Pre-Season Friendly

Hednesford Town

A. Brown (75)

Stafford Rangers

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Courtney Richards



Chasetown (A) 20.7.21

The Pitmen return to the PRG Stadium @ Keys Park for the first time in several months with a narrow win over local rivals Stafford Rangers at the start of their home pre-season campaign for the 2021-2022 season

Manager Keenen Meakin-Richards had elected to play two different teams in the 4-1 win over Sporting Khalsa in midweek and chose to do the same for today's game to take a look at all of his available squad members; the only players not involved today were club skipper Ben Bailey and striker Reece Styche, who were both on holiday

Rangers had already played four pre-season games so were already ahead of today's hosts in their preparation. Manager Matt Hill also elected to take a look at as many of his squad as possible after their 3-1 defeat to league rivals Nantwich in midweek, naming ex-Hednesford players Jono Brown, Keiron Dawes, Alex-Ray Harvey and Jon Moran in his first-half XI

It was a beautiful bright, sunny and hot afternoon in South Staffordshire, ideal for the start of pre-season as the fans bathed in wall-to-wall sunshine. Perhaps understandably, both sides took their time to settle into a rhythm as the hot weather sapped any attempts at high-tempo play. Andre Landell showed neat footwork in the eleventh minute to step past Dawes and cross to the far post, only for the ball to evade everyone in a white shirt

Courtney Richards tested the reflexes of Jono Brown two minutes later, receiving a pass from triallist 1 just inside the Stafford penalty area but sidefooting his shot straight into the arms of the former Bromsgrove Sporting stopper

The Pitmen seemed content to play the ball around their own penalty area in an attempt to retain possession, but a loose pass from Richards almost let the pacy Tyrone Ofori in on sixteen minutes, only for Kyle Rowley to rescue the situation and hack the ball clear before the former Tamworth man could get his shot away

Andy Wycherley's first involvement came in the twentieth minute as he acrobatically tipped a header from Katsamargkas Panos over the crossbar for a corner after Ofori had found his strike partner with a firn cross from the right

Centre-back Lewis Ison was the one and only player to be booked in the game a minute later as he was shown a yellow card for a foul on the lively Ofori just inside the Hednesford half

Ison was involved at the other end of the pitch three minutes later as he headed a deep corner kick from skipper Reece Flanagan onto the top of the Stafford net with a looping header from twelve yards out

Landell linked up well with fellow summer signing Brad Birch just before the half-hour mark as his quick feet slipped the ball into the path of the midfielder, who in turn returned the ball to Landell with a neat backward flick. The forward nipped in ahead of Moran but curled his shot just over Brown's crossbar from twelve yards out

Williams tried his luck with a dipping, swerving free-kick from thirty yards out that was claimed by Wycherley before the full-back saw another free-kick headed over the crossbar at the far post by the incoming Joe Kenton with ten minutes of the first-half remaining

The game was continually broken up by players struggling for fitness and requiring breaks in play for niggling pulls as well as drinks breaks for the hot weather. Wycherley caused the home fans some worry with five minutes of the first half remaining as he went down holding his ankle, only for a spell of treatment to clear up whatever he was struggling with

It had been a fairly mundane first-half from both sides, who looked evenly matched with neither team looking as though they had the guile or creativity to unlock the other's defence. Rangers elected to make three changes at half-time whilst the Pitmen made nine changes, with only Josh Webb and Wycherley continuing for the second period from the first-half XI

The Pitmen's second-half XI looked far more assertive and comfortable on the ball, with Andre Brown's introduction the catalyst for some more daring attacking pay from the hosts. Sam Griffiths got on the end of a flowing move through the centre of the pitch from the Pitmen on fifty minutes, but his pull-back to Brown was slightly behind the big striker and James O'Neill put the ball behind for a corner kick

George Cater's resultant corner kick was lofted to the far post, where it narrowly missed triallist 2 and Brown before being turned over the crossbar by Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis, who arrived late into the six-yard box

Former Wolves youngster Todd Parker had arrived at the club during the summer months with much expected of him and he was to showcase why he was being talked of in such glowing terms with a composed and confident second-half display. A driving run into the Stafford half from him on fifty-five minutes saw him play Cater into space down the left, who in turn played the ball back to Rob Hanna, only for the youngster to fire high over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Ofori had Stafford's first real sight at goal three minutes later, twisting and turning on the edge of the penalty area before seeing his shot deflected just wide by new skipper Jed Davies for a Stafford corner kick

Cater and Griffiths were linking up well down the left, with Griffiths sending a fine cross on sixty-two minutes that was turned just wide of goal by the incoming Davies from six yards out

More breaks in play for substitutions, injuries and taking on water followed as the game was reduced to a walking pace for a spell with it feeling almost inevitable that it would be ending goalless. On sixty-six minutes, youth team full-back Costa Mario was given a run-out by Meakin-Richards as he replaced Webb at right-back

Three minutes later, Mario was straight into the action as he collected a short corner from Davies and crossed to the far post, where the powerfully-built triallist 2 headed over the crossbar from a couple of yards out

The Pitmen finally nicked what was to be the winning goal with fifteen minutes of the game remaining; a fine threaded pass from Parker found Andre Brown in behind James Sutton, holding off the defender's attention to confidently slot home from an acute angle after drawing namesake Jono Brown out to the edge of his six-yard box with a fine low finish into the far corner of the net

Stafford went close to conjuring up a response five minutes later as Cater's sloppy pass played triallist 2 into trouble with Jake Charles winning the ball, switching the play to winger Joe Cuff on the left flank. The former Market Drayton man held of Mario's challenge but lifted his shot over Wycherley's crossbar from a tight angle with a light touch from the stopper en route

A good start to the Pitmen's pre-season programme that sees them with a 100% record after two games and much to be positive about. Two more games follow this midweek with short trips to both Chasetown and Walsall Wood as Meakin-Richards and his staff look to build up the squad's fitness, stamina and understanding before they return to Keys Park next weekend with a home game against Gary Hayward's Buxton side

Hednesford Town: Wycherley, Webb (Mario 66), Lycett (Griffiths 45), Rowley (Mendez-Jones 45), Ison  (Triallist 2 45), Richards (Parker 45), Flanagan © (Davies 45), Birch (Ten-Grotenhuis 45), Triallist 1 (A. Brown 45), Landell (Hanna 45), Wells (Cater 45)      Subs Unused: None

Stafford Rangers: J. Brown, Dawes (Triallist 1 45), Williams, Harvey © (Charles 45), Moran (Sutton 60), O'Neill, Kenton (Cuff 45), Tonks, Panos (Carr 58), Ofori (Candlin 58), Woods (Burns 45)       Subs Unused: Whitehouse, Welsh, Kapend

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