29.9.2001

F.A. Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Hednesford Town

Davis (30), Francis (66), (71), Pickess (90)

Stafford Town

Rochester (13), Rawlinson (50), Peake (55)

(1) 4

(1) 3

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

401

Kevin Francis

L L L W W L L L L W

 

Bath City (A) 6.10.01

The Pitmen edged their way past near neighbours Stafford Town this afternoon in an exciting, goal-laden game at Keys Park but left it late to progress to the third qualifying round of the F.A. Cup

Paul Raynor's beleaguered squad went into today's potential banana skin off the back of four successive defeats, the latest being an end-to-end clash against title favourites Weymouth at Keys Park last weekend that had seen the hosts tamely concede a 2-0 lead with only twenty-five minutes remaining to lose 4-2. Rookie manager Raynor responded to this with two changes to the side that had started against the Terras by replacing Adam Shakespeare and himself in favour of the returning Mark Haran and Robbie Meacham

Stafford's made the ten-minute journey across the Chase looking to add to the Pitmen's misery with what would be a major upset from the Midland Alliance side. This season, however, had been a struggle for the reds with only two wins to their name this season so far, coming off a 3-1 reverse at home to Ludlow Town in midweek to extend their winless run to four games. Manager Mick Collins made one change to the side that had started against Ludlow with Ashley Sheridan dropped in favour of Mark Tilston in midfield

A sunny day at Keys Park saw the game kick-off at a frenetic pace with Stafford willing to push forward at every opportunity as they had very little to lose by doing so. In the fourth minute, a fine pass from Steve Lyons set Russell Peake away from the Hednesford defence, only to fire his first-time shot narrowly wide of Chris Wood's goal

Four minutes later, the visitors though that they had been rewarded for their assertive start to the game as they had the ball in the net through Chris Rawlinson, who lobbed a bouncing ball beyond the reach of Wood from the edge of the penalty area and into the far corner of the net. Rawlinson's celebrations were cut short however as a late offside flag against him on the Wimblebury side ruled the goal out and awarded the relieved Pitmen a free-kick

The Pitmen had started dreadfully and were already getting cat calls from the terraces to pick up the pace and put pressure on their lower league opponents. A moment of comedy on ten minutes almost handed Stafford the initiative as Rawlinson's cross was inexplicably turned towards his own goal by the head of Meacham, only for the ball to drift narrowly wide of the far post before Peake could turn the loose ball home at the far post

Stafford finally get their noses in front in the thirteenth minute as another good move down the right flank saw Peake cross for Chris Curtis, who in turn steered the ball into the path of the incoming Danny Rochester to open the scoring from close range

The mood inside Keys Park darkened and Raynor was treated to a chorus of 'sacked in the morning' from the disgruntled supporters behind the Hednesford end of the ground. Davis did well to escape the attentions of Neil Walters on seventeen minutes to drift into the Stafford penalty area and strike a shot across the face of goal that drifted just wide of the far post

A succession of corner kicks from the Pitmen failed to break Stafford's resistance as they continually tried the same tactic of aiming to the near post and a flick-on from skipper Haran which the reds wised up to quickly

On twenty-eight minutes, a Stuart Lake free-kick was flicked on by Tom Griffiths and into the path of Graham Lancashire, whose shot was blocked by a last-ditch challenge from Walters

On the half-hour mark, the Pitmen got themselves back into the game as another spell of pressure on the Stafford goal finally bore fruit; another Lake free-kick was at the root of the move as the midfielder swung in a ball that forced Stafford keeper Robert Plant into a fine save down to his right. However, Plant was powerless to stop Davis pouncing on the loose ball and lashed home his first goal of the season with a first-time effort from the penalty spot

Stafford refused to let the Pitmen's equaliser change their positive mentality and continued to push forwards at will; a clever backheel from Rawlinson played Phil Skelton in on goal on thirty-three minutes, only for the wide midfielder to fire into the side netting with a shot from a tight angle after beating Wayne Simpson down the flank

A good run from Griffiths four minutes later saw him drift past Skelton and cross for Lancashire, whose fluffed shot ran kindly for Davis; the striker's first-time shot flashed just wide of Plant's left-hand post with the young Stafford keeper beaten

It had been an action-packed first forty-five minutes for both sets of supporters to witness with the Pitmen met with muted boos from their fans as the referee brought the first period to an end. The second half was to prove even more exciting as the game swung from one extreme to another in a short period of time

Stafford started strongly and struck once again five minutes after the restart; Rawlinson did well to hold off the attentions of Simpson as he took the ball forwards down the left flank. With no-one in white covering the space in behind the veteran defender, Rawlinson got into the Hednesford penalty area and cheekily lobbed the ball over the advancing Wood and into the far corner of the net to restore Stafford's lead

Once again, the mood was turning ugly inside Keys Park as Raynor's half-time team talk had been completely taken to pieces by a dynamic Stafford side that had thrown caution to the wind. Things turned even worse for the home side five minutes later as Stafford put clear daylight between the sides with a scarcely believable third goal; a loose ball inside the Hednesford penalty area was not dealt with by more dithering defending from the hosts to allow Peake to volley home from ten yards out

A shell-shocked Raynor responded with a double attacking change two minutes later, calling back Kevin Francis and Paul Bagshaw from warming up on the touchline to send them on in place of the struggling Simpson and Griffiths

The introduction of Francis was to prove a job-saver for Raynor as the big man got stuck in against the step four opponents who did not know how to deal with the former Birmingham striker's 6' 7" frame. The hosts started to pump long balls into the Stafford penalty area at every opportunity with a focal point to aim for as Francis won a number of flick-ons to bring his team-mates into the game

One such knock-down from Francis set Lake up on sixty-two minutes on the edge of the penalty area, only for the burly holding midfielder to drag his shot well wide of goal

Lake was involved again three minutes later as he picked up a Bagshaw pass and chipped an angled ball into the Stafford penalty area to Davis, whose first-time shot missed the target by a matter of inches at the far post

The Pitmen finally got themselves back into the game on sixty-six minutes as Francis grabbed an all-important goal for the hosts with his fourth goal of the season; a marauding run down the left from Richard Lucas saw him get to the byeline and pull the ball back into the path of Francis, who turned the low cross home from close range to make it 3-2

The Pitmen levelled matters on seventy-one minutes after another spell of pressure from the hosts saw them force three successive corners; the final corner from Stewart Airdrie was flicked on by Haran at the near post and into the path of Francis, who forced the ball home from close range as he beat Plant to the ball with a header. Plant collided with the far post and landed heavily inside his own net with Francis falling on top of him and was stretchered off after a lengthy bout of treatment, going off to generous applause from the crowd

Despite the blow of the Pitmen's double strike, Stafford continued to press and felt they should have been awarded two penalty kicks after separate incidents inside the Hednesford penalty area; on seventy-six minutes, Walters collected the ball inside the eighteen-yard box from Peake's pass and appeared to be climbed on by Lake as he tried to wriggle past him

 

A minute later, Walters was involved again as he made a dart into the box before being bundled over by Haran; the referee took a long, hard look at this challenge and dismissed Stafford's protests before the Pitmen cleared their lines

As the game entered the final ten minutes, the spectre of a replay at Marston Road was looking more and more likely as neither side looked capable of finding their way through to grab a winner. Jon Pickess had come on for the hosts with eleven minutes remaining as Davis's lack of match fitness started to catch up with him

Wood made an outstanding save to keep Hednesford in the competition on eighty-five minutes, tipping a shot from Lyons over the crossbar after the midfielder had picked up a loose ball following a clash between Rawlinson and Lake on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

The two sides traded free-kicks as the game headed into added time, before the Pitmen struck with virtually the last kick of the game deep into three minutes of additional time. A deep cross from Airdrie caught the Stafford defence ball watching which allowed Pickess enough time to react and turn the ball home at the far post for his first Hednesford goal. Amidst wild celebrations from the players, including a shirtless Pickess, Stafford chased the referee back to the centre circle, claiming that Pickess was offside when the ball was played. However, the protests fell on deaf ears and Stafford were forced to kick off once more before the game was brought to a halt seconds later before they could muster a response

An exciting finale had seen the Pitmen earn themselves a slice of luck at the end of the game with the award of Pickess's winner; it was also the third game in the last four at Keys Park that had witnessed six goals or more, so the home crowd could certainly not accuse the Pitmen of not producing value for money in recent times. It is also a win that eases the pressure on Raynor and Gavan Walker, whose jobs looked to be on a knife-edge at 3-1 down with only twenty-five minutes of the game remaining. They will find out who they will face in the next round on Monday lunchtime when the draw is made for the third qualifying round before Raynor's side return to league duty next weekend with a trip to in-form Bath City

Hednesford Town: Wood, Simpson (Francis 57), Lucas, Craven, Haran ©, Lake, Airdrie, Griffiths (Bagshaw 57), Lancashire, Davis (Pickess 79), Meacham      Subs Unused: Curtis, Jenkins

Stafford Town: Plant (Edensor 72), Skelton, Curtis, Walters, Holland, Tinkler, Lyons (Sheridan 66), Tilston (Brown 80), Rochester, Peake, Rawlinson       Subs Unused: Wallace

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