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Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

O'Sullivan (37), Morley (90)

St. Ives Town

Edwards (4), Higgs (28)

(1) 2

(2) 2



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James McQuilkin



Tamworth (A) 21.1.23

The Pitmen leave it late to claim a point this afternoon in their home game against mid-table St. Ives Town, with new signing Steph Morley having an immediate impact as he conjured up a wonderful injury-time equaliser from a free-kick

Last week's morale-boosting win at Bedford Town had given Hednesford the briefest and smallest of hopes that they could start to claw back the mammoth points tally required to stay up this season. Player/manager Danny Glover had once again been busy wheeling and dealing in the week, bringing in young centre-back Ben Kaninda on loan from Wycombe Wanderers and clinching the notable signature of the vastly experienced Steph Morley from Kettering Town. Morley came straight into the side at left-back in place of Niah Payne in the only change to the XI that had started the Bedford game last week, whilst Kaninda had to be content with a place amongst the substitutes

St. Ives - safely tucked up in thirteenth place in the table - had got 2023 off to a flying start with a 2-0 win over Mickleover last weekend. Long-serving manager Ricky Marheineke made two changes to his side from the one that had started against Mickleover as Myles Cowling came in for Ed Hottor in midfield whilst Jonny Edwards replaced on-loan Peterborough United midfielder Kellan Hickinson

A week of rain and wind had left the Keys Park pitch heavy but playable, with the ball moving quickly over the slick surface by the visitors early on in the game. They were rewarded for their strong start to the game with the opening goal of the afternoon with the first real sighter in the fourth minute - and what a strike it was too, as a flick from Johnny Herd was played into the path of Edwards, who took the ball into space before unleashing an unstoppable rising shot from fully thirty yards out that beat on-loan Ronnie Hollingshead all ends up in goal for the Pitmen as it flew past him and nestled in the far corner of the net. A superb strike from range from the striker

The Pitmen were struggling to find their feet in the opening exchanges, giving the ball away cheaply as they tried to play the ball out of defence and not holding onto possession in midfield which invited the pacy and direct St. Ives players to pick the loose balls up and launch it forwards to Edwards and Nabil Shariff. Hollingshead was called upon to make a good save in the ninth minute to deny the visitors as a lofted cross from Kieran Higgs on the left was deflected out to Tyrone Baker on the edge of the penalty area, whose low shot was pushed away by the West Bromwich Albion stopper down to his left and away from danger

Stunned into action finally, the hosts came back into the game with a tremendous effort from James McQuilkin on twelve minutes; neat build-up play from the Pitmen saw Tom Thorley, Riley O'Sullivan and Glover all involved as they worked the ball into the feet of the midfielder, whose curling, swirling left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area clipped the top of the crossbar and came back out into play before being cleared by St. Ives

Three minutes later, the free-running St. Ives forwards broke through the flimsy Hednesford back line once more as a mazy run from Edwards saw him leave Harvey Portman and Thorley in his wake before playing the ball through to strike partner Shariff, only for the former Tamworth man to see his low, driven effort from the edge of the box tipped around the post by Hollingshead for a corner kick


The tall, rangy Shariff was involved again for the away side on nineteen minutes as he took advantage of a poor clearance from the hapless Portman, drilling in a rebounded shot from the edge of the box that failed to test Hollingshead as it drifted wide of goal


It was to be proving to be yet another one of those games for the Pitmen at Keys Park, where they were being outmuscled and out-thought by the opposition who were proving once more that just having pace and directness to their game was more than enough to cause the hosts issues. Midway through the half, a long throw from Johnny Herd was flicked on at the near post by skipper Michael Richens and fell to Shariff once more, only for his acrobatic overhead kick to fly straight into the arms of Hollingshead


Another missile-like Herd throw was to prove the Pitmen's undoing, however, on twenty-eight minutes as the away side put clear day between themselves and their dreadful hosts as the left-back launched a long throw into the box from the right that was not cleared effectively by the Pitmen. Glover looked to pick the ball up and dribble clear of danger but inadvertently played the ball straight into the path of Higgs, who drove the ball home with a low shot past Hollingshead from twelve yards out. Game over? It certainly felt so at this point


Back came the hosts, with Morley displaying his excellent technique from set-pieces with two dangerous crosses into the box from corner kicks on thirty-three minutes, one that was flicked well wide by Glover and the other landing in the six-yard box and bobbling around before being cleared by the visitors


The Pitmen got themselves back into the game on thirty-seven minutes as another corner kick, this time taken by Kyle Bennett on the opposite side of the pitch, was played into the box where Glover rose highest to nod the ball down and find the boot of O'Sullivan, who did enough to divert the ball past James Dadge in the St. Ives goal from close range to make it two in two for the striker since his return from injury


Higgs was the first player of the afternoon to pick up a booking from referee Mr Kaye as he was rightly shown a yellow card for a late and high challenge on McQuilkin in midfield that floored the former Kidderminster Harriers man


Baker wasted a glorious chance to restore St. Ives' two-goal lead a minute later as a marauding run from Higgs saw the former Solihull Moors man turn Portman inside out as he took the ball inside the penalty area from the right flank before laying the ball off unselfishly to Baker, whose poor first touch allowed Luke Redfern to make a smothering recovery tackle on him and clear the subsequent danger

With a couple of minutes of the first period remaining, Morley took ownership of a free-kick to the right-hand side of the St. Ives penalty area after O'Sullivan had been hauled down by Jordan Williams. The 35-year-old struck a clean and pacy shot at goal that lacked enough curl on it to test Dadge, who claimed the ball on his line

It had been another sobering forty-five minutes for the Hednesford supporters to witness, having seen their side completely outplayed in the opening half hour before coming back into contention before the break against a dangerous-looking St. Ives side content to play their relegation-haunted hosts on the counter-attack. Half-time saw Portman - who had been thoroughly outplayed by the pacy and vibrant St. Ives attack - taken off and replaced by Payne out on the left wing. This saw a switch in defence with Morley and Ison dropping deeper than their previous wing-back positions on each flank to join Redfern as a three at the back

The hosts made a flying start to the second period as they went in search of an equaliser, with the previously-anonymous Todd Parker firing in a first-time long-range effort from twenty-five yards out straight into the arms of Dadge within a minute of the restart

St. Ives made their first change of the afternoon just five minutes after the restart as Cowling was forced off with a knock and was replaced by Hottor in midfield

O'Sullivan tested St. Ives' new loan goalkeeper Dadge once more on fifty-one minutes as he wrestled the ball away from Ben Toseland on the edge of the penalty area and worked the ball onto his left foot, only for his low shot to end up straight at the Northampton Town stopper

Sixty seconds later, the Pitmen were handed a lifeline in the game as they were awarded a penalty kick by Mr Kaye after Paddy Casey had allowed Payne to take the ball past him on the left wing, pulling the short of the substitute as he tried to get goal side of the winger and stop him from crossing the ball. Mr Kaye immediately pointed to the spot for the shirt pull, allowing Glover to place the ball into the penalty spot and take the penalty kick. However, the player/manager's penalty was tame, hitting a low shot to Dadge's right at a comfortable height for the stopper, who parried the ball away from goal and also denied Glover on the rebound. Glover picked up a knock to his leg in the melee that followed and limped away from the challenge before dropping to the floor and requiring treatment

Another good save from Hollingshead denied Baker once more two minutes later as Morley allowed the powerful forward to skip past him down the right and cut inside before firing a shot at goal that the on-loan stopper parried away from danger

Good play from Toseland on the right flank on fifty-six minutes saw him take the ball into space and cross for Shariff, who got goal side of Ison but tamely headed wide of goal from eight yards out

Skipper Lewis Ison was guilty of a heinous error on fifty-nine minutes as he attempted to take the ball out of his own six-yard box with some overly-clever play that saw him robbed by Higgs. Fortunately for the defender, Higgs' shot at goal lacked direction and his angled curling effort was a little too high from ten yards out

The momentum was very much back with the away side at this point in the game as you felt that they would go on and grab themselves a third goal; Richens' floated free-kick into the Hednesford penalty area shortly after the hour mark was flicked towards goal by Toseland at the far post, only to be denied by a covering clearance from Thorley to turn it behind for a corner to the men in orange

Glover had continued to soldier on with the knock picked up in the aftermath of his penalty miss but was finally forced to admit defeat as he limped off on sixty-three minutes as was replaced by Chay Tilt

Three minutes later, St. Ives also made their second change of the afternoon as former Hednesford winger Enoch Andoh was brought on by Marheineke in place of Higgs, who was tiring and had been booked

O'Sullivan was getting little change out of the St. Ives defenders now he was ploughing a lone furrow up front but went close for the hosts on sixty-nine minutes after Payne's clever disguised pass found him in space inside the St. Ives penalty area. Rather than crossing for both Tilt and McQuilkin in the six-yard box, O'Sullivan elected to shoot at goal from a tight angle but could only find the side netting with this low effort

Andoh's first real involvement in the game saw the Ghanian go within a whisker of settling the game for the visitors on seventy-two minutes as he broke clear down the left wing, leaving Morley, Redfern and Thorley in his wake before drilling in a low shot at goal that beat Hollingshead down to his left but came back off the inside of the post and back into play. A huge let-off for the Pitmen

The Pitmen's final change of the afternoon came with fourteen minutes remaining, with many inside the ground a little surprised to see the excellent McQuilkin taken off in favour of new boy Kaninda, who was to spend much of his fourteen minutes on the pitch as a target man up front for the wide players to find with their long punts forward

Two minutes later, St. Ives made their final change of the afternoon as well as the hard-running Shariff was replaced by youngster Hickinson for the final minutes of the game

Hollingshead had enjoyed a fine afternoon on his home debut and made yet another save to keep his side in contention on eighty-two minutes as Andoh drifted into the box to get on the end of another Richens free-kick, but was denied by the young goalkeeper as his first touch was a little too heavy and allowed Hollingshead to claim the ball ahead of him

Three minutes later, substitutes Hickinson and Hottor linked up well to play around the Hednesford defenders, only for Hottor to fire his shot wide of goal from sixteen yards out when he probably should have made Hollingshead work

The hosts were becoming desperate in their approach and sent Ison up to play alongside O'Sullivan and Kaninda in the final minutes of the game as the Pitmen lofted the ball into the box at every opportunity. On eighty-eight minutes, Morley's cross from the left was cleared by the St. Ives defence to Ison on the edge of the box. Rather than shoot himself, Ison tried to lay the ball off to Kaninda, who himself showed why he was a defender and not a striker with an overly-elaborate touch that allowed the visitors to clear their lines

With the game moving into four minutes of added time, O'Sullivan felt that he had a reasonable shout for a penalty kick as he went to ground under a challenge from Herd, only for Mr Kaye to gesture to the striker to get back to his feet. Ison continued his complaints to the referee and was given a ticking-off for his continued arguments before a throw-in could be taken

However, the Pitmen did salvage a point from a very topsy-turvy display with what was to prove to be the last action of the game as Morley capped his debut with a superb equalising goal; Bennett earned the hosts a free-kick to the right of the St. Ives penalty area after being hauled down by Baker, with Morley showing superb technique to curl the ball beyond the reach of Dadge from twenty-five yards out and find the top left-hand corner of the stopper's net. A truly brilliant strike from the experienced defender

A point gained for the hosts does little to nothing for their dire predicament as they sit ten points from safety this evening, having failed to take advantage of defeats for both Alvechurch and Stratford Town as well as postponements for Kings Langley and AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Weather permitting, the Pitmen will get another chance to chalk up their first home win of the New Year on Tuesday night when they play host to Ilkeston Town, who yesterday confirmed the signing of a certain Leroy Lita


Hednesford Town: Hollingshead, Ison ©, Morley, Thorley, Redfern, Portman (Payne 45), Bennett, Parker, Glover (Tilt 63 ), O'Sullivan, McQuilkin (Kaninda 76)     Subs Unused: Agustien, Williams

St. Ives Town: Dadge, Casey, Herd , Richens ©, Williams, Toseland, Higgs ▆ (Andoh 66), Cowling (Hottor 50), Edwards, Shariff (Hickinson 78), Baker       Subs Unused:  Johnson, Milne


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