3.4.2017

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Glover (69)

Stourbridge

Benbow (84)

(0) 1

(0) 1

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486

Dan Crane

W W L W L D L W W D

Halesowen Town (H) 6.4.17

The Pitmen earn themselves a point against play-off chasing Stourbridge this evening at Keys Park to make it three games unbeaten in the Evo-Stik Premier League leaving them sitting in eleventh place in the table

It had been a good week so far for Gary Birch's side as they had followed up last midweek's win over struggling Ilkeston with a narrow win at another relegation-threatened side in the form of Mickleover Sports on Saturday. Birch made three changes to the side that had started at the Don Amott Arena with Lewis Wright replacing David McDermott down the right, Gavin Hurren coming in for Stuart McNaught in midfield and Danny Glover returning to the side up front in place of the luckless Tony Clarke

Gary Hackett's Stourbridge were once again having a consistent season towards the top of the NPL table, sitting third at the start of play after a 1-1 draw at fellow high-flyers Buxton on Saturday. Long-serving manager Gary Hackett stuck with the same XI that had started at Silverlands two days ago, making one change to his substitutes with striker Ethan Jones replacing Jacob Wedderburn amongst the substitutes. He was joined on the bench by former Hednesford loanee Kennedy Digie - on loan to the Glassboys from Kidderminster Harriers - whilst another more recent Hednesford loanee - Dan Preston - started in defence after he had linked up with the club on loan until the end of the season from AFC Telford United

On a cold April evening, it was the visitors who made the better start as Darryl Westlake and Tom Tonks linked up well in the third minute to set up club legend Leon Broadhurst, whose long-range effort took a nick off Ballinger before drifting just wide of Dan Crane's post

Four minutes later, the barrel-chested Tonks was involved again for the away side as he played a quickly-taken free-kick into the feet of Westlake, who in turn played a clever ball into the path of Kayleden Brown. The striker seemed to get caught in two minds as to what to do with the ball as he appeared to have more time than he initially thought, and ended up flicking the ball goalwards with a deft touch that clipped the outside of Crane's right-hand post

The Glassboys continued to have much the better of the opening quarter of the game as Brown went close again in the twelfth minute. One of Tonks's trademark long throws from the Wimblebury side found Brown on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area; the Hednesford defence backed off the former West Brom forward, who chested the ball down and fired in a low shot that Crane did well to get behind and hold on his line

The hosts were thankful to skipper Tom Thorley - recovering well from a knock at Mickleover on Saturday - in keeping them in the game on fifteen minutes as Tonks' deep corner kick was headed back across goal by the experienced Stuart Pierpoint before being headed off his own line by the Hednesford captain. The ball ended up back with Tonks, whose miscued effort was deflected straight into the hands of Crane by Brown

The Pitmen finally got their first effort of the evening at goal through Nadat four minutes later as the former Coleshill striker blasted a shot from eighteen yards just wide of Matt Gould's left-hand post after good play from Thorley

Midway through the half, Stourbridge almost earned themselves a slice of luck as Joe Ballinger's attempted clearance inside his own third took a huge ricochet off Blake Thompson and into the path of Jordan Archer, whose attempted shot at goal was well blocked by Mansfield Town loanee Bradley Peace-McDonald

Prestin headed well wide from a Tonks corner on twenty-nine minutes before a well-worked passage of play through midfield saw Broadhurst send Archer clear of the Hednesford defence four minutes later, only to be denied a shot at goal by a late offside flag

The Pitmen had been impotent going forwards, with Glover and Nadat feeding off scraps against a well-drilled Stourbridge defence. The closest the hosts were to come to anything resembling a chance in what had been a poor first-half display was a looping header from Ballinger over the crossbar after he had reached a drifting Darren Campion free-kick on thirty-five minutes

Campion himself was to have an eventful final few minutes to the first period, drilling a free-kick well wide of goal two minutes later before sparking a melee a couple of minutes before the break after clashing with Archer. The pair squared up to each other that instigated a bout of handbags from both sets of players, culminating in a yellow card apiece from the referee

The game continued in much the same vein at the start of the second period as Stour had the better of the possession and chances against a Hednesford side lacking in belief and quality. On fifty-one minutes, Westlake's free-kick was partially cleared by ex-Stourbridge man Hurren to Brown, whose recycled cross found Brad Birch at the far post. The midfielder beat Pierpoint to the ball but only managed to turn it into Crane's side-netting from a tight angle

The Pitmen continued to look short of ideas in the final third with Glover getting a rare sight at goal on fifty-four minutes with a long-range snap-shot that flew into the Heath Hayes terrace behind Gould's goal

Four minutes later, Broadhurst's pinpoint pass sent Birch way down the right flank, turning inside Campion and crossing towards Archer, only for the ball to drift away from the striker and harmlessly wide of goal

A long goal kick forwards from Gould on sixty-four minutes caught the Pitmen napping as the ball dropped kindly to Luke Benbow, who fired a dipping half-volley onto the top of Crane's crossbar from twenty-five yards out, despite Peace-McDonald's best efforts to block the shot

Preston went even closer to breaking the deadlock for Stourbridge three minutes later as Benbow stood up a cross to the far post which was headed back across goal by Pierpoint to his defensive partner Preston, whose downwards header came back off the foot of the post, with Archer just missing the ball as it rebounded towards him

Despite being clearly second-best in the game, the Pitmen somehow managed to make the breakthrough just a minute later; a goal kick from Crane dropped to Nadat, who laid the ball off to Remeao Hutton down the left flank. The talented teenager whipped in a low cross that was met by Glover, who moved quicker than anyone else to turn the ball past Gould from close-range with a stabbed effort

The Glassboys almost produced an immediate response with their next attack as another long throw from Tonks on seventy-one minutes was met by Preston, whose goalbound header was cleared off the line by the covering Campion

Two minutes later and with the Pitmen struggling to clear their lines, Broadhurst crossed from the right to find the dangerous Pierpoint, whose shot at goal from ten yards out beat Crane but was hacked off the line once more by Ballinger

Former Stafford Rangers man Kieran Westwood had come on for Preston at this point and went close to equalising for the visitors on seventy-six minutes with a looping header from Tonks' free-kick that beat Crane but also the crossbar

Despite hanging on for periods of the second half, the Pitmen almost put the game out of reach for the Glassboys on eighty-one minutes as Wright's long throw found Nadat lurking behind Richard Sho-Silva, beating the full-back to the ball and turned the ball goalwards, only to be denied by Gould at his near post

It would have been a disservice to Stourbridge if they took nothing from the game and they grabbed a deserved equaliser on eighty-three minutes; Hurren brought Tonks down in a dangerous position just outside the Hednesford penalty area, allowing Benbow to execute a superb dipping, serving free-kick beyond the reach of Crane and into the top corner of the net. A superb strike from the Glassboys' top scorer to bring them level once more

Before the game restarted, the Pitmen made their only change of the evening as youngster George Cater was given a late run-out in place of the tiring Wright

Stourbridge sensed a winner form the final minutes and pushed the home side back into their own third for much of the remainder of the game; Tonks fired well wide from an angle after being played through by an incisive Broadhurst ball on eighty-five minutes before substitute Jones dragged a good chance across the face of goal and wide two minutes later

In the final minute, Crane came to his side's rescue and made another fine save to deny Benbow after the striker had been played through on goal by Westlake's fine reverse pass into the Pitmen's penalty area

Cater's only contribution in the first minute of added time saw him shoot at goal with a low shot that was hacked clear by Pierpoint. The visitors went straight down the other end where Jones cut in from the right and crossed for Benbow, whose neat backheel found Westwood, only for Crane to once again deny the visitors with a timely block using his legs

It had been a keenly contested final twenty minutes, with both sides having chances to take all three points but having to settle for just the one. Stourbridge will feel that over the ninety minutes they had deserved the win, but wasteful finished and some stoic defending from the hosts saw them earn their share of the spoils, with Crane worthy of individual praise for his fine display. There is very little rest of Birch's side as the games come thick and fast, with Stour's local rivals Halesowen Town coming to Keys Park on Thursday night in a re-arranged league game

Hednesford Town: Crane, Wright (Cater 83), Campion , Thompson, Peace-McDonald, Ballinger, Hurren, Thorley ©, Glover, Nadat, Hutton       Subs Unused: Ransome, Martin, Brenan, Webb

 

Stourbridge: Gould, Sho-Silva, Westlake, Tonks ©, Preston (Westwood 72), Pierpoint, Brown (Jones 63), Broadhurst, Benbow, Archer , Birch (Cooke 72)      Subs Unused: Green, Digie

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