Nationwide Conference

Hednesford Town

Davis (1)

Stevenage Borough

Illman (19)

(1) 1

(1) 1



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Mark Haran



Yeovil Town (A) 28.8.01

The Pitmen finally get their first point on the board for the new season with a hard-fought draw against another one of the title favourites in the form of Stevenage Borough at Keys Park this afternoon

Two defeats in the opening week of the season had left the Pitmen feeling flat after giving a competitive display against Rushden & Diamonds on Monday night but coming up short in a 3-2 defeat at Keys Park. Manager John Baldwin made one change to the side that given a spirited display in midweek, bringing young winger Paul Bagshaw into the first XI in place of fellow youngster Jake Sedgemore

 Stevenage arrived at Keys Park off the back of an unbeaten first two games to their season, drawing with Scarborough on the opening day at Broadhill Way before beating Forest Green Rovers at the Lawn on Wednesday night. Manager Paul Fairclough made one change to the side that had started in midweek, replacing the injured Robin Trott with Rob Miller as he looked to continue his side's bright start to the Conference season and push on towards another title challenge

It was the Pitmen who were to make a sensational start to the game as they swept into the lead inside the first forty seconds of the game; the ball was worked back to goalkeeper Mark Gayle, whose long ball forwards was flicked on by Micky Norbury and missed by Mark Smith. which let in Neil Davis who drilled the ball past Stevenage keeper Paul Wilkerson with a low angled drive into the far corner of the net

The visitors came straight back at Hednesford and could have been level in the sixth minute after a period of pressure which saw Mark Graham shoot from the edge of the area, only to be denied by a tip over the crossbar by Gayle

A minute later Hednesford should have doubled their lead as another route one ball forwards, this time from Russell Bradley, found Davis in behind the 'Boro defence once more only for the striker to lift his attempted lob over the head of Wilkerson and onto the roof of the Stevenage net

Gayle almost blotted his copybook in the thirteenth minute as he misjudged a right-wing cross by Neil Illman and allowed the ball to fall to striker Adrian Clarke at the far post. The summer signing from Southern headed back across goal and towards the corner of the net, but was denied by a fine recovering save from Gayle as he managed to get back into position to deny Clarke a certain goal

Stevenage levelled matters once more in the nineteenth minute as Illman was allowed to roam down the right and was given far too much room, to fire past Gayle with a left-footed drive which flew into the top corner of the net from the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

Val Owen did well to win the ball in midfield from Graham on twenty-four minutes and supply Davis with a fine pass thirty yards from goal. Davis turned and played striker partner Micky Norbury in towards the Stevenage goal, only for the burly forward to lose his footing at the crucial moment and allowed Wilkerson to claim the bouncing ball

Norbury and Davis linked up well together again two minutes later as Davis beat the visitor's offside trap to get on the end of a Norbury pass down the right. He looked up to see Bagshaw in loads of space and whipped the ball over to the young winger, but the young forward lifted his shot over the crossbar

On the half-hour mark, lllman was handed a golden chance to score when yet again the Hednesford defence failed to learn their lessons from the goal as they left the striker in far too much space to collect a pass from Clarke before turning and firing narrowly over Gayle's crossbar from only ten yards out

A minute later, home left-back Lee Colkin pulled up holding the back of his leg with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. He was tended to by Don Drakeley before being taken off and was replaced by Scott Bonsall. This saw a shift in the Pitmen's formation with veteran Neil Pointon moving out to left-back to cover for the loss of Colkin

Good play from Illman saw him turn provider for Kofi Nyanah on thirty-four minutes, holding off the attentions of Mark Haran before playing the ball 'round the corner' to the onrushing midfielder. Nyanah took a couple of touches before firing just wide of goal as Pointon looked to shut him down on the edge of the penalty area

Three minutes later a drifting free-kick from Matt Smith dropped onto the head of Paul Armstrong, whose nod down to Clarke was smuggled away by some desperate Hednesford defending inside their own six-yard box before Clarke could pounce

With half-time approaching, Gayle was called upon to field two efforts from the visitors on forty-two minutes as he punched away an inswinging fre-kick from Smith, followed by a smart save to claim the ball ahead of a sliding challenge from Armstrong

Former Eastwood man Bonsall's participation in the game was to last only fifteen minutes as he twisted his knee in a challenge with Nyanah right on half-time and was carried off the pitch after a spell of treatment

The Pitmen were once again forced into a personnel change at the break, as Bonsall was replaced at the base of midfield by fellow youngster Scott Goodwin 

Goodwin was straight into the action a couple of minutes after the restart, playing a fine through ball to Bagshaw in the inside left position of the Stevenage penalty area with an incisive pass through a tight gap in the Boro defence. Bagshaw adjusted his body to take the shot first time, but lifted his curling effort over the crossbar from twelve yards out

Illman - a constant threat to the Pitmen with his pace and trickery  - was once again afforded time down the right on forty-nine minutes to get his shot away just on the corner of the Hednesford penalty area, only for the excellent Haran to get back and block his effort with a smothering cover tackle

Great play from Ryan Kirby saw him skip past two challenges down the Stevenage right on fifty-four minutes and cross fro Armstrong, whose goalbound effort was saved by Gayle. An earlier offside flag against the striker would have denied him any goal, however, as he had made a move too early to reach the cross

As the game reached the hour mark, Norbury got behind the Stevenage defence after being played through by Mark Cooper but his shot was blocked by Smith who had raced across and snuffed out the Hednesford striker's attempt on goal from an acute angle

Both Norbury and Smith found themselves in the referee's notebook within a minute of each other for separate challenges; Norbury was the first to be cautioned when he appeared to catch Smith with his elbow on sixty-five minutes, shortly followed by Smith who was booked for upending Davis on the edge of the Stevenage area

In the seventy-first minute, Hednesford's man of the match Haran lifted an ambitious long-range shot just over Wilkerson's crossbar after a Bagshaw free-kick was only cleared as far as the centre-back by the visitor's defence

The home side could sense a winner and a first win of the season as they continued to push forwards; Davis went close on seventy-four minutes as he broke into the box to pick up a pass from Cooper, but he saw his attempt take a wicked deflection off the heel of Kirby and drop just wide of goal for a Hednesford corner kick

Stevenage responded with a quick break down the left wing that saw Illman once again involved on seventy-nine minutes, selling Bradley a dummy before crossing into the Hednesford six-yard box where no-one in blue had the presence of mind to turn the loose ball home from close-range

With nine minutes remaining a great ball played by Cooper to Davis saw the Pitmen's number nine cut inside from the wing and unleashed an angled shot that was well saved by an alert Wilkerson at his near post

Both sides had chances to win it in a frenetic two minutes spell on eighty-six minutes as Ian Robinson dragged a good chance wide for the hosts before Stevenage earned a free-kick down in the right-hand corner of the pitch that was swung in by Graham and headed over by Smith

With a minute of normal time remaining, Owen was taken off in place of the younger legs of Sedgemore for the remainder of the game in the centre of midfield

In the first minute of stoppage time, Cooper was denied a late winner for the Pitmen as he slid the ball past Wilkerson from a delightful Norbury pass, only for a late offside flag on the main stand side to deny the Hednesford skipper

A draw had been a fair reflection of the ninety minutes of action, with the two sides fairly evenly matched and unable to force home what would have been a barely-deserved three points. It's a first point on the board for Baldwin's men that gives them confidence to take on yet another one of the league's big-hitters on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon as they continue to navigate their nightmare set of opening fixtures with a trip to Yeovil Town's Huish Park

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Bradley, Pointon, Colkin (Bonsall 31 (Goodwin 45)), Haran, Owen (Sedgemore 89), Cooper ©, Robinson, Davis, Norbury , Bagshaw     Subs Unused: Brown, Carney

Stevenage Borough: Wilkerson, Kirby, Miller, Smith , Bunce, Wraight, Nyanah, Graham, Clarke, Armstrong, Illman      Subs Unused: Hockton, Duckett, Abbott, Taylor, Harrison