29.3.2014

Skrill North

Stockport County

Hednesford Town

Anagho-Ntamark (12)

(0) 0

(1) 1

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Ben Bailey

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Brackley Town (H) 1.4.14

Hednesford Town kept themselves well within the Skrill North play-off picture this afternoon after completing a historic league double over fallen former Football League side Stockport County at Edgeley Park. This win leaves Rob Smith's men needing, in all probability, three more wins from their final six games to seal a place in the top five for the end of season lottery that is the play-offs

Having recorded back-to-back wins in the last fortnight at Colwyn Bay and at home to Workington, Smith's troops arrived at Stockport in confident mood as they looked to extend a winning run to three matches for the first time since January. Alex Melbourne (suspended) and Kris Taylor (ill) were the only players missing from the matchday squad, with the Pitmen able to call upon new loan signing Marvin Johnson for the first time since he linked up with the club in midweek following his switch from Kidderminster Harriers

Stockport's first season down at step two of the non-league pyramid has been another season of struggle, frustration and only brief glimpses of the club that was in League One as recently as 2009. Alan Lord's side had been plagued by inconsistency for much of the campaign, having already used over thirty players in their quest to find a blend that worked for them. The Pitmen went in search of their fifth league double of the campaign, having already seen off Bradford (Park Avenue), Colwyn Bay, Stalybridge Celtic and Histon during a superb campaign to date

It was the visitors who made the more confident start to the game, as Stockport seemed slow out of the blocks in the first ten minutes. Skipper Darren Campion swung over a dangerous cross from the left in the fifth minute, which was inches away from being turned into the net at the far post by the toe of Charlie Anagho-Ntamark

The Pitmen were rewarded for their bright start to the game with the opening - and subsequent winning - goal on twelve minutes. Johnson's impact on his new club was immediate, as his first real chance to run at Stockport right-back, Mark Lees saw him turn the defender inside out with a superb run from the halfway line to the goal line. His ball across the face of goal found Ntamark, who tapped home at the far post under pressure from Scott Duxbury

The Hednesford goal shocked County into life after their sluggish start to the game, with Ben Bailey coming into his own with a masterful display of defensive work to head, tackle and clear every ball that came near him

Indeed, it was Bailey who made a crucial interception just two minutes after the goal to take the ball off the toes of Iain Howard as the midfielder shaped to shoot

Bailey's defensive partner Paul McCone was in similarly dominant form, with the former Leamington man making a timely block to clear Howard's chested effort away following a corner kick from Jamie Milligan

Johnson continued to impress with his pace down the wing, switching flanks with Ntamark on twenty-eight minutes as the two wide players looked to get some joy out of  a different opponent on the opposite wing

Seven minutes later, a cross from Kristian Dennis was a matter of inches away from being headed goalwards by Howard, who escaped the attentions of McCone to get goal side of the centre back

Despite enjoying more of the possession, County were limited to one decent chance in the first half, which came with six minutes of the period remaining. Steven O'Halloran played the ball through to Dennis, who fired into the side netting with a low shot from a narrow angle

Having looked relatively comfortable in repelling the County attack in the first half, the Pitmen were given a severe test of their confidence and form in the early stages of the second half as the hosts came out fighting. Howard signalled Stockport's intent to get back into the game on fifty-three minutes as he fired just wide of Dan Crane's left-hand post

Bailey was again the man to deny County two minutes later, making a superb block to clear the ball away from Dennis after Duxbury pulled the ball back into his path

The Pitmen made the first of their three changes on fifty-nine minutes, as goalscorer Ntamark made way for Wayne Riley as the away side put another body into midfield to counter the growing Stockport threat

Three minutes later, former FC United of Manchester man Nicky Platt found a pocket of space for the hosts just outside the area but dragged his low drive wide of Crane's goal

Bailey almost capped a wonderful performance with what would surely have been a game-clinching goal on sixty-seven minutes; Johnson's deep free-kick from the right-wing was headed onto the crossbar by the centre back via a touch from County keeper Ian Ormson after Bailey had stolen in at the far post to beat his marker to the ball

With twenty minutes remaining, Paul Sullivan replaced the tiring Dave MacPherson in a move that saw Riley playing in a more withdrawn role in midfield

As County started to chase the game, the gaps appeared at the back and were very nearly exploited by the Pitmen on two occasions; firstly, a quick break down the right saw the ball played into the path of Sullivan, who tried to drive the ball across the face of goal and was denied by the foot of Ormson

From the resultant corner, Stockport looked to have cleared their lines until Jamey Osborne seized upon the ball and drove forwards, firing just wide with a powerful effort from range

In an attempt to hang on to their narrow advantage in the final few minutes, Smith made the bold decision to bring on a third centre back with eight minutes remaining as Francino Francis replaced the once-again excellent Tom Thorley

Another quick counter-attack from the Pitmen a minute later saw the hard-working Danny Glover presented with a chance following a fumble by Ormson, but the Hednesford new boy toe-poked his effort just wide of goal

There were loud shouts for a Stockport penalty on eighty-four minutes, as a mistake from McCone saw Rhys Oates played through on goal. Under pressure from McCone, Oates went to ground, but the referee felt that the substitute had gone down too easily and waved play on

Lees wasted Stockport's final real chance of the game with a minute remaining, firing high and wide into the Cheadle end from a decent position just outside the area

A second consecutive clean sheet for the Pitmen then, and a third successive win that keeps them in strong contention for a top-five finish come the end of the season. A pivotal week in the race for the league title and play-offs starts on Tuesday night when fellow play-off chasers Brackley Town visit Keys Park, whilst fellow contenders Altrincham and Boston United meet at Moss Lane and Guiseley host AFC Telford United

Stockport County: Ormson, Lees, Duxbury, Milligan ©, Charnock (Fagbola 24), O’Halloran, Moke (Churchman 78), Platt (Oates 65), Dennis, Jevons, Howard      Subs Unused: Payne, Moses

 

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, McCone, MacPherson (Sullivan 70), Osborne, Johnson, Glover, Anagho-Ntamark (Riley 59), Thorley (Francis 82)       Subs Unused: Robinson, Lennon

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