Skrill North

Hednesford Town

McCone (5), Durrell (53), Pearson (71), Woolfe (76) 

Stalybridge Celtic

Marsh (57)

(1) 4

(0) 1



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Dave MacPherson


Bradford (Park Avenue) (H) 17.12.13

The Pitmen impressively got their league campaign back on track this afternoon, downing Stalybridge Celtic in the process to complete a league double over their opponents and move back within a point of league leaders North Ferriby United

After an indifferent run of results in the past three weeks, which had seen the Pitmen drop to fifth place in the Skrill North table, manager Rob Smith felt it necessary to make a number of personnel changes to his squad for the visit of mid-table Celtic to Keys Park. John Disney returned to the side after illness, with Ben Bailey dropped after Tuesday night's defensive horror show against Harrogate Town. This saw Paul McCone switched to his more familiar centre back role. Dave MacPherson was also restored to the starting XI, replacing Kris Taylor in the centre of midfield as the Pitmen looked for bite and presence from their veteran schemer. Recent signing Ümit Eminoğlu missed out on a place in the squad, with Taylor and Bailey joining Alex Melbourne, Wayne Riley and Nathan Woolfe on a strong-looking bench

Stalybridge - beaten 4-0 at Bower Fold on the opening day of the season - have already made a managerial change this term, with the experienced Jim Harvey leaving the club after a poor run of results. Former players Keith Briggs and Andy Fearn have since steadied the ship at the full-time club, with Celtic looking towards a play-off spot after settling in mid-table since the management team's appointment in October

After making a flying start to Tuesday night's game, the hosts made a similarly positive start to this clash with an early opener through McCone. Ghosting in at the near post to meet a corner from the left, McCone's initial attempt was cleared off the line, before the big centre back seized upon the rebound to drive home from close range; it was McCone's first goal for the Pitmen since his October move from Stourbridge

Elliott Durrell - looking to get back on the goal trail after four games without a goal - picked up a loose ball just on the edge of the penalty area with twelve minutes gone, but dithered on the ball and allowed a covering defender to block his eventual shot

Another man looking for a goal to re-ignite his season was Neil Harvey, with the big striker guilty of wasting an excellent opportunity to break his duck on seventeen minutes. A long ball from Darren Campion dropped kindly into the path of Harvey, who had time and space to set himself but instead rushed his shot and fired over the bar from twelve yards out

A minute later, a deep swirling cross from Durrell on the left wing found the head of Jamey Osborne but he could only divert the ball wide of goal as the wind took it away from his reach

MacPherson was doing exactly as the manager had asked of him during the first half, blocking any runs from midfield from Stalybridge and breaking up a number of neat, incisive passing moves involving the likes of Prince Haywood and player/manager Briggs. He did, however, incur the wrath of referee Sian Massey on more than one occasion, after a succession of niggly challenges in the centre circle

Central midfield partner Tom Thorley was again impressing with his neat, tidy approach play, with the former Worcester man presented with a chance on the edge of the box by Durrell on the half-hour mark. However, Thorley wanted more time to decide on his shot and allowed Haywood to nick the ball off his foot

Thorley did eventually register a shot on goal on thirty-nine minutes, as his shot from twenty yards out flew just wide of goal with Stalybridge keeper Aaron Jameson scrambling across his goal

The final moments of the half saw Stalybridge enjoy what was arguably their best spell of the game as they forced four successive corner kicks from a nervy-looking Hednesford back line. Dan Crane was called upon to make a smart save to his right to deny Kristian Platt, as the big defender headed a left-wing corner goalwards

Half time, therefore, came as a bit of a relief to the Pitmen, who made a change at the break. Nathan Woolfe came on in place of Harvey, changing the shape of the team with Durrell moving inside to allow Woolfe to play in his natural position out wide

The hosts made a flying start to the second half, with Durrell ending his mini drought with aplomb to score his twenty-second goal of the season. Osborne did brilliantly down the left-wing, beating three players before cutting inside and laying the ball off to Durrell who as lurking ten yards from goal. Without breaking his stride, Durrell stepped forwards and drove a powerful shot past Jameson to find the back of the net and double Hednesford's advantage

However, the Pitmen's fragile confidence in defence came back to haunt them once again four minutes later. Francino Francis conceded a soft free-kick out on the Stalybridge right, and with the Hednesford defence still organising themselves, Tom Buckley swung in a free-kick that was turned home by Phil Marsh as he reacted quickest to the inswinging ball

Woolfe had started the half strongly, and his deep cross from the right-hand side on the hour mark saw the ball drop over the head of Platt and into the path of Durrell. He seemed a little surprised that the ball had dropped to him, and headed narrowly wide at the far post as he tried to react

After Paul Ennis had fired well over for the visitors, the Pitmen re-established their two-goal cushion on seventy minutes through loan striker Greg Pearson, who scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday night. A delightful cross-field ball from Thorley found Woolfe, who cut inside from the right and fired in a shot that looked destined for the far corner of the net. Jameson made a superb parry to deny the winger, but only succeeded in turning the ball into the path of Pearson, who turned the ball home from close range

With the game now in the Pitmen's hands, they could afford to make a double change with Wayne Riley and Taylor coming on for Pearson and MacPherson respectively

Woolfe capped an impressive cameo with a goal of his own with fourteen minutes remaining, as he lined up a free-kick twenty-five yards out. His swerving left-footed shot took a deflection off the wall and did enough to beat the despairing dive of Jameson at his far post

Hednesford could now play with freedom and pace, hitting a tired-looking Stalybridge defence on the break willingly in the final ten minutes. Taylor got on the end of a flowing move involving Riley, Durrell and Osborne, but allowed a covering defender to block his low drive from the edge of the penalty area

With two minutes remaining, a superb ball from Riley found Woolfe lurking at the far post. His powerfully struck shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Jameson, who made a smart stop to his left

As the game moved into added time, Durrell went close to adding to his tally with a curling shot that was turned around the post by Jameson, who was working overtime to keep his side from suffering a hammering

McCone almost book-ended his afternoon with another headed goal in the final minute of the game, nodding Woolfe's cross wide of goal at the near post

So, the Pitmen return to winning ways in style, with a number of impressive individual performances a feature of the team's play this afternoon. Bradford (Park Avenue) complete a Keys Park triple header on Tuesday night, with the Pitmen having a great opportunity to return to the top of the Skrill North table with a victory over their old Evo-Stik League foes

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, McCone, Francis, MacPherson (Taylor 72), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Woolfe 45), Pearson (Riley 72), Thorley      Subs Unused: Melbourne, Bailey


Stalybridge Celtic: Jameson, Bleau, McWilliams, Tunnicliffe, Platt ©, Haywood (Warburton 63), Pepper (Buckley 71), Briggs, Marsh, McConville, Platt (Ennis 54)       Subs Not Used: Tyler, Cookson


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