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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Hednesford Town

Verma (88)

Vauxhall Motors

McDonnell (71)

(0) 1

(0) 1



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Jai Verma



Leek Town (H) 23.3.24

The Pitmen make it four points from two games in their quest to make a late run for safety, although they have to rely on the brilliance of Jai Verma once more to earn them a barely-deserved point at home to Vauxhall Motors this evening at Keys Park

Saturday had seen Paul Moore's team finally return to winning ways after a run of five winless games, narrowly beating the ten men of 1874 Northwich to move within five points of Trafford above them in the table. Despite this, Moore made three changes to his Hednesford side for tonight's return home as out went Kieran Boucher, Sam Griffiths and Eden Bailey, replaced by Ryan Brown, Mike McGrath and Jack Kelly respectively. This saw a reshuffle of positions in the ranks, with Michael Williams moving into central defence, Blaine Rowe returning to right-back and McGrath slotting into midfield rather than defence as in his previous games for the team. Young attacking midfielder Lewis Farmer - signed yesterday from Northwich Victoria - had to be content with a place on the bench

Motors - 3-2 winners over the Pitmen at Rivacre Park in October - sat eight points ahead of the Pitmen going into tonight's game, having beaten Stalybridge Celtic 3-1 on Saturday to ease their own relegation worries. Manager Danny Holmes made one change to his side for their long trip down to South Staffordshire as George Nugent came in for Bisensio Kamilo in midfield

On a mild March evening and in front of another healthy Keys Park crowd, both sides needed time to settle in a quiet and uneventful opening. Jake Jervis - playing as the target man for the Pitmen the evening - was pulled up by a late offside flag by the assistant on the main stand side in the sixth minute of the game as he got goal side of Adam Hughes momentarily, looking to get on the end of a Kelly ball in

Motors were content to sit in front of the Pitmen and knock it about freely across the pitch, working it well into the Hednesford penalty area in the eighth minute as they moved from left to right and into the path of striker Jay Harvey, who was denied a shot at goal from eighteen yards out by the aggressive McGrath

Brown - returning to the starting line-up between the sticks for the home side - made an excellent claim inside his own six-yard box on twelve minutes, confidently handling a cross from Jordan Deer ahead of Harvey and Hughes after back-to-back Motors corners tested the flaky Hednesford defence's resolve

Jai Verma was looking to pick up where he left off on Saturday with a fine performance at 1874 Northwich, streaking past Bobby Beaumont with a blistering run down the left on fifteen minutes but seeing his pull-back from the byeline towards Jervis hacked behind for a corner kick by Hughes

On nineteen minutes, Harvey was played into space down the right once more as he took advantage of a slip from Kelly to make space for himself on the corner of the penalty area. His low ball into the box was aimed at strike partner Bobbie McDonnell but had a little too much for the former Macclesfield man to be able to get on the end of it

Motors continued to be a threat from set-pieces, once again winning successive corner kicks on twenty-three minutes with Brown finally being able to claim the second one at his far post

Danny Edwards incurred the wrath of referee Mr Constable on twenty-seven minutes as the attacking midfielder was the first player to pick up a yellow card for a foul on Nugent

A minute later, the Pitmen hit Vauxhall on the counter-attack after McDonnell had lost the ball cheaply, playing the ball out to Verma. Once again, the former Stoke City starlet turned Beaumont inside out as he drifted inside from the left, this time picking James McQuilkin out on the edge of the penalty area. The veteran midfielder got his angles all wrong, however, and completely sliced his first-time shot wide of goal and into the Heath Hayes terrace via a nick off a Motors defender

On the half-hour mark, an inswinging corner kick from Edwards on the left was aimed at Jervis and McGrath inside the six-yard box, although Mr Constable halted play after McGrath had impeded Motors goalkeeper Jack Atkinson in the build-up and handed the visitors a free-kick

The away side were presented with a glorious chance to take the lead a minute later as Kelly's attempted header back to Brown fell some way short, allowing Harvey to seize upon the loose ball and take it past the onrushing Brown. Fortunately for the hosts, the ball bounced behind the striker and forced him to have to bring it back under control, allowing the Pitmen to get numbers back with Kelly eventually hacking the ball off the line

The Pitmen's best chance of the half was to fall to Endall on thirty-six minutes as he rose highest at the far post to meet another Verma cross but headed wide of goal as he was put under pressure by Ben Dufton-Kelly

More set-piece wastefulness hit the Pitmen on thirty-nine minutes as Verma earned them a free-kick to the left-hand side of the Vauxhall Motors penalty area. McQuilkin and Edwards stood over the ball, with Edwards electing to take the set-piece but overhit his cross and saw it glanced behind for a corner by Hughes

Brown made a good save to keep the Pitmen on level terms going into the break on forty-two minutes, pushing a low shot from McDonnell away to his left after a neat flick with the outside of Deer's boot had played the striker in on goal

A minute later, McGrath picked up the home side's second booking of the evening for an aggressive take-down of Harvey inside the Hednesford half and was rightly shown a yellow card for his actions

It had been another low-quality outing from the Pitmen, who once again looked out of ideas somewhat in the final third and had been almost solely reliant on the magic of Verma to make anything happen for them in what had been yet another uninspiring and pedestrian performance. Half-time saw the already-booked McGrath replaced by the younger legs of Farmer, who was handed an immediate debut following his switch to Keys Park yesterday

Jervis was once again called out by the assistant for offside early on in the second period as he looked to run onto Kelly's angled ball but had moved too soon and was pulled back for being half a yard offside

Deer was allowed to make an unchallenged run a full sixty yards into the Hednesford penalty area, driving into the box down the left before Williams  finally put a tackle in to stop him in his tracks

The lanky Endall was off-target again for the hosts on fifty-four minutes as he managed to get his head onto a deep Edwards corner from the right but headed tamely over the crossbar from six yards out

Jervis should probably have given the home side the lead three minutes later as Edwards and Farmer combined well down the right to slide the ball through to the striker, who had made a good run in behind the Motors defence to latch onto the pass. With the angle narrowing, Jervis tried his luck with a low-driven shot back across goal from twelve yards out that struck Atkinson in the chest and was deflected away from goal

There was a nasty-sounding clash of legs between Jervis and Dufton-Kelly on fifty-eight minutes as the pair went in for a fifty-fifty ball, resulting in both players' shinpads being damaged and a lengthy spell of treatment for what will have been a bruised shin apiece

Verma was once again the catalyst for the Pitmen's best moves forward, picking up Kelly's pass on the hour mark and running at Beaumont once more before sending over a curling, teasing cross to the far post that Jervis was a matter of inches away from nodding home as the ball sailed over his head and out of play

On sixty-four minutes, the away side made their first substitution of the evening as youngster Toby Jones made his Motors debut as he replaced Nugent in midfield

A minute later, the Pitmen made their second change of the evening as the popular, hard-working figure of Joe Thompson was brought on in place of Edwards, who had failed to impress with a flat home league debut for the hosts

The mood inside Keys Park changed noticeably, however, on seventy-one minutes as Motors were handed a chance to take all three points through McDonnell; Williams was to be the main culprit as he stepped out of defence to try and win the ball in midfield but left a huge, gaping hole behind him that allowed Harvey to run into unimpeded. Despite Endall's best attempts to come across and cover, The striker slipped the ball into the path of McDonell, who took the ball around Brown and slotted into the empty net from the edge of the penalty area

The Pitmen responded to going behind with their final change of the game on seventy-three minutes as Bailey was brought on down the right in place of the desperately disappointing Berks, who had again looked to be struggling with the pace of the game

It could have got worse for the Pitmen with fifteen minutes of the game remaining as McDonnell was given time and space to size up a shot from twenty yards out but saw his low effort skip past Brown's right-hand post

In an attempt to hold on to their precious lead, Motors made their second change of the evening with eleven minutes remaining as goalscorer McDonnell was replaced by William Mountfield

Harvey really should have wrapped up the points for the visitors on eighty-two minutes as he found himself clean through on goal after a pass from Deer, only to scuff his chance wide of goal with only Brown to beat from just inside the Hednesford penalty area

Motors' final substitution of the evening came a minute later as Ben Holmes was brought on in place of Deer down the left to see out what remained of the game

The Pitmen ramped up the pressure on the away defence as the game entered the final five minutes, with two Kelly corner kicks coming to nothing despite the Pitmen committing bodies into the box on both occasions

However, their perseverance paid off in spades with two minutes to go as a moment of inspiration from Verma levelled matters up once more; Atkinson's long punt upfield was met by the head of substitute Thomspon, whose clever and deft cushioned header fell perfectly into the path of Verma, who had drifted into a central position to take the ball in behind the Vauxhall Motors defence. After taking a touch, Verma executed a fine right-footed effort that beat Atkinson from fifteen yards out and nestled in the far corner of the net, sparking celebrations and no small amount of relief inside Keys Park

You felt that there may even still be time for a winner for the hosts with their tails up late on, but the closest they were to come to this was a long-range effort from Thompson in the first of three added minutes that lacked power or direction and was easily fielded by Atkinson


In truth, it had been a pretty poor evening from the Pitmen, who had looked short of quality, imagination and ideas in the final third and had handed Motors their lead with more defensive sloppiness, one of their calling cards from this season. A point is perhaps a fair result, although Motors had probably felt that they had done enough to claim all three points up to Verma's late strike. A point inches the Pitmen towards closest rivals Trafford, although any further progress on Saturday will come as a huge shock to most as Moore's horribly inconsistent team faces champions-elect Leek Town at Keys Park in what will surely be one of their toughest games of the campaign

Hednesford Town: Brown, Rowe, Kelly, McGrath (Farmer 45), Williams, Endall, Verma, McQuilkin, Jervis ©, Edwards (Thompson 65), Berks (Bailey 74)      Subs Unused: Morley, Gwilt

Vauxhall Motors: Atkinson, Beaumont, Sinnott, Dufton-Kelly, Hughes, Duggan, Nugent (Jones 65), Kirby-Reed, Harvey, McDonnell (Mountfield 80), Deer (Holmes 86)       Subs Unused: Welding, Moscrop

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