17.4.2017

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Stafford Rangers

Sherratt (42), I. Reid (51)

(0) 0

(1) 2

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

722

Joe Ballinger

L D L W W D L L L L

Whitby Town (A) 22.4.17

The Pitmen are eased out of this evening's Chase derby by local rivals Stafford Rangers as the home side make it four defeats in a row and three consecutive games without scoring in the process

Saturday's defeat at Marine had once again seen manager Gary Birch make wholesale changes to his ever-changing starting XI, There were four changes to the side for tonight's local derby as Dan Crane, Darren Campion, Gavin Hurren and Tony Clarke came back into the side at the expense of Lloyd Ransome, Louis Danquah, Blake Thompson and George Cater

Stafford had spent much of the campaign consolidating their place at step three once more after promotion last season, hanging around the mid-table spots for much of the season. Manager Neil Kitching made two changes to the side that had lost 1-0 at home to struggling Corby Town with full-back Tyler Lyttle and Mitchell Tolley came back into the side in place of the ex-Hednesford duo Sam Griffiths and Kris Taylor. Other familiar faces in the Rangers ranks included the infamous Kyle Perry - a goalscorer against the Pitmen in the reverse fixture - Jake Heath and Richard Batchelor

With both sides failing to live up to their pre-season expectations later on in the campaign, the attendance reflected the general malaise surrounding both clubs with a rare sub-1,000 crowd for what is normally considered to be one of the more keenly contested and competitive derbies in non-league football. It was the men in white that made the better start to proceedings as Clarke's looping header from a George Washbourne cross was hacked off the line by the back-tracking Mat Bailey

Rangers seemed content to sit back in the early stages of the game and bide their time against a Hednesford side that huffed and puffed its way through proceedings without really offering a whole lot going forwards. Joe Ballinger - a rare triumph in the transfer market in recent weeks - headed well wide of goal in the ninth minute as a deep free-kick from Jordan Fitzpatrick found the former Barwell man lurking at the far post

For the visitors, Jack Sherratt had the first sight at goal in the fourteenth minute as he skipped past Fitzpatrick before drilling a low shot well wide of Crane's left-hand post

Good play from Lewis Wright saw the right-back evade a sliding challenge from James Bowen on nineteen minutes and crossing well for Clarke, only for the big striker's header to deflect off the leg of Bailey and away from danger

A free-kick from Washbourne four minutes later was flicked on by Ballinger and into the path of Danny Glover, only for the Hednesford skipper to drag his shot well wide of goal

At the other end, Stafford tried their luck from a free-kick as Sherratt fired over Crane's crossbar after lifting his shot from twenty-five yards out narrowly over the woodwork

Former Halesowen front man Ben Haseley was denied a chance to open the scoring on twenty-six minutes as he was played through on goal by Izak Reid's slide-rule pass, only to be denied by a later offside flag on the main stand side

The combative Perry was also denied a chance to strike at goal on the half-hour mark as he brought down a Reid cross but was adjudged to have pulled at Gavin Hurren in the build-up. In typical Perry style, he gave let the referee know what he felt about the decision with a full-blooded defence of his actions, much to the dissatisfaction of the home supporters who implored the match official to book the striker

Mitchell Tolley struck a shot well wide of goal on thirty-three minutes after a corner from Sherratt was cleared as far as the midfielder on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

The Pitmen were also reliant on set-pieces to create any openings as Campion's deep free-kick on thirty-seven minutes was met by Ballinger, whose weak downward header was hacked away by Lyttle inside his six-yard box

One moment of quality from Sherratt was to finally open the scoring and open up a fairly drab encounter with three minutes of the first half remaining; a quickly-taken throw-in from Bowen found the midfielder in space just outside the Hednesford penalty area, with the former Leyton Orient man given time and space to control the ball before striking a fine effort beyond the reach of Crane and into the net via a slight touch off the post

It nearly got worse for the hosts in first-half added time as Rangers went close to adding a second goal; Haseley was played through on goal by Tolley as the Hednesford defence appealed in vain for an offside flag, with Wright showing enough positional sense to get across and make a last-ditch tackle on the striker to deny him a clear shot at goal

The Pitmen had looked fairly toothless in the first half against a more experienced Stafford side that you felt had enough in reserve to ease their hosts out of the game in the second half

The Pitmen had the first sight at goal in the second half as Glover found a pocket of space inside the Stafford penalty area to strike a low shot at goal that was deflected wide by Bailey for a corner kick

However, this was to prove the only chance they got to pull level once more, as Rangers doubled their advantage on fifty-one minutes; another Bowen throw into the Hednesford penalty area was not dealt with by more hesitant Pitmen defending, allowing former Macclesfield winger Reid to bring the bouncing ball under his control before firing low past Crane and into the far corner of the net

Washbourne went close to an immediate response from the home side as he picked the ball up down the left and drifted inside before curling a shot beyond the reach of Stafford keeper Adam Whitehouse and over the crossbar

Wright's inswinging cross from the right flank on fifty-four minutes found the head of Glover, but the striker had to stretch to reach the outwinging ball and could only direct the ball well wide of goal at the far post

A minute later, Clarke did well to outmuscle Bailey on thee run into the Stafford penalty area, only for the covering Lyttle to clear the danger before the former Lichfield City man could get his shot away

In an attempt to get themselves back into the game, the Pitmen made their first attacking change just before the hour mark as Jordan Nadat came on in place of the disappointing Clarke, who had struggled with the Rangers backline of Bailey and Kieran Morris

Three minutes later the hosts made a second change in quick succession as youngster George Cater was brought on to play further up the right flank in place of Wright

Sherratt delivered a fine free-kick into the Hednesford penalty area on sixty-five minutes that was flicked on by Perry, only for the stretching Haseley to just fail to apply the finish at the far post as the ball skipped wide of the target

A minute later, the Pitmen made their third and final change of the evening as on-loan Mansfield Town defender Bradley Peace-McDonald was brought on in place of Washbourne

Reid went close to adding a third goal to Rangers' tally on seventy-two minutes as good build-up play from the visitors saw the winger played in down the right, only for his shot back across the face of Crane's goal to drift just wide of the far post

Crane made a good save to deny former team-mate, Perry, on seventy-four minutes, holding the big striker's flicked header after a cross from substitute Batchelor had found the striker lurking ten yards from goal

Campion's frustration at the ease in which Stafford were beating his side became apparent with twelve minutes remaining as he was shown a yellow card for a bout of dissent after giving away a free-kick down the Rangers right flank

Glover's presence forced a mistake from Morris on eighty-two minutes as the defender gave the ball away under pressure from the striker to Nadat, only for the substitute's shot to drift well wide of Whitehouse's upright

With the game petering out in the final minutes, both sides seemed to have accepted the result either way as both goalkeepers were not tested in the remaining moments of a poor derby game

Another dreadfully uninspiring performance from the Pitmen, who have looked impotent up front and porous at the back for several weeks which has led to this late-season drop in form. Too many inexperienced step three players now clog up a bloated squad that will most likely be ripped apart in the close season once more. The weary Pitmen make the long trip to Whitby Town on Saturday in the final game of the season, keen to move on to the summer months and a much-needed freshen up behind the scenes

Hednesford Town: Crane, Wright (Cater 62), Campion, Martin, Hurren, Ballinger, Fitzpatrick, McNaught, Clarke (Nadat 59), Glover ©, Washbourne (Peace-McDonald 66)      Subs Unused: Ransome, Robinson

Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Lyttle, Bowen, Morris, Bailey ©, Tolley, I. Reid (L. Reid 87), Sherratt (Batchelor 70), Perry, Haseley, Heath      Subs Unused: Taylor, Barton, Griffiths