Vanarama National League North

Hednesford Town

Tilt (16), Modest (76)

Stalybridge Celtic

Higgins (75)

(1) 2

(0) 1



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Curtis Tilt


AFC Fylde (A) 11.8.15

The Pitmen made a winning start to the new Vanarama National League North campaign this afternoon, as a goal in each half from two new boys sealed the win over Stalybridge Celtic at Keys Park

A summer of much change has seen the Hednesford squad completely ripped apart and rebuilt from scratch as manager Rob Smith looked to freshen up his options following last season's laboured finish. Only four men from last season's squad - Ben Bailey, Tom Thorley, Adam Thomas and Marvin Robinson - remained at the club, as Dave Parton, Tyrone Williams, Tom James, Curtis Tilt, Paul Ennis, Ahmed Obeng and Kennedy Digie all made their full debuts for the club

Stalybridge avoided the drop into the Evo-Stik Premier League on the last day of last season, with Liam Watson making his own major changes to the squad as he looked for an improvement in fortunes at Bower Fold. Barrow's title-winning goalkeeper Tony McMillan had joined the club, alongside a number of established step two players trusted by Watson to do a job for him. Former Hednesford striker Bohan Dixon was one of the players who had arrived in the summer after leaving Evo-Stik Premier League new boys Salford City

Thorley - who this week had re-signed for the club from AFC Telford United - went close to scoring the first goal of the league season in the fourth minute, firing just over the crossbar with a rising shot

A long throw from new skipper Ben Bailey two minutes later caused confusion in the Stalybridge ranks, with Thomas' attempt to turn the ball home snuffed out by a simple save by McMillan

Parton was called into action for the first time in the afternoon on ten minutes as he made a smart stop to hold a shot from the dangerous Chris Simm

Obeng thought he had opened his account for the Pitmen a minute later, as a through ball from Thomas was turned home by the pacy front man, only to be denied by an offside flag against him

The Pitmen's first goal of the new season duly arrived on sixteen minutes, as Tilt grabbed his first goal for the Pitmen; Bailey's long throw into the box saw McMillan flap at the ball and allowed Tilt to turn the ball home from close range

Celtic's Adam Farrell wasted a good chance to get his side back on level terms three minutes later, firing wide of goal via a deflection off James after being teed up at a corner

The Pitmen were dealt a huge blow just after the half hour, as the influential Thomas fell awkwardly on the turf and was taken off holding his arm. It later transpired the winger had chipped a part of his collarbone and would be looking at a significant lay-off. Mansfield loanee Chris Spencer came on in his place in midfield

Stalybridge looked to take advantage of the Pitmen's change of personnel by forcing a series of corner kicks, with one ball in on thirty seven minutes cleared off the line by former Celtic man Paul Ennis after Simm had lopped a header goalwards

McMillan partially atoned for his error for the goal by making a smart save from Spencer on forty two minutes, palming the ball away from goal from close range and following that with with a save to deny Obeng

The visitors came out with purpose in the early stages of the second half, and a cross-cum-shot from Peter Wylie was turned over the crossbar by Parton for a Stalybridge corner kick

At the other end, youngster Digie beat everyone to a deep Ennis corner on fifty-two minutes but diverted his effort over the crossbar

In an attempt to add more strength to the forward line, the Pitmen brought on Nathan Modest in place of Obeng on sixty four minutes

Tilt and Dale Wright both ended up in the referee's notebook on seventy minutes after a clash in midfield saw the pair indulge in a bout of afters

Spencer followed Tilt into the book three minutes later after he kicked the ball away in frustration following a free kick award to the away side

The game sparked into life in a dizzying sixty second spell with fifteen minutes of the game remaining. Celtic firstly got themselves back on level terms, as the Pitmen's old problems at set-pieces came back to haunt them. An Aiden Chippendale free kick found the head of Jack Higgins, who looped a header beyond the reach of Parton and into the net

Immediately from the restart however, the Pitmen stole the lead back through substitute Modest, who was played in by a superb through ball from Ennis. The striker curled a low shot beyond the reach of McMillan and found the far bottom corner of the net to register his first goal for the club

In an attempt to see the game out, the Pitmen brought on the adaptable Andy Todd in place of Ennis with twelve minutes left

There were hearts in mouths for the Pitmen with nine minutes left, as a Stalybridge corner kick flashed straight across the face of goal and away from danger

A great piece of skill from Modest two minutes later saw him turn his marker and send over a cross that Robinson turned goalwards, only to be denied via a deflection away from goal from Shaw

In added time, Bailey made a superb last-ditch black on the line to turn Alex Johnson's goalbound shot away from goal to keep the Pitmen ahead

So, three excellent points earned on the opening day gives the Pitmen a flying start to their new league campaign, with tough trips to big-spending AFC Fylde and Harrogate Town to follow this week as Rob Smith's side look to follow up today's win with a trip to title favourites Fylde on Tuesday night

Hednesford Town: Parton, T. Williams, James, Bailey ©, Tilt Thorley, Ennis (Todd 78), Thomas (Spencer 33 ), Robinson, Obeng (Modest 64), Digie      Subs Unused: S.Williams, Heath

Stalybridge Celtic: McMillan ©, Wylie, Chippendale, Hughes, Higgins, Shaw, Farrell, Wright ▆ (McKenna 64), Simm (Tames 69), Chalmers, Dixon (Johnson 78)      Subs Unused: Crowley, Hill