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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Griffiths (69)


Hall (4)

(0) 1

(1) 1



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Michael Williams



Newcastle Town (A) 15.8.23

Despite a dominant second-half display, the Pitmen have to be content with a point in this afternoon's curtain-raiser against Trafford at Keys Park as they start life at step four

The club's pre-season programme had been a topsy-turvy one, with only one win in five games and a sound defeat at Stafford Rangers in last week's final outing. Player/manager Danny Glover had picked up a groin strain early on in the game and missed out on today's encounter, meaning Wembanvuanda Star Mayemba earned himself a full debut for the club alongside Jack Kelly, Harry Bower and Rivel Mardenborough

Trafford had finished last season in tenth place in the Pitching In Northern Premier League West, with manager Danny Caldecott looking to build on this by retaining many of last season's squad. There were full debuts for young goalkeeper Brad Rose, defender Will Hall, midfielder Demetrius Rhami plus the return of experienced defender Ally Brown from league rivals Runcorn Linnets

In front of a huge crowd - by far the largest in the league on this opening weekend - the nervy-looking hosts fluffed their lines almost immediately as they handed Trafford the initiative with the very first attack of the game in the fourth minute; referee Mr Brooks - who was to have something of a shocker of a game - incorrectly penalised Desean Martin for a foul on Jack Dorney to the left of the Hednesford penalty area when it appeared that the former FC Halifax man had pulled the Hednesford midfielder to the floor. Dorney took the resultant free-kick and floated the ball into the danger zone, where Hall was on hand to nod beyond the reach of Dan Crane and find the corner of the net with a looping header

Kelly was to pick up the game's first booking of the afternoon two minutes later as the debutant left-back was mystifyingly shown a yellow card for what appeared to be a fair but firm challenge on Alfie Belcher

In the seventh minute, a free-kick from Belcher in an almost-identical position as the one that led to the goal was played low into the near post and aimed at Tom Bentham, only for the alert presence of the excellent Michael Williams to deny him a tap-in as the veteran defender cleared his lines

Trafford were handed yet another free-kick in the eleventh minute as Callam Mendez-Jones rightly pulled up for a challenge on Dorney. Belcher swung the ball into the box once more, aiming for Hall but seeing skipper Sam Griffiths head behind for a corner kick which was cleared with ease by Kelly

The hosts simply hadn't made their way into the game as yet, struggling to keep possession and make any ground against two solid banks of four. Both Bower and Jack Sang were struggling against their relative full-backs, whilst Mardenborough and Mayemba were dropping into midfield to get involved in play with no real supply line to the strikers

Mardenborough did well to win the ball back in the fourteenth minute and took it into space twenty-five yards from goal, striking a clean shot at goal from just outside the box that was blocked and turned behind by Hall for the Pitmen's first corner of the game

Bower's first real involvement came two minutes later as he was played into space down the right by Tom Thorley, beating Oliver Ford for pace and pulling the ball back from the byeline; Hall was alert to the danger and unceremoniously lumped the ball behind for another Hednesford corner before Mayemba could get to the cross

More stoic defending from the away side on twenty minutes saw Sang squeezed out on the left flank by no fewer than three Trafford defenders, denying the youngster time and space to get his cross in after a delightful pass from Martin had set him on his way

A half-chance for the hosts fell to Mardenborough on twenty-four minutes as Mayemba made a forceful run down the right and stood up a cross for his strike partner, who stretched to reach the ball and nodded wide of Rose's right-hand post under pressure from Harry Norris

Dorney was proving a slippery character for Mendez-Jones down the left for Trafford, with the experienced playmaker beating the full-back on twenty-six minutes and laying the ball off to Michael Burke, who was denied by more cleverly controlled aggressive defending by Williams to jockey him away from goal and ease him off the ball

The visitors seemed content to sit on their lead and play to their strengths at set-pieces, with yet another questionable free-kick awarded by Mr Brooks on twenty-eight minutes swung in by Belcher from the left but headed clear by Griffiths at the far post

Norris picked up Trafford's first booking of the afternoon shortly after the half-hour mark for speaking out of turn to Mr Brooks following an altercation involving himself and Mardenborough

Two minutes later, Rhami marked his Trafford debut with a booking of his own as the former Tranmere Rovers youngster was shown a yellow card for a foul on Bower on the right-hand touchline

Kelly's delivery from set-pieces was proving effective for the Pitmen, with the full-back's cleverly-disguised low cross on thirty-five minutes played into the feet of Mardenborough just inside the Trafford penalty area. However, the striker attempted a first-time shot from fifteen yards out and could only blaze his effort high over the crossbar

The Pitmen were starting to get a foothold in the game as half-time was approaching, probing and looking for the gaps in the well-drilled Trafford lines. Bower was off-target a minute later as he fired wide of goal from twenty-five yards out after a jinking run from the right

Martin followed Kelly into the referee's notebook on thirty-seven minutes as the combative midfielder was pulled up by Mr Brooks for a foul on Dorney that irked the visiting bench somewhat

More poor refereeing handed Trafford yet another free-kick in a dangerous position on forty-one minutes as Mendez-Jones and Burke clashed just outside the Hednesford penalty area, with the match official somehow coming to the bizarre opinion that the challenge warranted a Trafford free-kick. Belcher came across and delivered another dangerous ball into the six-yard box that was well-defended by the towering presence of Williams

With the first half entering the first of three additional minutes, Mr Brooks ended the half with yet another decision that left Keys Park scratching its head as a clash involving Sang and Brown saw the pair end up in a heap just off the pitch, to the left of the Trafford bench. Both sets of players got involved in untangling the players with Glover electing to leave his technical area to investigate and was promptly shown a red card by the official for this infringement, despite several members of the Trafford bench having also done so with no punishment. Absolutely baffling and inconsistent refereeing, which prompted the Keys Park crowd to let the match official know their thoughts in no uncertain terms as they left the pitch at the break

The first half had been an eye-opening introduction to life at step four for the Pitmen and their supporters - limited but well-organised opponents who were happy to play an industrial brand of football to get themselves in front and stay there plus poor, inconsistent officiating that had helped their cause somewhat. Despite struggling to make any headway, Glover elected to stick with the same XI at the start of the second half

The Pitmen made a more aggressive start to the second period with Bower making an early run down the right and forcing a corner kick out of Ford in the process. On fifty-one minutes, Mayemba showed his fancy footwork to shimmy his way past two defenders and struck a shot at goal from fifteen yards out but lifted his shot over the crossbar

Four minutes later, Mardenborough drew a foul out of Brown and earned the Pitmen a free-kick twenty-five yards from goal, which was taken by Kelly but played straight into the arms of the grateful Rose under pressure from Mendez-Jones

The visitors had shown very little desire to commit numbers forwards other than for set pieces but created a chance through Burke on fifty-seven minutes as he broke clear of the Hednesford defence momentarily to latch onto Belcher's pass but lifted his hurried effort high over the crossbar

The game swung back in the Pitmen's favour on the hour mark as Trafford were reduced to ten men by Mr Brooks; Norris and Mayemba clashed as they challenged for the ball thirty yards from goal, with Norris bringing the young striker down with a mis-timed challenge. Having already been booked for dissent in the first half, Norris was shown a second yellow card and was promptly dismissed. Thorley took the resultant free-kick but shot tamely into the arms of Rose

With this new development, the Pitmen looked to seize the initiative by making the game's first substitution of the afternoon as the ineffective Sang was replaced by Reinaldo Forbes on the left flank

Trafford also elected to make a substitution midway through the second half as Burke was taken off by Caldecott in favour of former Wigan Athletic youngster Nathan Sandison

The Pitmen ramped up the pressure on the Trafford defence and forced back-to-back corner kicks in a bid to get themselves back into the game. On sixty-nine minutes, an inswinging corner kick from Kelly on the right found the head of Griffiths, who leapt highest of anyone in the six-yard box to powerfully head into the net from close range and equalise for the hosts, sparking wild celebrations amongst the fans in the Heath Hayes terrace

Sensing a quick turnaround in the result, the home side made a further attacking change on seventy-two minutes as former Lichfield City striker Max Dixon came in place of the inconsistent and disappointing Bower down the right. Trafford also made a change at this juncture with Rhami going off and midfielder Jarma Mohamed - another to have made his way to Shawe Lane from Wigan Athletic in the summer - coming on

The introduction of Forbes proved to be a huge positive for the Pitmen, with the diminutive winger jinking in and out of challenges in a bid to carve out a supply line to Mardenborough and Mayemba. On seventy-four minutes, Forbes beat a couple of players as he drove in from the left and laid the ball off to Dixon, whose shot took a deflection to earn the Pitmen a corner kick

Two minutes later, the impressive Mardenborough dropped deep to pick up a Williams pass before driving past two players and looked to play Mayemba in, only for a last-ditch tackle from Brown to deny the striker a shot at goal


With nine minutes remaining, Rose denied Mardenborough from point-blank range as he pushed the striker's shot away from goal to deny the youngster after the former Darlaston 1874 man worked the ball onto his right foot ten yards from goal

Four minutes later, youngster Rose made a superb save to keep the visitors in touch as Mardenborough's run and bobbling shot looked to be heading for the far left-hand corner of the net until Rose tipped the ball around the post for another Hednesford corner kick. Kelly's corner kick was flicked on at the near post by Martinborough and into the path of Mayemba, whose own header was diverted over the crossbar

Trafford were hanging on at this point as the Pitmen looked to grab themselves a late winner; on eighty-eight minutes, another Kelly corner kick caused the men in yellow to scramble the ball away from goal before either Dixon or Mayemba could turn it home inside the six-yard box

A minute later, Dixon was brought down by Ford to the right-hand corner of the Trafford penalty area after being manhandled to the ground by the left-back. Once again, Kelly's delivery was spot-on but was headed behind by Hall for another corner kick

From the resultant corner, Trafford cleared the ball as far as Forbes, whose recycled cross to the far post was met by the head of Dixon, whose ball back across the face of goal was cleared before Mardenborough could react

It had been a breathless final ten minutes as the Pitmen had looked in vain for a winning goal, but a point apiece was perhaps a fair reflection on the balance of play over ninety minutes. The Pitmen make their first away trip of the new season on Tuesday night when they make the short journey up to Stoke-on-Trent to face Newcastle Town

Hednesford Town: Crane, Mendez-Jones, Kelly, Thorley, Griffiths ©, Williams, Bower (Dixon 72), Martin , Glover, Mardenborough, Sang (Forbes 63)      Sub Unused: Andrews, Paddock, Richards

Trafford: Rose, Brown ©, Ford, Norris (60), Hall  Sloan, Rhami(Mohamed 72), Belcher, Bentham, Burke (Sandison 66), Dorney       Subs Unused: Jordan, Soloman, Babakhani


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