26.12.2016

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Stafford Rangers

Perry (22), Morris (62)

Hednesford Town

Glover (35)

(1) 2

(1) 1

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Spennymoor Town (A) 7.1.17

Today's big local derby swings the way of home side Stafford Rangers this afternoon, as a second-half header from defender Kieran Morris wins this Evo-Stik Premier League clash between the local rivals

 

The Pitmen, still smarting from a 4-1 defeat to Grantham Town before the festive period, made more changes to their ever-evolving side under Paul Casey. Kyle Haynes was passed fit to make his second debut for the club after returning to Keys Park from Halesowen Town last week in one of two changes alongside striker Vinny Mukendi, who started up front as he replaced David McDermott Striker Danny Glover was finally deemed fit enough to return to the squad after his long lay-off, joining Spencer Weir-Daley and Jamie Matthews amongst the attacking options available to Casey from the bench

 

Rangers - still holding local bragging rights after beating the Pitmen in the F.A. Trophy last month - named three ex-Hednesford players in their starting line-up with Sam Griffiths, Kyle Perry and Richard Batchelor all making Neil Kitching's unchanged side from their 2-1 defeat at Barwell last Wednesday. XI. Kris Taylor was named amongst the Rangers substitutes alongside another former Hednesford midfielder in the form of Tim Sanders, who had joined Rangers from league rivals Nantwich Town earlier in the day

 

In front of an outstanding Boxing Day crowd of over 1,800, the Pitmen made a great start to the game and almost broke the deadlock inside the first five minutes. A long ball over the top of the Rangers defence found Clarke, who forced his way beyond Mat Bailey before firing straight at Adam Whitehouse in the Stafford goal with an angled shot

 

A quick break from the Pitmen three minutes later saw Ashley Sammons break through the home defence but rather than elect to shoot, Sammons checked his run and laid the ball off to skipper Tom Thorley, whose shot went wide of goal with a wasteful effort

 

A marauding run from Haynes a minute later saw the right-back hang up a deep cross for Clarke, who headed narrowly wide of goal after beating Bailey to the ball

It had been an encouraging start fo the all-red Pitmen, who went close again on eleven minutes as Mulkendi headed down a Haynes cross to Sammons, only for Bailey to get across and block the forward's shot from twenty yards out

 

Another great chance was presented to the goalless Clarke on fifteen minutes, as more neat play involving Mukendi and Thorley played the big striker in on goal. Clarke hesitated however as he shaped to shoot, and allowed Whitehouse to make a comfortable save when he really should have made the experienced stopper work harder for the ball

 

Rangers' first threat came from successive corner kicks on nineteen minutes, with the second kick putting paid to Mukendi's debut after he fell heavily in his own goalmouth. After a period of treatment, the former Macclesfield Town man was taken off in place of eight-goal Glover, returning to the side after a long lay-off to add more guile to the front-line

 

This change seemed to disrupt the Pitmen's flow, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Stafford took the lead two minutes later with what was essentially their first effort on goal. A fluffed kick from Crane gifted Rangers a throw-in deep in Hednesford territory, with the ball played across to Perry. The burly striker got goal side of Dan Brenan and confidently slotted past former team-mate Crane from fifteen yards out with an angled effort

Perry was involved again for the hosts three minutes later as he bundled his way past Brenan and played Jack Sherratt into space. The creative midfielder took a touch before crossing to the far post, where Batchelor slid in to turn the ball well wide of the far post

On the half-hour mark, former Stourbridge defender Morris headed over Crane's crossbar after Sherratt had recycled a corner kick that had been partially cleared by Gavin Caines

 

Glover's introduction was breathing life into the Pitmen's attack after the early loss of Mukendi, as his skill and presence up front caused Rangers issues. One great run from the striker on thirty-two minutes saw him cut inside Griffiths and fire in a low shot that Whitehouse saved at his near post

 

Batchelor went close to adding to Stafford's advantage on thirty-four minutes as he drilled a shot across the face of Crane's goal and narrowly wide of the far post after finding space in behind the hesitant Hednesford defence

 

It was to prove costly for the hosts, as Glover delivered a real Christmas treat for the near 400 Hednesford supporters who had made the short journey across the Chase. Picking the ball up out wide on the right, Glover drifted inside and past two challenges before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed effort beyond Whitehouse and into the top corner of the net. A great goal that takes Glover to nine for the season and joint top scorer with the now-departed George Carline

 

Lifted by the goal, Hednesford continued to press as the half came towards an end, with Clarke again luckless in front on goal on thirty-nine minutes as he headed Courtney Wildin's deep cross inches wide of the far post

 

The best chance to take the lead for the visitors fell to Sammons on forty-one minutes, as a brilliant run from Glover saw him turn Griffiths inside out and clip a cross into Sammons, who somehow lifted his shot over the crossbar from six yards out. A real chance wasted by Sammons, whose future at the club was still in some doubt after an approach from former manager Liam McDonald to take him to Solihull Moors to reunite him with Carline and Calum Flanagan once more

It had been a fairly even first period from both side's perspective, with clear-cut openings at a premium at both ends and both sides limited to long-range efforts and set-pieces on a pudding of a Marston Road pitch 

 

The Pitmen started the second half in much the same mood as they had ended the first as they forced Stafford onto the back foot in the early stages of the second period. Three corners in a row were well dealt with by the Rangers defence, with the Pitmen wasteful with their poor distribution when presented with a chance to get the ball into the box. The closest they came to a clear sight on goal was a bobbled effort from Glover on forty-eight minutes, who flashed a shot wide of goal from twenty-five yards out

 

Rangers did have the ball in the net on fifty-one minutes as Crane denied Batchelor initially before the ball was bundled home by the former Hednesford man, only for an earlier offside flag put paid to Stafford's celebrations

 

Crane came to the Pitmen's rescue two minutes later, making a fine smothering save low down to deny the highly-regarded young striker Josh Gordon a clear sight at goal with a stop at the player's feet

 

One of the Pitmen's rare set-pieces of any quality on the hour mark saw Gavin Caines somehow fail to find the net from a Sammons free-kick as his header from six yards out lacked power and was cleared off the line by James Bowen

 

The Pitmen will reflect on another afternoon of missed opportunities after the event no doubt, as they allowed Stafford to take the initiative once more on sixty-two minutes and punish the away side for not taking their chances with what to prove the winning goal; a free-kick from Sherratt out on the right was floated in and found Morris, who headed past Crane from ten yards out unmarked to restore Stafford's lead

 

The goal essentially neutralised the game for a good spell of the second half as Stafford seemed content to protect their lead, whilst the Pitmen seemed unable to muster a real response as their game plan started to unravel. Weir-Daley was given another chance to impress as he came on for the tiring Clarke on sixty-six minutes, who had found the going tough against the more established step three players of Bailey and Morris at the back for Rangers

 

Gordon very nearly wrapped up all three points for Rangers on seventy minutes, drilling a shot across the face of goal and out of play by Crane's left-hand post after turning past Brenan to get on the end of a pass from Izak Reid

 

McDermott replaced Sammons in midfield on seventy-two minutes as the Pitmen made their second change of the afternoon in a bid to get themselves back into this tight Chase derby

More dithering defending from the Pitmen with fourteen minutes remaining saw Perry reach a cross from Mitchell Tolley and head into the path of Gordon, only for a questionable offside flag to deny Gordon a clear shot at goal from ten yards out

 

The in-form Crane was called upon once more to save his team on eighty minutes, making a brilliant save to deny Reid after Perry had played the midfielder through behind the static Hednesford defence who were looking for an offside flag that was not forthcoming

 

The Pitmen finally made a fist of it in the latter stages of the game with a clutch of set-pieces thrown into the Stafford penalty area. Wildin crossed from the left on eighty-three minutes that eventually fell at the feet of Glover, who turned Reid well but lashed high over the crossbar from eighteen yards out

Three minutes later, Caines' downward header from a Thorley corner kick bounced around the Stafford six-yard box before eventually being cleared by Bailey

 In the second of four minutes of added time, McDermott flashed a shot inches past the right-hand post as he tried his luck from the edge of the penalty area

 

A minute later, panic in the Stafford ranks saw Glover seize upon the loose ball and chest it down, but his effort was agonisingly inches away from finding the net, much to the frustration of Casey and the Hednesford supporters, who were roaring their side on until the bitter end

 

In the final minute of added time, Wildin's presence of mind inside the penalty area saw the Boston loanee control the ball and turn well, watching on in anguish as his effort came back off the post and back into play before being cleared

 

A second league defeat in a row sees the Pitmen drop out of the play-off places, and hand bragging rights to Rangers for the second time this season already. Paul Casey is certainly finding the going tough as Hednesford manager after a topsy-turvy first six weeks in the manager's role. The Pitmen return home to Keys Park on Thursday night as they entertain Stourbridge, who will have one eye on their F.A. Cup Third Round clash with Wycombe Wanderers next weekend

 

Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Griffiths, Bowen, Bailey ©, Morris, Tolley, I. Reid (Sanders 90), Sherratt, Perry, Gordon (Dwyer 90), Batchelor       Subs Unused: Taylor, L. Reid, Gunnell

 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Wildin, McNaught, Brenan, Caines, Thorley ©, Sammons (McDermott 72), Clarke (Weir-Daley 66), Sheldon, Mukendi (Glover 22)       Subs Unused: Matthews, Rowley

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