21.3.2015

Vanarama Conference North

Tamworth

Hibbert (64), (79), (82)

Hednesford Town

Hurst (44)

(0) 3

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

1,274

Dan Crane

W W W W W L W L L L

Oxford City (H) 28.3.15

A patched-up and unfamiliar Hednesford side crashed to defeat in today's big Staffordshire derby, despite taking the lead just before half-time through James Hurst before allowing Dave Hibbert to plunder a second-half hat-trick to seal the points for Tamworth

Last week's defeat against old foes North Ferriby United had come at a cost for Hednesford manager Rob Smith, who was without more of his senior players for today's crucial play-off six-pointer; veterans Chris Westwood and Marvin Robinson were both judged to be not fit enough to start the game and were dropped to the bench, whilst skipper Darren Campion was also dropped to the bench as punishment for picking up a straight red card in last weekend's game. Smith had been busy bringing in a defensive reinforcement during the week, signing young Kidderminster Harriers centre-back Jordan Tunnicliffe on loan until the end of the season; Tunnicliffe was one of three changes to the team that had started last weekend's defeat as he replaced Westwood, whilst Lloyd Kerry returned to the starting XI in place of Campion. The final change saw Steve Diggin come back into the side up front in place of Robinson

Tamworth's run of phenomenal run of form in December and January had lifted the Lambs away from mid-table obscurity and into a play-off push, with player/manager Andy Morrell's side sitting in fourth place in the table ahead of play today. Morrell made four changes to his XI from the one that had started their last game, a 2-0 defeat at Colwyn Bay last weekend, as former Hednesford loanee Phil Trainer, Jon Adams, Connor Taylor and Hibbert replaced Javan Vidal, Josh Sampson, Kayden Jackson and ex-Hednesford striker Reece Styche respectively

With both sides flying high towards the top of the table and only sixteen miles separating them, a good 1,200 plus crowd gathered at the Lamb to witness what was likely to be a keenly contested derby match. Ninety seconds on the clock, Tunnicliffe went close to a dream debut goal as he headed a free-kick from Lloyd Kerry against the woodwork as he made a late run to the far post to head goalwards. The ball ran to Thomas, whose follow-up shot also came back off the post before referee Mr Gibbons stopped the game for an earlier foul in the build-up

The hosts responded through a break down the left from Trainer in the fifth minute, taking the ball past Kerry and crossing for Hibbert, whose scuffed shot failed to test Crane from twelve yards out as he drove a weak shot wide of goal

Another set-piece from the Pitmen in the ninth minute saw Tom Thorley play a short corner to Hurst, whose out swinging cross was headed into the Tamworth fans behind the goal by Ben Bailey

Tamworth goalkeeper James Belshaw made a fine save to deny Steve Diggin in the thirteenth minute as a mazy run from Jamey Osborne saw the midfielder drift past Shane Clarke before playing the ball to Thorley, whose wonderful pass found Diggin on the left-hand corner of the penalty area; the striker's curling shot at goal was palmed away by the former Nuneaton man for a Hednesford corner

A flowing move down the right flank from the Pitmen three minutes later saw Hurst play Osborne into space, only for the midfielder to take a touch too many as he entered the Tamworth penalty area and allowed Lee Smith to clear the danger

Dan Crane made a wonderful instinctive stop to deny the in-form Leon Mettam in the nineteenth minute as a cross from Taylor was volleyed towards goal by the lively striker, forcing the Hednesford goalkeeper into a superb reflex save to his right to turn the ball away and prevent a certain goal for Mettam

Midway through the half, Glenn Walker's run down the left saw him get the better of Sean Wilkins and get to the byeline, pulling the ball back into the path of Nick Rushton, whose shot was blocked by the covering Jon Adams on the edge of the Tamworth penalty area

A superb move from the hosts on twenty-five minutes saw Clarke and Hibbert link up well to open up the Hednesford defence, playing Mettam into space just outside the penalty area; his quick turn saw him beat Tunnicliffe but his curling shot dipped just over the crossbar with Crane rooted to the spot

Hurst was lucky to escape a booking on twenty-eight minutes as he felled Mettam in full flight to the left of the Hednesford penalty area, earning himself a talking-to from Mr Gibbons. Kevin Thornton's resultant cross was headed goalwards by Clarke, only for the Pitmen to clear their lines through Bailey's no-nonsense clearance

Just after the half-hour mark, a brave stop from Crane denied Mettam a shot at goal after the former Worksop Town striker had broken clear once more to reach a flick-on from Hibbert, clashing with the Hednesford goalkeeper as they both went for the ball. Crane came away with the ball but Mettam was left in a heap inside the penalty area, requiring a lengthy bout of treatment before he could return to the field of play

Another fine free-kick from Thornton on thirty-five minutes saw the winger whip in a free-kick from the left that took a nick off the boot of Bailey and ended up drifting just wide of Crane's right-hand post

A free-kick at the other end from Kerry was headed up in the air by Tunnicliffe on forty minutes, forcing Belshaw into making a punch away from danger to deny Rushton a chance from six yards out

Two minutes later, Crane denied Hibbert as the striker got past Bailey and got his shot away at goal from fifteen yards out, forcing the stopper into a save down to his right-hand side to hand Tamworth another corner kick. Thornton's resultant corner was punched back to him by Crane, with the former Wrexham man bringing the ball inside and attempting a curling shot over Crane's head as he attempted to get himself back in position but struck his effort over the crossbar

The Pitmen struck the game's opening goal right on the stroke of half-time as former Tamworth loanee Kerry delivered a superb corner kick into the Lambs box, finding the head of Hurst who thundered a header beyond the reach of Belshaw from close-range

Kerry picked up the game's first booking deep into first-half added time as brought Clarke down to stop the former Lincoln City midfielder from breaking through midfield and was shown a yellow card by Mr Gibbons

The Hednesford supporters cheered their players off after another forty-five minutes of tremendous character and determination, making light of their injury issues once more and striking at the perfect time to change both manager's respective half-time talks in the process

Tamworth, as expected, came out of the traps quickly at the start of the second half, with Mettam striking the first chance at goal on fifty minutes as a long pass from Adams bounced over the head of Tunnicliffe and into the path of the striker, whose angled drive from twelve yards out was beaten away by the outrushing Crane

Thornton was the second player of the afternoon to receive a booking from Mr Gibbons on fifty-four minutes as he was shown a yellow card for deliberately handling the ball on the Hednesford right flank to stop Thomas from breaking past him

Three minutes later, the ever-willing Mettam picked up a pass from Adams and turned past Bailey once more, but his snapshot from the right-hand side of the penalty area drifted wide of Crane's left-hand post

You felt that an equalising goal was coming as Tamworth laid siege to the Hednesford defence in search of a crucial leveller. On the hour mark, Mettam controlled a pass from Trainer and clipped the ball through to Hibbert, whose first-time shot cleared Crane's crossbar from fifteen yards out as Walker looked to close him down

Hibbert was not to be denied, however, and levelled the game once more on sixty-four minutes as a long throw from Tom James on the left bounced twice and all too easily found Hibbert in the Hednesford penalty area, with the former Shrewsbury Town man turning the hapless Bailey with ease before firing into the roof of the net from eight yards out

The Hednesford defence looked shaky and ill-at-ease against a Tamworth attack brimming with confidence, with auxiliary left-back Walker giving the ball away to Mettam on sixty-six minutes as he tried to clear his lines, allowing the striker to enter the Hednesford penalty area before Tunnicliffe blocked his attempted shot

Three minutes later, Clarke found himself in a pocket of space twenty-five yards from goal, striking a firm shot at goal that flew inches over Crane's crossbar as the Tamworth native watched it out of play

The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on seventy-two minutes as they looked to protect their hard-earned point as the experienced Andy Todd came on in place of Kerry in midfield

This was followed just two minutes later by the away side's second substitution of the game as on-loan Aston Villa striker Thomas Strain came on in place of Diggin, who had struggled to make an impact against the Lambs defence

Todd's neat pass out to Walker on seventy-five minutes sent the winger away down the left flank, with Walker's cross a touch too high for the incoming Rushton as he looked to beat Trainer to the ball

However, Tamworth's pressure finally told on seventy-nine minutes as the hosts got their noses in front through Hibbert once more. The experienced striker picked the ball up on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area and struck an unstoppable curling half-volley beyond Crane and into the far corner of the net, despite the goalkeeper's best attempts to keep the ball out

Hibbert wrapped up the points and claimed his hat-trick just three minutes later as the Pitmen were caught out pushing too many players forwards in search of an equaliser and allowed Thornton to counter down the left before playing the ball into the path of Hibbert, whose low driven shot from the edge of the penalty area beat Crane down to his right and made it safe for the hosts

Campion was introduced by the visitors before play could restart as he replaced an unusually out-of-sorts Osborne, allowing Walker to play further forwards down the left for the remainder of the game

A bright cameo from Todd saw the veteran midfielder make a powerful run forwards with five minutes of the game remaining, holding off a challenge from Tamworth substitute Jackson but striking his long-range effort high over the crossbar and into the Hednesford and into the 300 or so Hednesford fans gathered behind Belshaw's goal

With two minutes remaining, Tamworth went within a whisker of adding a fourth goal as Thornton's left-wing free-kick was glanced wide of goal at the near post by the lanky Smith, who had got goal side of Thorley to meet the ball ten yards out

The final whistle was greeted with loud cheers from the home supporters after their side had clinched a hugely important three points against their local rivals and had put a huge dent in the Pitmen's own play-off hopes in the process. A third defeat in a row for Smith's side means that they drop to fifth place in the table and have the poorest recent form of any of the sides in the top eight going into a tricky set of upcoming fixtures. This starts with a home game against fellow play-off hopefuls Oxford City, who visit Keys Park next Saturday looking to heap more misery on a Hednesford side that is starting to struggle with the number of injuries to key players accrued in recent weeks which is having a hugely detrimental effect on their current form

Tamworth: Belshaw ©, Wilkins, Trainer, James, Smith, Adams, Taylor (Jackson 54), Clarke, Mettam (Styche 74), Hibbert, Thornton ▆ (Davies 89)       Subs Unused: McGarr, Morrell

Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst ©, Walker, Bailey, Tunnicliffe, Thorley, Osborne (Campion 83), Thomas, Diggin (Strain 74), Rushton, Kerry ▆ (Todd 72)       Subs Unused: Robinson, Westwood