Nationwide Conference North

Hednesford Town

McMahon (83)

Stalybridge Celtic

Sykes (12)

(0) 1

(1) 1



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Lee Williams



Redditch United (A) 3.9.05

 Several missed opportunities denied the Pitmen all three points in this afternoon's Bank Holiday Monday clash against Stalybridge Celtic as the two sides share the points

The Pitmen had earned themselves a hard-fought point at struggling Gainsborough Trinity at the weekend, in a game they could have taken all three points from with a little more composure in front of goal. With this in mind, manager Chris Brindley made an attacking change to his side with Paul Szewczyk handed his first start of the season in place of Paul McMahon

Mid-table Celtic had finally got their Conference North season underway on Saturday as they recorded their first win of the season against Vauxhall Motors at Bower Fold. Manager John Reed made only one change to his side for today's trip down the M6 as Steve Smith was brought into the side in place of Scott Murcott. Former Hednesford favourite Mark Haran - who had signed for the club in the summer from Harrogate Town - was named as the Stalybridge captain upon his return to Keys Park

On a bright and sunny Monday afternoon and backed by an impressive Bank Holiday crowd of 816, the Pitmen looked to build on Saturday's battling draw at Gainsborough Trinity by starting the game well through Colin Hunter, whose drifting run down the left flank in the third minute saw him beat Grant Black and cross into the path of Andy Bell, who could not quite get to the ball as it skipped past him inside the Stalybridge penalty area

Three minutes later, Stalybridge striker Lee Ellington took the ball forwards into the Pitmen's half with a strong run at the retreating Hednesford defence but fired into the Heath Hayes terrace from twenty-five yards out

In the tenth minute, Tommy Whittle's long kick forwards was controlled well by Szewczyk thirty yards from goal. He turned past Haran and slotted the ball through to Bell, who unselfishly laid the ball off to Hunter with a square ball; the winger's left-footed drive flew just wide of goalkeeper Paul Pettinger's post from eighteen yards out

However, the Pitmen were to find themselves chasing the game two minutes later as Stalybridge grabbed the game's opening goal; Hunter's run down the left was halted by Black's challenge, with the game continuing despite Hunter's calls to referee Mr Mellor that he had been fouled by the full-back. Black found Ellington down the right flank with a rangy pass that the striker took past Mark Branch and crossed low into the penalty area, where Paul Sykes made a late run to dive in and head beyond the reach of Whittle from six yards out

The hosts struggled to produce a response after falling behind so early on in the game, with Williams going closest for the Pitmen in the sixteenth minute as his free-kick clipped the top of the Stalybridge wall and sailed into the Hednesford end of the ground for a corner to the hosts

Three minutes later, a quick break from Celtic saw Sykes play Neil Prince into acres of space down the left flank as Ross Adams was caught out of position momentarily. The winger took a touch before sending over a cross to the far post, where Whittle made a fingertip save to push the ball away from the presence of Scott Willis

Midway through the first half, Branch made a run deep into the Stalybridge half and played the ball into the feet of Szewczyk, who held off Haran's advances before turning and striking a rising shot at goal from fifteen yards out that Pettinger tipped over the crossbar for a Hednesford corner kick

A minute later, another long ball from Whittle a minute later was flicked on by Szewczyk into the path of strike partner Bell, whose low first-time effort was saved by Pettinger low down to his left-hand side

Szewczyk was guilty of wasting a good chance for the Pitmen on twenty-seven minutes as he played a one-two with Bell before nutmegging Black and entering the Stalybridge penalty area but tamely striking his shot straight at Pettinger when he perhaps should have made the former Rotherham United stopper work more for his save

At the other end, Stalybridge were content to play the Pitmen on the counter-attack and look to exploit the space in behind their two young full-backs, who were struggling to cope with the pace of Prince and Willis. A good run from former Lincoln City man Willis saw him leave Adams in his wake on thirty-one minutes, dancing past the full-back as he worked his way into the penalty area. He looked to do the same against Richard Teesdale, taking the ball across the face of the penalty area before Teesdale managed to get a toe on the ball and clear the danger

Bell was pulled back by an offside flag on the Wimblebury side three minutes later as his late dart into the Stalybridge penalty area to get on the end of a Williams pass was a little too keen for the assistant referee's liking

With nine minutes of the first period remaining, Teesdale was narrowly off target from a Williams corner kick as he headed the ball a foot or so wide of the far post after arriving late to meet the inswinging corner kick

Four minutes later, Rob Heath saw his low drive held by Pettinger once more after the midfield man had been teed up just outside the Stalybridge penalty area by a Williams pass

With the first half coming to a close, the hosts had two chances in quick succession to go into the break back on level terms; on forty-three minutes, Branch's clever chipped pass over the heads of the Stalybridge defenders found Szewczyk, whose shot was turned over the crossbar by Pettinger. Williams delivered another one of his fine corner kicks and found Barrow at the near post, but the Hednesford skipper's header was off-target

In added time at the end of the first half, Barrett set up his midfield partner Heath with an unselfish lay-off to the former Stafford man just inside the box, only for Pettinger to once again make the save to turn the ball away down to his right-hand side

The Pitmen could probably count themselves a little unlucky to be behind at the break, having created the better of the openings but had found Pettinger as his defence in good form to deny them

The hosts continued to harry their visitors in the early stages of the second half without success, as a forty-ninth-minute effort from Williams sailed into the Heath Hayes terrace after Barrett had won the ball in a fifty-fifty challenge with Barrie Keeling and played the midfield man into space just outside the Celtic penalty area

Branch's long throw on fifty-three minutes was cleared back to him by Black's header, giving the youngster another chance to cross from the left with a deep effort that clipped off the head of Haran and landed just wide of his own post for yet another Hednesford corner kick

Two minutes later, Ellington held off a vigorous challenge from Teesdale as he received a pass from Sykes down the right-hand side of the Hednesford penalty area; the striker turned past Teesdale but got his angles all wrong and drove his angled shot well wide of Whittle's left-hand post

Just before the hour mark, the Pitmen felt that they had a good case for a penalty kick as Barrett made a late run into the penalty area to get on the end of another fine pass from Williams before ending up on the ground after a challenge from Keeling. Mr Mellor took a long, hard look at the challenge but decided that no contact had been made and the game continued, despite the appeals of both Bell and Szewczyk

Despite the Pitmen looking the more likely to notch at this point, it was the away side who went within a whisker of doubling their lead on sixty-three minutes as James Turley's strong run and cross from the left found Ellington, who had got goal side of Barrow and headed goalwards, beating Whittle but seeing his effort come back off the crossbar

Two minutes later, Barrow stabbed a good chance wide of goal for the Pitmen after Branch's free-kick was only cleared as far as the defender, who was standing on the penalty spot but could only pull his effort wide of Pettinger's post

On sixty-seven minutes, the Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon as Paul McMahon came on for Hunter, who had struggled to get into the second half down the left-wing

The busy McMahon was straight into the action three minutes later as Bell missed an Adams cross that eventually fell to the substitute, who turned the ball onto his right foot as he wrong-footed Haran before firing narrowly wide of the post from twelve yards out

Bell went close to equalising for the Pitmen on seventy-five minutes as he created an opening for himself by drifting in from the right-wing, taking out Sykes as he entered the penalty area but driving his low shot just wide of Pettinger's far post. Close from the young striker

Four minutes later, the Pitmen's pressure on the Stalybridge defence saw them force successive corners out of the Celtic defence that was starting to show signs of wear and tear. A Williams free-kick was met by Barrow once more at the far post, but his goalbound effort came off the back of Chris Price and dropped wide of the post for another corner kick

On eighty minutes, a drifting cross from Adams was punched clear by Pettinger but only as far as Williams, whose volleyed effort flashed just wide of goal from fully twenty-five yards out

With the Keys Park crowd roaring them on, the hosts finally got the leveller that their efforts deserved on eighty-three minutes as Bell broke down the right as he escaped the attentions of Sykes and crossed to the near post; Pettinger did enough to push the striker's cross away from goal but could only parry it into the path of poacher McMahon, who turned the rebound home from close-range for his third goal of the season

Youngster Craig Marshall was brought on in place of Szewczyk before the game could restart as the home side rolled the dice with the introduction of the youth team striker

The remaining minutes of the game saw the Pitmen camped in the Stalybridge half of the pitch as they looked to capitalise on the late momentum handed to them with McMahon's goal; Barrow headed high over the crossbar from a Williams corner kick on eighty-seven minutes as Pettinger missed the ball at his near post and allowed the defender to flick the ball goalwards

In the final minute of normal time, Marshall was presented with a glorious chance to win the game for Hednesford as Bell's slide-rule pass played his strike partner in on goal, only for the Pitmen's number seventeen to pull his shot across the face of the Stalybridge goal and inches wide of Pettinger's right-hand post

As the game entered added time, Steve Brannan was brought on to see out the remaining minutes and add legs to the tiring midfield as he replaced Williams for the second game in a row

Despite having the better of the changes over the ninety minutes, the Pitmen had to be content with a second 1-1 draw in succession that maintains their sixteenth place in the league table after five games. The first month of the new season has certainly been a tough learning curve for Brindley and Steve Anthrobus, who will be pleased with their side's spirit so far this term but will be concerned about their inability to put the ball in the net when chances present themselves. Saturday sees the Pitmen make the short trip down to South Birmingham to face big-spending Redditch United at the Valley Stadium, which will reunite them with former players Ryan Young and Carl Palmer and former goalkeeping coach Phil Parkes

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Adams, Branch, Barrow ©, Teesdale, Williams (Brannan 90), Barrett, Heath, Bell, Szewczyk (C. Marshall 84), Hunter (McMahon 67)   Subs Unused: T. Marshall, Beckett

Stalybridge Celtic: Pettinger, Black, Sykes, Keeling, Haran ©, Price, Garvey, Willis, Ellington, Smith, Prince        Subs Unused: Field, Parr, Mulvaney, Murcott, Turley