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F.A. Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Maye (85)

Stafford Rangers

Geddes (15)

(0) 1

(1) 1



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Tom Thorley


Stafford Rangers (A) 15.11.16

A week can be a long time in football, as the last seven days have proved at Hednesford Town Football Club. This time last week, the Pitmen were enjoying a fourth win on the bounce and a move to within three points off top spot in the Evo-Stik Premier League. This week, they have dealt with a potential double blow to their hopes and ambitions - the loss of influential winger Joel Logan to Vanarama National League side Guiseley, and the potential departure of manager Liam McDonald after a midweek approach from another step one side, Solihull Moors


The potential/imminent departure of McDonald was on many people's minds as they arrived at Keys Park for this big local derby, with the decision likely to come at the start of next week. McDonald's potential final Hednesford side saw Ashley Sammons return to the side in place of the departed Logan, with Danny Glover passed fit enough to take his place amongst the substitutes


Rangers - on an excellent run of form themselves after a ropy start to life back at step three - named a large number of familiar faces in their starting line-up for this tasty clash, with Sam Griffiths, Kris Taylor, Kyle Perry, Sean Geddes and Richard Batchelor all named in the starting XI by Neil Kitching. 


The heavy rain that had crossed the country overnight had left the Keys Park pitch in a poor, heavy condition, cutting up in places as the game progressed. Stafford made the better start of the two sides as they got to grips with the underfoot conditions better early on, with midfield man Taylor seeing an early free-kick deflected wide of goal on seven minutes by the boot of Jimmy Mutton

Good play from ex-Stafford man Tom Thorley saw him skip past a challenge from ex-team-mate Taylor and play the ball into the path of Sammons, whose reverse pass waa lashed well wide of goal by Carline


A great run from Michael Williams on eleven minutes saw the former Stafford man cross for Gurjit Singh, but former Hednesford triallist Michael Townsend cut the cross out just before Singh could connect with the ball and turn it home


Geddes went close to opening the scoring against his former employers on thirteen minutes, firing just wide of Dan Crane's right-hand post with a driven effort after picking up a cross from Lincoln City loanee Elliot Hodge


Two minutes later Geddes was to grab the first goal of the afternoon, albeit in fortuitous circumstances; a deep cross from Hodge found Geddes unmarked at the far post, with the midfielder mistiming his shot and scuffing the ball into the ground. Fortunately for Geddes, the ball bounced up and over the outstretched hand of Crane - who was flat-footed by the misplaced effort - with the ball bobbling into the net despite Mutton's best efforts to keep the ball out


A typical derby day bout of handbags ensued in front of the benches on eighteen minutes, as Cohen Bramall and Josh Gordon were both booked for clashing down the Hednesford left and taking out their frustrations out on each other with players from both sides joining in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Perry was at the heart of the clash and had plenty to say to the referee about the challenge

Perry headed a Geddes free-kick well wide of goal on twenty-one minutes, before top scorer Carline headed a Thorley corner back across the face of the Stafford penalty area three minutes later that was missed by Sammons and Mutton

Stafford appeared to have executed the perfect game plan in the first half hour of the game, breaking up the play at every opportunity through a variety of tactics and generally stopping the Pitmen from getting into their passing game. The pitch was also aiding Stafford's cause, as well as a weak referee who allowed himself to be surrounded by the likes of Perry and Batchelor every time a marginal decision was to be made


Gordon was lucky not to receive another yellow card on thirty-four minutes, as his overly high kick on the ever-impressive Thorley caught the Hednesford skipper in the chest in the centre circle. Despite the appeals of the men in white, the referee merely spoke to the striker about his conduct and the game continued


Carline had struggled to get into the game thus far having been well marshalled by the Stafford defence; his only chance of the first half came on thirty-seven minutes when a lofted free kick from Sammons found the head of the midfielder, whose goalbound effort was turned away for a Hednesford corner by Mat Bailey


An inch-perfect free-kick from Taylor set up a great chance for Gordon on thirty-nine minutes, as the playmaker clipped the ball up to the far post from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area onto the head of Gordon, who somehow headed the wrong side of the far post with the goal gaping


The home side finished the half strongly, with Singh forcing Adam Whitehouse in the Stafford goal into a good save on forty-two minutes; Jamie Matthews fed the ball to Singh, who turned Bailey sharply and fired in a low shot that Whitehouse turned away from goal


Whitehouse was in action once again just before half-time as a swift counter-attack from the Pitmen culminated in Sammons turning the ball towards goal, only to be denied by the legs of the Stafford number one

It had been a typically blood and thunder local derby with plenty of action at both ends as well as the usual levels of aggression and off-the-ball talking points. Stafford had countered the terrible conditions the better of the two sides as McDonald's passing strategy was being hampered considerably by this and Stafford's defensive approach


The second half got underway with a quick break from Stafford on forty-eight minutes, ending in a weak header from Perry that was easily saved by former team-mate Crane after Geddes had crossed for the burly striker


Mathews - playing in an unfamiliar left-wing/forward position - made a superb run through the Stafford defence on forty-nine minutes, cutting inside two challenges before lifting his shot from an acute angle over the crossbar, rather than crossing for the onrushing Singh or Carline

Three minutes later, Mutton's header was hacked away from danger by Bailey after an inswinging Thorley corner was flicked on at the near post by Carline and into the path of his former Redditch team-mate

The lively Gordon was denied a chance to double Stafford's advantage on fifty-four minutes by a late flag on the Wimblebury side after Perry had fouled Simeon Maye in the build-up, incurring the wrath of the striker who was finally booked for a compilation of offences by the referee, much to the ironic cheers of the home supporters


The ineffective Singh's game ended just before the hour mark, as he was replaced by Glover to give the Pitmen a more physical presence up front against a well-drilled Stafford defence 


The Pitmen were enjoying the better of the possession in the second half but were struggling to create clear cut openings. Thorley's deep free-kick was easily saved by Whitehouse on sixty-two minutes, whilst Bramall was wasteful with his cross three minutes later as he failed to pick out a man in white in the six-yard box after escaping the attentions of Kieran Morris

Williams was shown a yellow card on sixty-eight minutes for a foul on Batchelor, which again left Perry remonstrating with the referee and somehow escaping another yellow card for his overly-aggressive approach to the match official


Youngster Myles Phipps was given another chance to impress in the first team on seventy-two minutes, as he came on in place of the luckless Matthews out on the left flank

Bramall followed his team-mate Williams into the referee's notebook on seventy-six minutes as he pulled substitute Izak Reid back to halt the former Macclesfield man's progress down the wing


Griffiths was alert to the danger on seventy-nine minutes to clear his lines after Morris had been given the slip by Carline, hacking the ball away from the midfielder's feet as he got on the end of a Sammons pass


The final ten minutes saw the Pitmen start to turn the screw, spending more and more time inside the Stafford third of the pitch as they urgently searched for an equaliser. Calum Flanagan's long, raking ball forwards was flicked on by Glover and into the path of Phipps, who only succeeded in firing high over the crossbar instead of crossing from the corner of the Stafford penalty area


Carline was denied once again by Whitehouse on eighty-four minutes as a stand-up cross from Glover found Carline at the far post, with Whitehouse turning Carline's goalbound toe-poke away from the corner of the net for a Hednesford corner


From the resultant inswinging Sammons corner kick, the diminutive Maye rose highest to head the ball into the roof of the net and send Keys Park into raptures with an equalising goal


With their tails up and Stafford seemingly dead on their feet, Hednesford went after an unlikely winner in the last few moments, with Sammons going within the width of the woodwork of sealing a famous late win; a pass into his path from Carline saw Sammons get in behind the Stafford defence down the left, only for his swerving shot to clip the crossbar and sail into the Heath Hayes terrace with the final chance of the game


The home side had been much the stronger in the closing stages of the game and will feel a little aggrieved at not finishing the job in the final few minutes of a fairly drab and uninspiring game. The two sides will try again on Tuesday night, at Marston Road, but the big question is whether the Pitmen still have McDonald at the helm by then? His post-match interview was a fairly non-committal one either way but surely the smart money would be on him taking a higher profile job before Tuesday night's game rolls around, leaving the Pitmen potentially looking for yet another manager to add to their long list of  recent appointments


Hednesford Town: Crane, Williams , Bramall , Maye, Mutton, Flanagan, Singh (Glover 58), Thorley ©, Matthews (Phipps 72), Sammons, Carline       Subs Unused: Wagstaff, Martin, Hutton


Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Morris, Griffiths, Townsend, Bailey ©, Taylor, Hodge, Gordon, Perry  (L. Reid 86), Geddes (I. Reid 69), Batchelor        Subs Unused: Tolley, Bowen, Lee

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