal for Farsley to put them into the lead in their game against Buxton. Weaver's busy afternoon continued with another save on eighty-three minutes, making a save low down to his left to smother a goalbound shot from Daly

 

Two minutes later, Weaver made another save to his left as he denied Lowe another goal from just outside the Hednesford penalty area with a confident stop

 

The Wells brothers linked up for the Pitmen's penultimate chance of the afternoon on eighty-eight minutes, with Brad's cross headed into the arms of Connell by Kieran from twelve yards out

 

In added time, Racchi curled a shot just wide of the upright from the edge of the penalty area after Curley had laid an O'Hanlon cross back into the midfielder's path

The Pitmen can have no real complaints about the result, although the scoreline was perhaps a little kind on the hosts thanks to a number of questionable refereeing decisions during the second half that fell their way. The Pitmen will look to seal their step three place for next season with a home win over fellow mid-table dwellers Stalybridge Celtic next weekend with only three games to go this term

South Shields: Connell, Baxter (Lough 61), Adams, Shaw ©, Morse, Turnbull, Daly, Briggs, Mason (Cogdon 61), Lowe, Bell (Gillies 79)      Subs Unused: Mouanda, Foley

 

Hednesford Town: Weaver, Curley, O'Hanlon , Harvey, Gatter (Fox 63), Bailey ©, Racchi , King, K. Wells, Sweeney (Wright 60), B. Wells        Subs Unused: Veiga, Hallahan, Reid

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