26.12.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Stafford Rangers

Hednesford Town

Rey (77)

(0) 0

(0) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

1,124

Francino Francis

W W D W L W W W L W

Rushall Olympic (H) 1.1.13

Hednesford again claimed the local bragging rights in Staffordshire, as they confidently beat local rivals Stafford Rangers on a quagmire of a pitch at Marston Road this afternoon

After days of rain in the local area, and an over-used Marston road pitch that plays host to Northwich Victoria games, the match was in some doubt ahead of kick-off. However, an inspection cleared the pitch for play and a big crowd gathered for a fierce, competitive traditional Boxing Day clash

Having had an extended time off due to the postponement of Saturday's game against Blyth, Hednesford manager Rob Smith shuffled his pack from the side that had given up their unbeaten away record at Frickley eleven days previously; the versatile Alex Melbourne returned to the side at right-back, replacing John Disney, whilst Neil Harvey renewed his partnership with Aaron Rey up front as he came in for Sean O'Connor. Keeper Dan Crane was playing his last game before a one-match suspension kicks in for his red card at Frickley

And what a start it was from the Pitmen, who came out all guns blazing in a dazzling opening salvo at the Stafford defence. Nathan Woolfe fired the first warning shot of the afternoon after the away side had won a free-kick just outside the area. The winger's brilliantly struck free-kick looked to have beaten Adam Alcock in the Stafford goal, but  the keeper managed to get a fingertip to the shot and turn it onto the post when it looked as though it was nestling in the bottom corner of the net

Alcock was called into action again two minutes later, as Harvey took advantage of a loose ball from Christian Dacres to race clear of the Stafford defence. Harvey's low drive was heading for the net until Alcock got a hand to the shot and diverted it inches wide of the far post

On nine minutes, Alcock once again came to Stafford's rescue as Rey broke through and fired a low shot towards goal that Alcock again managed to get enough on to turn away from goal

An Elliott Durrell corner kick two minutes later gave Ben Bailey a chance to put the Pitmen into the lead, but under pressure from Stafford's defenders, he headed over the bar

On such a poor pitch, it was perhaps expected that any flowing football would be at a premium, replaced instead by a keenly fought midfield battle that saw a number of meaty challenges from both teams incur the wrath of the referee. Luke George went into the book for a foul on Rey on fifteen minutes, when it looked as though the striker was making his way through the mud

George was followed into the book a few minutes later by James Bolton, who was guilty of a late challenge on MacPherson inside the centre circle. Jamey Osborne was lucky not to follow the Stafford pair into the book for incessantly arguing with the referee after every decision

Stafford's only opportunity of the half fell to their top scorer, and ex-Hednesford man, Danny Quinn, just after the half-hour mark; a rare foray into the Hednesford half saw a ball from Fabrice Kasiama flicked into the path of Quinn, who got in behind Darren Campion. However, his shot from an angle lacked venom and was at a nice height to allow Crane to parry the ball away

A quick break upfield from the Pitmen a minute later played Woolfe in on goal, but the ball bobbled in the mud and the winger scuffed his shot just wide of goal

Durrell was the first Pitman in the book on thirty-five minutes, despite appearing to win the ball cleanly in midfield

The chances continued to flow from the Pitmen right up to half time, as Harvey climbed highest to head Durrell's cross straight at Alcock

In the final minute of the half, a marauding run from Rey saw him beat two players as he entered the penalty area. he spent too long deciding to shoot, however, and lost control of the ball by the goal line

Half time saw the rain pick up once more, added to the swirling wind and difficult underfoot conditions. This saw the game become less exciting in the second half, as both sides took fewer chances

Durrell almost used the wind to his advantage with the first real chance of the second half, as his corner from the left curled in on goal and bounced off the top of the crossbar as Alcock struggled with the flight of the ball

Despite the worsening conditions, there was still only one side creating chances as Hednesford tallied up the opportunities. On the hour mark, Harvey's shot from a goalmouth scramble was only narrowly wide, with the striker still looking for his first goal in thirteen games

After a streaker had braved the wintery conditions and halted the game needlessly, the Pitmen made a substitution with twenty minutes remaining; Woolfe, who had impressed in the first half, made way for Michael Lennon as the away side went with three up front

Stafford's best chance of the game came with seventeen minutes remaining, as their only meaningful attempt on goal in the second half almost gave them the lead. A loose ball fell at the feet of Kasiama, who lobbed the onrushing Crane from twenty yards out and watched as the ball arrowed towards goal. Melbourne tracked back superbly and kept his head to hack the dipping ball off the line and out of danger

The Pitmen snatched the goal that their efforts deserved with thirteen minutes remaining, as a long throw from Osborne was only partially cleared to Durrell, whose clever backheel into the path of Rey gave the striker enough time and space to slot the ball under Alcock and into the net for the vital winning goal

O'Connor came on in place of Harvey with ten minutes remaining, adding a focal point to the Pitmen's attack. Sam Craven also replaced Rey later on in the game

The expected Stafford fightback never really materialised in the final five minutes, as their shot-shy attack was well shackled by the excellent Bailey and Francino Francis, who did not put a foot wrong all afternoon. Quinn was given a half-chance in the final minute, but a superb tackle from MacPherson denied the striker a shot on goal from fifteen yards out

For a moment at the final whistle, it looked as though the Pitmen were heading for the top of the table, but news filtered through of a late North Ferriby United winner at Frickley, meaning Hednesford stay a point behind the Villagers, still with two games in hand

Stafford Rangers: Alcock, George , Davies, Walshe, Bolton, Dacres , Carr (Reid 68), Downes ©  (Heler 78), Ashton, Quinn, Kasiama (Kinsella 83)       Subs Unused: Brown, Reid

Hednesford Town: Crane, Melbourne, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis , MacPherson, Osborne, Durrell , Harvey (O’Connor 78), Rey (Craven 88), Woolfe (Lennon 70)       Subs Unused: Barnes, Disney