Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Durrell (1), (87) (penalty), Harvey (6), Francis (51)

Stocksbridge Park Steels

Joynes (67)

(2) 4

(0) 1



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Michael Lennon


AFC Fylde (A) 4.5.13

So, it will indeed go down to the final day of the season then, as Hednesford and North Ferriby both sealed home wins this afternoon to move onto ninety points and set up a straight shootout next weekend to clinch this year's Evo-Stik Premier League crown

Having come off the high of winning the Staffordshire Senior Cup in midweek, the Pitmen went in search of a crucial fifth win on the bounce to keep apace at the top of the table; Hednesford supremo Rob Smith once again selected the same XI that he had in the previous three games, with Francino Francis passed fit before kick-off after picking up a knock in the 5-1 win over Rushall Olympic on Wednesday night

Steels had been on a tremendous run of form in recent games, scoring freely in the last five games to secure their Evo-Stik Premier League status for next season in the process. They were left stunned, however, as the Pitmen made a barnstorming start to the game with two goals in the first six minutes

With the first attack of the game, Elliott Durrell made room for himself out on the left-hand side of the penalty area and unleashed a curling shot that took a slight deflection as it beat the outstretched hand of former Hednesford keeper Ben Scott and nestled into the far corner of the net

Buoyed by their early goal, the Pitmen put Steels under tremendous pressure in a dominant opening salvo, forcing a succession of corner kicks as they looked to prise open a nervy looking Stocksbridge defence once more

Six minutes in, they did so once more through Harvey, who grabbed a fortuitous seventeenth goal of the season. A flowing move opened up the Steels defence, with Harvey managing to poke a shot past the advancing Scott from eight yards out. The ball bobbled towards goal, and just had enough pace to go over the line, despite the best efforts of a Stocksbridge defender to clear his lines

With Stocksbridge at sixes and sevens, particularly in defence, the Pitmen fancied their chances of grabbing a clutch of goals as they looked to reduce the goal difference of ten goals between them and Ferriby at kick-off. Ben Bailey went close to adding a third goal three minutes later as he headed Kris Taylor's corner kick goalwards with a towering header, only to be denied by a block on the line

Bailey was involved again on seventeen minutes, leaping at the far post to meet a deep corner from Taylor, but could only divert his header wide of goal

Steels were struggling to contain the attacking threat of the Pitmen in the opening quarter, as Michael Lennon and Harvey were being well supported by a willing midfield, led once again by Jamey Osborne and Kris Taylor. Osbourne went close to adding to the Pitmen's total on twenty-one minutes, as a typically tricky run saw him beat three players before scuffing his shot just wide of Scott's post

A minute later, Dave MacPherson looped a header over the bar after connecting with Durrell's corner kick from the left-hand side

Stocksbridge compensated for their lack of ability by adopting an aggressive approach to the game, with both full-backs going into the book in quick succession for late challenges. Osborne, perhaps predictably, was the target for much of the aggression, as his wizardry was regularly halted illegally by Steels

The much-improved John Disney, who has taken his chance at right-back with both hands in recent weeks, went close to scoring his first goal for the club on thirty-eight minutes, as he raced forwards and clipped a shot from the edge of the penalty area just over the crossbar

Stocksbridge were reduced to ten men just before half time as their over-exuberant approach to the game finally caught up with them; midfielder Matt Telling - on loan from fellow Evo-Stik Premier League side Worksop Town - clattered Harvey with a knee-high, late challenge that left the striker in a crumpled heap on the floor. The referee immediately showed the former Huddersfield man a straight red card, with Harvey receiving lengthy attention on the pitch before being carried off. Aaron Rey was brought on in his place up front

The final act of a dominant first half from the home side saw Durrell get clear down the left, sending over a cross that veteran MacPherson fired over the crossbar

The second half started in much the same vein as the end of the first, as the hosts continued to dominate possession and carve out chances. A trademark long-range effort from Durrell on forty-seven minutes saw the Pitmen's top scorer strike a vicious shot that dipped just over the crossbar

Durrell turned provider four minutes later, as the Pitmen grabbed a deserved third courtesy of Francino Francis. Durrell's pin-point cross from the right was attacked by the big defender, six yards from goal - his bullet header gave Scott no chance as it flew past him from close range

With one eye on yet another cup final this coming week, Smith decided to give MacPherson a well-earned rest on fifty-seven minutes as he elected to give Nathan Woolfe a run against a tiring and overworked Stocksbridge defence

Steels rode their luck once again on fifty-eight minutes, as Hednesford struck the post twice in quick succession - firstly, Osborne's shot came back off the post, followed by a low shot from Durrell that clipped the same post

A difficult afternoon for the visitors got a whole lot worse on the hour mark, as young striker Danny South was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Osborne on the halfway line

The Pitmen countered this by taking Francis off and putting another striker on in the form of Kyle Patterson, as they searched for further goals to improve their goal difference

Despite the severe numerical disadvantage, Steels shocked Keys Park by getting a goal back on sixty-seven minutes; Will Senior broke clear of a hesitant Hednesford defence and fired towards goal, only to be denied by a fine save from Dan Crane. The ball broke kindly again for Senior, who rolled the ball across to substitute Nathan Joynes to tap into the empty net

The very healthy crowd of 706 thought they were celebrating a fourth goal for the Pitmen on seventy minutes, as Rey tapped home Durrell's cross, only to be denied by a tight offside decision from the linesman on the main stand side

To be fair to Steels, they continued to plug away with nine men, going close with two corner kicks that flashed across the face of the Hednesford goal

The game was finally put to bed on eight four minutes, as a handball in the area was spotted by the referee, who awarded the Pitmen a penalty. Durrell stepped up to send Scott the wrong way and continue his excellent record from the spot this season

The Pitmen felt they should have been awarded at least one other penalty in the closing stages, as firstly another blatant handball, followed by a foul on Rey, were waved away by the referee, despite strong protests from both players and fans

Ferriby's 1-0 win over Chorley cemented their place at the top of the tree at the final whistle, with the Villagers holding all of the aces with a home game against Ashton United next week. The Pitmen travel to play-off chasing Fylde on the same day, hoping for a slip up from the long-time league leaders as the destiny of this season's title goes right to the wire

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey , Francis (Patterson 63), MacPherson (Woolfe 53), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Rey 45), Lennon, Taylor      Subs Unused: Barnes, Melbourne

Stocksbridge Park Steels: Scott, Darker , Turner ▆ (Senior 85), Swirad, Haigh ©, Knowles, Coy (Bettney 63), Telling  (43), South   (60), Denton (Joynes 55), Callery       Subs Unused: Davis, Forbes-Swindells

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