Nationwide Conference North

Hednesford Town

Stafford Rangers

Thomson (55), Smith (57)

(0) 0

(0) 2



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Grant Beckett



Banbury United (A) 8.10.05

The Pitmen's thirty-one year wait for victory over their bitter local rivals continues this afternoon as Stafford Rangers take the points in today's Chase derby with goals in the second half from Peter Thomson and Nathan Smith

Having made progress in the F.A. Cup last weekend, Hednesford manager Chris Brindley made one change to the XI that had defeated league rivals Moor Green to set up a third qualifying round against Southern Premier League side Banbury United next weekend as Andy Bell returned to the side in place of Paul McMahon

Rangers - sitting pretty in the Conference North table in fourth place - had exited the F.A. Cup last weekend after being beaten 1-0 against league rivals and fellow big-hitters Kettering Town at Rockingham Road. Player/manager Phil Robinson made one change to his side for today's big game as Smith came into the side in place of former Leek Town man Alan Dodd 

In front of a near-1,500 strong crowd, the Pitmen made a bright start to the derby and forced three successive corners in the opening five minutes against their experienced opponents. The third corner from Lee Williams was floated into the far post, where former Stafford man Lee Barrow's looping header at goal was cleared off the line by the alert presence of Lee Downes

In the ninth minute, the lively Smith got the better of Barrow with a run onto the end of a pass from the talented Robin Gibson, turning past the defender with a drop of the shoulder but lifting his effort high over the crossbar

Three minutes later, Mark Branch's long throw-in was flicked on by Barrow at the near post as he beat Wayne Daniel to the ball but Stafford goalkeeper Dean Williams claimed the ball ahead of Andy Bell

In the fifteenth minute, Rangers went closest to opening the scoring through summer signing Smith, who made a late run into the penalty area and volleyed Kevin Street's angled pass onto the crossbar with Tommy Whittle well beaten

Four minutes later, former Crewe man Street created an opening for himself as he made a run into the Hednesford penalty area to take advantage of the home side backtracking and drove a low shot from fifteen yards out just wide of the far post

Midway through the half, Smith flicked on a cross from veteran defender Paul Groves into the path of strike partner Thomson. The centre-forward took a touch just inside the penalty area and scuffed his low shot straight into the arms of Tommy Whittle

Whittle's long kick forwards on twenty-six minutes bounced over the head of Craig McAughtrie and into the path of Bell, who laid the ball off to Colin Hunter out on the left flank. The former Morecambe man tricked his way past Groves and floated a cross to the far post, where Steve Anthrobus headed well wide of the upright

On the half-hour mark, Groves made a darting run into the Hednesford penalty area as he cut inside from the flank and struck a rising shot that flew just over the crossbar


Four minutes later, Anthrobus did well to hold off the attentions of Daniel, turning the ball round the corner and into the path of Hunter, who saw his first-time effort deflected away from goal by McAughtrie


Eight minutes before half-time, Groves linked up with Street to run at Branch with the winger sending over a cross to the far post that was turned wide by Gibson from eight yards out

Anthrobus was booked for the Pitmen on forty minutes as referee Mr Mellor showed the veteran striker a yellow card for a totting-up of individual fouls on Daniel and McAughtrie


The Pitmen had struggled to make any headway in the Stafford third since their early series of corner kicks, with Rob Heath having a chance late on in the first half as he latched onto a Lee Williams pass to fire straight into the hands of Dean Williams from twelve yards out


In first-half added time, Mr Mellor pulled Smith back at the vital moment as the young striker moved a little too soon to get in behind the Hednesford defence to latch onto a Downes pass


The away side had enjoyed the better of the game in the opening forty-five minutes against a shot-shy Hednesford team that had struggled to break down their more experienced opponents and had looked to capitalise mainly on set-pieces to create their chances


Stafford came out with more purpose and played a more direct game at the start of the second half; Smith felt that he had a shout for a penalty kick just a minute after the restart as he was sent tumbling under Barrow's challenge a yard or so inside the Pitmen's penalty area. Mr Mellor took a long, hard look at the tackle but waved Rangers' appeals away

The talented Gibson led Ross Adams a merry dance down the left flank on fifty minutes with a typically tricky run that saw him gain half a yard just inside the penalty area and curl a shot from eighteen yards out just wide of Whittle's far post

40-year-old Neil Grayson tried his luck from long-range a minute later as he picked up a loose ball in midfield and unleashed a thirty-yard effort that cleared Whittle's crossbar

The visitors finally turned their pressure into the game's opening goal four minutes later as a quick break from Rangers saw Gibson thread a fine through ball between Barrow and Richard Teesdale and into the path of Thomson, who took two touches before taking the ball around Whittle and slotted the ball into the empty net

With their tails up, Rangers extended their lead just two minutes later to leave the Pitmen with a mountain to climb; Thomson was to turn provider for his strike partner Smith on this occasion as he laid the ball off to the former Rushall man, who fired in an unstoppable right-footed effort from twenty yards out that beat Whittle and nestled in the bottom corner of the net. A great finish

The Pitmen's response to this quickfire Stafford double was to bring top scorer Paul McMahon on in place of Anthrobus on the hour mark to add more pace and guile to the attack against a stubborn and experienced Rangers defensive line

The away side were rampant against a hesitant and nervy Hednesford defence and could have added a third goal on sixty-three minutes as Gibson's outswinging corner kick found it all the way through to Groves, whose first-time effort rippled the side-netting from close-range


Whittle was called upon to deny the flying Gibson four minutes later as he tipped the winger's long-range effort over the crossbar for a Stafford corner kick after Gibson had escaped the attentions of Lee Williams

Brindley chose to bring himself on to add to the cause for the misfiring hosts on sixty-seven minutes, coming on to play up front as a target man alongside McMahon and Bell as he replaced the disappointing Hunter. This saw Grant Beckett - who had been one of the few bright spots for the Pitmen in the game  - move to the left wing to cover for Hunter's departure

Brindley threw himself straight into proceedings and went close to reducing the deficit on seventy-three minutes as he met a Lee Williams free-kick with a full-blooded header that was cleared off the line by Nathan Talbott

Two minutes later, Williams went close from another free-kick after Heath had been found by Grayson just outside the Stafford penalty area, prompting the veteran midfielder to curl the ball over the Rangers wall but also over the crossbar

Robinson ensured that both player/managers were on the pitch at the same time at the end of the game as he came on with thirteen minutes remaining to replace Smith, who was given a standing ovation from the sizeable travelling support

With ten minutes of the game remaining, youngster Craig Marshall was given a late run-out for the hosts as he came on up front in place of Bell, whose threat had been nullified by the excellent McAughtrie

Rangers had further chances to add to their tally in the final minutes as the Pitmen and their supporters willed the final whistle on; McAughtrie could have capped a fine display with a goal on eighty-three minutes but headed wide at the far post from Gibson's cross as Barrow did enough to put him off his stride

Good play from Street three minutes later saw the winger dart past Heath and square the ball to Robinson, whose first-time pass was perfectly played into the feet of Thomson. He controlled the ball well but got his laces underneath the ball and lifted his effort over the crossbar and into the Rangers fans gathered behind Whittle's goal

It had been a dominant derby day victory for Rangers, who had never looked in any danger against a limited Hednesford side that had worked hard all afternoon but lacked the additional quality and knowhow of a Stafford side that will most likely be in and around the top five this season with a good blend of experience in the likes of Daniel, Groves and Street added to the step two quality of Gibson, Thomson and McAughtrie. For the Pitmen, defeat leaves them down in fourteenth place in the league table as their recent mini-run ends with Rangers taking the bragging rights. They take another break from Conference North duty next Saturday when they travel to former Southern Premier League rivals Banbury looking to move into the final qualifying round of this season's F.A. Cup and a haul of good prize money to go with it

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Adams, Branch, Barrow ©, Teesdale, L. Williams, Beckett, Heath, Anthrobus  (McMahon 60), Bell (C. Marshall 80), Hunter (Brindley 67)   Subs Unused: Brannan, T. Marshall

Stafford Rangers: D. Williams, Groves, Talbott, McAughtrie, Daniel © (Dodd 85), Grayson, Downes, Street, Thomson, Smith (Robinson 77), Gibson (Edwards 77)       Subs Unused: Walker, Murray