Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Francis (78)


Hallam (8), Roberts (72)

(0) 1

(1) 2



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Paul Raynor



King's Lynn (H) 25.8.01

Hednesford's home league campaign gets off to a stuttering start this evening, as local rivals Tamworth edge the Pitmen out of tonight's Dr. Martens League game between the Staffordshire rivals at Keys Park by the odd goal in three


Saturday's curtain-raiser at Crawley hadn't gone the way new manager Paul Raynor would have wanted, with his charges soundly beaten at a wet and dreary Broadfield Stadium at the weekend. Despite this, player/manager Raynor stuck with the same side that had started in Sussex, continuing to observe his side from on the pitch rather than from the touchline


Tamworth's season had started with a 1-1 draw at home to Havant & Waterlooville, with Mark Turner's first-half goal cancelled out by the Hawks in the second half to earn Gary Mills' side an opening day point. The Lambs made one change to the side from Saturday's draw, with Darren Grocutt returning to the side in place of Richard Follett at right-back. The highly experienced, Cannock-born, Dave Norton lead the Tamworth side in midfield, with Mills continued with former Hednesford striker Mark Hallam up front, choosing the experienced striker to play alongside Darren Roberts rather than play youngster Scott Rickards


It was a fine, warm evening in Staffordshire, with the Keys Park pitch looking resplendent in the summer sunshine as it disappeared behind the main stand. Hednesford supporters who had not witnessed any of the pre-season games were treated to a new sight upon their arrival at the ground, with the club completing their summer project to install roofs on the large uncovered terraces on the Wimblebury and Heath Hayes sides of the ground, thus making Keys Park fully covered for the first time in its short history


The away side went agonisingly close to making a flying start to the game with a great chance inside the first minute; after kicking off and working the ball down the left-wing, David Foy picked up the ball and unleashed a venomous long-range effort from fully twenty-five minutes that came crashing off the crossbar and back into play


Tamworth continued to press, with Hallam beating Mark Haran to a cross from Grocutt in the fifth minute but headed high over Mark Gayle's crossbar from eight yards out


The Lambs' early dominance was rewarded with the opening goal of the evening on eight minutes as Hallam struck against his former club. Grocutt's deep cross from the right found Hallam lurking just inside the Hednesford box, with the big striker heading powerfully out of the reach of Gayle and into the net


The hosts were struggling to get a foothold in the game, relying on the long balls up to Kevin Francis to build attacks. A rangy ball forwards from Richard Lucas on twelve minutes was flicked on by Francis and into the path of Neil Davis, only for the experienced Darren Acton to beat the striker to the bouncing ball inside his six-yard box


Acton was called upon again five minutes later, making a stop with his legs to smother a chance for Davis again after the striker had been played through on goal by Val Owen


The Pitmen's route one approach was starting to bear fruit as the half wore on, with Francis again at the heart of the home side's threat on twenty-two minutes with a flick-on from Lenny Curtis's cross towards Owen. The midfielder composed himself well on the edge of the penalty area and drilled a shot goalwards that Acton turned away for a corner


Turner was on hand to deny Davis another sniff at goal on twenty-nine minutes, making a forceful but fair challenge on the striker just inside the Tamworth penalty area to nick the ball off Davis's toes


A great delivery from Dean Craven from a free-kick on thirty-four minutes saw Francis head over the top for the hosts once more, before Stewart Airdrie blazed over the crossbar two minutes later after drifting inside from the left-wing


Good one and two touch play from Raynor and Owen in midfield saw them set Airdrie on his way down the wing, with the young winger clipping his shot into the grateful arms of Acton


Acton continued to be busy for the Lambs as the half drifted towards the break, making another fine save on forty minutes to deny Craven and then palming a Davis shot away from goal two minutes later


The Pitmen will have been a little disappointed at being behind at half-time having had the better of the game since Tamworth had taken an early lead. The Lambs had done well to soak up the Pitmen's pressure and had looked dangerous on the counter-attack through Foy and Roberts


Ex-Wolves striker Roberts was quickly into the action at the start of the second half, firing into the side-netting from an angle after being played in on goal by Norton


Player/manager Raynor went close with an acrobatic effort for the hosts on fifty-five minutes, trying his luck with an overhead kick that required Acton to punch the ball away. The ball fell to Owen, whose follow-up shot was deflected behind by Turner


Foy's vision from midfield saw him set Hallam away for the Lambs on fifty-eight minutes, with the striker laying the ball off into the path of strike partner Roberts. The former Darlington man dragged his long-range shot well wide of goal, rather than testing Gayle's reflexes


The Pitmen made what was their one and only substitution of the game on sixty-three minutes, with Graham Lancashire handed his home debut by assistant manager Gavan Walker as he replaced the tiring Craven


Raynor was becoming more and more influential to the side as the half wore on, with the veteran lifting a free-kick inches over the crossbar on sixty-four minutes after Lucas had rolled the ball to him twenty yards from goal


Lancashire got a sniff at goal four minutes after coming on, nipping in behind Turner as the centre-back played a slightly short back-pass to Acton, only for the keeper to just get enough on the ball to divert it away from the boot of the Hednesford substitute


Foy tested Gayle's reflexes at the other end on seventy minutes, striking a swerving free-kick that required the former Crewe keeper to turn over his crossbar


Two minutes later, the away side did increase their lead and left the Pitmen with a mountain to climb in slightly fortuitous circumstances. Hallam was played through on goal by Foy in what appeared to be an offside position, prompting the Hednesford defence to stop momentarily as they waited for an offside flag. Hallam continued to play on a struck a shot at goal that Gayle did well to save, but could only turn the ball into the path of the incoming Roberts, giving him the simple task of sidefooting home from a yard out. The Pitmen were understandably fuming at the decision, with Raynor receiving a reprimand from the referee as he chased him back to the centre-circle to dispute the award of the goal


The Pitmen continued to press despite Tamworth's second goal and were back in contention on seventy-eight minutes through Francis. Raynor was involved again out wide, picking up a Wayne Simpson ball and sending over a fine cross from the wing that Francis headed past Acton from eight yards out


It was all Hednesford from this point on, as they forced Tamworth into their own third with ten minutes remaining. Lancashire saw his low shot blocked and deflected away from goal by Grocutt on eighty-three minutes, followed by a fine save from Acton to deny Davis from close range a minute later


 With two minutes remaining, Francis found himself in behind the Tamworth defence following a through ball from Raynor, only for the big man to get his feet all wrong and striking his angled shot into the side-netting when there were options in the Tamworth six-yard box if he had chosen to raise his head


It had been a much-improved performance from the Pitmen compared to Saturday's mauling at Crawley, but they remain pointless after two games and lacking quality and conviction in a couple of key areas of the pitch. It's perhaps understandable that the team will require a bit of time to gel with so many changes to the side on top of relegation to a different league, but Raynor's side will be under pressure to find a blend that works for them quickly if they are to be challenging at the top of the league this season. Next up for the Pitmen is another home game on Saturday, when King's Lynn visit Keys Park 


Hednesford Town: Gayle, Simpson, Lucas, Curtis, Haran © , Owen, Airdrie, Craven (Lancashire 63), Francis, Davis, Raynor     Sub Unused: Lake, Hopkins


Tamworth: Acton, Follett, Mutchell, Turner, Gould, Warner (Mills 65), Foy, Norton ©, Hallam, Roberts (Rickards 79), Haywood     Subs Unused: Hatton