Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Stafford Rangers

Dundas (33), O'Connor (54), (80)

Hednesford Town

(1) 3

(0) 0



Current Form

Next Match


Richard Lucas



Folkestone Invicta (A) 1.9.01

The Pitmen's poor start to the season took a turn for the worst this afternoon, as Paul Raynor's struggling side are soundly beaten by local rivals Stafford Rangers at a packed Marston Road to leave them without a point from their first four league games this term


Player/manager Paul Raynor - coming under some pressure from the Hednesford supporters after his side's indifferent start to the campaign - swung the axe on some of his underperforming team with two changes to the side that had lost at home to King's Lynn on Saturday. In came Paul Bagshaw and Stewart Airdrie at the expense of Neil Davis and Dean Craven to offer more width to his side after struggling to create openings in Saturday's defeat

Rangers came into this eagerly-anticipated Chase derby off the back of a 2-2 draw at Newport County at the weekend, with Ian Painter's men unbeaten so far this term with one win and two draws. Painter's side contained a large number of former Hednesford players within their ranks, naming no fewer than three former Pitmen in their starting line-up. Richard Williams, Tony Eccleston and the legendary Joe O'Connor all started the game, whilst Chris Brindley was amongst the substitutes as Rangers looked to continue their fine form

There had been plenty of buzz around this game since the fixture list had been announced, with it being the first time in nearly fifty years that their two neighbours had played each other in league action. A crowd of over 1,300 greeted the two sides on a sunny August Bank Holiday afternoon, looking forward to an old rivalry finally being revived after many decades

The men in red started brightly in the late summer sunshine, with Lancashire striking the first shot in anger four minutes into the game; the striker played a quick one-two with Bagshaw on the edge of the penalty area before trying his luck with a shot that was blocked by Brindley

Stuart Lake tested former Southern League title-winning team-mate Williams three minutes later with a speculative long-range effort that the Stafford keeper got behind well

Former Walsall defender Stuart Ryder sent the ball high over the Hednesford crossbar on twelve minutes, heading a cross from former Nuneaton winger Shaun Wray into the Shed End after beating Haran to the ball

That man O'Connor got his first sniff at goal for Rangers five minutes later, racing in behind the Hednesford defence to latch onto a Craig Lovatt corner, only for Mark Gayle to make a fine save low down to his right

The other ex-Hednesford striker in the Stafford ranks Eccleston was next to go close for the hosts on twenty-two minutes, heading a Steve Prindiville cross narrowly wide of the far post as he was afforded too much time and space


The Pitmen continued to struggle with Stafford's know-how up front, with O'Connor having the best chance of the game so far on twenty-eight minutes as he thundered a header against the bar from a Scott Dundas free-kick


At the other end, the much-criticised Val Owen forced Williams into a fine save a minute later after the Pitmen had broken quickly down the wing through Airdrie and laid the ball back into the midfielder's path

Controversy has already hit the Pitmen a couple of times already this term and there was another moment of high drama that went against Raynor's men on thirty-three minutes. Prindiville's long, hopeful ball forward looked to have caught a couple of Stafford players offside as the Pitmen's defence stepped up. Amazingly, there was no offside flag forthcoming in favour of the away side, allowing Dundas to seize upon the ball and take it past Gayle before slotting into the net from an angle


The Pitmen were understandably furious at the decision, with Raynor and Lake both surrounding the referee looking for him to reconsider the decision to award Stafford the opening goal. There was to be no u-turn however, which enraged Lake to such an extent that he made one comment too many and was promptly sent off for dissent - his second red card in three days and now facing a long ban

The award of such a controversial goal affected the Pitmen's confidence quite badly, as they started to lose their way in a game they had been well in up to that point. Passes started to go astray and heads started to go down as the more experienced Stafford players took control of the game

Darren Simkin's long-range free-kick was well held by Gayle on thirty-six minutes, before Craig Lovatt drifted past both Bagshaw and Simpson and fired just wide of the angle three minutes later

With two minutes left in the first-half, Eccleston was once again allowed too much time to escape the attentions of the Hednesford defence to get on the end of Wray's pass and crack the outside of the post with a powerfully-struck shot

Eccleston's game ended abruptly at half-time as he was replaced by summer signing Paul Kiely - a prolific striker for Newcastle Town last season - to partner O'Connor for the second half

Raynor's half-time team talk did very little to stem the tide, with the Pitmen on the back foot straight from the restart as Rangers searched for a second goal. Lovatt's early cross drifted over the heads of everyone and fell kindly to Wray on the opposite side, only for the winger to fire well wide of goal

O'Connor's moment of destiny came on fifty-four minutes, as the striker showed he had lost none of his instincts to get goal side of Haran and guide Wray's cross past Gayle from ten yards out

Lancashire got a brief sighting at goal on fifty-seven minutes, getting on the end of a cross from Airdrie but seeing his effort deflected away from goal by Simkin

The ten men of Hednesford were struck yet another blow on sixty-four minutes as Simpson fell awkwardly inside his own penalty area as he attempted to clear, crashing to the ground in pain. After a lengthy spell of treatment for the former Stafford man, Simpson was stretchered off with an injury that was to prove more serious than it looked initially. The defender was afforded generous applause by both sets of fans in recognition of his services to both clubs over the years as he was taken off and replaced by Lenny Curtis

Two minutes later, assistant manager Gavan Walker handed young striker Jon Pickess his full debut for the Pitmen after his summer move from Sheffield, taking off the completely ineffective Kevin Francis for him up front. Raynor also took himself off after a poor individual performance from the midfielder, bringing on Craven in his place

There was a brief moment of light relief for the Pitmen and their supporters on seventy minutes, as Painter lost his rag with the assistant on the main stand side after he had rightly ruled Prindiville offside and pushed him. After consulting with the assistant, the referee sent Painter to the stand after both benches had calmed the Stafford manager down

A lazy pass from Owen handed Stafford another chance to break on seventy-six minutes, gifting the ball to Wray twenty-five yards from his own goal. Wray's through ball to Eccleston saw him lay it off in turn to O'Connor, whose first-time shot was way off-target

It was to be O'Connor who was to have the final say on a glorious afternoon for the striker, as he hammered a final nail in the Pitmen's coffin with a third Rangers goal on eighty minutes. More poor defending from the Pitmen, who were caught square by Lovatt's through ball, saw O'Connor race in behind and slot past Gayle from close-range - the sort of goal that O'Connor had scored many times in his 220 goals for Hednesford over the years

It could have got worse for the deflated Pitmen in the final minutes, as Lovatt wasted a good chance to make it 4-0 after blasting over from fifteen yards out, followed by a Leigh Everitt shot from a tight angle that Gayle fielded well at his near post

A depressing afternoon for Hednesford Town and their supporters, leaving Raynor's side rooted to the bottom of the table after they had handed their local rivals the early season bragging rights. Four defeats, and in truth three of those poor performances, means Raynor will have to go back to the drawing board with his under-performing squad ahead of Saturday's away game against high-flying Folkestone Invicta and will have to do it without the experienced pair of Simpson and Lake for the foreseeable future

Stafford Rangers: Williams, Everitt, Prindiville ©, Wilkes (Boughey 57), Simkin, Ryder, Wray, Lovatt, O'Connor, Eccleston (Kiely 45), Dundas    Sub Unused: Brindley


Hednesford Town: Gayle, Simpson (Curtis 64), Lucas, Lake  (33), Haran ©, Owen, Airdrie, Bagshaw, Francis (Pickess 66), Lancashire, Raynor ▆ (Craven 66)     Subs Unused: None