Vanarama Conference North

Hednesford Town

Glover (32)

Stockport County

Ryan (67)

(1) 1

(0) 1



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Ben Bailey


Hyde (A) 9.9.14

Another week, another patched up Hednesford side for Rob Smith to contend with, as the Pitmen earning a hard-fought point over Stockport County this afternoon at Keys Park with a spirited display

Last week's defeat at AFC Fylde had brought to light the Pitmen's injury problems, with several players forced to play out of position in the 3-1 defeat. Another week on, it was much the same for exasperated manager Rob Smith, who welcomed back Tom Thorley, Paul McCone and Paul Sullivan, but was missing Kris Taylor and Francino Francis after the experienced duo were ruled out due to niggling injuries. Steve Diggin was no closer to returning from his long-term injury, with Glenn Walker also way off in his rehabilitation after breaking his leg at Gloucester City. In an attempt to combat the crisis, Smith had made a move into the market once more, bringing in veteran former Walsall and Hartlepool defender Chris Westwood from Rushall Olympic and former Walsall and Hereford midfielder James McQuilkin to pad out the thinning squad

Stockport had strengthened their side during the summer months, making a good start to their second year at step two following the shock of losing their Conference Premier status in 2013. The experienced Jamie Milligan was named as the anchor in Hatters' side that also included former Aston Villa defender Stephen O'Halloran and ex-Hednesford winger Nathan Woolfe amongst their substitutes

It was a strong start from the visitors, who went close to taking an early lead through midfielder Jack Ryan. Milligan's corner on two minutes was floated to the far post, where Ryan had been left unmarked. The ball landed favourably at his feet, but Ryan somehow managed to sidefoot wide of goal with the goal at his mercy

Stockport's quick, incisive passing game - manufactured by the cultured Milligan - gave the Pitmen real problems in the opening ten minutes, with new boy Westwood alert to one such move as he slid in to deny Scott Spencer a shot on goal

Spencer again tried his luck on fifteen minutes, attempting a chip over Crane from an angle but clearing the crossbar in the process

The Pitmen had enjoyed plenty of the ball in the opening quarter of the game, with the returning Thorley prominent in midfield alongside the hungry-looking Jamey Osborne, but were struggling to create openings for Marvin Robinson, Danny Glover and the hard-working Tom Peers

Indeed, it was Stockport who went closest to opening the scoring on twenty-two minutes, as Milligan's cross was headed goalwards by former Bury midfielder Richie Baker. Crane did brilliantly to tip Baker's header onto the crossbar, with Ryan again guilty of fluffing his lines on the rebound by turning the ball wide of goal

The Pitmen's injury curse struck yet again a minute later, as Robinson was forced off to join messrs Taylor, Francis, Walker and Diggin on the sidelines. New signing McQuilkin came on in his place, slotting into midfield and allowing the Pitmen tom play with Glover and Peers up front and have the extra man in midfield

This enforced move seemed to suit the home side, as they looked more solid playing a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation. This was evident on thirty-two minutes as they took the lead with their first real shot on goal. Peers made a great run down the left-wing, getting in behind the Stockport defence. His low drive was well parried by Danny Hurst in the Stockport goal, with the rebound dropping at the feet of Glover. Still with a lot of work to do, Glover did brilliantly to adjust his body and lift the ball back over Hurst from a tight angle and into the net for his fourth goal of the season

Osborne - once again hacked down at regular intervals and given no protection from a weak referee - showed his frustration at another decision going against him on thirty-six minutes after he had handled the ball, and was promptly booked

With three minutes remaining in the first half, Alex Melbourne went close to doubling the Pitmen's advantage, as the right-back seized upon a blocked McQuilkin shot and fired in a low shot that Hurst did brilliantly to turn away from goal

Having wasted a number of excellent opportunities in the first half, Stockport made a half time substitution up front with last year's top scorer Kristian Dennis coming on for the disappointing Spencer

Hurst had to be on his mettle early in the second half to make a smart save from the excellent Ben Bailey after the Hednesford centre back had fired the ball back across goal from a corner kick

Stockport's response came via Ryan two minutes later, with the midfield man driving his shot into the side netting as he tried his luck from range

The Pitmen should have extended their lead on fifty-five minutes through Peers, who again managed to get in behind the Stockport defence. Unlike his well-taken goal against Solihull Moors from a similar position, Peers failed to get the better of the goalkeeper on this occasion, with Hurst making a smart save in a one-on-one situation

They were made to pay for missing this gilt-edged chance, as Stockport deservedly equalised two minutes later. It was perhaps unsurprising to the weary old Hednesford supporter that the leveller came from a set-piece, as Milligan floated a corner kick to the far post where Ryan rose unchallenged to powerfully head home

Buoyed by this, Stockport enjoyed a fifteen-minute spell of pressure that should have seen them take the lead on several occasions. Bailey and Westwood were severely tested by the quality of Milligan's play, constantly probing and plotting with clever, incisive balls and impressive leadership qualities

With twenty minutes left, Dennis was presented with a glorious chance to put Stockport in front for the first time in the afternoon as Milligan's through ball put the striker clear, but a lack of composure from the substitute saw him fire well wide when he really should have tested Crane

The Pitmen reacted through the on-loan Peers on seventy-four minutes, who got on the end of Melbourne's low cross from the right and flicked the ball goalwards, only to be denied by another good save from Hurst at his near post

With no real options on the substitute's bench, Smith resisted the temptation to make any further changes to his side in the last ten minutes of the game. Woolfe did make a late appearance for County, coming on with five minutes remaining to replace Baker in midfield

An entertaining encounter finished all square after the poor referee had two added minutes, with neither side in a position to claim they could, or should, have taken all three points from the game. Once again, the Pitmen could be happy with their spirit and team ethic in the face of an injury crisis, but two familiar issues again counted against them - a lack of penetration up front and poor defending at set-pieces left them sitting in sixteenth place in the table at the end of play. A trip to basement club Hyde on Tuesday night offers the Pitmen an ideal opportunity to get their away campaign on track after an indifferent start on the road in the early stages of the season

Hednesford Town: Crane, Melbourne, Campion ©, Bailey, Westwood, Thorley, Osborne , J. Hurst, Glover, Robinson (McQuilkin 23), Peers       Subs Unused: Ashmore, Melvin, McCone, Sullivan

Stockport County: D. Hurst, Belezika (Sharp 52), Duxbury, O’Halloran, Gregson, Lees, Churchman, Baker (Woolfe 85), Spencer (Dennis 45), Milligan, Ryan       Subs not used: Lofthouse, Ormson

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