21.12.2013

Skrill North

Vauxhall Motors

Rutter (26), Tames (67)

Hednesford Town

Riley (51), Francis (53)

(1) 2

(0) 2

Attendance

MoTM

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206

Wayne Riley

W L W L L L L W W D

AFC Telford United (H) 26.12.13

The Pitmen claimed the much-coveted Skrill North top spot for Christmas following this afternoon's hard-fought draw with Vauxhall Motors but will be aggrieved at the way they allowed ten-man Motors to earn a point after coming back from a goal down in the first half

Fresh from back-to-back home wins the previous week, Hednesford arrived in Ellesmere Port at the start of a run of games that will see Rob Smith's team play four games in twelve days leading into the New Year. There was one change to the side that had beaten Bradford (Park Avenue) on Tuesday night, with Francino Francis coming back into the side ahead of Paul McCone. Tom Thorley was also available again after missing the midweek game, making up the numbers on a strong looking bench

Carl Macauley's Motors - once again performing miracles in Skrill North on a shoestring budget - came into the clash having failed to win their last three games, sitting in a mid-table position at the start of proceedings. Joint top scorer Ashley Stott had been placed on the transfer list in midweek, with the former Witton man struggling to hold down a regular starting spot at Rivacre Park

On a cold, depressing afternoon on Merseyside, it was the Pitmen who made the brighter start of the two sides as they looked to make another swift start to a game. Three successive corner kicks caused panic in the Motors ranks as the swirling wind made the ball move in the air. The third kick eventually fell to Ben Bailey, whose header was palmed up in the air by Zac Jones at his far post. In the ensuing melee, Francis attempted to force the ball home but fired high over the bar under pressure from former Swindon Town defender Andy Nicholas

A mazy run from Jamey Osborne on twelve minutes was checked by Matthew Williams, allowing Karl Clair to seize upon the ball and drive in a low shot that Dan Crane saved

Nathan Woolfe - impressive in recent outings for the Pitmen - went mightily close to opening the scoring midway through the half. A route one ball upfield from Crane was flicked into the path of Woolfe by Durrell, with the winger allowing the ball to drop before unleashing a dipping shot with his left foot that came back off the crossbar

The Pitmen were made to pay for not taking one of their early chances, as Motors took the lead on twenty-six minutes with their first real effort on goal. Neat build-up play saw Barnes attempt an ambitious ball through the heart of the Hednesford defence. Woolfe attempted to cut the ball out, but merely succeeded in diverting the ball into the path of Tom Rutter, who kept his calm and slotted his shot under Crane

Hednesford's good start to the game had unravelled in just a few minutes, with the Pitmen now looking shaky and undecided in its approach. John Disney came to his side's rescue two minutes later, getting across to make a crucial block to deny Rutter a second goal

A direct run from Woolfe ten minutes before the break saw him jink his way beyond two challenges and fired a fierce shot narrowly wide of goal

Four minutes later, Durrell tried his luck with a powerful drive from long range that dipped just inches wide of the right-hand post, with Jones scrambling across his goal to get to the ball

Clearly unhappy with his side's approach to the game in the first period, Smith made the bold decision to make a double substitution at the break. On came Wayne Riley and Thorley, replacing the ineffective MacPherson and Woolfe

Smith has proved himself the master of the substitution time and time again, and so it proved once more as the Pitmen kicked the second half in a rejuvenated fashion and got back on level terms just six minutes in; a long ball over the top of the Motors defence caught the back line cold, allowing Riley to nip in behind them and fire confidently past the onrushing Jones from the edge of the box

The game turned on its head three minutes later, as Motors were firstly reduced to ten men. Matthew Kosylo tussled with Jamey Osborne down the Hednesford right, with the Motors man adjudged to have brought down the Hednesford playmaker. A bout of handbags followed with Kosylo picking up the ball and throwing it in the face of Osborne in frustration. The referee was left with little choice but to show Kyoslo a straight red card for violent conduct

From the resultant free-kick, Taylor's beautifully flighted ball in was met by the head of Francis who powerfully headed home from eight yards out to complete a superb turnaround

Looking to finish the game as a contest against ten men, Riley should have grabbed his second goal of the game on sixty-four minutes as he raced clear of the Motors defence and attempted a lob over Jones from the edge of the penalty area. Jones, however, managed to get enough on the ball to keep Riley's lob from going over his head

This was to be another rueful chance gone begging for the Pitmen, as Motors got back into the game three minutes later. After collecting a Steve Wainwright pass, Steve Tames cut inside from the right-wing and took Darren Campion and Francis out of the game before firing across Crane and into the far corner of the net

There were calls for the referee to even up the numbers on seventy minutes when Thorley and Barnes came together out on the touchline, with Barnes ending up in the advertising hoardings after a heavy collision. Despite the howls of protests from the home fans, Thorley was only shown a yellow card

Campion fired wide with a wild shot from range on seventy-one minutes, followed soon after by a great chance for on-loan Greg Pearson, who had had a quiet afternoon in front of goal; after receiving the ball in the area, he elected to try and play Riley in but only succeeded in allowing the ball to be cleared

A minute later, Pearson was substituted by the Pitmen, as Michael Lennon came on in his place to try and force a winner for the league leaders

A quick break involving Campion and Durrell caught Motors out on eighty-three minutes, with Durrell's cross deceiving the boot of the incoming Riley by a matter of inches

After scoring one of the goals of the season on Tuesday night, Bailey went close to adding another spectacular goal to his collection with five minutes remaining, as Durrell's corner was cleared to the centre back on the edge of the box. His first time dipping volley looked goalbound but dipped inches over the crossbar

And yet it was Motors who could have snatched an unlikely win in the final minutes of the game, as Danny Fearnehough fired high and wide from close range when he really should have hot the target

Any neutrals in the ground would probably say that a draw was a fair result, and with all other results going their way, the Pitmen could argue that a point was a good result in the circumstances. Yet again, however, a shaky defence has cost the Pitmen points, underlining a need to sharpen up and improve as the season hits it's toughest period to date. This difficult run starts on Boxing Day, with old foes AFC Telford United coming to Keys Park in the league's game of the day

Vauxhall Motors: Jones, Fearnehough, Barnes, Hannigan, Nicholas ©, Clair, Rutter (Wainwright 62), Williams, Tames, Ellams, Kosylo (53)       Subs Unused: Stott, A. Hughes, O. Hughes, Mendes

Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion©, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson (Thorley 45 ), Osborne , Durrell, Woolfe (Riley 45), Pearson (Lennon 77), Taylor       Subs not used: McCone, Melbourne