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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

King (15)


Stalybridge Celtic

(1) 1

(0) 0



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Danny Racchi




Gainsborough Trinity (A) 19.4.19

The Pitmen officially clinched their place at step three for next season as they shrugged off last week's defeat at South Shields with a win over Stalybridge Celtic at Keys Park


Nicky Eaden's side had seen their six-game unbeaten run ended by title contenders Shields last weekend to leave them still requiring a win to confirm their participation at this level for 2019-2020. Eaden was able to welcome back Javan Vidal after the utility man had missed the past two games through injury, with the experienced player coming back into the side in place of Matt Curley. Defender Danny Lupano - who had spent time out on trial at Hull City and Wigan Athletic - also made a surprise return to the side after both Charlie Gatter and Jon Moran had failed to pass fitness tests


Stalybridge arrived at Keys Park in indifferent form, having lost their last three games in the Evo-Stik Premier League. Indeed, the Celts had lost eight of their last nine league games since the end of January with their only win coming last month at Scarborough Athletic, leaving Simon Haworth's side sitting in an uneasy position of sixteenth in the table going into today's game. Haworth named former Hednesford loanee Michael Howard in his starting line-up, whilst leaving his other former Keys Park loan man Dan Cockerline on the substitute's bench as he looked to earn the points required to lift themselves away from the dreaded drop zone


It was a lovely sunny day at Keys Park, despite the temperature being a little on the low side. The visitors made a decent start to the game, playing some neat, incisive football in the opening ten minutes. It was Howard who struck the first shot in anger for the Celts in the seventh minute, as a throw-in from Joshua Soloman-Davies was laid into the path of the forward by Scott Bakkor. Howard tried his luck with a dipping effort from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area that narrowly cleared Jake Weaver's crossbar


The Pitmen's first real effort on goal lead to what was to be the only goal of the game on fifteen minutes, as a long throw from skipper Ben Bailey once again proved an effective weapon from the right wing; the defender's propelled effort was flicked towards goal by Reece King, doing enough to beat Paddy Wharton in the Stalybridge goal with a glanced effort that found the far corner of the net


The Pitmen were indebted to on-loan keeper Weaver on twenty-three minutes, as the Birmingham City youngster made an outstanding save to keep the hosts in front. Howard did well to wriggle past challenges from both Ben O'Hanlon and Bailey before clipping the ball to the back post to find Bakkor. The forward had the simple task of sidefooting the ball home from six yards out, but scuffed his effort into the ground and allowed Weaver to palm the ball over the crossbar with a superb one-handed stop


Both sides struggled to create any further openings in a quiet second quarter of the game, with the two midfields cancelling each other out. Danny Racchi was once again in fine form for the home side, ably assisted by King as the Pitmen kept themselves in front at the half-time break


Sweeney gave the Pitmen an issue with the first action of the second half, as he was shown a red card on fifty minutes after a tussle with Glenn Rule in midfield. The referee consulted with his assistant on the main stand side before showing the striker a red card for an alleged elbow on the midfielder. The striker refused to leave the field despite his dismissal and was escorted off by Eaden before disappearing up the tunnel. A poor lack of composure from the on-loan player who had walked the disciplinary tightrope on more than one occasion this term during his two loan spells


The visitors tried to take advantage of their extra numbers as they dragged the Pitmen around the pitch on fifty-seven minutes, culminating in veteran left-back Gareth Roberts playing in Bakkor. The forward tried his luck from just outside the Hednesford penalty area with a dipping shot that Weaver saw over his crossbar


Another effort from Bakkor on sixty-three minutes saw a low drove from the former Marine man deflect off the leg of Racchi and towards Cockerline, only for O'Hanlon to be alert to the danger and beat the gangly striker to the loose ball and clear his lines


Cockerline lifted a long-range effort high over the crossbar on sixty-eight minutes, before the Stalybridge substitute missed his best chance to level matters nine minutes later; Greg Wilkison's low cross from the left found Cockelien in the six-yard box, but the Southport loanee fluffed his lines with a tame touch into the grateful hands of Weaver when he should really have tested the keeper more severely


The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon with eleven minutes remaining, as an exhausted Kieran Wells was replaced up front by new boy Andre Wright


Cockerline continued to have the away side's best chances to find an equaliser, turning a cross from Elliott Cooke narrowly wide of the near post after nipping in ahead of Bailey to meet the ball in

With three minutes remaining, man of the match Racchi was withdrawn in favour of the more defensively-minded Curley as the home side looked to close the game down and see out the win, which they achieved without any real challenge from a Stalybridge side devoid of any ideas in the final third for the last few minutes


Another hard-earned win for the Pitmen and one that finally puts enough points between themselves and twentieth placed Bamber Bridge in the final relegation spot to allay any lingering fears of the drop. Good Friday sees the Pitmen travel to play-off contenders Gainsborough Trinity before they end the campaign at Witton Albion in a fortnight's time for essentially a dead rubber


Hednesford Town: Weaver, Vidal, O'Hanlon, Harvey, Lupano, Bailey ©, Racchi (Curley 87), King, K. Wells (Wright 79), Sweeney  (50), B. Wells        Subs Unused: Hallahan, Reid, Fox


Stalybridge Celtic: Wharton, Soloman-Davies, Roberts (Cooke 73), Tongue, Smalley ©, Wolfenden, Wilkinson, Rule (Cockerline 60), Lees, Howard, (Kengni 80) Bakkor      Subs Unused: McLaughlin, Winterbottom

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