Pitching In Southern Premier League Central

Hednesford Town

O'Sullivan (4), Flanagan (60)

St. Ives Town

Baker (44)

(1) 2

(1) 1



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Lewis Hayden



Royston Town (H) 26.3.22

The Pitmen quickly put Saturday's narrow defeat to title favourites Banbury behind them as they get themselves back to winning ways with a goal in each half to defeat a poor St. Ives Town side at the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park this evening

The 2-1 reverse at the Spencer Stadium three days ago had left the Pitmen smarting after a good display against the champions-elect; manager Keenen Meakin-Richards made two changes to his side from the one that had started at the weekend as Luke Ward returned in central defence ahead of Harvey Portman and Chay Tilt came back into the side on the right flank as he replaced debutant Cain Smith

St. Ives made their first-ever appearance at Keys Park off the back of a 3-2 win over struggling Nuneaton Borough at the weekend, lifting the Saints up to sixteenth place in the table and a full eight points above the drop zone. Managers Mike Ford and Ricky Marheineke made two changes to their side from the one that had started against Nuneaton as veteran defender Brett Solkhon returned in place of Oran Jackson and Victor Aiyelabola came in up front at the expense of Ethan Johnston

In front of a disappointing crowd on a mild March evening, the Pitmen looked to make a quick start to proceedings and were on the front foot from the kick-off as George Cater's tricky run down the left in the first minute saw him make a drifting run into the St. Ives penalty area from a Kyle Bennett pass, only for Callum Milne's deflection to turn the ball behind for a corner kick

The Pitmen's first real sight at goal came three minutes later as they took the lead in fortuitous circumstances through Riley O'Sullivan; Cater was played into the penalty area by Reece Flanagan's pass, only for the in-form winger to stand up a cross to the far post that had too much on it for Tilt, who rescued the loose ball on the opposite wing before laying the ball back to Lewis Hayden. The right-back's ball into the feet of O'Sullivan saw the striker turn past Dylan Williams on the corner of the box and drive a low shot at goal which St. Ives goalkeeper Ed Brearey embarrassingly allowed to dribble through his legs and over the line

Cater could have doubled the Pitmen's early advantage in the eighth minute as he met Tilt's deep cross at the far post but headed high over the crossbar as he stretched to reach the cross

A minute later, O'Sullivan went close to grabbing a quickfire second goal as Carter Lycett found space out ion the left from a Todd Parker pass to find the striker, who controlled the ball well but saw his volley deflected onto the roof of the net by Ed Hottor for another Hednesford corner kick

From the resultant Parker corner kick, the visitors struggled to clear their lines and could only clear as far as Flanagan, who was leaning back and lifted his twenty-yard effort high over the crossbar

There was a break in play on twelve minutes as Brearey went down just outside his penalty area holding his leg, prompting a lengthy stoppage as the St. Ives physio patched up the Saint number one

Bennett looked to have doubled the home side's lead in the seventeenth minute as neat build-up play involving Hayden, Flanagan and O'Sullivan led to the ball finding Cater, whose curling effort from the edge of the penalty area was pushed away by Brearey but only into the path of Bennett, who slotted home. However, an offside flag against the forward on the Wimblebury side of the pitch saw referee Mr Warner rule the goal out

More good play from Cater on twenty-one minutes saw the winger jink his way past Josh Flanagan and send Lycett away down the wing, only for the left-back to want a little too much time to decide what to do with the ball and saw his weak cross cleared by Solkohn

More indecision followed on twenty-three minutes as the Pitmen worked the ball from right to left and back again, only for Tilt to take a touch too many as he worked the ball into the box and allowed St. Ives to clear their lines at the near post

Cater was also guilty of over-playing somewhat four minutes later as he made a mazy run in from the left-wing but elected to try and pass the ball to Flanagan rather than shoot, allowing the wily old Solkohn to intercept and clear once more

Hayden - having another good game at right-back - exchanged passes with Parker on the half-hour mark and slipped the ball into the path of O'Sullivan, who turned well with his back to goal but his intended lay-off to Cater was smuggled away by Williams

Tilt continued to frustrate the home supporters on thirty-five minutes as he made a superb run in behind the St. Ives defence to get on the end of a fine pass from Parker, but looked to play O'Sullivan in rather than shoot at goal from ten yards out and saw the ball blocked by Milne before Ben Toseland cleared the loose ball

The one-way traffic continued down the left on forty minutes as Lycett's quick throw found Cater, who jinked his way to the byeline and sent over a low cross to the near post that Williams turned behind for a corner kick ahead of O'Sullivan

Having offered the square route of nothing going forwards in the first half and barely having any possession in the Hednesford half, it was perhaps unsurprising that the visitors levelled the game just before half-time with their one and only chance of the game so far as Parker and Cater lost out on the halfway line to Josh Flanagan, whose angled ball caught the Pitmen cold as he played it through to Tyrone Baker straight down the centre of the pitch. The St. Ives midfielder took a touch before confidently firing into the roof of Oliver Basey's net from sixteen yards out to make it 1-1 at the break

It was rough justice on the hosts, who had absolutely dominated the first half but had once again been guilty of over-playing in the final third and not taking their chances when they came, allowing the away side a way back into the game right on forty-five minutes

The hosts looked to play more directly at the start of the second half as they tested the reflexes of Brearey several times in the second half with a more 'shoot on sight' policy. On fifty minutes, Flanagan played the ball out to Tilt, who was in acres of space inside the St. Ives penalty area. His low cross found Cater, who forced Brearey into a save with his legs as the winger side-footed the ball towards goal from twelve yards out

Parker was next to try his luck for the home side three minutes later as he picked the ball up from Hayden and made a surging run towards the visitor's penalty area but drove his low right-footed shot wide of the right-hand post 

Bennett was the one and only recipient of a yellow card in the game on fifty-five minutes as he was rightly cautioned by Mr Warner for leaving his boot in on Williams as the pair tussled for the ball just outside the St. Ives penalty area

Lycett was next to test the overworked Brearey two minutes later as Reece Flanagan's pass found him in behind a ball-watching Toseland and turning past Josh Flanagan before Brearey palmed his right-footed shot away from goal down at the base of his right-hand post

The home side's pressure finally paid off on the hour mark as Flanagan conjured up one of the goals of the season to put Hednesford back in front; Bennett's initial shot from the edge of the penalty area was beaten away by Brearey and recycled by Tilt, who played the ball back to Hayden down the right. The full-back's cross was cleared as far as Bennett, who slipped the ball into the path of Reece Flanagan on the edge of the box - he spotted Brearey off his line and produced a stunning angled lob over the head of the goalkeeper which dropped into the top far corner of the net, akin to Eric Cantona's famous goal against Sunderland back in 1996

Tilt perhaps should have wrapped up the points for the Pitmen two minutes later as the hosts won the ball in midfield through Bennett, who played the ball through to O'Sullivan. The big striker took the ball forwards before playing a superb reverse ball into the path of the winger, who was clean through on the right but somehow blazed over the upright with a wild right-footed effort

More good wing play from Cater on sixty-seven minutes saw him dance past two St. Ives challenges on the edge of the penalty area before an intervention from Milne put the ball behind for a corner kick. Parker's resultant kick was punched clear by Brearey and picked up by Lycett, who did well to play into the feet of Bennett, who in turn slipped the ball to O'Sullivan. The striker worked the ball onto his left foot and let fly with a curling effort from twenty yards out that Brearey gathered at the second attempt

Parker was next to work Brearey on seventy-one minutes as Bennett picked the pocket of Hottor out on the right and made a run into the box before squaring the ball to the young midfielder, whose left-footed effort from eighteen yards out was beaten away by the stopper, who was having a very mixed evening

The Pitmen's first substitution of the evening came on seventy-four minutes as Portman made a swift return to the side alongside Ison as he replaced Ward for the remainder of the game

St. Ives had been absolutely dreadful in the second half, having not had a single shot of any note at Basey's goal or even forcing a free-kick or corner kick out of the hosts. They did, however, fluff a glorious chance to equalise on seventy-eight minutes as substitute Johnston picked up Portman's loose chested clearance and played Liam Cross into space down the right, with the winger's deep cross somehow volleyed wide by top scorer Nabil Shariff from a yard out. A terrible miss and one that summed up the Saints' evening somewhat

Smith made his home debut for the Pitmen before play could restart, coming on to add another body in the centre of midfield as he replaced Cater, who received warm applause from the home crowd after another good performance

A corner from Parker on eighty-one minutes was aimed at skipper Lewis Ison at the near post, but miscommunication between him and Portman saw the young defender take the ball off Ison's head as he headed wide of goal when Ison was in a better position to head home behind him

A deep free-kick from Hottor with three minutes remaining was aimed at substitute Andrew Osei-Bonsu, but Basey was alert to the ball in and made a claim at his near post to deny the striker a chance to head home

With the game drifting into four minutes of added time, the Pitmen brought utility man Josh Webb on to see the game out as Tilt was replaced down the right by the former Kidderminster Harriers man

A job well done by the Pitmen then, and three points that lifts them back into the top ten of the Southern Premier League Central in the process after a thoroughly dominant display. This was the start of a home triple header for the hosts, as they welcome fellow mid-table dwellers Royston Town to Keys Park on Saturday before rounding off their week-long run of home games with a local derby against Stourbridge next Tuesday night

Hednesford Town: Basey, Hayden, Lycett, Ward (Portman 74), Ison ©, R. Flanagan, Tilt (Webb 90), Parker, O'Sullivan, Bennett , Cater (Smith 78)     Subs Unused: Richards, R. Williams

St. Ives Town: Brearey, J. Flanagan, Solkhon ©, D. Williams, Milne, Toseland (Watt 65), Baker, Hottor, Shariff (Osei-Bonsu 78), Aiyelabola (Johnston 60), Cross       Subs Unused: Fairlamb, Goff