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Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Piearce (7), (77)

Stafford Rangers

Heath (38), McAughtrie (90)

(1) 2

(1) 2




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Steve Piearce



Ilkeston Town (A) 30.11.02

The Pitmen are left feeling a sense of deja vu this afternoon at the end of this afternoon's aggressively-played local derby, as Stafford Rangers repeat last season's late show by grabbing an added time equaliser to deny the hosts all three points


Hednesford returned to Keys Park off the back of a late defeat to Newport County last weekend, with yet another individual error in defence costing them dear. Manager Ian Painter was still looking for the right blend from his highly-experienced squad and elected to bring in a new face during the week in a bid to halt the Pitmen's wasteful nature in front of goal; striker Paul Kiely, formerly with Painter at Stafford, joined the club on a month's loan from league rivals Ilkeston Town, going straight into the side against his former club in place of the out-of-form Kevin Francis. Carl Adams was restored to the side ahead of the injured Stuart Ryder, with Shaun Wray preferred to Stewart Airdrie down the left wing


Rangers' form in recent weeks had been good since the 1-1 draw between the two sides at Marston Road back in September, with Phil Robinson's men coming into the Chase derby after playing Shrewsbury Town in the F.A. Cup first round last weekend, losing 4-0 at Gay Meadow. League form had seen Rangers win their last three games before playing Shrewsbury, lifting them up into fifth place in the Southern Premier League table. Robinson's side had a familiar look to it, including Hednesford's old adversary Ryan Price in goal and the powerful central defensive partnership of Wayne Daniel and ex-Pitman Lee Barrow, supporting talented attacking players such as Danny Davidson and the star of the reverse fixture, Robin Gibson


With both sides backed by a considerable following as is expected in such derbies, the game started at a vociferous pace from both teams, with no quarter given. Darren Simkin was ticked off by the referee Mr Castle in the fourth minute for a flying - but fair - challenge on Gibson that left the Stafford contingent behind Price's goal screaming for retribution against their former player


The Pitmen got their first sight at goal two minutes later, as Ware and Adams combined well down the right to set Ashley Williams away on the overlap. The teenager's cross to the near post found Kiely, but he scuffed his effort well wide of the target


  However, the Pitmen did draw first blood through top scorer Piearce in the seventh minute; Stafford made a hash of clearing their lines after Wray had bustled his way into the penalty area, with the ball eventually sitting nicely for Piearce to fire past Price from twelve yards out. Goal number ten already this season for man of the moment Piearce


The hosts sensed another goal, with former Stafford man Wray wasting a good chance to put the Pitmen further in front on fourteen minutes as he failed to get enough power behind a shot from eighteen yards out and scuffed his shot into the Rangers fans behind the goal - cue ironic cheers from his former club's supporters


Stafford weathered the Hednesford storm and started to come back into the derby as the half wore on, with Gibson predictably the key man in Stafford's attacks. A superb run from the winger on nineteen minutes saw the former Crewe man drift past Williams and step past a half-hearted challenge from Les Robinson before slipping the ball into the path of Davidson. However, the league's top scorer lost his footing at the crucial moment and allowed former Rangers defender Chris Brindley to tidy up


Davidson's strike partner Paul Edwards tested the gloves of Michael Bingham on twenty-nine minutes with a low drive from ten yards out after the talented Rob Heath had played a delightful ball through the centre of the Hednesford defence and into his path


Stafford's pressure told with a deserved equaliser on thirty-seven minutes, although the Pitmen felt that they were hard done by in the build-up to the goal. Simkin challenged for a bouncing ball with Bailey and appeared to be fouled by the veteran striker as the two went up for the ball. However, play continued, despite the protests, with Heath on hand to sweep the ball past Bingham from fifteen yards out. The hosts were incensed at the injustice and surrounded the referee as Stafford celebrated, all to no avail


With half-time looming, both sides had chances to go in at the break in the lead from set-pieces; McAughtrie headed over from a Gibson corner kick on forty-two minutes, whilst Kiely was a whisker away from sidefooting Paul Ware's free-kick home at the near post a minute later as the Pitmen caught Rangers napping at the back


Half-time saw Painter make what was fast becoming his standard substitution, as Adams was hooked following a tame first-half showing. Airdrie was introduced to play down the right wing, a position he tormented Rangers from in the related fixture last season


There had been a feisty undertone to the game throughout the first period, with four players booked already before the game was blown wide open on fifty-five minutes. Airdrie was already finding joy down the wing against Alex Gibson, beating the ex-Port Vale full-back on numerous occasions in the first ten minutes of the half. One trick too many from Airdrie was enough for Gibson, who committed a heinous challenge on Airdrie in front of the benches, resulting in a bout of handbags between the two management teams and many of the players on the park. Airdrie required lengthy treatment from Don Drakeley as the referee took a moment to compose himself before reaching for a red card to send the Stafford man off


Airdrie was now a target for the Stafford players, who felt that the winger had overplayed the challenge from Gibson to get him sent off. Price used all of his experience in knowing where the boundaries lie with the officials by fouling the winger in his penalty area as the Pitmen lined up a corner, prompting a response from Airdrie that led to him being spoken to for dissent. Craig Lovatt was also given a dressing down by the referee for a poor challenge on Ware


The flurry of cards had detracted from the football being played for the first fifteen minutes of the half, with the Pitmen getting back to creating chances on sixty-eight minutes with a cross from Wray that was volleyed high and wide by a wild Kiely effort


Ware was still unhappy at the foul committed on him by Lovatt a few minutes earlier and decided to carry out his own retribution on the midfielder on seventy minutes by blatantly kicking Lovatt in plain view of the referee as the pair clashed. The referee was left with little option but to show Ware a straight red card - a stupid, petulant act from a much-respected player who should know better, removing his side's numerical advantage in the process


Painter made a reactionary substitution to Ware's red card, taking off the ineffective Kiely and bringing on the industrial influence of Francis to play alongside Piearce up front


A topsy-turvy game took another dramatic turn in favour of the hosts on seventy-seven minutes, with Piearce on the scoresheet once again as he gleefully raced onto a through ball from Bryan Small and lobbed Price from the edge of the area to nestle the ball into the far corner of the net. Cue wild celebrations in the Heath Hayes terrace as the Pitmen started to believe that their Stafford hoodoo was about to be lifted


With one eye on protecting their slender lead, the Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon with ten minutes left as ex-Stafford man Wayne Simpson came on for Williams to add more experience to the back line for the final minutes


Stafford pressed the Pitmen in the final stages of the game, with Gibson's trickery taking him past Simkin on eighty-four minutes and into the penalty area. Skipper Robinson did well to outmuscle the winger, who felt that he had been impeded by the veteran defender and appealed in vain for a penalty kick


Player/manager Robinson delivered a fine ball into the Hednesford penalty area in the final minute of the game that was headed inches wide by Davidson, who did well to beat Brindley to the ball but was agonisingly close to the target


As the clock ticked into added time, Rangers threw everything at the Pitmen as they looked to a repeat of last season's late, late show. In the fourth minute of added time, a Gibson corner from the right was aimed at Price, who had been gestured forwards by the Stafford bench. He appeared to get a flick on the ball to divert it into the path of McAughtrie, who managed to get enough on the ball to scramble it over the line, despite Bingham's best efforts to keep the ball out. Disaster for the Pitmen, ecstasy for the Rangers


 A sickening final twist for the home side, particularly after the goings-on of last term, and another late goal conceded to add to their unwanted collection this season. A draw does neither side any favours, although the hosts remain unbeaten at home in the league this term going into December. They take a break from the league next weekend with a trip to league rivals Ilkeston Town in the second round of this season's F.A. Trophy 

Hednesford Town: Bingham, Williams (Simpson 80), Adams  (Airdrie 45), Robinson ©, Brindley, Simkin , Wray, Ware ▆  (70), Piearce, Kiely (Francis 75), Small     Subs Unused: Lancashire, Jenkins

Stafford Rangers, Price, A. Gibson , Beale (McAughtrie 83), Barrow, Daniel, Lovatt, Robinson, Heath, Edwards (Szewczyk 83), Davidson, R. Gibson  (59)     Subs Unused: Berks, Singh, Ward

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