Vanarama Conference North

Hednesford Town

Francis (19), Melbourne (53)


Styche (26) (penalty), Hibbert (33), Preston (90)

(1) 2

(2) 3



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Paul Sullivan


AFC Fylde (A) 29.11.14

Despite taking an early lead through former Tamworth defender Francino Francis, the Pitmen are beaten at the death by Dan Preston's injury-time strike to hand Tamworth the points and the bragging rights in the A5 derby at Keys Park this afternoon

The old spectre of a lack of numbers had come back to haunt Rob Smith ahead of the Pitmen's first league meeting with their Staffordshire rivals since 2003, as the Hednesford manager had to select a side without influential captain Darren Campion (suspended) and Richard Batchelor (also suspended). Midweek had also seen the departure of teenager Jamie Ashmore, who had joined Bedworth United after a frustrating three months at Keys Park

Tamworth had struggled to adapt to life at step two following last season's relegation from the Conference, with new manager Andy Morrell making a number of changes to the side after taking over from Dale Belford. Former Hednesford loanee Phil Trainer started at left-back for the Lambs, with youth team graduate Reece Styche returning to Keys Park after joining Tamworth on loan from Kidderminster Harriers last month

The Pitmen started the game in confident mood, as Steve Diggin tested the reflexes of Tamworth keeper James Belshaw on five minutes with a powerfully struck effort that Belshaw turned away from goal

Three minutes later, a delightful cross from James Hurst down the right flank found the head of Diggin's strike partner Danny Glover, who headed just over the crossbar from eight yards out, stretching to reach the cross

Skipper for the day Chris Westwood - one of two changes to the side to compensate for Campion and Batchelor's suspensions - dealt the Pitmen a blow on fourteen minutes as he limped out of a tackle and eventually succumbed to injury after trying to run the knock off. With no defenders amongst the diminished substitute's bench, Westwood's withdrawal saw the Pitmen forced into a hasty reorganisation job - Glenn Walker moved to left-back from the left-wing, with Alex Melbourne dropping further back to support the centre backs. Paul Sullivan came on for the injured Westwood, with Jamey Osborne handed  the club captaincy for the first time

The substitution failed to dampen the Pitmen's attacking threat, however, as they took the lead on eighteen minutes from a left-wing corner. Tom Thorley's pinpoint ball into the six-yard box found Francis unmarked, with the big man powering a firm header home from close range for his second goal of the season

Tamworth had offered nothing in terms of an attacking threat in the opening quarter of the game, struggling to break through a stubborn Hednesford midfield as they looked to protect their makeshift backline. This changed in controversial circumstances on twenty-six minutes as neat build-up play saw Styche played in on goal, with James Hurst coming across to make a superb sliding challenge to clear the ball from the feet of the striker. To the sheer horror and amazement of the Hednesford players and supporters, the referee awarded Tamworth a penalty and booked Hurst for a foul. Styche stepped up ad slotted the resultant penalty beyond Dan Crane to level matters against the run of play

Football is all about momentum and confidence as the experts tell us, with Tamworth a classic example of a side reborn following their fortunate penalty award. Crane made a smart save on thirty-one minutes to deny Brendon Daniels, requiring two attempts to claim the winger's shot as Dave Hibbert looked to pounce on any further errors

Hibbert did not have to wait long to put Tamworth ahead for the first time in the game, as he took advantage of poor defending on thirty-three minutes to make it 2-1; a quick throw-in down the Tamworth right caught out Ben Bailey, as he allowed Hibbert to seize upon the loose ball and shimmy his way past two half-hearted challenges to slot the ball past Crane and into the far corner of the net

Dazed by the quick turnaround of the game, the Pitmen failed to muster up another effort of any note in the first half, with Hurst's wayward effort from long range the closest the home side came to getting themselves back on level terms before the half time break

With Smith's words ringing in their ears, the Pitmen started the second half with purpose and determination. Diggin perhaps started the half a little too determined, as he rightly found himself in the book after a mistimed challenge on Shane Clarke

The Pitmen's best passing move of the game got them back on level terms on fifty-three minutes, as Osborne's superb defence-splitting pass played Glover in behind the Tamworth defence. The striker took a second to compose himself before squaring the ball to Melbourne, who sidefooted home from eight yards out

The next fifteen minutes saw the Pitmen exert a spell of intense pressure on the Tamworth goal, as they looked to turn the game in their favour once more. Sullivan tried his luck from a free kick on fifty-six minutes, driving a twenty-five-yard effort straight at Belford in the process

Belshaw came to Tamworth's rescue again on sixty-two minutes, as Thorley's lofted free-kick was glanced towards goal by Glover, only for the striker to be denied by the palm of the Tamworth stopper

Styche made the most of a rare foray into the Hednesford half two minutes later, firing in a low shot that was deflected away from goal by Francis for a Tamworth corner

A jinking run from the excellent Sullivan on sixty-six minutes saw the youngster beat two men down the left before unleashing a powerful shot that Belshaw did brilliantly to turn away from goal for a Hednesford corner

The overworked Belshaw was alert once again on eighty minutes, making arguably his best save of the game to beat Glover's goalbound long-range shot away from goal

In an attempt to win the game, Hednesford brought on the man for the big occasion with six minutes remaining, as Marvin Robinson replaced Glover up front

Hibbert wasted a glorious opportunity to win the game for Tamworth with three minutes remaining, heading tamely wide of goal from an excellent goalscoring position, before former Hednesford target Preston settled the game with virtually the last kick of the game. A soft corner was conceded by the Pitmen down in the left-hand corner of the pitch, allowing Daniels to cross the ball and once again cause chaos in the Hednesford ranks. Preston pounced on the loose ball and lifted his effort beyond the reach of Crane and into the top corner of the net to send the small band of Tamworth fans behind the goal into raptures

Two defeats on the bounce for the Pitmen has checked their recent progress, with Smith likely to make changes to his side once again in next week's F.A. Trophy tie at AFC Fylde. Campion and Batchelor will be welcome returnees to a side that looked unbalanced and lacking in confidence across the pitch in a game they could well have won on another day

Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst , Westwood © (Sullivan 17), Bailey, Francis, Thorley, Osborne, Walker, Glover (Robinson 85), Diggin , Melbourne      Subs Unused: Love, Price

Tamworth: Belshaw, Smith, Trainer (Taylor 68), James, Preston © Simpson , Adams, Clarke, Hibbert, Styche (Jackson 74), Daniels       Subs Unused: Wilkins, Morrell, Townsend

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