Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Airdrie (29), (76) Davis (31)

Stafford Rangers

Eccleston (74), Kiely (89), Simkin (90)

(1) 3

(0) 1



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Stewart Airdrie



King's Lynn (A) 9.3.02

The Pitmen are cruelly denied a third successive win this evening by a late, late Stafford Rangers comeback in the eagerly awaited Chase derby to send both sides home with a point apiece from a highly charged and competitive game at Keys Park

Saturday's confident win over Folkestone Invicta had lifted the Pitmen to the relative safety of eighteenth place in the table going into tonight's game although manager Kenny Hibbitt was forced into two changes to his side as two of his more senior players were ruled out; Mark Gayle was suspended after a red card against Rushall Olympic in the Birmingham Senior Cup last week, whilst club captain Mark Haran was ruled out with a hamstring injury. This saw Hibbitt's squad pushed to the limit as teenagers Adam Jenkins and Adam Shakespeare came into the side as replacements, with Jenkins making his full debut in a crucial game for the club

Ian Painter's Rangers had found good form tough to find since the New Year, slipping out of the top five and now sitting in mid-table after an inconsistent run of form from the Marston Road outfit. Painter had his own selection headaches to contend with as regular left-back Leigh Everitt was ruled out due to an injury sustained in Rangers' 2-1 win over Welling United at the weekend, forcing the former Stoke City midfielder into making the loan signing of Darren Shaw to cover for Everitt's loss for tonight's game. Several Rangers players were familiar to the Hednesford supporters as Painter named former Pitmen Chris Brindley and Tony Eccleston as starters with the great Joe O'Connor amongst the Rangers substitutes

A typically full-blooded derby saw both sides straight into the action with most of the early play focusing on the midfield areas where Stuart Lake clashed with youngster Rob Heath early on and forced referee Mr Scarr to pull the pair up

Stewart Airdrie was to prove the difference for the Pitmen throughout the evening, giving the returning Shaw a torrid time down the flank with his pace and trickery. A good run from the winger in the seventh minute saw him slalom his way past Shaw and Brindley before lifting his shot over Ryan Price's crossbar

Three minutes later, a Richard Lucas corner kick was partially cleared by Brindley into the path of former team-mate Lake, whose curling effort from the edge of the Stafford penalty area drifted wide of goal

Another ball in from Lucas from the opposite wing was flicked on by Kevin Francis and into the path of Neil Davis, only for former Wolves man Darren Simkin to smuggle the ball away from the feet of the striker as he shaped to shoot

Jenkins made his first save of the evening on twenty-one minutes, palming a low shot from Rangers' top scorer Paul Kiely away for a Stafford corner kick. The resultant ball in from Craig Lovatt was headed high over the crossbar by Brindley, who beat Lee Barrow to the ball at the near post

Three minutes later, good play from Wayne Simpson saw the former Stafford man create room for himself and play Airdrie in down the right. The winger took a couple of touches before slipping the ball through to Davis, who was clean through on goal. However, a late flag on the Wimblebury side denied Davis a shot at goal as he prepared to fire past Price

Lovatt was guilty of missing a great chance for Rangers in the twenty-sixth minute, somehow skewing his effort wide from only eight yards out after Kiely had played him in on goal

The Pitmen took the lead in this tireless encounter three minutes later with Airdrie grabbing a goal his early efforts deserved; skipper Lucas did well to seize upon Darren Boughey's dithering and win the ball from him on the left-wing. Lucas's cross was just too far in front of Francis to turn home at the near post, but Airdrie arrived on cue to turn the ball home at the far post with a first-time effort

From the restart, Kiely probably should have levelled immediately as Rangers broke through Lovatt and crossed for Kiely, who volleyed over the crossbar from twelve yards out rather than take a touch around Ashley Williams

This miss was to prove significant for the away side, as the Pitmen doubled their advantage a minute later; Airdrie was the provider this time, beating Shaw down the right and hanging a cross to the far post where Davis did well to outjump former colleague Brindley and head home

There were further chances for the Pitmen to put the game beyond the reach of their local rivals towards the end of the first period as Lake drove a shot wide of Price's goal on thirty-four minutes, followed three minutes later by a neat piece of passing play that culminated in Derek Rae firing over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

With half-time looming, Francis should have made it 3-0 as he somehow failed to turn another Airdrie cross home at the far post as he out-jumped Stuart Ryder at the far post but missed the ball by a matter of inches

It had been a dominant first-half performance from the patched-up Pitmen with the youngsters serving the club well against more experienced opponents. Painter - coming under some pressure from the Rangers supporters after their season had started to peter out - made an early tactical change in the second half as former Walsall defender Ryder was taken off in favour of the prolific O'Connor with the Hednesford legend afforded a warm round of applause from both sets of supporters

Francis's hapless evening continued on fifty-five minutes as he turned a low cross from Davis tamely wide of goal from only a few yards out after Brindley had been caught ball-watching

The big man was guilty of another miss on the hour mark as Rae's through ball was tamely turned into the side-netting by Francis as he was forced wide by Simkin

Heath fired into the hands of Jenkins on sixty-three minutes, followed by a weakly-directed header from Brindley that bounced into the Stafford fans gathered behind Jenkins' goal two minutes later

Tricky wing play from Shaun Wray saw the former Nuneaton Borough winger skip past Williams down the left and attempt a cross-cum-shot that drifted just over Jenkins' upright on sixty-nine minutes

Francis was denied by a fine save from fellow veteran Price on seventy-four minutes before Stafford broke quickly through Boughey, whose chipped cross was turned home by former Pitman Eccleston at the far post to beat Jenkins from close range

Rangers' celebrations were short-lived, however, as the Pitmen quickly restored their two-goal lead just two minutes later. It was the outstanding Airdrie who grabbed his second goal of the evening, firing past Price from eight yards out with an angled drive after good play from Rae and Davis had played the winger in on goal

With the game seemingly won for the Pitmen and the supporters prematurely celebrating a first league win over their local rivals in over fifty years, Hibbitt elected to bring on Wale-Kwik Ajet in place of the out-of-luck Francis with seven minutes remaining. Perhaps the more defensively-minded Andy Brownrigg may have been a better call at this point, although hindsight is a wonderful thing safe in the knowledge of what was about to come

With two minutes remaining, Stafford suddenly struck after a spell of pressure in and around the Hednesford penalty area; Wray stood up a cross from the left that was headed down by Brindley and into the path of Kiely, who grabbed his nineteenth goal of the season by turning the ball home from close range, despite the Pitmen's claims that the striker was in an offside position

With their tails up, Rangers pushed the Pitmen back into their own third for the remainder of the game as they pressed for an equaliser that looked unlikely a few minutes earlier. Shaw turned a shot wide from a tight angle as the game entered added time after latching onto a Scott Dundas ball

With four minutes of added time on the clock, Stafford won a free-kick fully thirty yards from Jenkins' goal. The burly presence of Simkin spotted the ball up and unleashed an inch-perfect drive that swerved and dipped beyond the reach of Jenkins and the Hednesford wall before nestling into the corner of the net to send the away fans delirious at claiming an unlikely point. The one downside to their leveller was the sight of O'Connor being escorted off the pitch after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the build-up to the free-kick

With no time remaining to launch another attack, both sides settled for a point at the end of a superbly competitive local derby which does little to aid either side's ambitions for the remainder of the season. The Pitmen will be gutted at the late conceding of Simkin's leveller but can be pleased with their competitiveness over the ninety minutes against a far more experienced side to extend their unbeaten run to four league games. However, the manner of this draw will sting for a few games for the supporters as they witnessed another tame defensive display from their side that has once again cost them valuable points. Saturday sees the Pitmen on the road once more, making the long trip to fellow strugglers King's Lynn in the first of several crucial six-pointers in the remaining dozen games 

Hednesford Town: Jenkins, LakeLucas ©, Shakespeare, WilliamsBarrow, Simpson, Rae, Davis, Francis (Ajet 83), Airdrie     Subs Unused: Brownrigg, Thomas

Stafford Rangers: Price, Boughey, Shaw, Ryder (O'Connor 52 (90)), Brindley, Simkin, Wray, Heath (Dundas 79), Eccleston (Howard 86), Kiely, Lovatt       Subs Unused: None